Saturday, December 01, 2007

Adjectives: ~ed or ~ing?

One thing that confuses Asian ESL learners is the use of adjectives that are derived from verbs. Some use the past participle (e.g., painted object, written estimate), while others use the present participle (e.g., crying baby, dancing bear).

Confusion arises in certain circumstances where it seems possible that either form might be appropriate: how do you tell which one is correct? For example, should you say

The movie was interesting” or “The movie was interested” ?

Here are a couple of ways to look at it:

  1. ~ed: Use the past participle (~ed) when you want to describe how you (i.e., the subject) feel.
  2. ~ing: Use the present participle (~ing) when you want to talk about a quality or characteristic that the noun has // Use the present participle (~ing) to describe the effect that the noun has on you (the subject).

So, we have

a interested buyer (the buyer feels interested)
a bored student (the student feels bored)
an annoyed customer (the customer feels annoyed)


an interesting movie (the movie makes me interested)
a boring teacher (the teacher makes me bored)
an annoying conversation (the conversation makes me annoyed)

Try these exercises: Select the correct adjective. (Solutions tomorrow.)

1. According to the review in the newspaper, it’s a (bored//boring) movie.

2. I have some (excited//exciting) news – I got a promotion at work today!

3. Please turn off the TV – I’m not (interested//interesting) in that program.

4. Do you like that commercial? I find it rather (annoyed//annoying).

5. He gave me a (puzzled//puzzling) look, and asked me to explain the problem again.

6. James was (depressed//depressing) because he didn’t get on the basketball team.

7. It’s (disturbed//disturbing) that anyone would find humor in such a tragedy.

8. I was (confused//confusing) by the poorly-worded directions.

9. The (frightened//frightening) child cried when she watched “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

10. You got a “D” on your math test? I am very (disappointed//disappointing) in you!

11. The politician raised an (interested//interesting) point regarding the accuracy of his opponent’s poll numbers.

12. I just heard some (depressed//depressing) news – my favorite band is breaking up.

13. A haunted house is too (frightened//frightening) for a small child like her.

14. The (bored//boring) man fell asleep in the middle of the lecture.

15. The homework was so (puzzled//puzzling) to me that I gave up and went to bed.

16. The (excited//exciting) child looked forward to the class trip to the zoo.

17. Sales were (disappointed//disappointing) last month; let’s work harder this month to improve our bottom line.

18. The man was clearly (annoyed//annoying) at having to wait in line.

19. The publisher rejected Tom’s book because of its (confused//confusing) plot.

20. Psychopaths are usually extremely (disturbed//disturbing) individuals, and should be put in an institution to prevent them from hurting themselves or others.

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