Bored vs Boring - what is the difference between -ed and -ing adjectives in English - E is for English

What is the difference between -ed and -ing adjectives?

The -ed & -ing adjectives topic is challenging for many new learners of English, and while it is not like you killed someone by telling them “You look boring.” instead of “You look bored.”, it’s still a good idea to clear things out of the way once and for all, and not end up in an awkward situation. 😀

Because we start with some general information first, check the Table of Contents below to jump to the point if you are not interested in the rest.

Color Legend


nouns, pronouns, etc.



1. What are adjectives and why do we need them?

Adjectives are words that describe other words (nouns1pronouns2noun phrases3, or gerunds4) by telling us more about them in terms of height, length, size, or some other quality.

Here are some examples (adjective):

a girl with a red dress holding a violin

She has a red dress1 on.

The adjective red above modifies the noun dress, and it tells us more about it in terms of color.

Oh, poor me2!

The adjective poor modifies the pronoun me.

A large group of people3 gathered at the train station.

The adjective large modifies the noun phrase group of people, and we understand it was a large group of people rather than a small group of people.

Her beautiful singing4 made people stop and listen.

The adjective beautiful modifies the gerund singing.

2. How to tell if a word is an adjective?

In general, to determine whether a word is an adjective or not, we could check if it has comparative and superlative forms:

Tall-taller-(the) tallest – Comparative adjectives by Meri Zaha

big* (+g) – bigger – (the) biggest

pretty* (y-i) – prettier – (the) prettiest

exciting more exciting – (the) most exciting

Speaking of comparison, we can say “as tall as“, “as pretty as” but we definitely do not say as chair as, as table as, etc.

Also, we say very tall, more beautiful, much smaller but we do not say very table, more chair, much garden.

Interactive Practice

Knowing the above, read and find the adjectives in the text below. Select all the words you think are adjectives. When you think you are ready, click the blue Check button to see your answers.

Adapted from A Walk in the Forest by Maria Dek

an image of a chamelion look at a spider

A walk in the forest 1

A walk in the forest 2

 a chamelion look at a dragonfly

Did you notice how the word water, which is a noun, acts as an adjective in this context? That is because sometimes we can use nouns to describe other nouns, usually in the case of the so-called adjectives of purpose.

Adjectives of purpose describe what something is for, and usually, (but not always ❗) end in -ing.

shopping bag, rolling pin, frying pan


water bottle, passenger seat, kitchen table

The above nouns act as adjectives because they describe the nouns that follow them.

3. Where do adjectives go in a sentence?

Adjectives can be placed differently in a sentence.

In case we use a linking verb (for example, to be) or a sense verb that acts as a linking verb (to look, to feel, to sound, to seem, to appear, to taste, to smell, etc.), adjectives go after the verb. Such adjectives are also called predictive adjectives1.

The table is white1.

The story sounds interesting1.

In case there is no verb that links the adjective and the noun, the adjective goes before the noun it describes. These adjectives are called attributive adjectives2.

My neighbors live in a big2 house. They have a beautiful2, large2 garden, and three small2 dogs.

Most adjectives can be both predicative1 and attributive2:

The cat is cute1.

The cute2 cat is sleeping.

However, some adjectives can only function predicatively, i.e. they need a linking or a sense verb. For example:

  • afraid
  • alone
  • asleep
  • awake

*The list goes on.

The cat is afraid/ awake/ asleep. ✅

The afraid/ awake/ asleep cat. ❌

4. Order of adjectives (when more than one in a sentence)

It’s possible to have two or more adjectives before another word in a sentence to describe it even further. In that case, the adjectives come in a specific order.

The order of adjectives is not written in stone. Different sources order adjectives differently and may even have different adjective categories. If you are interested in the subject, check out the article “What Is the Order of Adjectives in a Sentence? An Infographic, Examples, and More…”

In brief, when using more than one adjective in a sentence, usually, adjectives of opinion1 come first. The size2, shape3, age5, color6, material9, etc. (also called “fact adjectives”) follow.

I love my new5, red6 sweater.

If the image appears broken, click the link below it to open it.

Order of Adjectives – Pink leather purse by Meri Zaha

I have a big2, round3 carpet in the kitchen.

5. Formation of adjectives

Some adjectives are formed by adding either a prefix to the beginning of another word (it could be a noun, a verb, or another adjective) or by adding a suffix to the end.*

In some cases, if an adjective is formed by adding a prefix to another adjective, the meaning becomes the opposite.

un + fair = unfair (the opposite of fair)

im + possible = impossible (the opposite of possible)

child + ish = childish (acting or behaving like a child)

beauty + ful*(y-i) = beautiful (pretty)

6. To the point: -ed, and -ing adjectives

Usually, adjectives that end in -(e)d or -ing are formed by adding these endings to verbs. As they are formed differently, they mean different things.

VERB + ED = an adjective ending in ed

VERB + ING = an adjective ending in ing

If the word that the endings are attached to ends in E, first E goes away, and then we add the endings. Here are several examples.

to excite + ed = excit + ed = excited* (and not exciteed!)

to excite + ing = excit + ing = exciting* (and not exciteing!)

Now that you know this, do the exercise below.

Is there a difference in the meaning of -ed and -ing adjectives, and what is it?

Look at Sam and Mini’s story and see if we can find the difference.

What is the difference between -ad, and -ing adjectives in English. Sam is bored because he has a boring birthday 1
Sam is bored because this is a boring birthday. Mini, unlike Sam, is very excited!
What is the difference between -ad, and -ing adjectives in English. Sam is bored because he has a boring birthday 2
Sam is not only bored but also boring, which is why Mini will never buy him a gift again.

We use adjectives that end in -ed to explain how we or somebody else feels.

Sam is not very happy. He is very bored.

We use adjectives that end in -ing to explain what effect something or somebody else has on us. (To express our opinion about something or someone.)

“OMG. Sam! You’re so boring. I’ll never buy you a gift again!”

A side note* Just because someone thinks that something or somebody else is boring doesn’t mean that it’s universally true. A TV show may be boring to me, but to you, it may be interesting.

While people and cats can be both bored and boring, things can only be boring. Things whatever they are – a birthday, a TV show, a trip, a job can never be bored because they don’t have feelings.

The birthday party is boring.✅

The birthday party is bored.❌

So, things are always -ing, and the rest of us can be both -ed, and -ing! Isn’t that exciting? 🙂

Write the correct adjective. -ed or -ing?

1 thought on “What is the difference between -ed and -ing adjectives?”

  1. Pingback: When to use -ed and -ing adjectives? – English Lessons that help teachers teach

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