Can I use developing as an adjective, in reference to something that has developed something else? That is, if I say "It was a developing experience", does it work in the sense 'the experience developed me', or is the only possible (although somewhat forced) interpretation the intransitive participle one – that is: that it was the experience that developed, not me?

If it is indeed possible to use developing in the adjective sense, what intensifier goes with it? "It was a very developing experience" sounds dead odd to my ears, whereas "it was a highly developing experience" sounds slightly better (though still odd – which, of course, only supports my suspicion that developing can't be used as an adjective, but rather only as an intransitive participle).

And finally: if developing cannot be used in this way, what word could I use instead? I realise I can just paraphrase, but is there another word I can use as a premodifying adjective?

As always, I'd be very grateful for any help I could get!

1 Answer 1


Verbs don't have "adjective forms". They do have participles, and some adjectives are formed from the participle form of verbs. Often there are multiple interpretations about whether something is an adjective or a participle.

We have a couple of normal contexts for "developing"

Put the photograph in the developing solution.

That looks like an adjective to me, it means "the chemical that develops the photograph", but "developer" is actually more common.

We have a developing situation in the USA

Here it is the situation that is developing and changing.

Your example is not particularly idiomatic.

You might say instead that "It was a developmental experience" but beware that implies that you didn't achieve your goal.

Although my first business went bankrupt, it was a useful developmental experience as I learned the importance of managing cashflow.

Or you could say "formative". This suggests it developed you from a starting point.

My first job as a legal secretary was a formative experience. I learned respect for the solicitors and realised that I wanted a career in the law.

Or just rephrase

This experience developed my skills in working in a team.

  • Thank you!! I've upvoted your answer :)
    – Hannah
    Nov 16, 2020 at 11:35

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