Published 22nd August 2017

Sometimes our EFL students can make mistakes and it’s ok: the mistakes don’t really affect their meaning and it’s still possible to understand what they are trying to say, but sometimes our students can make mistakes which can change what they are saying completely.

This can have disastrous (or humorous) results for our students if they end up saying something they don’t mean or if the listener misinterprets what they are saying.

One example that is quite problematic for our EFL learners is the difference between the –ed and –ing adjectives.

This confusion can mean the difference between saying You’re bored and You’re boring or I’m confused and I’m confusing.

How to explain the difference so that our students don’t find themselves in awkward situations?

Adjectives which end in –ed describe how someone or something is feeling.

I was frightened because I was watching Nightmare on Elm Street.

Adjectives that end in –ing describe the person or thing that is causing the feeling.

I thought Nightmare on Elm Street was frightening.

This is a simple enough rule and one easy to explain to your students. When they have grasped the rule, give them opportunity to practise the difference by utilising gap-fill activities, sentence halves and discussion topics to practise the difference.

Gap-fill activities

Give the students a set of sentences with the missing adjective. Students must fill in the gap:

That lesson was so __________. I’ve never been so ________ in my life!           bored/boring

Sometimes in winter I feel ___________. I find cold weather ___________.    depressed/depressing

Melissa was so __________ for the party.                                                                   excited/exciting

Sentence halves

Provide the students with the beginning halves of sentences. First they can come up with appropriate second halves of the sentences and then they can match the original second halves to the first halves:

In Thailand I ate crickets and ……                                                was shocked.

I thought the Maths exam ….                                                                     they were disgusting.

When I heard about the accident I …                                                           was really confusing.

Discussion topics

Provide the students with discussion topics which they can discuss in buzz groups, or they can invent their own topics:

What do you think is the most boring subject at school?

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done?

When was the last time you were frightened?

By providing your students with the tools and opportunities to practise the language point, you will be giving them the chance to produce accurate language as well as the confidence to use the language appropriately and effectively.