Is there any rule to know whether a word is an adjective or a past participle when it follows "to be"? For example:

John is hurt.

The website where I found this sentence says that “hurt” is a past participle in a passive sentence.

Are you hurt?

I found this sentence in my dictionary, which says that “hurt” is an adjective.

I feel confused. Is "hurt" an adjective or a past participle, and is it active or passive?


2 Answers 2


Actually, both statements are true. It's a past participle and an adjective. Strictly speaking it's a participle adjective, i.e. a participle used as adjective.

The most common participle adjectives like hurt, bored, interested are listed in dictionaries. So, let's take a look at an example where only the verb is listed in dictionaries.

His face is scarred.

You won't find many entries in dictionaries for scarred as an adjective. However, it clearly functions as an adjective here. Similarly, you can also write:

His scarred face ...

So, in your example hurt is both, an adjective and a participle and both your sources are correct.


this has been covered well here i feel http://www.usingenglish.com/forum/threads/13051-adjective-or-past-participle

edit actually the link given by Damkerng T is more comprehensive, my link is simple but not as full i.e. you can test by replacing the linking verb by an equals sign = and see if it still makes sense

so john=hurt, you=hurt both make sense and so hurt here is acting as adjectives

  • oh ok thx for lettting me know :) updated post
    – mura nava
    Apr 1, 2014 at 11:33

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