Home > Grammar, Oral English > When should you say “boring” and when should say “bored”?

When should you say “boring” and when should say “bored”?

“I don’t want to watch that movie.  It’s bored.” Is “bored” used correctly or incorrectly in this context?  How about in the following context:  “I didn’t like the movie.  I felt boring.”  Is “boring” used correctly or incorrectly?  The answer is that both “boring” and “bored” were used incorrectly in the above sentences.  The incorrect use of words such as “boring” and “bored” is a common problem for learners of English.  Words such as “boring” are called present participles while words such as “bored” are called past participles.  In the above examples, they were used as adjectives because they were used to describe a person and a movie.  A common problem that many learners of English have is when to use the adjectival past participle form (verb-ing) and when to use the adjectival present participle form (verb-ed).

The adjectival present participle form (verb-ing) should actually have been used in the above example to form a correct utterance as in example 1:


example 1:   “I don’t want to watch that movie.  It’s boring.”


Why?  Verb-ing forms are used when something or someone has an effect on somebody.  A movie which is boring induces a feeling of boredom on people.  One typically uses the verb-ing adjective in two syntactic environments:


Environment A: The movie      is   boring.

Noun phrase   be  verb-ing

                           (or pronoun) 


Environment B: a boring      movie

verb-ing  noun


In other words, the verb-ing is used exactly like an adjective – either after a linking verb such as “be” or before a noun because it functions like an adjective.  In addition, the verb-ed form can be used in environment A as well since it is used in such cases as an adjective as well.


Environment A: The man         is    bored.

Noun phrase   be   verb-ed

(or pronoun) 


In addition, environment B can be used for the verb-ed form as well but this is less common.


Environment B: a bored       man

verb-ed    noun


One should say that “The man is bored” because his boredom is caused by something else.  To repeat, a “boring movie” causes boredom in people.  On the other hand, a “bored man” has a feeling of boredom which is caused by something else such as his social environment, what he is doing etc.

There is another difference in meaning between these adjective forms.  Only a living thing with consciousness such as a human being can take a verb-ed form since it implies a feeling or an attitude.  A man can be bored.  He can be excited.  He can feel disappointed etc.  However, a non-living thing without consciousness cannot take a verb-ed form.  For example, a movie cannot be bored.  However, it can be boring because of the effect it has on its audience.  A movie cannot be excited.  However, it can be exciting because of the effect it has on its audience.  In addition, news cannot be disappointed.  However, news can be disappointing because of the effect that it has on a person.

Nevertheless, living things with consciousness can also take verb-ing adjective forms.  When, for example, verb-ing adjective forms are used for people (as in example 2 below), it means that the people have this effect on others.


example 2 – That man is so boring.


In example 2, the meaning is that that man causes a feeling of boredom in other people.  On the other hand, example 3 has a very different meaning.


example 3 – That man is so bored.


In example 3, the meaning is that that man has a feeling of intense boredom.


Let’s see if you understand.  Look at the sentences below and choose the correct answer.  After you have finished, check the answers which are at the bottom of the article.


  1. I feel so bored / boring.  Let’s go to a movie.


  1. The movie was so bored / boring that many people left the movie theatre before the movie was over.


  1. The children are excited / exciting because tomorrow is Christmas Day and they’ll get lots of toys.


  1. The air flight to China was really tired / tiring.  I fell asleep as soon as I got to the hotel.



  1. bored
  2. boring
  3. excited
  4. tiring
Categories: Grammar, Oral English
  1. k
    October 26, 2013 at 5:02 am

    how about this sentence: ” This is an unsafe method of arguing. ” Is this a adjectival present participle ? I don’t really get it. Can I use argue instead arguing? Why?

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