Challenging vs. Challenged: How to choose the correct word

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Verbs and Adjectives in English language are often mixed together. Thereby, causing several grammatical blunders when communicating or writing. One reason behind this is the common misconstruing of the 'ing' and the 'ed'.


It is indubitable that many people comprehend Verb as an action word. That is, the backbone of sentences which can also be regarded as the guarantor or manager of sentences. In other words, sentences may not be meaningful or complete without verbs.


As for Adjective, it is known to be a qualifier of subject/subjects in sentences. That is, it gives information about subjects. Either persons, places, animals or things.


One rigid unarguable fact is many people can only define most of these word class but cannot use them appropriately in sentences.

Challenging and Challenged as Verbs

The base form of these words is challenge and according to tense, the base form of a word (verb) can be changed to past tense, continuous and past participle depending on the time stated in the sentence. Thus, challenge (as verb) which solely means ‘To dare someone’ has challenging as the continuous tense and challenged as the past tense. This cannot be obviously disputed.

·       Yesterday, the manager challenged me to write three articles within 3hours (simple past tense)

·        Mrs Adama was challenging the pupils with a spelling bee when we stepped in. (past continuous tense)

The above sentences represent verb adopting challenge as the action word.


Challenging and Challenged as Adjectives

Adding ‘ing’ and ‘ed’ to base form of a word are among various ways to form Adjectives in English. Most times, you must have noticed that most Adjectival words either end in ‘ing’ or ‘ed’ such as compromising, interesting, encouraging, depressed, complicated etc. As mentioned above, Challenge is the base(verb) form of both challenging and challenged.

However, this is where the complication begins. Apart from being verbs, these words are also Adjectives but are used differently.  



The word is used when someone talks about ‘a difficult task’. The meaning is rightly close to the verb meaning but differs because it isn’t performing any action but rather talks about something.

·        Life is challenging. (The word serving as adjective). It differs from verb in that, it gives information about life. The sentence tells us who life is.

Okay. Let us change the sentence to a verb.

·        Life has been challenging me to read often because of tomorrow. (challenge serving as a continuous action word)




The word challenged when representing an Adjective in a sentence is entirely different from Challenged, the verb form.  

In fact, it has nothing to do with the base form, challenge. The word when used as Adjective in a sentence has a singularized identity. Therefore, with its meaning, it stands on its own.

Challenged as Adjective means ‘To lack skill or ability to engage in something’  

·        Ada couldn’t play the ball because she is physically challenged.

(Challenge here qualifies Ada)


How to use Challenged and Challenging correctly 

  • Be sure about your context. Are you describing a person, place, animal or thing or you are discussing what someone did is doing? Examples

That woman is challenging my mum’s status in the area (performing an action)

That woman challenged my mum at noon (performing an action)

That woman is mentally challenged (Adjective describing the state of the woman)

That woman is challenging (Adjective describing the woman).

  • Master the difference between challenged and challenging.

The woman, being physically challenged is challenging. (Each challenge differs)

Grammatical blunder extracts of Challenged and Challenging

  •   I can work in a challenged working environment.
  •  To be a medical doctor is challenged
  •   She regards that as a challenged case

Read again and insert the appropriate answers. See you in my next topic.



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