How can we differentiate between adjectives and past participles?

For example if we say:

The project is excited

excited in this example would be the adjective, but:

The project excited us

excited here would be the past participle.

So, my question is:
How can I differentiate between past participles and the adjectives in a sentence?

  • 1
    By the way, "The project is excited" is grammatical, but nonsensical. Projects don't get excited—people do. The proper way to rephrase the first example: "The project was exciting." Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 6:45
  • also "the project excited us" is not past participle.
    – Vincenzooo
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 10:28

1 Answer 1


The word excited in

The project excited us

is not a past participle, but past tense. You can tell here because project is the subject and excited is project's verb.

Some irregular verbs have distinct forms for past participle as opposed to past tense.

Take the half eaten food and throw it away

I don't care what you do with the broken things, just throw them out.

Anyway, a past participle is part of a verb phrase or used as a modifier.

I have been known to go there from time to time.

The excited dog jumped all over our guests.

It was laid on the floor.

The interested parties should convene tomorrow.

It can get complicated when phrases are involved instead of words.

The common known thing between them did not affect their relationship.

Her misspoken words struck me like a sledgehammer.

But really, unless the past participle does not follow a form of to have or to be, you can pretty much just treat it like an adjective.

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