Addictive Versus Addicting
Today's topic is addictive versus addicting.
Page 2 of 2
When to Use Addicting
Addicting is the participle adjective of the verb to addict, just as annoying is the participle adjective of the verb to annoy. I don't think anyone would say that you can't describe someone as annoying, and similarly it is OK to describe TV as addicting.
A quick tip is that you can generally tell whether a word ending with -ing is a verb or a participle adjective by testing whether you can add a modifier such as very in front of it. If you can't, then it is a verb; if you can, then it is a participle adjective. In the sentence Television is addicting, it would be fine to add very and say, “Television is very addicting,” so that means it is probably a participle adjective in this case.
So I hope it's clear that it is correct to say both that television is addictive and that television is addicting. Nevertheless, there seems to be a lot of confusion in the world—and a lot of strong opinions—about this topic, so if you have a blog and you want to avoid a flame war, my advice is to stick with addictive.
When to Be Careful
I have two other points.
First, some people think addictive should only be used to refer to negative things, so to them, referring to Scrabble as addictive would be wrong; but in everyday life it's common to hear positive things referred to as addictive (3).
Second, physicians who treat pain make an important distinction between patients who are addicted to drugs and patients who have a physical dependence on drugs. When people are physically dependent on drugs they get pain relief from taking the drugs and have withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking the drugs. People who are addicted to drugs exhibit behaviors such as hoarding drugs and taking drugs in ways they aren't prescribed or when they don't provide relief from pain (4). So it isn't correct to say people are addicted to drugs solely because they experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop taking them.
1. addicting. Dictionary.com. The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/addicting (accessed July 02, 2007).
2. addict. Oxford English Dictionary. Second edition. Oxford University Press, http://tinyurl.com/2t65r5 (accessed July 2, 2007).
3. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage, Springfield: Merriam-Webster. 1994, p. 27.
4. Savage, S., Covington, E.C., Heit, H. A., Hunt, J., Joranson, D., and Schnoll, S. H."Definitions Related to the Use of Opioids for the Treatment of Pain," American Academy of Pain Medicine, American Pain Society and American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2001. www.cpmission.com/main/addiction.html (accessed July 2, 2007)
- An excellent reference about participle adjectives
- FreeDictionary.com entry that includes addicting as a transitive verb
- Tobacco lobbyist reference
SCRABBLE® is a registered trademark. All intellectual property rights in and to the game are owned in the U.S.A and Canada by Hasbro Inc., and throughout the rest of the world by J.W. Spear & Sons Limited of Maidenhead, Berkshire, England, a subsidiary of Mattel Inc. Mattel and Spear are not affiliated with Hasbro.