Contrasting Participial Adjectives


Distinctive Meanings in Contrasting Adjective Pairs Ending in –ing and –ed

In terms of meanings, there is a distinguishing feature in English between pairs of adjectives such as interesting / interested, boring / bored, exciting / excited, and shocking / shocked.

These forms are usually used as illustrated in sentences 4 & 5 below:

    • The movie was interesting.
    • The plot was amusing.
    • The audience were interested and amused.
    • James didn’t enjoy the movie. He was *boring.
    • He was more *interesting in soccer game.

In similar constructions, non–native speakers might use the –ing form of the adjective (boring, interesting) when they actually mean the –ed form (bored, interested), just as the case in sentences 4) and 5) above.

One may aptly ask: “but why can’t I say, ‘I am boring today?’”

The answer is, of course, that you certainly can say that (it’s grammatically correct), but is it what you mean? The meaning distinction is not too difficult to explain.

Speaking in terms of its source, these adjectives are derived from verbs that express emotions or feelings.

That being said, when we are talking about certain emotions, we can focus on the source (i.e. who or what causes it) or on the experiencer (i.e. who or what is affected by it).

With this fact in mind, when you are talking about the source, you use the –ing form. If a book (or a movie or a person) causes the emotion, then it is boring, interesting, or exciting.

When you are talking about the experiencer, you use the –ed form. If people experience the emotion, then they are bored, interested, or excited.

The cause (source) is boring, the experiencer (the affected person) is bored.

Now, we can use this medium and include a list of several adjectives that have this meaning distinction.

Similar Adjectives like “boring” and “bored”

Note that the following –ing forms are adjectives associated with the source (or the cause). The –ed forms are associated with the experiencer (or the affected).

    • Things or people are usually amazing, amusing, and annoying.
    • People are mostly amazed, amused, and annoyed.
    • Things or people are usually astonishing, and bewildering.
    • People are mostly astonished, and bewildered.
    • Things or people are usually boring, confusing, and depressing.
    • People are mostly bored, confused, and depressed.
    • Things or people are usually disappointing, and disgusting.
    • People are mostly disappointed, and disgusted.
    • Things or people are usually embarrassing, and exciting.
    • People are mostly embarrassed, and excited.
    • Things or people are usually exhausting, and fascinating.
    • People are mostly exhausted, and fascinated.
    • Things or people are usually frightening, and horrifying.
    • People are mostly frightened, and horrified.
    • Things or people are usually interesting, and intriguing.
    • People are mostly interested, and intrigued.
    • Things or people are usually irritating, puzzling, and satisfying.
    • People are mostly irritated, puzzled, and satisfied.
    • Things or people are usually shocking, and surprising.
    • People are mostly shocked, and surprised.
    • Things or people are usually terrifying, tiring, and worrying.
    • People are mostly terrified, tired, and worried.

Self Exercise

Read through the following text, underlining all the adjectives expressing emotions. Then, try to identify the sources or the experiencers for each adjectives in your personal study sheet.

Yesterday was a school holiday. Of course, it rained all day, so my kids were really bored. I wanted to do some work at home, but they interrupted me every five minutes and just became too annoying. I am amazed and astonished that their teachers are not constantly exhausted. I was irritated after only one morning with them and was really worried about the afternoon. So, I gave up my work and asked the little monsters if they would be interested in a movie. They were thrilled. Unfortunately, we chose to go to a really boring film. After about twenty minutes, they stopped being excited and fell asleep. I wasn’t disappointed at all.

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