‘ing’ forms used like nouns

Some nouns and adjectives can be followed by –ing forms. We usually use a preposition to connect the noun or adjective to the –ing form. Note that most nouns and adjectives that can be followed by –ing forms can’t be followed by infinitives.

  • The thought of failing never bothered him. (NOT The thought to fail never bothered him.)
  • I hate the idea of getting old. (NOT I hate the idea to get old.)
  • She is very good at picking up non-verbal cues. (NOT She is very good to pick up non-verbal cues.)
  • I am tired of listening to advice. (NOT I am tired to listen to advice.)

Certain nouns and indefinite pronouns can be followed by for + -ing form. This structure is used to express the purpose of an object.

  • I need something for cleaning copper.
  • Have you got any machine for cutting grass and weeds?

When we talk about our purpose in using a particular object, we usually use an infinitive, not an –ing form.

  • We used a pair of garden shears to clip the hedge. (More natural than ‘We used a pair of garden shears for clipping the hedge.)