skip navigation

Ashamed / Embarrassed

Is it a moral or a social error?

embarrassed
 

 

Moral vs. Social Breach

ASHAMED

When ashamed, we feel bad because of moral wrong-doing. This occurs when we lie, cheat, steal, and so on.  The shame may be known to others or it may be privately experienced by oneself. The person may feel sad, unworthy, or disgraced. The harm to one's dignity and honor depends on how serious (bad) the act was.  Breaking a moral code is more serious than breaking a social code (etiquette).

MORAL WRONG-DOING

He was ashamed of himself for lying.  (modifier + of)

He was ashamed of his lies.

He was ashamed that he had lied.  (modifier + that clause)

EMBARRASSED

When embarrassed, one feels self-conscious, intense discomfort with oneself in front of others. This occurs when doing something socially unacceptable or having a personal condition revealed (exposed) to others.  The person may blush, sweat, or feel anxiety as a reaction.  One feels the loss of dignity.  The harm, breaking a social code, is usually temporary and minor.                                                            

SOCIAL ERROR OR EXPOSURE

She was embarrassed by them.   (other people)

She was embarrassed by *herself.   (not self)

She was embarrassed by the lie. / their lies.

She was embarrassed that she had forgotten her wallet. (modifier + that)

 

ashamed (adj.) – synonym  – feel disgrace; antonym – feel self-respect, proud
dignity (n.) – your sense of your own value or importance
disgrace (n.)  – the loss of other people's respect
embarrassed (adj.) –  synonym– feel awkward about ; antonym – feel confident about 
exposure (n.) - the disclosing or revealing of something private or secret
respect (v.) – regard highly or favorably; admire, value, or honor someone

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sentence Context

Grammatical Use

 

 

 

MORAL WRONG-DOING

Ashamed has word forms with and without the initial a-: shame, shaming (n.); shame (v.); ashamed (past participle modifier)   shameful (adj.) shameless (adj.); shamefully (adv.)        

NOUN

It was a shame that she had lied.  ("It's a shame that…")

His shame was hard to bear.  (a more harmful error)
His public shaming was hard to bear.

He brought shame on himself.   ("bring shame on someone")

He brought shame to his community.  ("bring shame to someplace")

VERB

He shamed easily. (not intransitive)

He shamed himself.  (uncommonly reflexive.)

His father shamed him for his lying.  (transitive)

He was shamed  by his father.  (passive)

His cowardice shamed him.

*His bad table manners shamed her
(It is unlikely that someone else's actions would cause her moral shame.)

PARTICIPLE MODIFIER – RECEIVER

*She was ashamed that she had lied. 
She was ashamed to have lied.

*He was ashamed that he had stolen money.
¹He was ashamed to have stolen money.

He was ashamed to tell everyone the truth.
He was too ashamed to tell everyone the truth.

ADJECTIVE MODIFIER

His lying was shameful(the action is shameful)
His lying was ashaming / shaming.

The waste of money was shameful.

He was a shameful lier.  (lied regardless of feeling shame)

He was a shameless lier. (not having any sense of shame)

ADVERB

She lied shamefully(in a manner of shame)

?He ashamedly confessed to having lied.

He shamefully confessed to having lied.

 

SOCIAL ERROR OR EXPOSURE

embarrassment (n.); embarrass (v.); embarrassing (present participle modifier), embarrassed (past participle modifier) embarrassingly (adv. of degree); embarrassedly (adv. of manner)

NOUN

It was an embarrassment that she had lied.

His embarrassment was intense.  (a less harmful error)

 

 

VERB

He embarrasses easily. (intransitive)

He embarrassed himself. (can be reflexive.)

His brother embarrassed him by telling his secrets. (transitive)

He was embarrassed by his own awkwardness. (passive)

His awkwardness embarrassed him.

His bad table manners embarrassed her.
(She is uncomfortable because his behavior reflects badly on her.)

PARTICIPLE MODIFIER – RECEIVER

She was embarrassed that she had forgotten her wallet.

He was embarrassed that he had forgotten to zip his pants.

He was embarrassed to speak in public.
He was too embarrassed to speak in public.

PARTICIPLE MODIFIER – CAUSE / SOURCE

His lying was embarrassing.   (his action caused embarrassment to others)

He told embarrassing lies.  (his action affected other people but not him.) 

Forgetting her wallet was embarrassing(the action caused the feeling.) 

 

ADVERB

?He spoke embarrassingly(in a way that affected other people?)

He embarrassedly whispered an apology. (in an embarrassed manner )

His joke was embarrassingly bad.   (to an embarrassing degree)

Her pants were embarrassingly tight.   (to an embarrassing degree)

 

*not used;  ?questionable usage– Fowler includes these adverb forms as recent language additions (238)
¹ Infinitive clauses are used after verbs expressing emotional reaction. (Ashamed is a more serious state.):  He was surprised to find, he was embarrassed to learn: see Adj+Infin.

Related page Participle Modifiers 1  -ed/ -ing;  Transitive / Intransitive; Reflexive Pronouns (and verbs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shame / Embarrass

Expressions

shame

 

 

 

 

SHAME

Expressions with shame are mostly those assigning the "label of shame" or "pointing the finger of blame".

She played so well she put everyone else to shame(out do)

He shamed her into going.  (forced or drove through shame)

For shame!   (you should feel ashamed)

She was overcome with shame (suffer deep loss of dignity)

It's a shame you couldn't come.  "It's too bad"

What a shame that you couldn't come.  (a mild reproach, "too bad")

EMBARRASS

Expressions with embarrass are mostly descriptive with the modifier word forms: embarrassed and embarrassing.

His digestion was embarrassed by overeating. (hindered, slowed down, impede)

The incident was embarrassing for the university(affects an institution)

The incident was deeply/ profoundly embarrassing  (common wording)

Her pants were embarrassingly tight / out-of-date. (very)

It's embarrassing to forget my lines.

She was embarrassed with a child.  (incorrect translation from Spanish)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Focus and Solutions

 

 

 

FOCUS SOLUTION

She was embarrassed herself.

She embarrassed herself by saying things she shouldn't. (a social error)
She was embarrassed by  someone / something.
She felt embarrassed embarrassed.
She couldn't help feeling embarrassed / shy.
  

?He shamed easily.

He was sensitive to shaming / being shamed. (?)
 

*She was embarrassed with a child.  (incorrect translation from Spanish)

She was with child. (formal)
She was expecting a child.
She was pregnant.  

 

*Yellow highlighted words are examples of incorrect usage.

(Burchfield "embarrassedly, ashamedly" 238)

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Elementary School Anxiety

boy

 

Ashamed or Embarrassed?

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 1-10" button.

Once…  is how we begin a story about a past event.  ("one time")

 

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Campfire Talk — Top This!

camp fire talk

 

 

 

Sometimes when a circle of friends are sitting around talking, they start storytelling: "top this" is a way that we invite someone to add something "even more so."

 

Is the feeling embarrassed or ashamed ?

  1. Select the "Correct" or "Incorrect" option. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" or "check 11-20" button.

 

11.
I once gave a book report in front of the whole class with my pants zipper down.  I was so ashamed!
   

12.
I once played a joke on my brother and told him to take the wrong school bus on his first day of school.  My mom was so mad because she had to go pick him up and take him to the correct school. I was so ashamed.
   

13.
Once I kicked the ball into the wrong goal. (the other team's goal) I was so ashamed.
   

14.
I once put a frog in old Mrs. Morris' mailbox.  She nearly had a heart attack. It was so funny, but then I got in trouble because she was in bad health.  I felt embarrassed.
   

15.
The next day, I had to apologize to her. I was so embarrassed because my mom came with me. I wanted to apologize by myself. (alone)
   

16.
I once stole my neighbors garbage can and rolled my little sister down the street inside it.   I felt embarrassed when my mom told my dad about it.
   

17.
Once I was supposed to take some cookies to the neighbor's house for Christmas, but I sat in the bushes and ate the cookies instead.  Mom found the plate and asked what happened.  I lied shamefully.
   

18.
I once tried to breed two rabbits, but nothing happened – no bunnies. So I took them to the pet store where they told me I had two females. I was so ashamed.
   

19.
I once had a peanut butter and chocolate candy in my back pocket and it melted. Then I sat down.  It looked like I had done it in my pants. I was so embarrassed.
   

20.
I was once playing ball with my friends but didn't want to go home to go to the bathroom so I peed behind a tree. Someone saw me. I was so embarrassed.
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 3

"Poem Day"

Memorizing Poem

 

 

 

 

Read for errors

Each year in our school, we had "Poem Day" when we had to select and recite a poem in front of the other students in our class. One day, I arrived to find that it was "Poem Day". I had embarrassment because I had forgotten to do the assignment. I felt shamefully because I knew that it was my responsibility to remember my homework. As the teacher called students' names, I hid embarrassingly behind the other students.  I tried to make myself as small as possible.

When recess came, I ran down to the school library to find a book of poems quickly.  Fortunately, the librarian was in the library and was able to help me. I shamed to tell her that I had forgotten to do my homework assignment.  She helped me find a book. I opened the book to the shortest poem that I could find and began to memorize it. When the bell rang and recess was over, I walked back into class with my poem in mind and sat down confidently.

In a short while, the teacher called my name, and I stood up. Everyone was looking at me.

My poem is by Shel Silverstein.  "Lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy Jane.  She wants a drink of water so she waits and waits and waits and waits for it to rain."Jane waiting with her mouth open for the rain

 

 

The room was silent.  "Is that it?" my teacher asked.  "Yes," I answered.  Everyone laughed, and I felt completely embarrassing. From then on, everyone jokingly called me "Lazy Jane". 

assignment (n.) – a piece of work that is given to someone as part of a lesson (or job)

librarian (n) – person who helps people find books in the library

memorize (v.) – remember  something so that one can say it without looking at the book

poem (n.) – a piece of writing that expresses emotions, experiences, and ideas, especially in short lines using words that often rhyme (end with the same sound).

recess (n.) – a 15 minute break (play time)

recite (v.) – say from memory (not reading it off paper)

 

 

 

 

Edit for Errors

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.
21.
I had embarrassment because I had forgotten to do the assignment.


22.
I felt shamefully because I knew that it was my responsibility to remember my homework.


23.
As the teacher called students' names, I hid embarrassingly behind the other students.


24.
Fortunately, the librarian was in the library and was able to help me. I shamed to tell her that I had forgotten to do my homework assignment.  She helped me  find a book. 


25.
The room was silent.  "Is that it?" my teacher asked.  "Yes," I answered.   Everyone laughed and I felt completely embarrassing.