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I kinda confuse about these suffixes and how they work.

  1. for example: Closed places vs. Close places
    "Close" can be adj., v. and I've been taught that when adding -ed to a verb, it'll become adjective, so what's the difference between these?
  • Closed places
  • Close places
  1. Rusting, rusty, rusted
  • A rusting gun
  • A rusty gun
  • A rusted gun

How to differentiate them? They're all adjectives (especially the -Ing)

  1. Confuse, confused, confusing
    I'm afraid of this word, mainly because I don't really understand what makes them different from each other :(
  • I confuse?
  • I'm confused?
  • I'm confusing?

When should I know -ed, -ing work as a verb and when work as adjective? (or basically: How do -ed & -ing suffixes work?)

3 Answers 3

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You shouldn't think of it as adjective or verb depending on the ending. Either something has happened (-ed) or it is still happening (-ing).

If the stored is "closed", someone has closed the store and you are describing its state now.

If you are confused, something has confused you, and "confused" is your state now.

If something is "confusing", it is still in the process, just like "closing". It is making you confused.

If you confuse, you are the one who is making someone confused.

Same goes for rusty:

A rusting gun is in the process of becoming rusty.

A rusted gun is not idiomatic, but means a gun that became rusty before and is now rusted. Best to call it rusty and not worry about when it happened though.

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  • Same goes for rusty: A rusting gun is in the process of becoming rusty. ———//////////——— did you want to write rusting instead of rusty?
    – Void
    May 31, 2021 at 11:04
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    A closed shop could either have closed for the night or have gone out of business. NB Close as an adjective has the different meaning nearby. May 31, 2021 at 12:53
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    rusty gun/s is by far the most common "adjectival qualifier",... May 31, 2021 at 15:43
  • 1
    ...but among the "also-rans", rusted gun/s is slightly more common than rusting gun/s May 31, 2021 at 15:44
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    I'm just warning that someone who is not proficient in English might think "He is interesting in computer studies” is acceptable because the person's interest is ongoing. Adjectives ending with -ed describes how a person feels, whether it was past (he felt/was interested) present (he feels/is interested) or future (he will feel/be interested). Adjectives ending with -ing describe the quality of the thing or person, i.e. He is interesting = He is an interesting person to listen/talk to. I do like your explanation but it has this, to my mind, a significant flaw.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 2, 2021 at 11:26
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It's difficult for me to explain them in detail, but I'll try my best.

The meaning usually depends on context; however, ​there are some rules of thumb that might help you understand what -ed and -ing mean:

Adjectives ending in -ed

Adjectives ending in -ed usually describe your feelings and emotions, for example, I'm confused means ‘there's something I'm unable to interpret and it caused me confusion’. By contrast, I'm confusing means ‘I am difficult to understand/ I will cause you confusion’.

When -ed–adjectives describe emotions and feelings, they aren't used with inanimate objects, however, when you find them used with inanimate objects, think of them as passive tense. When used with objects, they mean the action has been done to the object, for instance, ‘a rusted gun’ means the action (rusting) has been done to the gun.

Now close (adj) Vs closed is a bit difficult to explain, but ‘close places’ would mean that the places are physically near you whereas ‘closed places’ would mean that the places aren't open for business.

A rusting gun means its in the middle of rusting (present). A rusty gun means its rusted (past). A rusted gun means it rusted in the past. The last two mean the same thing.

Adjectives ending in -ing

They usually describe the cause of the feeling/emotion, for example, X is confusing would mean that it is the thing that caused you to be confused. A boring film would mean that the film bored you.

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Unfortunately, there isn't really a simple answer to this question. The only way to reliably know what form to use in any given context is to understand the patterns behind where these different adjectives come from. Don't worry though, it won't be difficult once you get used to it! You're already most of the way there.

Here are the 3 different adjective forms you mentioned in your question:

  1. [X]y
  2. [X]ing
  3. [X]ed

Below is an explanation of the derivation of each of the three. I will attempt to show how the differences in meaning follow from these derivations, and how you can use the rules of formation to tell which one of them to choose.


  1. [X]y

This kind of adjective is formed by adding the suffix -y to a noun X (example: "rusty" is formed by adding -y to the noun "rust") or much less commonly to a verb (the example given in the linked Wiktionary reference is "sticky" from "to stick"). The -y suffix is what is referred to as "productive": you can in general add it to any noun to create an adjective which describes having the quality of that noun1. For example, something that is "rusty" has the quality of rust.

In the less common case where -y is added to a verb X, the meaning of the adjective is something that is inclined to do X. Like, something sticky is inclined to stick to things.1


  1. [X]ing, &
  2. [X]ed

Both of these kinds of adjectives are derived from verbs. The difference is that they come from two different forms of the same verb. To understand the difference between these forms, here is a brief overview of the two relevant attributes of a verb in English (I'll use remove as a concrete example):

Voice: Active or Passive - Describes whether the subject of the sentence is doing the action or having the action done to it. (compare "Alice removes the first element from the array" (Active) with "The first element is removed from the array by Alice" (Passive))

Tense: Present, Future, Perfect, etc. - Describes when the action happens. (compare "Bob removes the first element from the array" (Present) with "Bob has removed the first element from the array" (Perfect))

The form 2. [X]ing (like "removing," from "to remove") is the present participle, which is a non-finite form (which means it has no mood, person or number) that's used as an adjective (also possibly/rarely as an adverb, but that's not relevant here). Obviously, it's present tense. It's also active voice - the noun which it modifies is the thing performing the action.

Example: "The person removing elements from the array uses the .splice() method." 'Removing' modifies 'person,' and describes the action the person is doing.

The form 3. [X]ed (like "removed", from "to remove") is the past (or perfect) participle. It's also a non-finite form used as an adjective, but unlike 2., it's passive voice. The noun it modifies has had the action done to it - it's also perfect tense, so it refers either to an action done at a past time, or to the present state resulting from an action having been done in the past.

Example: "The elements removed from the array were integers." 'Removed' modifies 'elements' and describes the action which was done to the elements.

For the use cases of 2. and 3. where [X]ing or [X]ed precede the noun instead of following it (as in the examples in your question), these forms function more like regular adjectives but maintain the tense and voice distinctions described above.

So, to differentiate between 2. and 3., you can ask yourself:

Is the noun which the adjective modifies the one doing the related action (form 2.), or having the action done to it (form 3.)?

I believe that 'active' vs. 'passive' is the most relevant distinction in differentiating between your examples, and 'present' vs. 'perfect' is secondary.


Now, to relate the abstract/theoretical stuff back to the specific adjectives you listed in your question:

  1. Rusty: The object described as 'rusty' has the characteristic of rust (-y adjective formation suffix added to noun 'rust').

  2. Rusting: The object described as 'rusting' is performing the action of rusting (present, active).

  3. Rusted: The object described as 'rusted' had the action of rusting happen to it (perfect, passive)

You can see that for the adjectives derived from 'rust' or 'to rust,' all 3 forms are possible and roughly equivalent, although with subtle differences in connotation.

This will not always be the case - sometimes there will be a definite right vs. wrong choice! Consider this fill-in-the-blank example:

"This sentence is ____ [confusey, confused or confusing?]."

The first choice is incorrect, as it is not a real word - recall that the -y adjective ending is much more 'productive' for nouns than for verbs!

The second choice is also incorrect, because it is passive. It would imply that the sentence itself is experiencing confusion (as in, someone has at some point in time confused it)! That isn't the meaning you were looking for.

The third choice is correct. The sentence is confusing - it performs an action (that of causing confusion in the reader). The reader is the one that ends up confused, not the sentence itself!

  • Also note that 'confuse' is not a possible choice here: you can't say "This sentence is confuse" because "confuse" is the base form of the verb "to confuse", and can't be used as an adjective the same way as the others can.

So, if you're unclear on which of the three adjective forms to use, ask yourself which derivation best conveys the meaning you intend. Since it's based on general principles, this method shouldn't let you down.


Reference:

1: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/-y

This answer is a Community Wiki - if you can think of a way to improve any awkward phrasing, make the answer shorter without cutting out important details, or add any additional examples or clarifications you think would make the answer better, please do so!

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