Adjective Suffixes

Form adjectives from other word forms

A spectacular sunset
 

 

Noun → Adjective word form

NOUN WORD FORM

Some adjectives are formed from nouns and others are formed from verbs. The word forms are from Latin, Greek and other languages.  There is no simple rule for adding suffixes, but there are common patterns. 

DET + NOUN  (N)

The sky was a spectacle(a very beautiful thing to see)

The sky was filled with colors.

The sunset was red.

We felt awe(a feeling of inspiration and respect)

 

ADJECTIVE WORD FORM

Adding a suffix to a noun form is one way of forming an adjective.  A suffix is a part added to the end of a word to mark the word form. An adjective is often used after It is or It seems (stative verbs).

BE +  ADJ DET + MODIFIER + N

It was spectacular

It was a spectacular sky.

It was colorful.

It was a colorful sky.

It looked reddish

It was a reddish sky.

It was awesome.  

 

It was an awesome sight.

 

¹It + be + adjective (predicate adjective or predicate complement)  See Specifying vs. Ascriptive "be" .

NP –noun phrase; N – noun; Detdeterminer; AdjP– adjective phrase; Adj – adjective

Also see Noun Suffixes – changing adjectives to noun forms.

 

 

 

Common Suffixes—noun to adjective

SUFFIX NOUN – ADJECTIVE NOUN – ADJECTIVE NOUN – ADJECTIVE

-AL     relating to

accident – accidental

region – regional

brute – brutal

person – personal

region – regional

universe –universal

-ARY  relating to quality or place

custom – customary

compliment – complimentary

moment – momentary

honor – honorary

caution – cautionary

diet – dietary

-FUL  full of

beauty – beautiful

skill – skillful

wonder – wonderful

success – successful

awe – awful

delight – delightful

-IC  having the nature of; caused by

athlete – athletic

photograph – photographic

base – basic

science – scientific

history – historic

rhythm– rhythmic

-ICAL  having the nature of

magic – magical

practice – practical

logic – logical

statistic – statistical

history – historical

alphabet – alphabetical

-ISH  origin, nature

fool – foolish

sheep – sheepish

child – childish

pink – pinkish

self – selfish

girl – girlish

-LESS  without

power – powerless

use – useless

friend – friendless

home – homeless

worth – worthless

penny – penniless

-LIKE  like 

like – lifelike

child – childlike

lady – ladylike

bird – birdlike

war – warlike

spring – springlike

-LY  like 

friend – friendly

day – daily

cost – costly

order – orderly

month – monthly

coward – cowardly

-OUS  quality, nature

poison – poisonous

courtesy – courteous

danger – dangerous

mystery – mysterious

nerve – nervous

victory – victorious

-Y  like 

rain – rainy

mess – messy

fun – funny

dirt – dirty

dirt – dirty

spot – spotty

Adjectivalization – in linguistics, the forming of words from other categories , nouns and verbs, by suffixation. (Huddleston 1706)
Pop-Q "historic / historical

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjective Forms 2

Changing verbs to  adjectives

 

 

 

Verb word form → Adjective word form

VERB WORD FORM

Some adjectives are formed by adding a suffix to the verb form. A suffix is a part added to the end of a word to mark the word form. 

VERB

They create ideas.

She is expecting a baby.

They don't permit smoking here.

They urge us to come immediately.

Today's news interests me.

ADJECTIVE WORD FORM

Adjectives commonly occur after be verbs as predicate adjectives or predicate complements. Adjectives also occur as modifiers to nouns (pre-position and post-position)

BE + ADJECTIVE MODIFIER TO A NOUN

They are creative.

They have creative minds.

She is an expectant mother.

We congratulated the expectant mother.

Smoking is permissibleallowed

Smoking is a permissible activity.

The matter is urgent.

This urgent matter needs your attention.

The news is interesting.

I am interested.   

We have interesting news.

I am an interested reader.

 

Also see Modifiers ending in -ed / -ing   

 

 

 

Common suffixes—verb to adjective

SUFFIX VERB – ADJECTIVE VERB – ADJECTIVE VERB – ADJECTIVE

-ABLE  able, can do

agree – agreeable

pass – passable

expand – expandable

remark – remarkable

laugh – laughable

pay – payable

-IBLE  able, can do

access – accessible

flex – flexible

force – forcible

permit – permissible

sense – sensible

force – forcible

-ANT  performing agent

please – pleasant

resist – resistant

rely – reliant

vacate – vacant

ignore – ignorant

comply – compliant

-ENT  performing agent

excel – excellent

urge – urgent

depend – dependent

differ – different

confide – confident

equal – equivalent

-IVE causing effect

attract – attractive

posses – possessive

create – creative

prevent – preventive

select – selective

destruct – destructive

-ING  causing effect

amuse – amusing

relax –relaxing

excite – exciting

surprise –surprising

confuse – confusing

amaze – amusing

-ED  receiving effect

amuse – amused

relax – relaxed

excite – excited

surprise – surprised

confuse – confused

overwhelm – overwhelmed

-EN  receiving effect

freeze – frozen

braze – brazen

lighten – lightened

shorten – shortened

darken – darkened

widen – widened

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjectives

Similar but Different

 

 

 

Adjective Suffixes with Different (Antithetical) Meanings

VERB SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT PAIRS

AWE

It was an awesome movie.  having a great quality, inspiring

It was an awful movie.  having a terrible quality

DEPEND

We have two dependent children. needing someone for care

We have two dependable children.  having a nature of completing promises 

LAUGH

The laughing child was playing.  having a good nature

The laughable car was powered with tequila. impossible to be serious about 

LIGHT

She has light hair.  a natural quality

She has lightened hair. an unnatural/changed quality 

LOVE

He is a loving son.  having a quality of giving love

He is a lovable son.  having a nature of attracting love 

RELY

She is reliant on money from her parents. having need of

She is reliable. a nature of being trustworthy, predictable

SELECT   

He is selective a bout what he eats. having a quality of being choosy

They are selling selected items. particular, carefully chosen

Select people can live there. a small number, exclusive, wealthy

SENSE

He is a sensible person.  reasonable [sensible]

He is a sensitive person.   easily irritated or hurt [L. sensitivus]

NOUN SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT PAIRS

CHILD

It was childish behavior  (behavior)having immature behavior, negative

It was childlike behavior.  qualities like a child, positive

CONFIDE

We are confident about winning.  sure [L.confidere]

The message is confidentialprivate  [L. confident]

CRISP

It is a crisp day, today.  cool and dry

It is a crispy cracker.   thin and crunchy (makes a pleasant sound)

FUN

We had a fun time at the movies.  amusing

We saw a funny movie. causing laughter 

RESPONSE

The company is responsive to customers' needs. acting quickly, sympathetically

The company is responsible for product safety. answerable, accountable

TACT

The general made a tactical advance.  military move [L. tacticus]

He is a tactful politician.  having skills handling situations  [L. tactus]  tact (n.) – skill in dealing with difficult or delicate situations

TASTE

Your food is tasty having a good taste

You are a tasteful dresser.  having good judgment for fashion

WORTH  

He is a worthy competitor. having good value, character 

He is a worthless competitor.  having no value or importance

 

antithetical (adj.) — directly opposed or contrasted; opposite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adjective

Suffixes -ic versus -ical

 

 

 

Adjectives -ic and -ical

-IC

There is no particular way to know whether a word will use the -ic or the -ical ending. The suffix -ic comes from  French -ique, or Greek -ikos. and means having the nature of , or causing something.

academic, algebraic, arithmetic, artistic, athletic, catholic, domestic, dramatic, egoistic, emphatic, energetic, fantastic, geometric, strategic, linguistic, majestic, neurotic, pathetic, pedagogic, phonetic, public, semantic, syntactic, systematic, tragic

He buys classic cars.  traditional, old style

His comic verse filled books.  artistic comedy

His economic theory was proved unsound.  of the science of economics

An electric motor powered the car. a particular machine

That was a/an historic moment. recorded in past history

The hysteric / hysterical woman was out of control.  unable to control your behavior or emotions

The little girl played with a magic wand.  of a mysterious source

He was a medic in the military.  intern or doctor

He wrote in a poetic speech.  imaginative, having the quality of poetry, like poetry

It's not politic to ask such questions  wise
 

-ICAL

The -ical  form is often added to a word that already has a final -ic. Such adjectives often have a different or an additional meaning from the more basic -ic form.

alphabetical, alphanumerical, archaeological, biblical, biological, chemical, chronological, critical, cynical, ethical, grammatical, fanatical, illogical, logical, mathematical, mechanical, medical, musical, pedagogical, physical, radical, surgical tactical, topical       

We listen to classical music. from a cultural (sometimes Greek, Roman, European) source, or 18thC.

His comical verse entertained audiences.  funny

He chose an economical car. inexpensive to use

Electrical equipment makes our work easier.   general, mass

This is a/an historical moment.  worthy of being recorded in history

The movie was hystericalvery funny, causing uncontrollable laughter

It was a magical experience.  mysterious, wonderful, exciting

He did medical research.  related to medicine

He wrote in a poetical manner.  having the form of poetry

It was a political question.  concerning government and politics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Mistakes

Errors and Solutions

 

 

 

Error and Solution

ERROR

His answer was logic, but I didn't agree with him.

How can I tell if a word is an adjective or a noun? 

My dad likes to listen to classic music on the car radio. 
Use this to refer to traditional music (not Bach and Beethoven)

Do you know where I can buy an economic car?

Hal is a tasty dresser.

It was a chilly, crispy day.

Don't shout at my son. He's a very sensible person.
 

SOLUTION

His answer was logical, but I didn't agree with him.

Tip: If you want to know if a word is an adjective, place "very" before the word. It's very logical. (OK)  / It's *very logic*. (not OK)  

My dad likes to listen to classical music on the car radio.
This book is a classic.  enjoyed by generations
Use "classical music" to refer to Beethoven, Bach, Haydn, etc.

Do you know where I can buy an economical car (money saving, affordable, gas saving?)

Hal is a tasteful dresser. 
Use tasty for food. Use tasteful for fashion sense (dresses appropriately, has good fashion judgment).
 

It was a chilly, crisp day.   (dry, low humidity)

He's a very sensitive person.  (easily hurt)

 

lightbulbPop-Q "Historical"

 

 

Resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Lab Rats

 

 

 

Choose the suffix that makes sense.

  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 1-12" button.

 

1.

 


2.


experiment (n.) – a test in a laboratory to discover something new

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

 

8.

9.

10.

11.


12.


treatment (n.) — the giving of care


 

lab rats (slang) – people who spend a lot of time working ("hanging out") in a computer lab
lounge lizards (slang) – people who hang out in a lounge-bar or student lounge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 2

Cutting Back

amusement parktoy shopping shopping
 

Intermediate – Advanced Level

 

 

Read for Errors

In difficult economical times, people tend to become more practical in their daily lives.  That is to say, they cut back on unnecessary activities and keep what is most logic.  For example, people who are used to eating out on a daily basis may decide to eat at home a few more nights each week.  Or they may choose to socialize by having people over for a home-cook dinner.  Another method of saving is cutting down on visits to person care services. People may  wait an extra week for haircuts or drop extra services such as pedicures and manicures.  Vacations to exotic or far-away places become "stay-cations".  Instead, people take car trips to less costing destinations. Memberships to  sports clubs are seen as luxuries, while memberships to gyms viewed as more basically.   Clothing purchases become more practical.  Matching shoes to outfits is a thing of the past—unfashionable.

What does not change is surprised.  People continue buying their children toys and taking them to amusement parks.  People continue purchasing the latest technologic inventions in televisions, computers, tablets and phones.  This is logical because they still need entertainment and these are in-house options.  People buy gourmet foods in their supermarkets, and they buy fancy-like kitchen equipment such as small electric panini grills, coffee makers with capsules, and soda makers.  This is their reward for being thrifty.  In short, in tough times, people change their big out-of-house luxuries to little in-house luxuries. Parents set aside their comfortable for their children's needs.  Big showy expenses are in poor taste.  Small, in-home expenses are in good taste. 

cut back, cut down (v.) – have less, use less, spend less
cut out, drop (v.) – do without, stop having
eat out (v.) – eat at a restaurant / eat in (v.) – eat at home
exotic (adj.) – foreign, unusual, interesting
frugal (adj.) – thrifty, saving money, not wasteful
gourmet (adj.) – very good or special food

have someone over (v.) – invite a person to your home
in-house (adj.) – used inside the home or made inside the business
in poor taste – judged as unsuitable, unfavorable behavior
luxury (n.) – extra, not necessary, but pleasant comfort from spending more
options (n.) – possible choices or selections
pedicures, manicures (n.) – services for the care of finger and toe nails
seen / viewed (passive verb) – are regarded, how people judge them

 

 

 

 

Edit for errors.

  1. Edit the sentence(s) in the text box.
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or "Check 13-22" button.

 

13.
In difficult economical times, people tend to become more practical in their daily lives. That is to say, they cut back on unnecessary activities and keep what is most logic.


14.
For example, people who are used to eating out with friends on a daily basis may decide to eat at home several nights each week. They may choose to socialize by having people over for a home-cook dinner.


15.
Another method of saving is cutting down on visits to person care services. People may wait an extra week for haircuts or drop extra services such as pedicures and manicures.


16.
Vacations to exotic or far-away places become "stay-cations". People take car trips to less costing destinations.


17.
Memberships to sports clubs are seen as luxuries, while memberships to gyms are viewed as more basically.


18.
Clothing purchases become more practical. Matching shoes to outfits is a thing of the past—unfashionable.


19.
What does not change is surprised. People continue buying their children toys and taking them to amusement parks.


20.
People continue buying the latest technologic inventions in televisions, computers, tablets and phones. This is logical because they still need entertainment and these are in-house options.


21.
People buy gourmet foods in their supermarkets, and they buy fancy-like kitchen equipment such as small electric panini grills, coffee makers with capsules, and soda makers. This is their reward for being thrifty.


22.
Parents set aside their comfortable for their children's needs. Big showy expenses are in poor taste. Small, in-home expenses are in good taste.