Addictive Vs. Addicting

Analyzing English words can be addictive!

I love getting into the nitty-gritty aspects of the English language. At ESL-Library, we have a lesson coming out in May about Gaming Addiction, and we started wondering about the “addict” word family. Are both addictive and addicting adjectives? Which is the better choice? I dug into my reference books to see what I could come up with, but came up a little flat. There was no mention of usage for these two words in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, The Chicago Manual of Style, The Copyeditor’s Handbook, or Bryson’s Dictionary for Writers and Editors. Also, both Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and Oxford Canadian Dictionary of Current English only have an entry for addictive and don’t mention addicting as a possible adjective form. Luckily, I did find a few entries online, namely from Grammar Girl and Grammarist. So what did I conclude, and, more importantly, what should you teach your students?


This is the “correct” form, and you can never go wrong using addictive in an adjective position. According to Merriam-Webster, addictive is defined as “causing or characterized by addiction”. Here are a few examples:

  • Most addictive substances, such as drugs and alcohol, are not good for your health.
  • The Walking Dead is really addictive; I’ve been recommending it to all my friends.


Who is guilty of using addicting as an adjective? I’m pretty sure I’ve used it and have heard it being used a time or two. Because of the lack of an entry for addicting, my reference books seem to suggest that addicting should not be used as an adjective. But the online sources mentioned above said that addicting is becoming more commonplace; however, they both warn that it’s a contentious issue among grammarians and that you’re better off sticking with addictive.

Conclusion for teachers:

My advice is to teach your students that addictive is the correct adjective form. For more advanced students, you could get a discussion going about how language changes over time, and give addicting as an example. It might be a fun project to get your students to go online or read through newspapers or magazines and see if they can find the words addictive and addicting in use.

Hope you enjoyed this post, my fellow grammar addicts!



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  1. ESL Library Staff says:

    Apr 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Our NEW lesson plan on Gaming Addiction is now available in our Discussion Starters section. When teachers use the lesson plan they can discuss “addicting” and “addictive”. There is a link to this blog post in the Teachers’ Notes. Thanks again, Tanya.


  2. Tara Benwell says:

    Apr 11, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Thanks for the blog post! I’m addicted to your grammar guides because they help me remember the rules!



      Tanya says:

      Apr 11, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Thanks, Tara! So happy they are helpful! :)


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