Spelling Rules for Adding -ing to English Verbs

Are you often confused about when to add letters and when to take them away in the -ing form of English verbs? You are not alone: There are some tricky words just waiting to trip up native speakers of English too! Hopefully this series will clearly demonstrate the four simple rules to help you get your spelling right every time.

A Note on Tenses

As its name suggests, the continuous (or progressive) form of a verb is used with ongoing actions. These could be past, present or even future actions; the -ing ending can be added in each of these cases.

Examples

  • PAST: She was eating her breakfast when I saw her at 7 a.m.
  • PRESENT: Now she is walking to school.
  • FUTURE: She will be going to bed at 10 p.m. tonight.

Obviously, the same spelling rules for the -ing form will apply in each case.

Rule 1: Drop the E

Verbs ending in -e (which is usually silent) lose this letter before adding -ing.

Examples

  • write: The student is writing his essay tonight.
  • take: She said she was taking the dog for a walk.
  • close: When is closing time?
  • concede: I think the wrestler is conceding defeat.
  • prune: Your father is pruning the roses.

As usual in English, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule, as outlined below.

First Exception

Verbs which end in an /i:/ ("ee") sound do not drop the final e.

Examples

be: She's being very secretive these days.

see: Are you seeing things?

agree: Sometimes the best policy is agreeing to disagree.

Second Exception

Some verbs ending in -nge

Where the g has a soft sound (like "j" in jam), some verbs do not drop the final e.

Examples

singe: Harry is singeing his eyebrows with the candle!

binge:After fasting all day, she spent the evening bingeing on chocolate.

(Note, however, hinge – hinging, cring – cringing, lunge – lunging, fringe – fringing. Consult a dictionary when you come across any new -nge verbs for the spelling of the continuous form.)

Third Exception

The verb "dye".

Example

She said she will be dyeing her hair next week.

Additional resources

Forming the Present Participle of English Verbs: Spelling Changes and Pronunciation

This post is part of the series: ING-lish: Correct Spelling of Continuous Forms of Verbs

This series explains the spelling rules for adding -ing to verbs to create the continuous forms. It is split into three articles and four rules.
  1. ING-lish: Spelling Rules for Adding -ing to English Verbs
  2. English Verbs: When to Drop the IE and Add a K: Rules 2 and 3
  3. ING-lish: Rule 4 For Adding -ING to Verbs in English