I am an EFL learner from Thailand. I have some questions about passive voice and adjective as I need your help on.

I am looking for adjectives in literature (as I need to conduct a small research on adjectives in literary works). But I am so confused between passive voice and adjective.

The given sentence is

'the city is burned' (someone burns the city)

I think it is a passive voice. but when I compare with

'I am interested' (something interests me.)

their structure, to me, look the same.

My question are: Do you consider the 'burned' in the first example an adjective? and How can we differentiate between passive voice structure and adjective?

Thank you in advance,


  • 2
    The difference between both isn't clear-cut, and relies on context. For a more detailed analyis, see as an example: Is “annoyed” passive? – Yay Mar 9 '16 at 9:49
  • With the present simple, and without any actor, or any additional phrase in such a sentence, the adjective interpretation would be likelier. – Damkerng T. Mar 10 '16 at 5:59

Out of context, it would be logical to assume that this is the adjective as a consequence of past events, in that "the city was burned" by someone or something and is now being described as "burned". A present construction in the passive voice would yield "the city is being burned (to the ground)". Another possibility in the passive voice is that "the city is burned every few years", again dependent on the context, which you have not included.


It really depends on who you talk to and what the topic is. The general definition of "be burned" is it's a passive verb as opposed to an active verb, "They burned the city."

However, as for functionality, the passive form serves two purposes.

  1. is as an adjective form.
  2. is to reduce emphasis on who did it and focus on the condition of "city" in the case of your example.

Adjective form: to support the reason it is considered an adjective is you can also used burned before the noun. "The burned city...."

When discussing passive verb vs adjective, it really depends on the reason for the discussion. Writers usually discuss passive verb vs active verb.

For the sake of your study, I would say it's safe to regard it as an adjective. I teach English and I teach that scenario as an adjective.

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