‘Boring’ vs. ‘bored’ in English

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

My mother (who learns English as a second language) asked me how to use words like “bored” and “boring”, “annoyed” and “annoying”, etc. Oddly enough, her teacher told her a rule (which is wrong) that “-ed” words are for people and “-ing” words are for things.

Such a rule is a nonsense. The logic is as follows: Adjectives containing -ing or -ed are usually derived from verbs.

If you say that someone (or something) is “-ing”, it means he himself (or it itself) does the action described by the verb. If he is “-ed”, someone or something does or did the action to him or her.

The verb “to annoy” means “to make somebody angry”. So, if someone is “annoying”, he or she makes other people angry; if someone is “annoyed”, other people or things make him or her angry. Similarly, the verb “bore” means “to make tired” (in a certain way), so if you say “I am boring”, it means you make other people tired; if you say “I am bored”, other people make you tired.

It works this way for any verb. The reason why my mother was told the rule is probably that for a lot of verbs (such as “to bore”), saying that a thing is “-ed” doesn’t really make sense (it’s hard to make a stone bored, for example). Nevertheless, for many verbs, it does make sense (a stone can be breaking something as well as broken), and the logic is always the same.

This article was based on my guide to the most common mistakes in English, which explains many similar topics. Why don’t you check it out?

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