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"Relax" is a complicated verb because of its meanings.

re‧lax /rɪˈlæks/ ●●● S3 W3 AWL verb
1 REST [intransitive, transitive] to rest or do something that is enjoyable, especially after you have been working

I just want to sit down and relax.
What Robyn needed was a drink to relax her.

A hot bath should help to relax you.

2 BECOME CALM [intransitive, transitive] to become quiet and calm after you have >been upset or nervous, or to make someone do this

Once out of danger, he started to relax.

Relax! Everything’s fine.


From the verb "relax" we have 2 adjectives "relaxed" & "relaxing"

re‧laxed /rɪˈlækst/ ●●● S2 W3 adjective
1 feeling calm, comfortable, and not worried or annoyed

Gail was lying in the sun looking very relaxed and happy.

relaxed about I feel more relaxed about my career than I used to.


re‧lax‧ing /rɪˈlæksɪŋ/ ●●○ adjective
making you feel relaxed OPP stressful

a relaxing evening at home


So, If I say "I am relaxing in my room" (if we see relax as a verb in this case), then it means "I am taking a rest in my room" or "I am getting calm in my room".

And this is similar to "I am relaxed in my room" (if we see relaxed as an adjective in this case), it means "I am feeling calm in my room".

Are "I am relaxing" and "I am relaxed" the same depending on whether they are verbs or adjectives?

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  • I can't imagine anyone saying "I am relaxed in my room". As in your dictionary examples, we say I feel relaxed or that someone else looks relaxed. Jan 15, 2020 at 9:08
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    @KateBunting "I suffer from agoraphobia. I am relaxed in my room, but very stressed when outdoors".
    – JavaLatte
    Feb 20, 2021 at 13:47
  • If I am relaxing, I assume I am relaxed. It's really quite simple.
    – Lambie
    Feb 27, 2023 at 19:24

1 Answer 1

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We do not process language by an analysis of grammatical categories.

We interpret the present participle "relaxing" as indicating a progressive sense; a process.

We interpret the perfect participle "relaxed" as indicating completion, an achieved state.

If we choose to interpret participles as adjectives for analytic purposes, they still frequently retain their verbal aspect.

I am drinking

does not not necessarily entail that I have become inebriated.

I am drunk

does so entail.

Now you can rightfully say that my example is comparing a compound verb and an adjective, but the fact remains that the adjective derives from a perfect participle (perfected aspect) rather than a present participle (progressive aspect) and that the adjective describes a state rather than a process.

Another way to say it is that there is no marker that invariably specifies when a participle can only be interpreted as an adjective or only be interpreted as part of a verb. There are cases where a participle is an adjective that has a partially verbal nature.

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  • I can also say, I am relaxing [this afternoon], to indicate that I will be fully relaxed (i.e. there is no process/progression occurring) for a period of time.
    – EllieK
    Feb 27, 2023 at 19:33
  • @EllieK-Don'tsupporther I cannot agree. "I am relaxing this afternoon" does not entail that I shall be completely relaxed for the entirety of some period of time. It means I shall be doing things that tend to relax me this afternoon. It may take some time for relaxation to be complete, and it may never be complete (for example if my 5 -year-old grandson arrives. To indicate completetion requires a different tense: "I shall be relaxed this afternoon after my grandson is back in the care of his parents." "Relax" can represent a state or a process. Feb 28, 2023 at 23:05
  • Based on your comment and others, there seems to be two ways one can understand relaxing. Very interesting. I think of it more as a state than a process. When I hear, I am relaxing, I understand it in the same way I understand, I am swimming. I am relaxing with a glass of wine, is how I would express the process. Relaxing can also represent a state or a process.
    – EllieK
    Mar 1, 2023 at 13:23
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    @EllieK-Don'tsupporther I'd rather say that as a verb, it normally relates to a process as in "I am relaxing with a glass of wine." Notice progressive tense. However, in a perfect or past tense, it can represent the end state of that process. Mar 1, 2023 at 14:49

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