I know that

….saying “boring house” ✔️ is correct, and

…saying “bored house” ❌ is incorrect cause a house cannot have the feeling of boredom.

However my point is about personification, when you add a human quality to an object on purpose.

In a discussion with a friend about personifying things, they claim that while you can say for example, a “cruel watch” you cannot say a “bored pencil”.

It seems to me that both examples we follow the form adjective+noum

Consider the following sentence:

“a bored pencil tapped the school desk while the cruel minute hand refused to move”

Their claim is that an adjective that ends in “–ed” can’t be use to personify something, but other adjectives are okay. This feels like splitting hairs.

  • 1
    I think that the metaphor is stretched but not so much as to break. Differences in the context and wording around it would help.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 1:09
  • 1
    A 'bored pencil' in this case is a metaphor and personification can be taken a long way in creative writing. However 'a bored pencil' could, literally, be a pencil with a hole drilled through it, perhaps to pass a piece of string through. Ballot pencils used to be like this.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 6:22
  • Participles as adjective have a particular function. 1. The present participle "verbing" is in the indicative = which/who/that verbs, e.g. "The dripping tap" the tap that dripped / is dripping, etc. 2. The past participle "verbed" is in the passive = which/who/that <some tense of to be> verbed. "The dropped plate broke" = the plate that was dropped, etc., broke.
    – user81561
    Commented Aug 20, 2021 at 10:25

1 Answer 1


FWIW, I think the sentence:

A bored pencil tapped the desk while the cruel minute hand refused to move.

is a perfectly valid sentence. In fact, I think it is extremely evocative of the situation you are conveying. The implication is not that the pencil is bored, but the one tapping it is bored. So I don't agree with your friend's analysis at all.

I am sure that literature is replete with such usages, but, I had a quick look and found this from Winston Churchill's "The World In Crisis":

The new Prime Minister never had a fair chance. He succeeded only to an exhausted inheritance.

In fact the specific case you mention, "bored house" occurs in H.G. Wells (though admittedly, he is referring specifically to the British House of commons, and, by metonymy, to the members thereof.)

I remember how vividly Boon drew the picture for us: the rather bored House, a coming and going of a few inattentive Members...

(From "Boon, The Mind of the Race, the Wild Asses of the DEvil, and The Last Trump")


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