OALD says...

award-winning (adj) -having won a prize

I'm a bit surprised having the participle there. Why? Because the action is completed and still it uses the continuous tense (CT).

I thought of similar adjective thought-provoking. OALD says...

thought-provoking (adj) - not made making people think seriously about a particular subject or issue

And, I'm pretty sure, there are many such adjectives.

What makes the former one unique is the thing that has already happened ('won' awards, not 'winning' or going to 'win') but still using the CT.

Are there other such adjectives that refer to past but in its adjective, takes CT?

  • "Good question, but the continuous (or progressive) form is not a tense―it doesn't locate events in time." -- snailboat Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 12:27
  • @DamkerngT. I wanted to talk about the things that happen now, in present tense. So used it! Copy to snail!
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 12:41
  • Perhaps the most common one (for learners) is interesting. I'd say these are formed fundamentally the same way (i.e. by using the present participle form of the verb). -- (Note that that's my own opinion.) Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 12:54
  • It's not a gerund but a participle. Commented Jul 11, 2014 at 13:14

2 Answers 2


As Damkerng T (citing snailboat) points out, participles do not express tense. They may express ‘voice’, agency/patiency: the -ing form may in some contexts be characterized as an active participle and the -en form as a passive participle.

They may also express (or at least reflect) aspect; but what aspect they express depends on the complicated interaction of syntactic and pragmatic context and the verb's inherent semantics.

Broadly it may be said that the -ing form of any achievement verb (or any verb which in the immediate context is to be understood as bearing the achievement aspect) may be used this way.

Consider for instance:

Taxpayers filing late may be subject to a penalty.

Clearly the IRS does not restrict your liability to the instant when you file your return, and before you file you are a non-filer (which has, I imagine, different penalties). What is meant is Taxpayers who have filed late.


Examinees finishing before the end of the examination period may leave.

You cannot leave while you are finishing your exam, only after you have finished it.


A couple of examples to show that "logical" past/ongoing isn't always directly reflected by verb tense...

The Japanese are a long-lived race
Bamboo is a fast-growing plant

I don't think we can really call award-winning, fast-growing, etc. "gerunds" (they're not "nouns" in any meaningful sense), but I don't know what to call them apart from "verb-derived adjectives".

If we compare...

3: He was wearing a moth-eaten sweater and tattered jeans
4: [Peppered moths'] behavior and coloration camouflage them from day-flying, moth-eating birds.
5: Grandmother saw him as a heartbroken man desperately trying to win back the one he loved.
6: It was a heartbreaking tale of sexual and physical abuse

...I think this illustrates a useful general principle...

The -ing forms denote activities performed by the "subject", whereas the past tense forms tend to denote things done to the subject.

As it happens, #1 above violates that principle. But that's just an idiomatic peculiarity of one particular word-pair (it's worth noting that although less common, a long-living species is perfectly okay).

Thus we see that OP's specific award-winning example adheres to the general principle. The fact that at least some awards were won in the past is almost incidental (an award-winning actor can be understood as someone who has won, and may continue to win awards).

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