Choosing -ed or -ing is sometimes a difficult question for me.

In this sentence:

The dog is running.

I have a noun phrase: the running dog.

Or in this sentence:

The shop is closed.

I have the closed shop.

I think it is about past and present participles being used as (attributive) adjectives.

However, when I ran into the case of complicated, I found out that it can be used in different ways and have different meanings:

  1. the complicated question

  2. the complicating question

The first one means:

the question that makes people feel complicated or confused

The second one means:

the question that makes something like the process or the investigation complicated

For most answers I found on Google, complicated is mainly used, while complicating is only used in some particular cases.

One way to explain this problem is that some -ed adjectives have a certain meaning or usage that is widely used; therefore, English users use complicated instead of complicating just because of its meaning, without realizing that the word can be used with both -ed or -ing because of its verbal root.

By using the term, I am not sure whether or not I use the right one. I just want to say that both complicated and complicating have origniated from the verb complicate.

  • Am I correct?
  • Is there any other way to explain the case?

1 Answer 1


Without context, I could not tell you the actual meaning of:

  1. the complicated question
  2. the complicating question

It could be like:

He could not answer a complicated question.

which describes a quality (difficulty) of a question. Or like:

We all want a clean environment, however the complicating question would be how to operate 10 million motor vehicles at the same time.

which describes the relationship between the question and what it affects or relates to.

To reverse it as you said:

  1. the question is complicated
  2. the question is complicating (something)

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