I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around this. In the passive voice, we could see sentences like these:

   "The car is heated."

   "His spirits are lifted."

   "The books are packed." vs "The concert hall is packed."

   "The wall is painted."

When such sentences are not in the past, I can't figure out how to identify if the final word is an adjective, a past participle or a verb.

In sentences using the perfect tenses, I understand that we use the past participle, but is this acting as an adjective or as a verb? Eg:

   "He had been broken by the news."

   "They've been bored since Friday." (This I'm pretty sure is the adjective, but I'm putting it in here for completeness)

I've read in some places that we should just call it a past participle and leave it at that, but this is more confusing to me. How can it be a past participle and not act as either an adjective or a verb? Surely it must be a participle acting as a verb or an adjective?

And in a sentence like: "The speaker wants to be transferred," am I right that this final word is an adjective because it is following "to be"?

I suppose this post is just illustrating my numerous questions about this. As you can see, I have many. If there are any resources out there that someone could refer me to, or if someone could offer a detailed explanation about this usage, I would be most grateful.


*** EDIT: I'm supposed to edit this to explain why my post is not a duplicate of two other posts. I read those two other posts and found confusion in the comments such that the question remains justifiably open for me, and I would suspect a lot of others out there. Specifically, I'm asking:

• Where can one find the rule book on this?
• How does the Passive Voice change our assessment of whether it's a verb or an adjective?
• How do the Prefect tenses change the way we assess whether it's a verb or an adjective??

Also, isn't is just a little weird that something so complex as participles would be corralled into just one answer on a system like this? Nobody seems to be able to give a straight answer on this, yet I'm supposed to consider retracting my question because it's like another question already asked (but not identical). I don't think that's productive and wonder why it doesn't thrust a dagger into the heart of what StackExchange is trying to do here. This isn't a question about python coding - it's a question of style, which can't be answered simply, judging by the responses to similar posts. You know when you intentionally use a double negative like "Well, it's not not desirable," and some twit shouts "Double negative!" like they caught you peeing in the pool? That's how it feels to have my question linked with those other posts. They're not the same. People are shouting "Same-zies!" before they really take a look at the differences between the questions. What a horrible place this would be if one unanswered question retracted the capacity for a more detailed question to be asked. The other posts don't provide the answer to my questions. At best they give me a little clue towards finding the right approach, but at worst they prove to me that this question confuses everyone and therefore should be asked again in order to resolve it.


Linguists don't agree as a group about how to analyze participles, adjectives, and verbs. All linguists agree that there are some words with the form of participles that are adjectives: for example, "bored" in the phrase "very bored". These adjectives with the form of participles can be analyzed as derived words; accordingly, one term for them is "departicipial adjectives", to express the idea that they are adjectives that come from participles.

But there is disagreement about whether participles are adjectives when they function as inflected forms of verbs.

For example, in "Word-class-changing inflection and morphological theory"(1996) Martin Haspelmath argues that participles are adjectives produced from verbs by word-class-changing inflection, while acknowledging that it is "widespread" to view them as verbs (p. 49).

The "be __ed" construction is ambiguous in general: it can either involve a departicipial adjective, or a participle as an inflected form. The participle would generally be interpreted as an inflected form when the clause has a dynamic as opposed to a stative sense: if ""The wall is painted" is used to describe a current action (a fairly uncommon use of the simple present tense in English) then "painted" would be a participle (an inflected form of a verb, which might or might not be an adjective depending on your point of view).

In "The speaker wants to be transferred", the word "transferred" seems to have a dynamic sense, so I would say that it is a participle and not a departicipial adjective in this sentence.

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