Confusing and Confused can be used to describe the same nouns. I have looked up the definitions of both of the terms only to find that they are indistinguishable. In Oxford Learner's Dictionary, confusing defines as difficult to understand; not clear. Confused defines as not clear or easy to understand. You can use either confused or confusing in the following sentence.

Confusing/confused speech/information/instructions/situation.

Any difference in meaning?

I am quite aware of words that end with -ed to talk about a person's feelings and -ing to talk about the situation or thing that cause a person's feelings.

But it looks like you can say "confused speech" or "confused information", which I only know that to describe these nouns we use "confusing" not "confused". We can say "this is a confusing situation" or "this is a confused situation", both of which can mean that the situation is unclear. I don't know if there is a difference here.


2 Answers 2


Short answer: a confusing something and a confused something are similar, and closely related, but not necessarily the same.

Let's try a simpler verb: interesting--interested. There are 3 people in this example, A, B, and C. Suppose that,

A interests B. -- Let's say that A successfully gets B's attention by making himself or herself look interesting. We can say that, B finds A interesting.

C may observe that,

  • A is an interesting person (to B), and
  • B is the interested person.

C may or may not think that B is interesting. However, if C thinks that the fact that B is interested in A makes B interesting, C may think that B is interesting, too, which in turn makes C think that,

  • B is the interested person, and
  • B is an interesting person.

In this case (to C), B is both interesting and interested.

The same applies to confusing and confused in your question.

When we say or write confusing ideas, we mean that to us, the ideas are confusing, and we look at it from our point of view. We feel that they are "confusing". To us, it's difficult to understand.

When we say or write confused ideas, we mean that the ideas are confused. They are not well organized or explained. We may say that the person who states the ideas "confuse" them, and as a result, the ideas are not clear or not easy to understand.

Thus, a confusing something may not be confused.
And a confused something may not be confusing, either.

In short, they're similar, and closely related, but not necessarily the same.

  • If I say that such ideas are confusing to me, that may very well indicate that my confusion derives from the obscurity, intelligibility, or the imprecision of these ideas, which means that these ideas are themselves confused. Closely related. Sep 15, 2015 at 8:51
  • You're exactly right! Sep 15, 2015 at 8:52

A confusing X means X causes confusion to others or something else.

A confused X means X itself is in a state of confusion.

Confusing speech/information/instructions/situation.

Likely this would mean the speech/text is grammatically and syntactically correct and can be understood, but it is missing details or otherwise isn't what you expect. For example, a list of steps out of order.

Confused speech/information/instructions/situation.

Likely this would mean the speech/text is garbled and cannot be meaningfully understood. A drunk person, for example, might elicit confused speech.

It is possible for "confused speech" to also be "confusing speech" so the two could be used interchangeably if the speech is garbled/nonsensical.

You must log in to answer this question.

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