I was taught that the Present Continuous is formed using the Gerund, but that you call it the Present Participle. Even though these two forms look exactly alike in English, in other languages they do not. Can you explain this discrepancy?

  • 2
    The present participle has the same form as a gerund but not the same grammatical function: Walking is a fun activity [gerund as noun]. We are walking now. walking=present participle. It's important not to confuse form (ing, the same) and function (different).
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 6, 2019 at 23:38
  • I think you are mistaken. The present participle is used in this way: He is a walking dead man, or The Wright Brothers' flying machine or I just had a very refreshing nap. In other words, the present participle can be used as an adjective. Your example is also a gerund.
    – Dale Erwin
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 3:59
  • Of course, the ing form can also be used as an adjective. So can the ed form. My examples are noun (first one) and verb (second one). Your example is an adjective. Can't always remember every single little thing in every comment.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 8, 2019 at 13:21

2 Answers 2


Historically, English had a gerund form and a present participle form, which often looked and sounded different. Over time, these converged, so that they now look and sound the same. Because of this convergence, some linguists argue that there is no difference at all anymore. The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, for instance, calls the -ing form of the verb "gerund-participle".


I agree that since the two forms in English are now identical, it doesn't make a lot of difference what you call it, but a good bit of our grammar was inherited from Latin and in Latin, the continuous (sometimes called progressive) forms used the gerund and not the present participle. If you want to call it gerund-participle, fine, but don't call it present participle. Some Latin languages, such as Spanish, do not have a present participle. They have some adjectives which take the same form as the Latin present participle, such as "interesante", but Spanish grammar has no element called a present participle. They do have continuous forms in their conjugations, though, so they must use the gerund which, using the same verb root, would be "interesando". Italian, on the other hand, has both present participle and gerund (interessante and interessando, respectively), but they still use the gerund for the continuous forms. I realize that the evolution of English is not dependent on any other language, but there is no reason to make such a switch in terms.

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