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. Participial adjectives are hard to distinguish because often they look like verbs, past participles, and other adjectives. This is because they often end in -ed or -ing. Sometimes, they look like comparative adjectives, too, but they do not always serve this function grammatically.
The participial adjectives are a major subclass of adjectives. They can be distinguished by their endings, usually either -ed 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: basically, 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. (Some example sentences have more than one adjective.)
Participial 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. Generally, the past participle (ending in -ed) is used to describe how someone feels, while the present participle (ending in -ing) is used to describe what made them feel that way.
You might be wondering, what is the origin of these participial adjectives? Why do we have so many of these describing words that actually look like certain verb forms? Some of the participial adjectives that end in -ed have a corresponding verb form, whereas others 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.
Participial 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 intensifiers like very, extremely, more, 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 in a sentence:
Some participial adjectives have no corresponding verb form since they are created by putting a noun together with a participle, such as "drug-induced coma" or "energy-saving technology." In the former example, "drug" is the noun combined with "induced," the participle. In the latter example, "energy" is the noun put with "saving," the participle.
Can you think of any other participial adjectives formed by combining a noun and participle? Add them to the comments below.