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It's freezing. I noticed there are many sentences that have a construction with a [verb] + ing, but the word is not a verb but actually is an adjective. How can we know? There're some sentences like "It's prepared." It's an adjective! How can we know?

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  • One method is to note that it in such contexts doesn't really refer to anything, so it can't really be treated semantically as the subject of the verb to freeze (i.e. - it's not the same as She's freezing some ice-lollies for the children's party tomorrow). Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 17:00
  • Thank you for your answer. It's very useful. In my understanding from your answer, to freeze (action) will be "Verb".Freezing (feeling, describe weather) will be Adj. Am I right? Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 17:12
  • I don't see what purpose it serves for either of us to know whether freezing or prepared are "verbs" or "adjectives". I'm sure you know as well as I do what each of those words means in the cited contexts. I can easily say that It's freezing sounds "adjectival" to me, but what about It's prepared? Frankly, I've no idea - nor do I have a clue whether that Past Participle might become more adjectival (or more "verby") depending on the exact context. What difference would it make? And is it It is prepared or It has prepared? Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 17:33
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    The trouble with your earlier comment, @FumbleFingersReinstateMonica, is that It's raining also has a non-referring it, but I would say that was verbal.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 18:28
  • There are various tests for determining adjective vs verb status but, generally, if the ing word can be used predicatively, as "freezing" is in your example, it's probably an adjective. In the case of past participles like "prepared" there can be ambiguity. "Prepared" can be a verb in a 'short' passive clause describing an event (someone prepared it), or more likely it's an adjective describing a state resulting from a prior preparing.
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 18:33

2 Answers 2

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When a verb acts as an adjective, it is called a participle adjective. Sometimes verbs or verbal phrases in English can act nouns. These are called gerunds.

You can usually tell the meaning from the context of the sentence.

  • The cook prepared a four-star meal. [Prepared is the verb]
  • The meal was prepared yesterday. [The verb is "was prepared". Here it needs a helping verb.]
  • Preparing the meal took 4 hours. [Here, the verb is "took", Preparing the meal is the subject. The verbal phrase is a gerund.]
  • Miguel has an interview to be a chef, and he prepared for the interview. ["has" is the verb for the first part, and "prepared" is the verb for the second part.]
  • As part of the interview, Miguel was presented with a specially prepared cake and asked to apply the frosting. [Here "prepared" is acting as an adjective for cake.]
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  • Actually, it's best called a participial adjective, reserving the term 'participle' itself for verbs
    – BillJ
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 18:15
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One test is that most adjectives can be modified by an adverb placed before it: It's very cold or It's absolutely freezing. Most verbs can be modified by an adverb placed after it: It's thawing slowly or It's freezing quickly (eg, in an industrial blast chiller). That test doesn't totally help because we can also say It's slowly thawing or It's quickly freezing, but immediate naturalness will be a big clue.

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