Many learners confuse words like:
- “boring” and “bored”
- “exciting” and “excited”
- “annoying” and “annoyed”
The truth is, there’s a very easy way to remember the difference between -ED and -ING words. Just think of the word “tired.”
“Tired” and Other -ED Words
“Tired” was probably the first -ED word you learned. You say “I’m tired” not “I’m tiring,” right?
Let’s see some more examples of -ED words.
This dog looks bored.
This dog looks excited.
As you can see, -ED words like “tired” describe people or animals that feel a certain way.
“Tiring” and Other -ING Words
On the other hand, -ING words describe the cause of a feeling. Think back to the word “tired.” It actually has an -ING form: “tiring.” If something makes you feel tired, it is tiring.
- John quit his job as a construction worker because it was too tiring.
- It’s tiring to cook and clean for ten people every day.
So if you’re “tired,” the thing that makes you feel tired is “tiring.” In other words, both -ED and -ING words describe feelings. However:
- -ED words focus on the person who is experiencing the feeling.
- -ING words focus on the cause of the feeling.
This is why we say “I’m tired” but “My job is tiring.”
Let’s look at some more examples.
Homework is boring.
(Homework makes the person bored, so it’s boring.)
This concert is exciting.
(The concert makes people excited, so it’s exciting.)
At this point, some students might think “I’ll use -ED for people and -ING for things.” After all, this is how many English courses teach this grammar.
However, this rule isn’t true and will only lead to more confusion. Check out this example:
- Sid went on a date with Bryan. He was boring. Sid was bored the entire night.
Based on the rule above, the second sentence should say “He was bored,” because Bryan is a person. But in reality, it doesn’t matter if Bryan is a person or a thing. He’s the cause of Sid’s boredom, so that’s why we can say he’s “boring.”
When deciding between the -ED and -ING forms of a word, don’t ask yourself if the subject of the sentence is a person or a thing. Simply focus on whether it’s the cause of some feeling or it’s the one with the feeling.
Now, you should understand the difference between -ED and -ING words. Just remember:
- -ED words focus on the person with the feeling, e.g. “I’m tired.”
- -ING words focus on the cause of the feeling, e.g. “Work is tiring.”
However, if you want to master this aspect of grammar, don’t take our word for it. See for yourself!
Watch movies, read the news, or have conversations. Then, look out for -ED and -ING words and think about why one form of a word was used instead of the other.
Here are some examples to get you started. Think about why each sentence below uses the bolded words correctly. Then, check our explanations underneath.
1. I visited the Taj Mahal and it was amazing. I was so amazed at its architecture.
- Why is the Taj Mahal “amazing” and not “amazed”?
- Why were you “amazed” and not “amazing”?
(The Taj Mahal doesn’t have feelings, so we can’t use an -ED word to describe it. You have feelings, so you’re “amazed,” and since the Taj Mahal is the cause of your feelings, it’s “amazing.”)
2. Grammar is confusing. It always makes me feel confused.
- Why is grammar “confusing” and not “confused”?
- Why do you feel “confused” and not “confusing”?
(Grammar is the cause of your confusion, so it’s “confusing.” You are not confusing anyone, so you can’t be “confusing.” You are “confused.”)
3. Learning English is frustrating, but my online English tutor always helps me feel less frustrated.
- Why are your English studies “frustrating” not “frustrated”?
- Why do you feel “frustrated” and not “frustrating”?
(Learning English is a process, and processes don’t have feelings, so you can’t say “learning English is frustrated.” The process of learning English frustrates you, so you can say it’s “frustrating.”)
If you want more practice with this grammar point or just want to improve your spoken English, book a free lesson with an online English tutor. At Engoo, we have thousands of professional tutors available 24/7 as well as a variety of English lessons that’ll help perfect your English conversation skills, master English grammar, and more!