What is the difference?

I am interesting in mathematics.


I am interested in mathematics.

Murphy intermediate grammar Unit 97 tells me that I cannot use the former. Extended and general explanations will be appreciated.

  • Surely your grammar book doesn't say you can't use adjectives ending in -ed? Can you clarify your question? – user13141 Nov 23 '11 at 20:06
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    @onomatomaniak: The former is the one with "interesting", while the latter is the one with "interested". – Phoenix Nov 23 '11 at 20:38
  • Shifting to the more general context, I think you could (just about, or in contrived cases) contrast "I am losing/lost in mathematics". – FumbleFingers Nov 23 '11 at 21:12
  • "I am interesting in mathematics." That's what the teacher says if she goes into math class and tells jokes and does juggling tricks to get the student's attention. Then she is, indeed, "interesting" in math class. – GEdgar Nov 24 '11 at 0:57

To be interested is to show curiosity about something. Hence to be interested in mathematics means to show curiosity about mathematics. I suppose this to be the meaning which you intended.

To be interesting is to be something which arouses curiosity. Hence to be interesting in mathematics means to be someone in mathematics who arouses curiosity. This would suggest that you are well known as a mathematician.


In your example, interesting means that you create interest in others. Consider the following:

He has an interesting personality. This means that his personality arouses interest in other people.

Interested means that you have interest in something (in your example, mathematics). Look at the example below:

He is interested in great personalities. This means that he himself is curious about great personalities, not the other way round.

Another example:

You look bored. In other words you are feeling boredom, I can see that.


You are boring. In other words you make other people feel boredom. This is insulting.


Unit 96 of Murphy explains the difference well, and there's further information in Unit 97. I doubt if anyone here can improve on it. As for your example, you can say Mathematics is interesting, but you can't say Mathematics is interested. Similarly, you can say I am interested in mathematics, but you can't say I am interesting in mathematics.

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    You can say you are interesting in mathematics, but it suggests that you are famous (or infamous) in the field of mathematics. – MetaEd Nov 23 '11 at 20:19
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    What is this Unit 96 of Murphy? Do you have a link? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 23 '11 at 20:19
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    "You've been turned down for the job by the Physics Department, but the good news is that Mathematics is interested." – Lunivore Nov 23 '11 at 20:23
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    @FrustratedWithFormsDesigner: It's a grammar book for foreign learners of English called 'English Grammar in Use', published by Cambridge University Press <amazon.com/English-Grammar-Use-Answers-ROM/dp/0521537622/…> – Barrie England Nov 23 '11 at 20:25
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    @Lunivore: Although in that case, Mathematics does not refer to the abstract topic of study, but it is a proper noun (the name of a department). – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Nov 23 '11 at 20:26

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