I saw a speeding sedan down the road.

The sedan was speeding down the road.

The first one is an example of the present participle (as the word speeding is linked with the car acting like an adjective) But what about the second case. Is it a use of present participle?

  • The first one sounds unnatural to this US English speaker, though. Ordinarily I would expect to hear that the car was speeding down the road as in sentence #2, but the way #1 is phrased makes it sound like the car was down the road when you saw it, and it was speeding, which is not the same thing as "speeding down the road". – stangdon May 26 '18 at 15:36
  • I saw a speeding car yesterday on the highway. – Lambie Jan 15 '20 at 22:06

Yes, it is.

According to Merriam-Webster

present participle

a participle that typically expresses present action in relation to the time expressed by the finite verb in its clause and that in English is formed with the suffix -ing and is used in the formation of the progressive tenses


The verbs dancing in He was dancing and “crying” in “The baby is crying” are present participles.


Yes. The past participle of speeding is "sped". Both these two sentences use an auxiliary verb to put the sentence into the past tense, so "speeding" is correct.

I saw a speeding sedan down the road.

The sedan was speeding down the road.

Without these verbs you would have to use the word "sped".

The sedan sped down the road.


Since the grammar I follow does not distinguish between a gerund and a present participle, "speeding" is referred to as a gerund-participle verb. (You can call it a present participle still.)

Since the grammar I follow distinguishes between category and function, I wouldn't say it "functions like an adjective". It's a gerund-participle that functions as a modifier.

  • Actually, the authors of the relevant section in CGEL (pp.80–1), while acknowledging the difference, do use the wordings "a gerund [...] functions as or like a noun", "a participle is functionally comparable to an adjective, a gerund is functionally comparable to a noun", then they talk of "functional resemblance between a gerund and a noun", or that words from a different lexical category "bear some functional resemblance to nouns" (p.538). I'm also all for distinguishing between function and category, but functioning as or like an adjective can refer to the resemblance of functions. – user3395 May 26 '18 at 9:37

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