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Take the word pairs "scary" and "scared", or "pleasing" and "pleased". The former adjectives give the impression of inspiring the particular emotion, and the latter adjectives are the emotion itself. I.e. if something is "scary", it makes something else "scared".

My question is, what is the qualitative difference between these two types of words? What type of adjectives are they, and is there a particular term for this (admittedly small) class of word pairs?

  • Only "scary" is an adjective. "Pleasing" is a present tense active voice participle, "scared" and "pleased" are past tense passive voice participles. – Yellow Sky Apr 25 '14 at 21:55
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    @YellowSky It seems to me, though, that in PDE the participles have been largely deverbalized: they are adjectives except when they are expicitly deployed as verbs. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 25 '14 at 22:42
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    @YellowSky: That is a nonsequitur and just your opinion / one analysis. Linguistics does not deal in such black and white notions as there is no design document given to us by the inventor of language. One of the jobs of participles is to act as adjectives. – hippietrail Apr 26 '14 at 6:12
  • These do not constitute pairs, but are part of a much larger set formed by affixing morphemes to root words like "scare", "please", etc. Consider scary, scariness, scaring, scarer, etc. too. – prash Apr 26 '14 at 10:13
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    @LeoKing A 'participle' is a verbform which can act as both a verb and another class of word simultaneously - that is what the name means. – StoneyB on hiatus Apr 26 '14 at 23:05
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Many forms ending in -ed stem from full past participles, e.g. scared, angered, annoyed, pleased, destroyed, fixed, touched, relaxed, etc. These forms actually line up somewhere between adjectives and full past passive participles. The one form may be more participle-like than adjective-like, and the next may be more adjective-like than participle-like. There is a participle-to-adjective continuum of a sort, whereby a given form ending in -ed appears somewhere on the continuum.

Many forms ending in -ing stem from present participles, e.g. pleasing, annoying, touching, relaxing, etc. These forms line up somewhere between adjectives and full present active participles. The one form may be more participle-like than adjective-like, and the next may be more adjective-like than participle-like. Thus there is also a present-participle-to-adjective continuum, whereby a given form ending in -ing appears somewhere on the continuum.

Present participles express active meaning, whereas as past participles often express passive meaning. There is therefore a clear difference between the forms pleasing and pleased, the former indicating active meaning associated with a cause and the latter indicating passive meaning associated with a patient.

Forms such as scary, angry, touchy, etc. are simply adjectives. Whether or not they derived from verbs is not clear (to me), although they seem more like active participles than like passive participles, since the meaning they express is associated with a cause or an agent.

  • Thank you, this was the kind of distinction I was hoping for. – Lou Apr 26 '14 at 16:11

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