Students who wonder, what is a participial adjective, might be confused by the way that they have been explained in their grammar lessons or might not be sure how they function in a sentence. These participial adjectives are hard to distinguish because often, they look like verbs, past participles, and other adjectives. This is because they often end in –er or –ing. Sometimes, they look like comparative adjectives, too – but they are not always serving this function grammatically.
The participial adjectives are a major subclass of adjectives.They can be distinguished by their endings, usually either –er or –ing. Some exceptions to the rules include misunderstood and unknown, which also function like these special adjectives. They are called participial adjectives because they have the same endings as verb participles.
These adjectives are really meant to function like any other adjective: they help to describe a noun. They might come from a verb form, or they might merely imitate the structure, but they always function as a descriptive adjective. Let’s look at some examples of participial adjectives in sentences below. After each example, the adjective is placed in parentheses. Some example sentences have more than one adjective.
These adjectives form a very large portion of all of the adjectives in the English language and help us be more accurate in our description of people, places, things, and experiences when we speak and write.
You might be wondering, what is the origin of all of these participial adjectives? Why do we have so many of these strange words that look like certain verb forms? Some of the participial adjectives that end in –ed have a corresponding verb form, whereas some participial adjectives do not.
In other words, some adjectives only look like they come from verbs – and we still call them participial adjectives. In this way, “to excite” becomes “excited” and “to determine” becomes “determined”. However, there is no “to talent” that forms the participial adjective “talented.”
It is more common that the participial adjectives that end in –ing have a corresponding verb form. These include annoying, exasperating, worrying, thrilling, misleading, gratifying, and time-consuming.
These adjectives do not just come in one form. You can modify participial adjectives to increase or decrease their intensity and use them to compare different nouns. This can be accomplished by using the words very, extremely, and less, or by forming comparative and superlative forms. Look at the examples below, using the adjective “annoying:”
In all of these forms, annoying serves as the participial adjective but it is treated differently in each case. Look at a few ways we can use the above treatments of “annoying:”
Some participial adjectives have no corresponding verb form since they are made by putting a noun with a participle, such as “drug-induced coma” or “energy-saving technology.” In the former example, “drug” is the noun put with “induced,” the participle. In the latter example, “energy” is the noun put with “saving,” the participle. For more examples, go online to find practice worksheets and more complex definitions of these adjectives.