Past participles can modify nouns in much the same way as adjectives. For example

  1. I am told = I am a told man.

  2. You are invited = You are a invited man.

  3. He is questioned = He is a questioned man.

Are these sentences correct in adjective sense? If all past participles are used as adjectives then how can we identify which are in passive sense or adjective sense (be forms+past participles) without "an object" and "by" phrase?

  • Idiomatically, I am told isn't a valid standalone statement, so neither is I am a told man. Prepositive invited is a relatively unusual usage - you might encounter something like We'll only give free drinks to the invited guests, but your example usage would be extremely unlikely in any context I can think of. Some combination of those two factors seems to apply to your third example, where again prepositioned adjectival use of a past participle doesn't work. Sep 23 '16 at 17:45
  • Sometimes it is impossible to tell just by looking at a sentence. Example: 'The window is broken'. Without context, we don't know if this is a passive form or the use of an adjective. That is why analysing a sentence on its own, with no context or discourse or speaker's intention can be futile. Although as FF has said, some adjectives are rarely used before the noun they modify. Sep 23 '16 at 19:06
  • Not every past participle can be used adjectivally in the manner you are suggesting. Also, "I am told you are good at English" does not mean we say you are a "told person". However, a story was told about you yesterday. The told story was a lie. But that's pushing the use of told.
    – Lambie
    Dec 13 '18 at 17:45

It doesn't matter, if the distinction needs to be made, a by X phrase identifying the agent will usually follow.

The building was destroyed. (The building is in the state "destroyed". Someone probably destroyed it, because buildings don't destroy themselves.)

The building was destroyed by a wrecking crew. (It's still in the state "destroyed" too.)

I was invited. (You are in a state "invited". Someone probably invited you, because decent people usually don't invite themselves to parties.)

I was invited by Kim. (Kim invited you to a party. You are also in the state of "invited" as well.)


You can use particles as adjectives, but you are not guaranteed semantic meaning. For example, the following sentence is grammatically fine but it doesn't mean much:

I am a told man.

There are many web courses that go into details. To directly answer your question, in your constructions, you can tell the adjective use from the particle case by the fact that, in the former, there's a noun immediately following the adjective.

He is a questioned man.

"Man" is the noun that immediately follows your adjective. If you use the participle in passive voice, I can't think of a case where you will not have a noun immediately following the participle.


All your past participles are acted as passive voice.

These are the tips to distinguish whether past participles are acted as passive voice or adjective:

  1. Describe an action that the subject could not do by itself => Passive voice

    For example:

    • The mouse was trapped.
    • The park was covered with snow.
    • Mr. Smith is known to everyone in this town.
  2. Describe the state of the subject or the native of the subject => Adjective

    For example:

    • She is interested in reading books (The native of the subject).
    • I'm bored (The state of the subject).
    • You are so attracted to power (The native of the subject).
    • I'm very tired (The state of the subject).
  • @Catija: Thanks. The first example is not correct in this case. So, I changed it Mar 30 '17 at 16:32
  • Should be "acting", not "acted", and I think you mean "nature" rather than "native". Dec 11 '17 at 22:55

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