Participial adjective masterclass

This lesson helps us understand how participles function as an adjective called a participial adjective.

Adjectives don’t always come in their regular form. A present participle or a past participle form of a verb can also function as an adjective in a sentence. That’s where it gets tricky.

I feel most learners are really good at identifying and using regular adjectives, but it comes to participial adjectives, many learners find it difficult and challenging to find them and use them correctly in a sentence.

But we don’t need to be frightened of them; there are sciences behind how present and past participles function as an adjective and how to identify them. I am excited to share with you everything about a participial adjective.

Have you noticed that the words italicized and underlined are regular adjectives, and the words in bold are participial adjectives?

The words in bold are present or past participle forms of a verb that function as an adjective in the sentence.

Before we go ahead with mastering a participial adjective, let’s talk about regular adjectives.

What is a regular adjective in English?

A regular adjective is a word that is formed and meant to be used as an adjective. These words are specifically used as an adjective in a sentence, modifying a noun or pronoun.

Here are some common regular adjectives in English:


These are words that are always going to function in a sentence as they are made to perform that duty. You won’t see them as any other part of a speech. As an adjective, they describe or modify a noun or pronoun, simply meaning they give some information about the noun/pronoun.

What is a participial adjective?

A participial adjective, on the other hand, is a little different from a regular adjective. Participial adjectives are forms of a verb that function as an adjective in a sentence.

These are present participle and past participle forms of a verb that function as an adjective in a sentence in the right context. Please note that they are forms of verbs, meaning they were brought in place to be used as a verb in a sentence. They are not always used as an adjective, like regular adjectives.

Let’s study some examples having participial adjectives in them.

Your take on the new education model is really interesting.

The word ‘interesting‘ in the sentence is a participial adjective, a present participle working as an adjective by modifying the noun ‘model’. It describes the noun ‘model’ and lets us know what the speaker feels about the model. Though it is a form of a verb, it functions as an adjective in the sentence, not as a verb.

I am motivated enough to get out there and do challenging things.

This example has two participial adjectives in it: motivated and challenging. The first one (motivated) is a past participle adjective that modifies the subject ‘I’, and the second one (challenging) is a present participle adjective that modifies the noun ‘things’.

That’s a terrifying man right there.

The word ‘terrifying‘ is working as a participial adjective in the sentence, giving information about the noun ‘man’. It is a present participle form of a verb that functions as an adjective in the sentence.

Tom is just frustrated with you and your whining.

In this example, the word ‘frustrated‘ works as an adjective. It modifies the subject ‘Tom’ by telling us his state of being.

More examples of participial adjectives

  • What an inspiring speech that was. We all loved it.
  • The book was boring. I didn’t like it.
  • My friend Shruti is scared of people eating while driving.
  • Don’t mess with Jacob; he is a trained MMA fighter.
  • I want a written apology for what you have done.
  • This entire situation is a bit overwhelming to me.
  • These guys sell stolen phones in this market.
  • I didn’t buy that property as it was disputed.
  • smiling man is better than a crying man.
  • You look amused at my situation.
  • The girl was terrified the whole time.
  • Sometimes, it is exhausting to talk to people who just want to talk.
  • To see him get recognition for his work finally was so satisfying.

Past participles that are often used as a participial adjective

  • Shocked
  • Irritated
  • Agitated
  • Planned
  • Demotivated
  • Tired
  • Exhausted
  • Terrified
  • Scared
  • Petrified
  • Frightened
  • Confused
  • Frustrated
  • Embarrassed
  • Depressed
  • Loved
  • Hated
  • Bored
  • Excited
  • Thrilled
  • Amazed
  • Motivated
  • Disgusted
  • Amused
  • Overwhelmed
  • Relaxed
  • Satisfied
  • Amazed
  • Interested
  • Puzzled

Present participles that are often used as a participial adjective

  • Shocking
  • Charming
  • Demotivating
  • Tiring
  • Exhausting
  • Terrifying
  • Petrifying
  • Frightening
  • Confusing
  • Convincing
  • Frustrating
  • Embarrassing
  • Depressing
  • Boring
  • Exciting
  • Thrilling
  • Motivating
  • Inspiring
  • Amusing
  • Overwhelming
  • Relaxing
  • Satisfying
  • Amazing
  • Interesting
  • Speaking
  • Shocking

Position of a participial adjective

A participial adjective can take the following positions in a sentence:

  1. Just before the noun it modifies
  2. After a linking verb
  3. Just after the noun it modifies
Participial adjectives coming right before the noun/pronoun they modify


  • What an exciting project we have gotten.
  • I have never seen him in a boring fight.
  • You are an amazing person.
  • I don’t like to work with demotivated people.
  • All the interested students can join me tomorrow.
  • This is a stolen car; I won’t buy it.

The nouns participial adjectives are modifying are coming right after them.

Participial adjectives coming right after a linking verb


  • We were shocked to see him cry on the stage.
  • Your journey has been inspiring.
  • I am tired of your complaints.
  • His story is very motivating.
  • The next fight card looks really interesting.
  • Nothing seems to be working for me. I am frustrated now.

The nouns/pronouns being modified are underlined in the above sentences.

Participial adjectives coming right the noun/pronoun they modify


  • The man shouting there is my cousin.
  • We can’t let someone unprepared do this.
  • Look at the guy sitting next to the tree.
  • The girl dancing on the stage is my sister.
  • Let’s do something exciting.

The nouns/pronouns being modified are underlined in the above sentences.

Hyphenated participial adjectives

A hyphenated participial adjective is formed using a participle (present/past) and a word that it is hyphenated with.

Below are some common hyphenated participial adjectives:

  • Money-driven
  • Man-made
  • Career-oriented
  • Lion-hearted
  • Heart-broken
  • Self-made
  • Money-making
  • Record-breaking
  • Mind-boggling
  • English-speaking
  • Flesh-eating
  • Time-consuming
  • Time-taking
  • Oddly-decorated
  • Perfectly-managed
  • Well-lit
  • Well-behaved


  • He is a self-made girl.
  • Your kids are well-behaved.
  • Learning to decipher the software can be a time-consuming process.
  • People have just become a money-making machine.
  • Yours is a well-lit room.

Notice that the first word in the hyphenated participial adjective can be a noun, adverb, or participle. The second word in it is a participle, present or past.

Participial adjectives vs participles as a verb

Present or past participle forms of a verb can function as both a verb and an adjective in a sentence. We can’t call them a verb or an adjective just by looking at them. That’s where most learners make the mistake of wrongly identifying the role of a participle.

To be able to identify what a participle does in a sentence, we need to look at what it does in a sentence.

  • You are embarrassing me in front of my kids.
  • What you do is embarrassing.

In the first example, the present participle ’embarrassing’ works as a verb, indicating an action that is being performed by the subject. But in the second example, the same verb form functions as an adjective, modifying the subject (what you do).

  • You have disgusted everyone on the team.
  • I am disgusted at you.

The past participle ‘disgusted’ functions differently in the above two examples. In the first sentence, it works as a main verb, showing an action that the subject performs, and in the second example, it works as a participial adjective, indicating the state of the existence of the subject.

More examples:

  • I have motivated thousands of people. (verb)
  • We are highly motivated to be in the army. (adjective)
  • Shut up. The teacher is speaking to the class. (verb)
  • It is a speaking competition. (adjective)
  • You are frightening me with all your ghost stories. (verb)
  • It is a frightening task. (adjective)
  • He had planned everything before I reached there. (verb)
  • That was a planned murder. (adjective)

NOTE: a present participle form of a verb can also function as a noun. When it does, it is called a gerund.

  • Speaking is easy; listening is hard.
  • My sister Carol loves dancing.
  • I am not afraid of dying.

In all these examples, the present participle form of verbs are functioning as a noun.

Related lessons:


What are participle forms of adjectives?

Present and past participle forms of verbs that function as an adjective in a sentence are called participial adjectives. They are adjectives, but not in the regular form. Ex – I find Jon very irritating. The present participle form of the verb ‘irritating’ works as an adjective in the sentence. It modifies the noun ‘Jon’.

What is a participial adjective example?

A word working as an adjective but in the verb form (present/past participle) is called a participial adjective in English. Ex – That is an interesting idea. The present participle ‘interesting’ is a verb form that functions as an adjective in this example by modifying the noun ‘idea’.

What are the two types of participial adjectives?

There are two types of participial adjectives: 1) Present participial adjectives and 2) Past participial adjectives. The former is a present participle form of a verb that functions as an adjective, and the latter is a past participle form of a verb that works as an adjective.
Ex-1) Why did you bring his annoying sister here? (modifying the noun ‘sister’)
Ex -2) He is really annoyed at all of us. (modifying the subject (pronoun) ‘he’)

What are participles adjectives?

In English, participial adjectives are verb forms (present participle and past participle) that work as an adjective in a sentence. Like any regular adjective, they also modify a noun or a pronoun and can be used attributively and predicatively.

Is bored a participial adjective?

We can’t look at a participle without any context and call it an adjective. It is the context where it is used that tells us what it does in the sentence. The word ‘bored’ can function as both a verb and an adjective in different contexts.
1. You have bored us with your history lessons. (main verb)
2. Let’s do something. I am bored. (adjective, modifying ‘I’)

Is interesting a participle adjective?

The word ‘interesting’ can be used as an adjective in a sentence. But whether it works as an adjective in a sentence depends on its context.
1. It was an interesting speech. (adjective modifying the noun ‘speech’)

Now, we know what a participial adjective is and everything about it. Feel free to share your question, doubt, or feedback in the comment section, and also, share the post with the people that need it.

For one-on-one classes, contact me at [email protected].

Sharing Is Caring:

Ashish found his first love—the English language—a few years back. Since then, he has been immersed in the language, breaking down the language and teaching it to passionate English learners. He has a flair for listening to the English language (podcasts, sitcoms, stories), observing the nuances, and making it easy for English learners. He is known for breaking down complex English topics and making them easy to be understood.

Leave a Comment