38

Is there are rule when to use opened vs open? I always get confused even though I've been speaking English as the dominant language for more than half my life.

E.g.

  • Is the door open(ed)?
  • Which file do you have open(ed) in your editor?
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47

The word open can be an adjective describing the door, or it could be a verb, which can be in the past, future, or present tense. Open in your first example is an adjective meaning "not closed or blocked up." (There are other meanings to open as well.)

The same pertains to the second example. Someone has a file that is open, not closed.

If you did the action of opening the door (or file), then you opened it. If the door opened itself, you can say, "The door opened." Or, you could run away. I'm pretty sure that's the right move, based on what happens to people in films who stick around after a door opens itself.

Under open, Merriam-Webster uses the example to illustrate being in a position or adjustment to permit passage: not shut or locked.

4
  • 7
    Haha. +1 on the cheap horror flick reference. :)
    – Deepak
    Feb 4 '15 at 3:28
  • Also can be a noun, like in Bridge or Chess.
    – tchrist
    Feb 4 '15 at 3:31
  • he he - like your sense of humor :) - and info was spot on
    – NSGaga
    Sep 23 '16 at 20:29
  • ...and I know most of this 'by feeling' sort of, having used English for so many yrs, but when I lose that for some reason, you start reasoning and 'opened' looks just like 'closed' (which is adj. but has 'ed' and confusing things:). You need an 'authority' to clarify things and get that feeling back.
    – NSGaga
    Sep 23 '16 at 20:34
21
  1. The door is open. ("open" is used here as an adjective. It means it is not closed)
  2. The door was opened by Mark. ("opened" is used here as a passive form of verb. Mark did the work)
  3. The door is closed. ("closed" is used here as an adjective. It means it is not open. It doesn't matter if it was closed by itself or Mark closed it, the word should be "closed")
  4. The door was closed by Mark. ("closed" is used here as a passive form of verb. Mark did the work.)

I hope it clarifies.

1
  • This doesn't address 'Which file do you have opened in your editor?' And as 'close' as the counterpart of 'open' is unavailable, the comparison is unsound. Aug 12 at 17:44
7

Open does not refer to any past event, while opened does. Both refer to the same current state, but opened opens the door to an earlier narrative, if you will. The door was once closed*, and someone or something changed it. The use of opened indicates a larger history for the object that open entirely ignores.

*interestingly there is no aorist form of closed

To get briefly technical, open can be considered the aorist aspect and opened as the perfect aspect. (In actuality open is an adjective, not a verb, and English doesn't use the aorist. Nonetheless, I find the aspects interesting and useful.)

Aorist is a past verb form that does not refer to "duration or completion" (NOAD). It can be considered as ignoring the verb-ness of the verb, if we consider the verb the action.

Perfect, on the other hand, is a past form that emphasizes the completion. The verb happened. The use of the perfect does not always specify when the action took place, but we know that it did.

Another example of this divide is complex (aorist) versus complicated (perfect). Here, complex describes the essence of the object, while complicated describes its condition. The object was not always complicated, but has become so: some actor complicated it. The difference of essence or condition can also be analogized to the Spanish ser (essence) and estar (condition), if that helps.

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  • Why is this downvoted? Personally, I like the technical example. Is it wrong though or why does it have a downvote?
    – Luksurious
    Nov 11 '15 at 16:25
  • 1
    @Luksurious: it might be downvoted because there was no reason to introduce the concept of the aorist (which doesn't exist in English). Another possible reason: I don't think the distinction made in this post between the meanings of complex and complicated actually reflects current usage.
    – herisson
    Dec 1 '15 at 9:02
  • Upvoted if only for just how well this was worded.
    – Bondolin
    Jul 1 '20 at 13:09
5

"Open" as an adjective conveys the state of an object while its verb counterpart indicates the action of opening. So in your example,

Is the door open? refers to the state of the door which is not closed.

Is the door opened? can be interpreted as the passive form of the verb open. Here, we are asking if the door is moved from the closed position to the open position by an agent which is not mentioned in the question.

Similarly, your second example could be framed as either,

Which file do you have open in the editor? (adjective) or

Which file have you opened in the editor? (verb)

Note that have in the first question above is a transitive verb and it means to be in a particular state or position. (cf. the 15th meaning of have2)

2

"closed" can be both an adjective and a conjugated verb: The door is closed. I closed the door. ...while "close" is only a verb (or has a different meaning).

"opened" can only be a conjugated verb: He opened the door. While "open" can be either a verb or an adjective. I open the door. The door is open.

My hypothesis is that these differing usages come from pronunciation habits. I suspect that the distinct pronunciation of 'ed' is more frequently omitted at the end of opened than at the end of closed, due to the position of the tongue (not changing vs changing).

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  • To summarize ... people lazily say "the door is open" when "the door is opened" is correct?
    – jimm101
    Mar 9 '16 at 16:35
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As has already been pointed out in other answers, open characterises the present state of something, without any reference to the past, while opened implies that an act of opening the thing in question took place in the past. To complete the answers, it should be made explicit that, in many contexts, this difference in meaning does not make any practical difference: open door and opened door are, for most ends and purposes, interchangeable, because it is generally reasonable to assume that a door that is open now was, at some time, opened by someone. There are, however, some contexts in which this is not so: an open-plan office normally can't be characterised as an opened-plan office, nor can open-source software normally be said to be opened-source software.

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'Opened' is 2nd form, apparently it is used in past tense while 'open' is first and third form (depends). You just say " He opened the door himself " as he did, it's past tense and if you want to say the door was already open(ed) you say it was 'open'.

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