Boring? Bored? Interesting? Interested? These English adjectives sound similar, but they are not the same! In fact, changing which adjective you use can dramatically impact the meaning of a sentence.

To decide which adjective is correct, there's a simple trick that English learners of any level can use: The -ing adjectives are about inspiration (I = ING), and the -ed adjectives are for effect and emotion (E = ED).

Illustration with an orange box labeled "-ing adjectives" on the left and a blue box labeled "-ed adjectives" on the right. ING adjectives = inspiration. They are for things that inspire a feeling, like interesting and boring. ED adjectives = emotion. They are for an emotion that you feel, like interested and bored. There is an image of Duo the owl looking very bored.

In this post:

Use -ING adjectives for INSPIRATION

Think of -ing adjectives as causing a feeling.

Use -ing adjectives to describe people, places, and things that inspire a feeling. For example, you might see a boring movie or talk to your interesting friend. You could have an exciting day or hear a song that’s annoying.

Use -ED adjectives for EMOTION

Think of -ed adjectives as effects and emotions.

If you’re describing the emotion you feel about something, use -ed adjectives. Words like excited, annoyed, and frustrated are all feelings!

Common adjectives with -ing and -ed forms

Many English adjectives have related forms, one with -ing and another with -ed:

annoying annoyed
boring bored
confusing confused
disappointing disappointed
disgusting disgusted
exciting excited
exhausting exhausted
frustrating frustrated
interesting interested
irritating irritated
overwhelming overwhelmed
relaxing relaxed
surprising surprised
tiring tired

Examples of adjectives with -ing and -ed forms

A helpful way to understand the difference between these adjectives is to look at sentences that include both forms:

The movie is boring, so you feel bored.
Zari's story is interesting, so Oscar is interested in it.
This is an exciting soccer game, so Eddy is very excited.
What a frustrating project! I’m so frustrated about it.
Today was very tiring, so we are super tired!
Running a marathon is exhausting, so the athletes are exhausted at the end!

Swapping -ed and -ing adjectives can be confusing for the listener—and it can sometimes be funny or even embarrassing!

Consider the difference between these pairs of sentences:

Eddy is at a meeting, and he's so BORED! Eddy is at a meeting, and he's so BORING!
Effect / emotion Inspiration
Eddy feels like the meeting is not very fun, and he wants to fall asleep. The other people at the meeting think that Eddy is not very fun. They want to fall asleep when Eddy talks!
Lin’s cat is very loud in the middle of the night. The cat is so ANNOYING! Lin’s cat is very loud in the middle of the night. The cat is so ANNOYED!
Inspiration Effect / emotion
The cat causes Lin to feel upset, and it disrupts Lin’s sleep. Something else is making the cat upset—like maybe he's hungry
Bea is visiting a haunted house, and she is so FRIGHTENED! Bea is visiting a haunted house, and she is so FRIGHTENING!
Effect / emotion Inspiration
Bea feels nervous and scared. Bea is scaring other people. She’s the cause of their fear!
I want to leave Oscar’s class because I’m not very INTERESTED. I want to leave Oscar’s class because I’m not very INTERESTING.
Effect / emotion Inspiration
I don’t care about the topic of Oscar’s class, so I’m leaving. Other people don’t care about the things I say, so I’m leaving

Be excited about learning more English!

Use this inspiration vs. effect memory trick to help you learn the differences between English adjectives. With practice and patience, you'll be using them confidently in no time!