This applies equally to the 14 year old who fails to attend school because a parent is terminally ill, the overweight 11 year old who fails to attend because he is ________ about changing for PE in front of peers and to the seven year old who is teased in the playground because she does not wear the latest designer-label clothes.

ANS OPTIONS for the blank : Embarrassing or Embarrassed

Correct answer stated as 'Embarrassed', but i have learned that : is + verb (ing) and in passive voice : is + verb + ed. but in this is not in passive voice. Can someone give a resolution for this question


There are many present and past participles of this kind functioning as ADJECTIVES. Present participles (ending in -ing) have an active meaning (be embarrassing = cause embarrassment), while past participles (ending in -ed) have a passive meaning (be embarrassed = suffer embarrassment).

In this case, "he is embarrassed about changing for PE in front of peers" means he feels embarrassment in that situation.

Other similar pairs are:

  • amusing / amused
  • surprising / surprised
  • thrilling / thrilled
  • confusing / confused
  • exciting / excited
  • boring / bored
  • interesting / interested

"Embarrassed" is absolutely the right choice. The relevant meaning of "embarrass" according to MW is

"to cause to experience a state of self-conscious distress"

What causes the child to feel distress is not specified in the clause where "embarrass" is used. In other words, the causative agent is not the grammatical subject of the verb and consequently the passive voice is called for. Of course, we know vaguely what the cause is because the clause is introduced with "because." That tells us that the cause is related to his being overweight, but notice that it is not very specific. Is the child mocked for his weight? Does he merely fear being mocked? Does he fear silent contempt? We do not have any deep insight into what causes the child a feeling of distress. We know only the result, and that is what the passive voice gives us.

The problem with this as an example of the distinction between the present participle and the passive participle is that the usage of the word "embarrass" is not strictly logical. In the sense of causing self-conscious psychological distress, the act in truth is necessarily reflexive. We are distressing ourselves. But English almost always treats the cause of embarrassment as something divorced from the "real self."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.