Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

July 20, 2009

Adjectives – to use an …..ing or …..ed ending, that is the question!

Are you surprised or is this surprising? Either is possible so long as you use the right ending in the right place.

How many students are ‘boring’  with lessons or ‘interesting’ in the film? Many in my experience!

It’s a simple mistake to make and one that can be easily avoided by learning and remembering.

Saying ‘I am very boring’ isn’t a huge language crime, but it does invite ‘smart’ comments and the odd chuckle at your expense.

The difference

…ing adjectives

have an active meaning, the thing that is causing the affect – especially where they describe feelings:

  • A surprising fact.               The fact is causing the surprise


  • I am surprised by that fact.                   The person learning the fact is surprised

…ing adjectives not describing feelings often have the object in front to make a compound:

  • a life-threatening illness
  • a Chinese-speaking teacher

…ing adjectives also describe processes or changes to states

  • a recurring theme
  • a declining market

Some ..ing adjectives are related to verbs but take on a different meaning;

  • That is a very fetching outfit!
  • She can be very trying at times!

Compare the meanings of fetch and try as verbs.

Other …ing adjectives have no verb equivalent. These wouldn’t take an …ed ending either.

examples are; balding, appetising, neighbouring, scathing etc..

Finally some …ing adjectives are used for emphasis when we are angry or irritated;

  • Where’s that blinking report!
  • Who’s got the flaming file!

…ed adjectives

have a passive meaning, the thing affected by the feeling – again where they describe feelings

  • I was totally bored by the film

they can have an active meaning where they are related to intransitive verbs

  • This is a very dated style.
  • He is a retired doctor.

adjectives linked to verbs also have different meanings but this is less striking than the …ing adjectives

  • He spoke in a guarded manner.
  • He was a disturbed young man.

…ed adjectives can be derived from nouns and their meaning is obvious.

e.g. bearded, walled, skilled, gloved, gifted, winged etc..

Finally, a handful of …ed adjectives are not related to nouns or verbs.

e.g. rugged, bloated, assorted, crazed etc..

This has been a bit of a romp through some basic principals. For a serious grammar explanation check out the University College London, Internet Grammar site

To test your skills try this quick quiz.


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