I find some compound adjectives has a -ed suffix, e.g., red-haired, cold-blooded, two-faced, open-minded, light-hearted, etc. In comparison, there are also ones with -ing suffix, such as good-looking, heart-warming, jaw-dropping, mouth-watering, etc.

It appears to me -ed suffix is appended to noun, while -ing is appended to verb. Can someone corroborate?

  • 2
    Another way to describe these is that "an adjective has been attached to either a participle or an -ing verb." And you've hit on one important point: you can't make an -ing verb out of a noun! ("hairing"? "blooding"? Though often there are corresponding verbs, like "facing.") You don't ask why some of these would take the one form or the other; I guess it depends whether we're describing a quality or appearance (she has red hair) or an action or effect (it warms our hearts, it makes our jaws drop). Mar 12 at 18:24
  • (Oops—for many of these the first word is a noun, not an adjective. Aside from "good-looking," most of your other "-ing" examples take the form "X-Ying," and mean "having the effect Y on X." While the "X-Yed" form means "having Y that is X.") Mar 12 at 18:26
  • 1
    @AndyBonner Actually, most nouns can be turned into verbs. At least that's what the honchose around here say.
    – Lambie
    Mar 12 at 19:21
  • The ing and ed ones come from this: a warm heart, heart-warming x, open mind, open-minded person. There are tons of adjectives with nouns that can become adjective+verb+ed. And some of the ing ones are in the dictionary (good-looking) while others are not;
    – Lambie
    Mar 12 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


As has been pointed out in comments, the choice between using -ed or -ing for derived adjectives depends on whether the relevant word is a noun or a verb.

Sometimes both forms can be derived from the same word, depending on whether that word is being used as a...

noun (a po-faced guard) - his face looks like a (chamber-pot?)
verb (a south-facing garden) - it faces southwards


[1] red-haired, cold-blooded, two-faced, open-minded, light-hearted, etc.

[2] good-looking, heart-warming, jaw-dropping, mouth-watering, etc.

In [1], the adjectivalisation involves the addition of the ed suffix to a nominal consisting of a dependent + a head noun to form a de-phrasal adjective. A very productive construction: all those examples are lexicalised.

In [2] the adjectivalisation has the ing suffix attached to a verb to give a verb-centred compound adjective with the active use of a past participle as head and an adjective or noun as first element. All lexicalised.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .