Participles used as Adjectives

July 23, 2009

emotions

 

Do the sentences below have a difference in meaning?

I am bored.

I am boring.

The answer is ‘yes’!  While ‘bored’ and ‘boring’ are both used as adjectives in these two sentences, there is a difference in meaning.

The adjective ending in ‘ed’ is called a –en or past participle, while the one ending in ‘ing’ is called a –ing or present participle.  Usually, these adjectives are derived from verbs which convey emotions. 

Some of the common verbs with such a function include alarm, amuse, annoy, bore, calm, comfort, concern, convince, defeat, disappoint, disturb, embarrass, encourage, excite, interest, love, please, satisfy, surprise, tire, and worry.

When the past participle (-en form) is used, it refers to the person experiencing the emotion.  Here the person is the object of the emotion or experience.

I am bored. (I feel bored. An outside factor that is not given caused me to feel bored.)

She is disappointed that she failed the test. (She experienced disappointment because she did not do well on the test. The test caused the disappointment.)

He is frightened by the ghost. (He experienced fear. The ghost caused the fear.)

When the present participle (-ing form) is used, it refers to the cause of the experience.  This cause is the subject of the experience. 

I am boring. (I caused boredom meaning ‘I am a boring person’.)

She is disappointing.  (She disappointed someone. She caused the disappointment.)

He is frightening. (He frightened someone. He caused the fright.)