Definition from the dictionary:

star - (of a movie, play, or other show) have (someone) as a principal performer.

Ok, sometimes I meet this word, used as follows:

The movie stars Dustin Hoffman as an autistic man link

but much more often I face this word, used like this:

A film starring Liza Minnelli

So what's the difference between this two words, when should I use each of them?

  • 1
    stars is the 3rd person singular of the present tense of star and starring is the present participle. Wiktionary also says this about starring: (with a film as its subject) That which has the specified actor or actors, especially those in lead roles, in its cast.
    – Archa
    Jun 23 '16 at 16:23
  • 2
    It's the same word in different grammatical forms. An analogous situation exists with many verbs: "the store sells milk" vs "a store selling milk..." Note that the second form is not a complete sentence; there's no predicate. You might say e.g. A film starring Liza Minnelli opened yesterday.
    – phoog
    Jun 23 '16 at 16:33
  • 1
    1. The movie shows Dustin Hoffman as an autistic man. 2. Liza Minnelli plays in a film as a principal performer.
    – Archa
    Jun 23 '16 at 16:33
  • 1
    @phoog "store sells/selling" example is a quite clear for me, I even could say that I can feel small difference between these sentences, but "The movie stars Dustin Hoffman" sentences looks completely wrong for me, because it appears like movie is a subject and it plays (stars).
    – jumpjet67
    Jun 23 '16 at 16:42
  • 1
    starring - (of a movie, play, or other show) having (someone) as a principal performer. Jun 23 '16 at 18:17

There is no difference between the words, in the sense that they aren't different words.  They are different forms of the same verb "to star". 

The verb "to star" has both transitive and intransitive uses.  In either case, the verb expects a semantic patient or theme -- something that is affected by the action of the verb.  In the active voice, the transitive use displays this theme as a direct object.  The intransitive use displays its theme as a subject

This film stars Dustin Hoffman.  -- transitive 
Dustin Hoffman stars (in several films).  -- intransitive 

Like any other verb, "to star" has several forms.  The -ing forms of this verb are no different than those of any other English verb.  "Starring" is the form used for gerunds and present participles.  Those are non-finite verb forms.  They do not create predicates. 

This film stars Dustin Hoffman. 
a film starring Dustin Hoffman 

One major difference between these two examples is that only the first is a complete sentence.  The second is nothing more than a noun phrase. 

Of course, that noun phrase can be used in a sentence: 

We watched a film starring Dustin Hoffman. 


They are actually different versions of the same word. "Stars" is the third-person present active indicative of the verb "to star." "Starring" is an present active participle of the same verb, and can often take a noun like the name of an actor when being used. Here are two example sentences using the verb "to star":

Third-person present active indicative

The movie The Martian stars Matt Damon.

Present active participle

The Martian starring Matt Damon


I am in Africa and I was taught a verb represents an action. Something you can do or demonstrate. How do I do 'star'?. How do I demonstrate it? The fact that you had you add 'to' in front of your verb tells me that this is a fluid verb.

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