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Difference between ‘ed’ and ‘ing’ at the end of an adjective

A small difference in the ending of an adjective can give the whole sentence a completely different meaning:

Sally is a very annoying person.

In this sentence, we’re describing how Sally has a tendency to annoy other people.

Sally is a very annoyed person.

In this sentence however, we’re talking about how Sally is herself very annoyed. The sentence has a totally different meaning to the first one, just by using ‘ed’ instead of ‘ing’ at the end of the adjective.

‘Annoying’ and ‘annoyed’ are actually participles - the verb ‘annoy’ has been changed into a participle by adding ‘ed’ or ‘ing’. A participle does the same thing as an adjective - it’s used to describe a noun or pronoun. Usually, the ‘ed’ participle means that the noun it’s connected with is the object of the participle. For instance, in the second sentence, the adjective ‘annoyed’ is connected with the noun ‘Sally’. The ‘ed’ in ‘annoyed’ means that Sally is the object - something has annoyed her.

When you have an ‘ing’ ending it usually means that the noun associated with the adjective is doing something, not having something done to it. For instance, in the first sentence, Sally is actively ‘annoying’ other people.

Handy Hint - Good versus evil well

‘Good’ is an adjective. ‘Well’ is an adverb. The misuse of these words is one of the most commonly corrected mistakes in English.

When you’re describing how someone does something (i.e., describing an action - a verb) you need to use the adverb ‘well’:

I write English well.

If you use ‘good’, it just doesn’t work very well:

I write English good.

When you are describing a noun, on the other hand, make sure you use the adjective ‘good’:

Brendan is a good boy.

There is an exception to this rule - when you’re using linking verbs. Remember that linking verbs connect a subject to the subject complement, which is a noun or an adjective that tells the reader some more information about the subject. When you’re using a linking verb, you use the adjective ‘good’. This makes sense, since the subject complement can only be a noun or an adjective, not an adverb like ‘well’.

Difference between 'ed' and 'ing' at the end of an adjective