We are currently in the process of finishing planning for the outage.

  1. It the preceding sentence grammatically correct?

  2. Is the preceding sentence ideally structured?

  3. If not, what would be a better way of saying it?

  • 3
    That is a good question! :)
    – F.E.
    May 2, 2014 at 18:25
  • 1
    You might want to tweak the title, for those two verbs seem to have the shape of present participle verbs.
    – F.E.
    May 2, 2014 at 18:27
  • Remember that in this context planning acts as a noun.... I finished planning for the wedding. May 2, 2014 at 18:37
  • As your ear probably told you, the two "-ing" words like that in a row seems to sound awkward. :)
    – F.E.
    May 2, 2014 at 19:53
  • As your ear will also tell you, two "-ing" words a row can be perfectly grammatical. Even three can be. Even four.
    – RegDwigнt
    May 2, 2014 at 20:36

3 Answers 3


"We are currently in the process of finishing planning for the outage."

There can be grammatical constraints on some types of double "-ing" phrases.

I'll mention some of them here, and let you decide how applicable they are to your example.

Double -ing constraint:

CGEL page 1243-4:

The double-ing constraint

Some verbs that license gerund-participial complements cannot themselves occur in the gerund-participle form when they have such a complement. Compare:


  • i a. They started quarreling. - - - b. (*) They are starting quarreling.

  • ii a. The lawn needs mowing. - - - b. (*) The lawn is always needing mowing.

  • iii a. We considered buying one. - - - b. We are considering buying one.

The succession of gerund-participles in [i.b/ii.b] is excluded by what is known as the 'double-ing constraint'. As evident from [iii.b], it applies to only a subset of catenative verbs -- a small subset, in fact. The clearest cases are aspectual verbs such as begin, cease, continue, start, stop, and verbs taking concealed passives, like need i [ii]. We should probably also include others, such as intend, but there is a good deal of variation between speakers as to their acceptance of the [b] construction. We noted in &1.1. that gerund-participials cannot have the progressive auxiliary be as head ( (*)They accused him of being running away when the alarm sounded), and this can be seen as a special case of the constraint.

Note that "finish" is an aspectual verb. CGEL page 1228:

Most aspectual verbs have raised subjects, . . . there are, however, a few that have ordinary subjects, normally with an agentive interpretation: discontinue, finish, quit, resume . . .

CGEL page 1174 fn1:

Examples with progressive be are occasionally encountered in casual speech: I've missed endless busses through [not being standing at the bus stop when they arrived]. This cannot, however, be regarded as an established construction in Present-day English.

It seems that you have got yourself a good ear. :)

Note that CGEL is the 2002 reference grammar by Huddleston and Pullum et al., The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (CGEL).

  • 2
    Does the (*) mean 'arguably ungrammatical'? My perception is that 'The lawn is always needing mowing.' sounds a lot more acceptable than 'They are starting quarreling.' Jan 30, 2018 at 8:27

This is an example of what Ross (1970) calls the "Doubl-ing Constraint".

Zwicky (1999) is a very clear introduction to the phenomenon, with excellent examples, including

  • It continues to rain.
  • It continues raining.
  • It is continuing to rain.

which are all grammatical, compared to the ungrammatical

  • *It is continuing raining.
  • 2
    So OP's sentence is ungrammatical, right? I am confused because another answer says that sentence is perfectly fine. Mar 13, 2016 at 14:07

It's fine. They're not both acting as verbs, which you can see with a slight mod: "...finishing our planning for..."

  • 1
    Here, I think that planning is functioning partly as a verb and partly as a noun. It has attributes of both. Perhaps for that reason, I personally find the similarity of the form of 'finishing' and 'planning' coupled with the difference in their function a little jarring, though I would not call this type of construction wrong or unacceptable.
    – Erik Kowal
    May 2, 2014 at 19:45
  • 1
    Small beer! I can't see anything particularly unusual about Instructions are not included for making working landing gear. May 2, 2014 at 19:47
  • @ErikKowai That 'jarring' effect is known as horror aequi. May 2, 2014 at 19:49
  • @StoneyB - Thanks for that extra info. (Now to manufacture some pretext in which I can casually drop it into my next interaction with a supermarket cashier... :-)
    – Erik Kowal
    May 2, 2014 at 19:52
  • @StoneyB: I upvoted this answer mainly for the first two words, but it seems to me both finishing and planning are essential "verb" usages here. And although I don't have a big problem with OP's example, in actual fact I find my own example with three consecutive -ing forms less "jarring". I think it's significant that your earlier-cited horror aequi definition specifically says identical or similar grammatical structures. The more distinct grammatical/syntactic roles in my example are enough to allay any disquiet for me, at least. May 2, 2014 at 20:13

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