Friday, 26 April 2013

Confused by -ing and -ed adjectives? You won't be.

Two students are sitting in a lesson, trying hard to stay awake.  Student A turns to Student B and whispers "I'm boring."  Student B replies "I'm bored too."

Which one of them is right?  Do you get confused with -ing and -ed adjectives too?

The English language has an awful lot of them, and they are generally to do with reactions and emotions.  For example:

confusing / confused
fascinating / fascinated
interesting / interested
astounding / astounded
boring / bored
tiring / tired
amazing / amazed
exhausting / exhausted
frightening / frightened
baffling / baffled
amazing / amazed
shocking / shocked
surprising / surprised
dazzling / dazzled
daunting / daunted
depressing / depressed
...and many many more!

Simple Explanation:

The trick to remembering when to use the -ing form and when the -ed form, is that the -ing form is for something that has an effect on someone.  So a book is interesting - it causes you to experience interest.  An activity is tiring - it uses up all your energy and leaves you feeling like you want to lie down.

The -ed form, on the other hand, is for the person who has been affected.  So you are interested in reading the interesting book, and tired after doing the tiring activity.

Not-quite-so-simple Explanation:

If it's helpful to put this all in more grammatical terms, remember that these -ing and -ed adjectives are made using the participles of verbs - to fascinate, to interest, to astound, etc.

Think of the -ing adjective as being active, and the -ed adjective as being passive.

For example: It was a boring lesson = The lesson bored me. - This is an active sentence, saying that the lesson had an effect on me.  The lesson is the subject of the verb.

He was a bored student = The student was bored (by the lesson).  - This is a passive sentence, saying that the student was affected by the lesson.

So to go back to our two students, it's B who is correct.  Both students are feeling bored.  It is the lesson that is boring, because it causes the feeling of boredom.  Possibly the teacher is boring too, but Student A is not!

Image from by @VictoriaB52 used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial licence,

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