If I have a million dollars, I will be content or contented?

Which is appropriate?

  • If I had a million dollars, I'd buy you a green dress (but not a real green dress, that's cruel). I'd also be rich and content. – J.R. Nov 1 '15 at 1:46

Both words are adjectives and therefore either would be grammatically correct:

If I had a million dollars, I'd be content.
If I had a million dollars, I'd be contented.

A similar question was asked on ELU almost two years before this one; none of the answers there have garnered a ton of votes. The UE forum also has a similar question, and one user there replied:

I have been trying for years to find a good explanation, and I have never found one.

I think there are some contexts where one word sounds more "natural" than the other. For example, I'd probably say:

She was content with her job.
She was a contented worker who always had a warm smile.

However, near as I can tell, this is grounded only in personal preference; the words could be swapped without committing a grammatical faux pas.

As for your context, I like the first one better, but that's just me. I seem to usually prefer content when it falls at the end of a sentence:

If I had a million dollars, I'd be content.

  • One little difference is forming adverbs with -ly. People usually say contentedly, not contently. (COCA) – snailcar Nov 1 '15 at 5:18

"Content" is a simple adjective.  It describes a state or condition that some noun might possess.  "Contented" is a participle.  Like the adjective, it can modify a noun and it describes a state or condition.  Unlike the adjective, it implies an agent. 

If you have a million dollars and if your wealth makes you content, then you are contented.  That is to say, you are contented by your wealth, or your wealth contents you.  The million dollars is the agent for the verb "to content".

In most cases, you can freely choose whether to imply an agent.  It is just as appropriate to be content with your wealth as it is to be contented by your wealth. 

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