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Using Adjectives Ending in –ed and –ing

Image representing students preparing for the FCE exam

Adjectives are used all the time in English. They’re a great way of adding more information about a noun, and generally helping you to say something more about a person or thing.

But have you ever wondered about why some of them end in ‘-ed’ and some end in ‘-ing’? And what the difference is between the two of them?

As it turns out, both of them can be used slightly differently! So let’s take a closer look at how to use each of them, and what they mean.

If it ends in –ing, it’s used to describe a characteristic

If you are describing an object, place, or another noun, you would use adjectives that end in –ing. These are used to describe a particular characteristic or aspect of the noun.

E.g. “The bowl was quite striking.”

“Paris is so fascinating!”

If it ends in –ed , it’s used to describe a feeling

There’s one simple and clear rule for adjectives that end in –ed. This ending is only used when you are describing a feeling or emotion.

This can be to describe how you feel something yourself – or how somebody else feels.

E.g. “I was bored during the film.”

“She was really tired after she came home.”

Simple, right?

Not quite!

Using –ing adjectives to describe people

Although you would normally use –ed adjectives to describe a particular emotion or feeling someone is experiencing, you do not use these adjectives if you want to describe something about the person themselves.

In this case – you would use an –ing adjective. But it can be tricky as the two adjective endings can change the meaning of the sentence a lot, so you need to be sure which one you mean to use!

E.g. “The model was very boring on the photo shoot.” This means the model was perceived as being boring, by other people.

“The model was very bored on the photo shoot.” This has a totally different meaning, and means that the model felt bored herself, and does not say anything about how others might have seen her.

Using –ed and –ing adjectives to describe situations

When describing an event or situation, it is possible to use either adjective ending – depending on the context and your meaning. The same rules still apply – if you are describing someone’s feelings, then you would use –ed, and if you are describing the characteristic of the event, then you would use – ing.

E.g. “The film premiere was very exciting.”

“The fans were depressed at the match.”

Using both at the same time

Once you have got the hang of both endings, you can even use both of them in the same sentence – but as always, just make sure that you have the correct ending for the intended meaning!

E.g. “The audience felt thrilled to see such an exciting event.”

Your turn

The two endings can be a little tricky to get right – so the best way to learn is by getting lots of practice! Make sure you try out both of the different types of endings, and see how they make a difference to the meaning of your sentence.