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Last updated at 09:11 BST, Wednesday, 02 June 2010

Bored and boring

A bored boy

Are you bored, or boring?

A question from Oum in Cambodia:
When should I use the words bored and boring?

Gareth Rees answers:

Click below to hear the answer:

Hello. Thank you for your interesting question about the difference between the words 'bored' and 'boring', a question that I am very interested in answering.

'Bored' and 'boring' can be used as adjectives, but they describe things in different ways. I shall begin by giving two examples:

  • I feel bored because this TV programme is boring.
  • I am frightened because this film is frightening.

In both of those examples, I had certain temporary feelings - I was bored and I was frightened. What were the causes of those feelings? Well, the TV programme was boring and the film was frightening. These '-ing' adjectives describe the qualities of something, whereas the '-ed' adjectives describe a temporary state or feeling, which is caused by something.

If I stop watching the film, I won't be frightened any longer, but the film is still a frightening film.

We can see this difference between a temporary feeling and a permanent quality if we look at the words you asked about – boring and bored.

Here are two examples:

  • I don't like David. I think he is boring.
  • Oh, I'm bored. Let's go out and do something fun.

In the first example, I don't like David because he is boring, and this is a permanent characteristic or quality of his. In my opinion, he was boring yesterday, he is boring today, and he will be boring tomorrow. However, in the second example, I have a temporary feeling - I am bored - and if we do something fun I will not have that feeling anymore.

So, I hope my answer has been useful and interesting, and that you are no longer confused by this grammar point. As a teacher, I never get bored talking about grammar, although I sometimes think that my students find it a little boring. What about you? Are you fascinated by grammar?

About Gareth Rees

Picture of Gareth Rees

Gareth Rees has a BA (hons) in History and Philosophy of Science, CTEFLA, and DELTA. He has taught EFL, EAP and Business English in China, Spain and England, and he is the co-author of the Language Leader Elementary and Pre-Intermediate English language course books (Pearson Longman). He currently teaches English in the Language Centre at the University of the Arts, London.


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