Skip to content
Home » Adjectives in English » -Ed and -ing — the difference

-Ed and -ing — the difference

Adjective suffix -ed and -ing

Which adjective suffix –ed or –ing should you use?

Adjectives come in various forms, but the ed and ing suffixes create the most confusion. The ed ending (tired, annoyed, confused) and the ing ending (tiring, annoying, confusing) are certainly the most popular. But what’s the difference?

So, how should we know when to use, say, “tired” and not “tiring”? Let’s take a closer look!

In short:

  • ed suffix: we use the –ed suffix to describe that the noun (thing, person, or situation) is affected.
  • ing suffix: we use the –ing suffix to describe the noun (thing, person, or situation), but the noun is not affected.

ed adjective suffix

We use the –ed adjective suffix when we want to show that the noun (person or thing) being described is affected. Remember, adjectives describe nouns, so the entity which is affected has to be a noun (either a person or a thing).

For example,

  • “James is tired today”.

The adjective “tired” takes the –ed ending because the noun “James” is affected. “James” is the person “affected” because he feels tired. Therefore, the –ed suffix is needed here.

ing adjective suffix

We use the –Ing adjective suffix to describe the noun (the noun could be a person, thing, or situation), but the noun is not affected. Therefore, we simply describe the noun, and there is no effect on the noun.

  • “James is tiring”.

The noun “James” is not affected, therefore, he does not “feel tired”. In this case, to say “James is tiring” means that “James is a tiring person”.

Perhaps other people could feel tired of being in his presence because he is a tiring person (maybe he speaks too loudly, or he is arrogant).

Moreover, in the phrase “James is tiring”, “tiring” could also be used as a verb in the present continuous form, but for this lesson, we are using the gerund “tiring” as an adjective.

An interesting point to note on ed and ing suffixes

Therefore, both sentences, “James is tired” and “James is tiring” are correct, but they have two separate meanings.

  • James is tired = ‘James feels affected’ and he is feeling tired’.
  • James is tiring = ‘James is a tiring person’ (other people may feel tired around him because he makes others feel tired).

ing and –ed adjective suffixes — Context

  • How’s it going, man?
  • I’m not too bad, but I’m a little tired1
  • Why is that?
  • Well, I’m going over2 a lot of material for tomorrow’s meeting, and it’s so boring3 and uninteresting. I’m super bored and uninterested, I just don’t feel like it.
  • That’s disappointing4, do you feel prepared or unprepared?
  • I think I am more or less prepared, but I’m just not that motivated and these meetings at work are a little annoying5, to be honest.
  • Yes, I agree. Most of my colleagues are a little annoyed6 at the number of meetings they have during the week.
  • If only there could be fewer of them.

ing and –ed adjective suffixes — Analysis

  1. “I’m a little tired”. The adjective “tired” takes the -ed form because the person is affected. The person is tired.
  2. “Go over” = “revise”. “To go over some exams” for example.
  3. “It’s so boring”. “The material for tomorrow’s meeting” is “boring” because it bores the person. The material itself is not affected. You cannot say “the material is bored”.
  4. “That’s disappointing”. The adjective “disappointing” takes the –ing form because the person is describing the “situation”. The situation is not affected.
  5. “Meetings at work are a little annoying”. The “meetings” are not affected, therefore the –ing form of the adjective is used. “Annoying” is describing the situation.
  6. “Most of my colleagues are a little annoyed”. The adjective in the -ed form “annoyed” is used because the noun it describes, “colleagues” are affected. Grammatically, “annoyed” is the correct form of the adjective and not “annoying” in this context.

See also