Adjective suffixes: Noun or verb + suffix

Suffixes change word class, e.g. from verb to noun or noun to adjective, but they can also change meaning (see sections B and C below).

Noun or verb + suffix

Noun or Verb Suffix Adjectives
danger, fame -ous dangerous, famous (= well-known)
music, politics industry, economics -al musical, political, industrial, economical (= saves you money)
cloud, fog, sun, dirt -y cloudy, foggy, sunny, dirty (not clean)
attract, create -ive attractive (= pretty, nice to look at); creative (= ableto produce new ideas; with imagination)

Note: Sometimes there is a spelling change. Here are common examples:

double the consonant,

  • sun/sunny,
  • fog/foggy

leave out the final ‘e’,

  • create/creative,
  • fame/famous

leave out the final’s’ before ‘al’,

  • politics/political;
  • economics/economical

change ‘y’ to ‘i’ before ‘al’,

  • industry/industrial

-able /abl/

This suffix (also -ible in some words) is used to form many adjectives from nouns or verbs:

  • enjoyable
  • comfortable
  • knowledgeable (= knows a lot)
  • suitable (= right/correct for a particular situation)

Quite often, -able (and -ible) has the meaning ‘can be done’.

  • Something that is washable ‘can be washed’.
  • drinkable
  • comprehensible (= can be comprehended or understood)
  • reliable (= can be relied on or trusted, e.g. a car or other machine that never goes wrong or breaks down).

Words ending -able quite often express the opposite meaning by adding the prefix un-:

  • undrinkable
  • unreliable
  • unbreakable (= cannot be broken)
  • unsuitable
  • uncomfortable

Words ending –ible add the prefix in-:

  • incomprehensible
  • inflexible (somebody who is inflexible has a fixed idea about something and cannot change quickly or easily; an inflexible timetable cannot be changed easily)
  • inedible (= cannot be eaten).

-ful and -less

The suffix -ful often means ‘full of + the meaning of the adjective:

  • careful, you are full of care
  • if you are helpful you are full of help.
  • painful (= hurts a lot)
  • useful
  • thoughtful (= someone who is thoughtful is kind and always thinks about others; a thoughtful action shows care for others)

The suffix -less means ‘without’ + the meaning of the adjective:

  • if you are careless, you do something ‘without care’.
  • painless, useless (= has no use or function) thoughtless, jobless and homeless (= with nowhere to live)

Note: You can see that -ful and -less are often used with the same words to form opposites. This is not always true: a person with a home is NOT homcful.