What do we call adjectives formed from verbs? For example:

  • Lost is an adjective made from lose,
  • Forgotten is an adjective made from forget,
  • Broken is an adjective made from break.

What is the technical term for such adjectives? Do they have a name at all?

  • 2
    I don't think that is correct. Maybe "The food eaten was delicious," which implies "that was" after food? Or maybe "Eating was delicious"?
    – xpda
    Aug 20, 2011 at 14:00
  • 6
    No one I've met says "Eaten was delicious" Aug 20, 2011 at 14:33
  • 2
    The eatin' was mighty fine :)
    – mplungjan
    Aug 20, 2011 at 16:47
  • Why there are 4 down-votes? Did I do something wrong? :( Aug 20, 2011 at 17:56
  • The question has been edited, and in its current form there's no need to down-vote it. Aug 20, 2011 at 18:18

5 Answers 5


The word you're looking for is participle. Wikipedia has a good summary, including the following discussion of English participles:

English verbs have two participles:

  1. called variously the present, active, imperfect, or progressive participle, it is identical in form to the gerund; the term present participle is sometimes used to include the gerund. The term gerund-participle is also used.

  2. called variously the past, passive, or perfect participle, it is usually identical to the verb's preterite (past tense) form, though in irregular verbs the two usually differ.

Your examples are all of the past participle. The present participle is formed with -ing.

  • In Arabic, such adjectives are called adjectives of being object (sefat almafool) which is really, really deductive. However, here, participle doesn't make any sense. What it literally means. Why it? Why not something like "verbal adjectives"? +1 :) Aug 20, 2011 at 18:23
  • @Saeed, etymonline.com/index.php?term=participle Aug 20, 2011 at 19:25
  • 2
    @Saeed, unfortunately the word "participle" doesn't have any literal meaning in English. It's just the formal name for verbal adjectives. As Peter mentioned above, the word comes from a Latin word which is a little more logical (but only a little). Aug 21, 2011 at 0:11

It's a modifier, which is a word that is used attributively to restrict or add sense to the noun that follows it.

For example, the past participle in the following phrases is used as modifier for the noun that follows it.

  • lost property
  • forgotten worlds
  • unforgiven sinner
  • given name

The other term is, how I have already said in the previous sentence, past participle.

  • thanks for replying. I updated the entire question based on your answer, as it was a good clue for me to refactor my question. +1. Aug 20, 2011 at 17:56

If you use the past participle of the word as an adjective it is a reduction of passive usage.

Normally the bed which you did not make or the bed which wasn't made is the unmade bed. According to the situation you can use it before or after a noun:

I found all letters unwritten


I found all unwritten letters

For the adjective nothing changes, but there are exceptions here. Most of them can be used with or without a noun, but for some you should change it:

The man was drunk.


The drunken man fell down.


The ship was sunk.


The sunken ship was very big

You can find further explanations on the Internet...

  • The food eaten was delicious.. Here you only talk about food which was eaten not eating..
    – A.Uysal
    Aug 22, 2011 at 7:11
  • 1
    @A. Uysal: You can edit your posts. Commenting on them isn't the best path here.
    – simchona
    Aug 22, 2011 at 8:09
  • I tried to answer thee person on this part.As you see I newly realised that there was a comment about me.I am sorry for this..
    – A.Uysal
    Aug 24, 2011 at 10:16
  • @A. Uysal Don't worry about it. If you'd like, you can click the "edit" button beneath your answer and add in the text from your comment.
    – simchona
    Aug 24, 2011 at 10:23

The Latin word for the verbal adjective is GERUND. That word is used less and less in modern English classes.

  • 1
    In English class I learned that gerund only applies to -ing words, not those in this question.
    – GEdgar
    Jan 23, 2016 at 1:48

"I found all letters unwritten" vs. "I found all unwritten letters".

I just want to mention two things here. First, an unwritten letter is a blank sheet of paper; unless you mean letter as in "G", in which case it's called a space. Second, these two sentences are not necessarily synonymous. Active and impassive sentences should mean exactly the same or be equivalent in connotation.

This is an example of Active vs. Impassive:

  • "I threw the ball" vs. "The ball was thrown by me"
  • "The iceberg sunk the ship" vs. "The ship was sunk by the iceberg"

The difference being that the subject that did the action is converted to an indirect object rather than performing the action.

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