Are you tense?

I read this question in a book and was debating if it was a correct usage of the verb 'tense'. I believe the correct usage should be

Are you tensed?

Am I right about this?

  • 5
    it's not a verb, it's an adjective – nohat Dec 13 '14 at 3:30
  • 'Are you tensed?' means something quite different. Roughly speaking, it means 'Are you ready and primed for action?' – Erik Kowal Dec 13 '14 at 3:50
  • I tense when someone discusses past participles. – Hot Licks Dec 13 '14 at 3:51
  • Yes indeed, I wasn't thinking of tense as an adjective. – veepsk Dec 13 '14 at 4:57
  • FWIW: One example, out of many, of how punctuation affects meaning: “Americans like to live in the present tense.” versus “Americans like to live in the present, tense.” – Mike Jones Dec 13 '14 at 11:36

Tense is also an adjective. See the definition in Merriam-Webster and the ODO. Hence, Are you tense? is correct.


Yes, tense is the correct form of this adjective (state of being)

OED 2.2 fig. In a state of nervous or mental strain or tension; strained; highly strung; ‘on the stretch’; excited, or excitable; keenly sensitive.

  • @CarSmack: Thanks for the warning. Since the word "tense" has many different and similar meanings, I thought that giving the precise definition in question rather than just linking to a dictionary added something crucial. – chronometric Dec 13 '14 at 8:38

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