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-ed adjectives
Tired man

Leung Waiteng from Hong Kong writes:

I am confused by the way adjectives are formed from verbs with just an -ed added, e.g.

Have you finished your homework?
Are you finished with your homework?

The same thing happens with complete (verb) and completed (adjective). Is there any difference in meaning between the two sentences? Which one is more appropriate in spoken English?

Roger Woodham replies:

There is no real difference in meaning or use between finish (verb) and finished (adj) or between complete (verb) and completed (adj). Both sound very natural in spoken English:

  • Is your work finished for the day or do you still have some to do?

  • Have you finished your work for the day or do you still have some to do?

  • Can I read the manuscript of your latest novel? ~ No, sorry, it's not completed yet.

  • Can I read the manuscript of your latest novel? ~ No, sorry, I haven't completed it yet.

Note, however, that complete as an adjective with the slightly different meaning of whole or entire is more frequently used than completed as an adjective, meaning finished:

  • No house is complete without carpets on the floors and pictures on the walls.

  • If you think I can handle all this work on my own, that shows a complete lack of understanding on your part.

  • With only one hand on the steering wheel he was not in complete control of the car he was driving .

Adjectives ending in -ed

A large number of adjectives in English end in -ed. Many of them have the same form as the past participle of the verb:

  • Your behaviour this evening has disappointed me.

  • I am disappointed with your behaviour this evening.

They indicate that something has happened or is happening to the person referred to. Thus, a child who is spoilt is a child who has been spoilt by something.

Here are some more common adjectives which have a similar meaning to the related verb:

amused astonished confused delighted depressed
distressed embarrassed excited frightened interested
satisfied shocked surprised tired worried
  • It worries me that Jack stays out so late every night. I am a very worried mum.

  • I would be interested to know if you are planning to visit Greece this summer.

  • That interests me because I shall be there throughout August and September.

  • You will embarrass your father if you dare to wear clothes like that.

  • She came down the stairs wearing jeans with holes in them and I have never been so embarrassed.

Occasionally, the adjectival form has a meaning which is different from that of its related verb. Compare the following:

  • I spotted her through the crowded room. She was wearing a spotted dress.

  • We advanced through the jungle as quickly as we could as we needed to reach the clearing by nightfall.

  • The cancer was quite advanced and he had only a few weeks to live.

If you would like more practice more please visit our Message Board in the You, Me and Us part of our website.

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