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Participles as Adjectives‏‎ in English Grammar

A girl looking bored.A participle is a form of English verb. In English there are 2 participles:

  • the present participle made by adding –ing to the verb, e.g. walk > walking
  • the past participle made by adding –ed to the verb, e.g. walk > walked

These two participles can be used as adjectives‏‎.

Often these can cause problems for learners of English so it is worth examining them carefully and making sure you understand what the difference is between them and how they are used.

Subject & Object Adjectives

Here’s a simple sentence:

Peter watched a film.

We use the past participle to describe how the subject of a sentence feels. This is a subject adjective.

The subject in the sentence above is Peter; to describe how he feels we use an -ed or past participle:

Peter was bored by the film.

Peter was interested in the story.

On the other hand, we use the –ing or present participle as an object adjective; it describes the object of the sentence:

In the sentence above film is the object and to talk about it we use the –ing participle:

The film was boring.

The film was fascinating.

Explaining -ed vs -ing in the TEFL Classroom

Many learners of English make mistakes when it comes to using the participles, -ing and -ed, as adjectives.

For example, mistakes such as these are common:

I feel boring.

* I was really interesting in the film.

* The lesson was really bored.

For a student, it’s often easier to explain that –ed refers to how someone feels and –ing refers to the thing which makes them feel that way.

an -ing thing makes you feel -ed

The class was boring and it made me feel bored.

The film was interesting and it made me feel interested.

Useful Links

Participles in English Grammar and ‏‎also check out the Past Participle and the Present Participle‏‎

Image © morgan childers

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