Not a grammarian, in the following paragraphs, I use the terms "active vs passive" voices to refer to an "executor" or a "recipient" of a verb.

I do not know if a demanded job makes any sense in English, but a demanding job means to me that it is a job that demands a lot of attention (demand is used in an active voice).

A service that satisfies a customer's need is called a satisfying service (satisfy is used in an active voice), whereas a customer who is or was satisfied by a service is called a satisfied customer (satisfy is used in a passive voice, not an issue of the "time tense").

An information has to be requested first before it becomes the "requested information". While this term "requested information" appears to sound stilted to many native English speakers, the term seems fairly commonly used in books (not sure if all were used by native English speakers). A google books search can confirm it.


Here, the temporal order is interesting to me in that, a piece of information ONLY becomes "the requested information" AFTER a request is placed. Thus, I do not know if the requested information is more an issue of the "time tense" or an issue of the "passive voice". To me, information can ONLY be requested (request used in a passive voice) and cannot request (in an active voice), thus I took the position of "requested information" being a result of "passive voice".

For the examples of failing experiments and failed experiments, they seem very different (in my eye) from all the aforementioned examples. In BOTH cases, the verb "to fail" is used in an active voice, i.e., whether an experiment is failing or an experiment failed, it is the experiment that "fails" (an active voice, although "an experiment-performer" can also fail an experiment). As the verb "to fail" seems to be commonly used in an active voice, but the terms "a failing experiment" and "a failed experiment" have different connotations, I wonder if there are other examples, similar to this modifier ("failed"), in that a verb-ed modifier is derived from an "active-voice" use of the verb

  • You may be interested in this article on unaccusative verbs: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unaccusative_verb. If you scroll down around halfway to the section titled "Unaccusativity in English," you'll find some examples very similar to the one in your question. I believe the concept of "unaccusativity" is not something that is commonly taught, and had never heard the term myself until very recently (credit belongs to @herisson on ELU for his excellent answer!). It appears that, categorically, unaccusative verbs can be used in the way you described (i.e. v-ed as active voice modifier). Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


Transitivity makes a difference. 

Rather than discussing active and passive voices, let's talk about semantic roles like agent and patient.  Those labels cover what I think you mean by the "executor" and "recipient" of a verb. 

In the phrase "a demanding job", the modified noun "job" is the agent.  The job demands something.  In the phrase "a demanded job", "job" is the patient.  Something has demanded the job. 

Note that both "the job [demands / demanded / is demanding / has demanded] something" and "something [demands / demanded / is demanding / has demanded] the job" are cast in the active voice.  Passive voice alternatives are available for both.  In the active voice, subjects generally represent agents and objects generally represent patients.  Also note that participles like "demanding" and "demanded" do not specify temporal ordering. These non-finite forms have no tense. 

Verbs like to demand, to satisfy and to request require patients.  Verbs like to fail do not.  Statements like "I demand", "I satisfy" and "I request" are incomplete.  A statement like "I fail" can stand on its own. 

When a verb requires a patient, we expect the so-called past participle form to modify its patient.  When a verb does not even allow a patient, we cannot expect the past participle to modify something that doesn't exist. 

The verb to fail has both transitive and intransitive uses.  "I failed" and "I failed the course" are equally sensible statements.  As a failed student, I'm possibly the agent.  As a failed course, it's probably the patient. 

A failed experiment is also probably the agent.  It's possible but not very likely that something else failed the experiment. 

Obviously, a list of all intransitive English verbs doesn't belong on this site. 

  • A great many thanks !! Your explanation provided the needed clarity I had been searching.
    – B Chen
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 20:42
  • I wonder if you can provide another example in which the intransitive verb is used as an adjective in both verb-ing and verb-ed forms and the two adjectives indicate two different scenarios
    – B Chen
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 20:54
  • 2
    "My mother has three grown children. We were still growing children back in the 70's & 80's." This is an intransitive (in fact, ergative) sense of to grow, somewhat different than that in "my mother grew roses". She didn't grow children, she had children who grew. The -ing form treats the verb's action as a state. The -en form treats the verb's result as a state. That's the usual pattern. By the way, it's common to call the participle the "-en" form even when the actual ending is just -n, or -t, or even -ed. Some verbs change vowels instead of endings, like sing/sang/sung. Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 21:31
  • As for the active/passive difference, we simply expect the state of action to belong to the performing agent, just as we expect the state of result to belong to the affected patient (when there is one). Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 21:34

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