Unfortunately, setting only big goals can feel [overwhelmed / overwhelming] because they often take a lot more time and energy than smaller goals.

Why is 'overwhelmed' wrong? We can feel overwhelmed by big goals and big goals can overwhelm us.

It is the person who sets goals and the person who sets big goals can feel overwhelmed. The only subject in this sentence that can feel is an organism, like a person...

  • 1
    But the subject of the sentence is not a person, it is the action of "setting only big goals".
    – stangdon
    Jun 22, 2022 at 18:16
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    It takes more time to set a big goal, as you have stated, or it takes more time to accomplish a big goal? I can set a big goal in five seconds (I'm going to use my arms to fly to the moon!) and fail to achieve it even faster (oops not happening). You may not be saying what you intend to say.
    – EllieK
    Jun 22, 2022 at 20:04

2 Answers 2


In, "I was overwhelmed," or "The enemy overwhelmed the opposition," overwhelmed is a verb, i.e., a state of being or an action.

In, "The task was overwhelming," it is used as an adjective, describing the task.

Yes, learning a new language may at first seem overwhelming. For that matter, what is underwhelmed?

  • can you please correct the spelling of "underwhelmed" there?
    – Esther
    Jun 23, 2022 at 14:03

I think the problem in understanding this usage comes with the word "feel." "Feel" is one of those verbs that can be used in several different ways.

  1. In the sentence "she felt (i.e., "handled") the cloth (before she bought it)," the verb "feel" can indicate the voluntary action of an agent (she) who touches an object (cloth). The agent will receive a tactile sensation through the action. This phrase can also indicate the state of the agent's senses through an involuntary touch without requiring any physical action or movement, as in "she felt (i.e., "noticed" or "perceived") the cloth as it brushed her back."

  2. In the sentence "the cloth feels smooth to her," the verb indicates the sensation that the object would give to an agent. It describes the state of the object directly, but only indirectly describes what sensation the agent would receive.

  3. In the sentence "she feels happy," the verb indicates the sensation that an animate beings receives from an internal situation, such as emotion. In this usage, it is the state of the animate being that is being described.

When you say: "a goal can feel overwhelming," you are using the meaning and structure of sentence 2 and directly describing the state of the object, not the state of the person receiving the sensation. Things like goals normally give people a feeling of being overwhelmed, but the objects themselves are overwhelming. The structure in sentence 2 describes the state of the object, not the person receiving the sensation.

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