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Since when did “concerning” become an adjective meaning “causing concern?” I first noticed it in the New York Times sometime earlier this year. Now it’s being used both in the media and in everyday conversation as if it had been around forever. Yet the usage is not mentioned in either my 1971 abridged edition of the OED or my trusty 1980 New World Dictionary. Should we just accept this new word as an example of the English language moving on? Or is it concerning?

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@Denkof Zwemmen - Any chance of some examples?

Warsaw Will December 24, 2012 @ 8:13AM

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Denkof Zwemmen,

Is your outcry because of concerning being a preposition? The dictionary program on my computer lists concerning as a preposition. But in the case of 'causing concern', I think that is because concerning is a present participle not a preposition.

Jasper December 24, 2012 @ 6:27PM

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@Jasper - in its most common use, concerning is indeed a preposition - "He asked several questions concerning the future of the company.". But I think Denkof Zwemmen has noticed the present participle being used as an adjective, as in this example from a New Zealand website - "Conservative Party: TPPA: Lack of Transparency is Concerning" or this one from the States - "Placement of crosswalk is concerning to Ann Arbor parent".

I've found it listed in two dictionaries as an adjective, meaning "worrying or troublesome" - "The increase in crime in the area is very concerning." - and - - but they seem to be the exception; most dictionaries I've looked at only list it as a preposition.

I'm pretty sure I've heard it used this way in BrE, and it seems quite unexceptional to me. I would imagine, however that it is only used in predicate position after the verb, and it would be unusual before a noun, as in "a concerning problem".

Someone has done a bit of research with Google here - - and seems to find it to be mainly a British phenomenon, attested to in the OED.

The Boston Globe also has an article on this -

A search of "is very concerning" in Google Books suggests it is especially used in medical contexts. -

Warsaw Will December 25, 2012 @ 2:49AM

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