1. He is coming.
  2. Working is earning.

In the first sentence, coming is a main verb and earning in second sentence is a gerund, aren't they?

If the matter is that how could you explain the misleading in the sentence like,

The report that the Island is under the water is misleading??

  • I have to say, expert grammarians and linguists differ sometimes as to when an -ing form is a participle or a gerund, and whether it's a gerund phrase (either on its own or with other words) or a descriptive gerund. Add in that some -ing forms of verbs are also adjectives (usually because they've gained that sense through long use), and it's confusing to anyone.
    – SamBC
    Mar 2, 2019 at 19:05
  • 3
    As a rule of thumb, ask if you could reasonably replace the verbing term by the act / process of verbing. If you can, it's a gerund (essentially, a noun). If you can't, it's probably a verb form. Mar 2, 2019 at 19:12

2 Answers 2


It really depends on your ability to identify parts of speech regardless of the 'ing' ending. If you can spot adjectives, nouns and verbs, then you will be able to work out which function the 'ing' word is playing.

He is coming.

'Coming' is not the 'main' verb here, or not alone. Rather, 'is coming' together is how English forms the present continuous tense (i.e. verb 'to be' + present participle).

The report that the island is under the water is misleading.

In this sentence, you need to work out what function 'misleading' is playing. Is 'is misleading' a present continuous action being done to something?

John is misleading people/things. [Present continuous verb being done to the object of the sentence.]

Or is 'is misleading' describing the subject?

John is misleading. [John is a misleading person: misleading is used as adjective.]

John's misleading is wrong. [Misleading is used as a noun. @Fumblefingers' rule works here to show it is a gerund ("the action of misleading").]

You could reword you sentence as:

The misleading report that the island is under water.

So here, misleading is acting as an adjective describing the report.

So I suppose my overall advice on how to work out the function that an 'ing' word is playing would be to try to reword the sentence in a way that makes the function obvious.

  • A perticiple can act as a verb and an adjective. Coming as a present perticiple acted as a berb. So I called it(coming) is a main verb. I mean it's a finite berb. Here be verb 'is' is an auxiliary verb. If comming is not a main verb then which one is a main verb. Here 'IS' isn't a main verb, is it? Thank you Mar 2, 2019 at 21:33

[1] He is coming.

[2] Working is earning.

[3] The report that the Island is under the water is misleading.

Preliminary point: modern grammar does not recognise gerunds and present participles as distinct verb forms, but simply lumps them together, calling them gerund-participles.

Thus in [1] "coming" is a verb heading a clause functioning as complement of "is".

[2] is strictly speaking ambiguous, but verb preferred, cf. To work is to earn. Noun interpretation can be forced by adjectival premodification, as in occasional working is occasional earning.

In [3], by contrast, "misleading" is not a verb but an adjective describing "report". We know it's an adjective for several reasons; for example, it can be modified by "very", which can't modify verbs, and it can occur as complement to complex-transitive verbs like "find", as in I found it quite misleading.

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