Are your students confused or confusing?
How many times have you heard students say “I am exciting” or “I am boring”? Grasping when to use -ED and -ING endings with participial adjectives is very confusing. That is, the adjectives are confusing, and the students are confused! Even after countless written exercises, students often make mistakes with these “feeling” adjective endings while speaking. Here are some teaching tips to help clarify the situation for your students.
1. Sentence patterns
Start by reminding students of the two adjective patterns used in English sentences:
- Be + Adj Example: The book is interesting. (The adjective interesting describes the noun book.)
- Adj + N Example: This is an interesting book. (The adjective interesting describes the noun book.)
Now you can remind your students that -ED/-ING adjectives are used to describe feelings.
Give some examples, such as interested/interesting, bored/boring, excited/exciting, tired/tiring, etc.
3. -ING adjectives: Be + Adj
You use the -ING ending when the noun is the REASON or CAUSE of the “feeling” adjective. In other words, -ING adjectives show why a person is feeling a certain way. -ING adjectives are used primarily with nouns that are THINGS.
- This movie is boring. (The noun movie is the REASON/CAUSE of my feeling of boredom.)
- My life is exciting. (The noun life is the REASON/CAUSE of my feeling of excitement.)
4. -ING adjectives: Adj + N
- This is a boring movie. (The noun movie is the REASON/CAUSE of my feeling of boredom.)
- I have an exciting life. (The noun life is the REASON/CAUSE of my feeling of excitement.)
5. -ED adjectives: Be + Adj
You use the -ED ending to show the RESULT or EFFECT. In other words, -ED adjectives describe how a person is feeling. -ED adjectives are used primarily with nouns that are PEOPLE.
- She is bored. (The adjective bored describes how she is feeling.)
- My friend is excited. (The adjective excited describes how my friend is feeling.)
6. -ED adjectives: Adj + N
You can mention to students that this pattern is possible, but not often used with -ED adjectives.
- A bored girl fell asleep on the bus. (The adjective bored describes how the girl is feeling.)
- My excited friend can’t wait to go on vacation. (The adjective excited describes how my friend is feeling.)
7. Cause and effect
For further clarification, you can give some examples of CAUSE and EFFECT (i.e., the REASON and RESULT) in sentence pairs. It really helps students to see the adjectives side by side like this.
- This is a boring movie. I am bored. (The movie CAUSES my feeling; the EFFECT is that I feel bored.)
- I have an exciting life. I am excited. (My life is the REASON for my feeling; the RESULT is that I feel excited.)
Here’s where it gets tricky for students! Can you use -ING with a PERSON instead of a THING? Unfortunately, yes, if the person is the CAUSE of the feeling.
- The teacher is confusing. The students are confused. (The teacher CAUSES the confusion, perhaps by not explaining something clearly, so the EFFECT is that the students feel confused.)
- The artist is interesting. We are interested in him. (The artist, because of his talent, is the REASON for our interest; we are interested in him in him and his art as a RESULT).
Make sure you explain to students that when they say “I am boring,” it actually means that they are uninteresting people, not that they are feeling bored!
If you have higher-level students, you may wish to point out that we have several verbs in English besides “Be” that you can use to indicate how you’re feeling. Some examples include: feel, seem, look, appear, etc.
- I am confused.
- She feels confused.
- He seems confused.
- They appear confused.
Here’s hoping your students are both interested and interesting!