I was told here that in:
(1) I'm pleased.
(2) I'm confused.
"pleased" and "confused" are participial adjectives. I can't understand why.

Could tell me please why they aren't participles which form passive?:
I'm pleased. = Something / someone has pleased me.
I'm confused. = Something / someone has confused me.

  • 3
    In those sentences, "pleased" and "confused" could be either adjectives or part of the passive voice. It's ambiguous. With clear sentences, I could answer about why one is passive and the other adjectival. For instance, I'm so pleased that you came! is clearly adjectival, not passive. I'm always pleased by the work you do is clearly passive, not adjectival.
    – gotube
    Nov 18, 2022 at 23:32

1 Answer 1


English has a very simple set of word endings, and often syntax alone is not enough to unambiguously decide what word class a given word is in.

For example "red" can be both an adjective (red, redder) or a noun (both countable and uncountable). And sentences of the form "It is ..." can be completed with both adjectives and nouns. So "It is red" is ambiguous. You might be able to decide by asking "can a graded or comparative make sense in context?"

Tell me about the cat. "It's red" /"It's very red" / "It's redder than the dog" A comparative makes sense, so "red" is an adjective.

What colour is the cat? "It's red" (redder wouldn't make sense, so red is a noun)

But it doesn't really matter. Because English is flexible and because the adjective and noun have such closely related meanings, the same idea is communicated in both cases.

Now in your context, you would normally be able to form comparative and graded forms

I'm pleased. I'm very pleased. I'm more pleased than ever.

This strongly points to these words being adjectives. But if you add a "by" phrase, that would change the interpretation.

And so "I'm pleased" is ambiguous, but usually "pleased" can be described as an adjective. But it doesn't really matter, since the past participle "pleased" and the adjective "pleased" have such similar meanings, that the same idea is communicated in both cases.

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