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Adjective Suffixes in English

Adjective suffixes play a pivotal role in the English language, especially for those who are non-native speakers. Grasping the concept of these suffixes can simplify the process of forming adjectives, making it easier to convey meanings without using an excess of words.

What is an Adjective Suffix?

An adjective suffix is a specific set of letters that, when added to the end of a base word (which can be a noun, verb, or another adjective), transforms that word into an adjective or modifies its existing adjectival meaning. These suffixes play a crucial role in the English language, allowing for the creation of a vast array of descriptive words, thereby enriching vocabulary and enhancing expression.

For instance, by adding the suffix “-ful” to the noun “hope”, we derive the adjective “hopeful”, which describes something or someone possessing or filled with hope. Similarly, the suffix “-less” added to “hope” gives “hopeless”, indicating a lack of hope.

Adjective suffixes not only provide nuances to the words they modify but also offer clues about the meanings of unfamiliar words. Recognizing and understanding these suffixes can be immensely beneficial for learners, as they can deduce the meanings of new words based on the suffixes they contain.

Moreover, the use of adjective suffixes can also indicate the origin of words. For example, words ending in “-ic” or “-ical” often have Greek or Latin roots, such as “historic” or “geographical”.

In essence, adjective suffixes are tools that expand and refine the descriptive capabilities of the English language, making it more dynamic and precise.

List of Adjective Suffixes

  1. -able: Signifying capability or possibility. Examples include Adaptable, Dependable, and Enjoyable.
  2. -al: Pertaining to a specific thing or person. Examples are Annual, Cultural, and Musical.
  3. -ful: Denoting fullness of a particular quality. Examples are Careful, Joyful, and Painful.
  4. -ic: Relating to a specific action or thing. Examples include Automatic, Dramatic, and Lyrical.
  5. -ive: Characterized by a certain attribute. Examples are Active, Creative, and Responsive.
  6. -less: Lacking a specific quality. Examples are Careless, Hopeless, and Worthless.
  7. -ous: Marked by a certain attribute. Examples are Famous, Glorious, and Victorious.
  8. -y: Abundant in a certain quality. Examples are Airy, Greedy, and Windy.
  9. -ish: Similar or resembling a certain quality. Examples are Childish, Foolish, and Greenish.

Common Adjective Suffixes

Suffix -able (or -ible)

    • Explanation: This suffix indicates that something is capable of being done or is suitable for a particular purpose.
    • Examples:
      • “Adaptable” (capable of adapting)
      • “Edible” (fit to be eaten)
      • “Reliable” (can be relied upon)

Suffix -al (or -ial, -ical)

    • Explanation: It signifies a relation to something specific.
    • Examples:
      • “Cultural” (related to culture)
      • “Financial” (pertaining to finance)
      • “Historical” (connected with history)

Suffix -ful

    • Explanation: This suffix denotes being full of or characterized by a certain quality.
    • Examples:
      • “Joyful” (full of joy)
      • “Hopeful” (having hope)
      • “Careful” (taking care or caution)

Suffix -ic

    • Explanation: It relates to a specific action, process, or thing.
    • Examples:
      • “Dramatic” (related to drama)
      • “Lyrical” (pertaining to lyrics or expressing emotion)
      • “Scientific” (related to science)

Suffix -ive

    • Explanation: This suffix indicates having a certain quality or attribute.
    • Examples:
      • “Active” (engaged in action)
      • “Creative” (having the ability to create)
      • “Responsive” (reacting quickly and positively)

Suffix -less

    • Explanation: It signifies being without a certain quality or attribute.
    • Examples:
      • “Fearless” (without fear)
      • “Endless” (having no end)
      • “Careless” (not taking care)

Suffix -ous (or -ious)

    • Explanation: This suffix denotes being full of or having a certain quality.
    • Examples:
      • “Joyous” (full of joy)
      • “Dangerous” (full of danger)
      • “Curious” (eager to know or learn)

Suffix -y

    • Explanation: It indicates characterized by or abundant in a certain quality.
    • Examples:
      • “Sunny” (full of sunshine)
      • “Rainy” (characterized by rain)
      • “Cloudy” (covered with clouds)

Suffix -ish

    • Explanation: This suffix suggests being somewhat like or resembling a certain quality.
    • Examples:
      • “Childish” (like a child)
      • “Greenish” (somewhat green)
      • “Foolish” (resembling a fool)

By understanding these common adjective suffixes, learners can expand their vocabulary and enhance their descriptive abilities in English.


This guide delves into the intricacies of adjective suffixes in English, offering a list of the most prevalent ones, their meanings, and examples. It aims to assist learners in understanding and effectively applying these suffixes in their daily communication.

FAQ about Adjective Suffixes in English

What role do adjective suffixes play in English grammar?

Adjective suffixes are groups of letters that are added to the end of words to form adjectives, helping to describe nouns in a more detailed manner.

Why is it beneficial to learn about adjective suffixes when studying English?

Understanding adjective suffixes is vital as it aids in expanding one’s vocabulary, facilitating more vibrant and expressive communication.

Is it possible to use these suffixes with any word to create adjectives?

While many words can be transformed into adjectives using these suffixes, it is not a universal rule. The application depends on various factors including the root word’s meaning, structure, and sometimes its historical origin.

How can one determine the correct suffix to use with a particular word?

Choosing the right suffix often follows certain guidelines, such as the ending of the root word or its origin. However, there are exceptions, and learning through regular usage and practice is essential.

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