Adjective Suffixes: Useful List and Great Examples

Last Updated on December 26, 2023

Adjective suffixes are a fascinating aspect of the English language that is often overlooked. These suffixes can be added to the end of a base adjective to change its meaning and create new words. In this article, we will explore some of the most common adjective suffixes in English, how they are used, and examples of words that utilize them. By understanding these suffixes, you can expand your vocabulary and communicate more effectively in both written and spoken English.

What is an Adjective Suffix?

Common Adjective Suffixes in EnglishPin

Certain suffixes are typical of adjectives. You can combine these endings with verbs and nouns to create an adjective. Hence, adjective suffixes can change the root word’s grammatical function. For instance, adding -able to the verb prevent produces a new adjective. Words with certain endings like -able suggest that a word is an adjective.

Sometimes when a suffix gets added to a root word the spelling of the root word changes. One common adjective suffix, -ness, when combined with the ending produces a spelling change. For example, when heavy and –ness join the y turns into an before producing the new word heaviness. It is important to be aware of whether a suffix transforms the spelling of the root word. Learning these common spelling alterations are critical if you wish to spell well.

There are several common adjective suffixes in English, which can help you identify an adjective when reading and enhance your writing by expanding your vocabulary. Some of these common suffixes include:

  • -able (or -ible): This suffix is used to create adjectives that express the ability or possibility of something to happen or be done. Examples: enjoyable, responsible, understandable.
  • -al (or -ial): This suffix forms adjectives that describe something relating to, characteristic of, or resembling a certain noun. Examples: personal, territorial, musical.
  • -ful: This suffix creates adjectives that indicate the presence of a particular quality or element in a noun. Examples: beautiful, powerful, successful.
  • -ic: This suffix is used to form adjectives that pertain to or show a characteristic of a specific noun. Examples: scientific, artistic, romantic.
  • -ive: This suffix generates adjectives that express the tendency or disposition of a certain action or behavior. Examples: creative, aggressive, sensitive.
  • -less: This suffix produces adjectives that denote the lack or absence of a particular quality or element. Examples: endless, fearless, colorless.
  • -ous: This suffix forms adjectives that signify the presence of a particular quality or essence. Examples: generous, dangerous, marvelous.
  • -y: This suffix creates adjectives that describe the state, condition, or quality of a noun. Examples: rainy, shiny, happy.

Common Adjective Suffixes

-able or -ible suffix

Meaning: capable of being, capable or worthy of, tending to

Examples:

  • flammable
  • discernible
  • culpable
  • accountable
  • beatable
  • acceptable
  • edible

-al suffix (-al, -ial, -ical)

Meaning: pertaining to something, relating to, having the quality of

Examples:

  • accidental
  • educational
  • brutal
  • historical
  • regional
  • social
  • universal
  • personal
  • experimental
  • mental
  • universal

-ant or -ent suffix

Meaning: performing or being, inclined towards something/ someone

Examples:

  • independent
  • vacant
  • important
  • brilliant
  • incessant

-ary suffix

Meaning: relates to something, relating to quality or place

Examples:

  • customary
  • momentary
  • cautionary
  • dietary
  • veterinary
  • planetary

-ful suffix (or -full)

Meaning: full of, tending, or liable to

Examples:

  • awful
  • skillful
  • successful
  • bountiful
  • beautiful
  • wonderful
  • careful

-ic suffix

Meaning: having the nature or qualities of

Examples:

  • athletic
  • scenic
  • fantastic
  • organic
  • acidic
  • historic
  • scenic

-ive suffix

Meaning: performing or tending toward, having the nature of

Examples:

  • cooperative
  • sensitive
  • supportive
  • pensive
  • creative

-ious or -ous suffix

Meaning: full of, relating to, having quality of 

Examples:

  • dangerous
  • nervous
  • gracious
  • mysterious
  • poisonous
  • victorious

-less suffix

Meaning: without, lacking, unable to act

Examples:

  • powerless
  • friendless
  • worthless
  • useless
  • homeless
  • careless
  • breathless
  • faithless
  • fearless

-y suffix

Meaning: characterized by, tending to

Examples:

  • rainy
  • funny
  • dirty
  • messy
  • sleepy
  • beautifully
  • brainy
  • fruity

-like suffix

Meaning: like, resembling something

Examples:

  • lifelike
  • warlike
  • childlike
  • lifelike
  • ladylike
  • birdlike

-ish suffix

Meaning: approximation, having a mild quality of

Examples:

  • selfish
  • sheepish
  • pinkish
  • bookish
  • childish
  • boyish
  • foolish

-ile suffix

Meaning: tending to, capable of

  • futile
  • gentile
  • senile
  • fragile

-an, -ian suffix

Meaning: one who is or does, related to

Examples:

  • agrarian
  • simian
  • egalitarian 
  • dystopian 

Adjective Suffix in Context

The list below shows how words created from adjective suffixes operate as adjectives.

  1. The fragile egg broke when it fell.
  2. The childish trick was annoying.
  3. The man had a childlike smile.
  4. The sleepy girl went to bed early.
  5. Her mysterious benefactor attended her art exhibit.

Comparative and Superlative Suffixes

In the English language, adjectives can be modified to indicate a higher degree of a quality using comparative and superlative suffixes. These forms of adjectives help make more precise comparisons between people, things, or attributes.

Comparative adjectives denote a higher degree of a quality when comparing two entities. They are generally formed by adding the suffix -er at the end of the base adjective. For instance, the comparative form of ‘small’ would be ‘smaller’, and for ‘fast’, it would be ‘faster’. However, for adjectives ending in -y, the -y is replaced with -ier; for example, ‘happy’ becomes ‘happier’.

Superlative adjectives indicate the highest degree of a quality among three or more entities. Similar to comparative adjectives, they are formed by adding the suffix -est to the base adjective, such as ‘smallest’ for ‘small’ and ‘fastest’ for ‘fast’. For adjectives ending in -y, the -y is replaced with -iest; for example, ‘happy’ becomes ‘happiest’.

Here is a table illustrating the rules mentioned above:

Base Adjective Comparative Superlative
small smaller smallest
fast faster fastest
happy happier happiest
healthy healthier healthiest

Note that for adjectives with three or more syllables, the words more and most are generally used instead of adding suffixes for comparative and superlative forms, respectively. For example, the comparative and superlative forms of ‘beautiful’ are ‘more beautiful’ and ‘most beautiful’.

Adjective Suffixes in English | Pictures

Common Adjective Suffixes in English | Forming AdjectivesPin

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common adjective suffixes in English?

Adjective suffixes are common endings added to words to convert them into adjectives. Some common adjective suffixes in English include -able, -al, -ant, -ful, -ic, -ive, -less, -ous, and -y.

How do suffixes change words into adjectives?

Suffixes transform words from one class to another. When an adjective suffix is added to a base word, it changes the word’s function, allowing it to modify nouns. For example, adding the suffix -ful to the noun “beauty” creates the adjective “beautiful.”

What is the difference between adjective and adverb suffixes?

Adjective suffixes are added to words to form adjectives, which modify nouns. Conversely, adverb suffixes create adverbs, which typically modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. A common adverb suffix is -ly. For example, the adjective “quick” becomes the adverb “quickly” with the addition of the -ly suffix.

Can you provide examples of adjectives with suffixes?

Certainly! Here are a few examples of adjectives with different suffixes:

  • Comfort + -able = Comfortable
  • Danger + -ous = Dangerous
  • Romance + -tic = Romantic
  • Simplify + -ive = Simplified
  • Fruit + -ful = Fruitful

Which suffixes are most frequently used to form adjectives?

Some of the most frequently used suffixes to create adjectives include -able, -al, -ful, -ic, -ious, -ive, -less, -ous, and -y. Studying and practicing these suffixes can help expand one’s vocabulary and improve writing skills.

How do adjective suffixes affect word meaning?

Adjective suffixes alter the meaning of a word by turning it into a word that describes a noun’s attributes. The addition of an adjective suffix can either emphasize particular properties or indicate the presence of specific characteristics. For example, adding the suffix -less to a word like “harm” creates “harmless,” implying the absence of harm or danger.

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