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Adjectives

The adjective is a part of speech which denotes the property of substance. This means that adjectives are not supposed to name objects: they can only describe them in terms of the material they are made of, their colour, size, quality, etc. Adjectives are normally used before nouns and after some verbs.

As well as nouns adjectives are structurally classified into simple, derivative and compound.

Simple adjectives have no affixes and thus cannot be further segmented: red, white, big, kind.

Derivative adjectives derive from either nouns, verbs or even adjectives themselves by means of suffixes and prefixes: beautiful < beauty, friendless < friend, illogical < logic, unreliable < rely, independent < depend, repentant < repent, reddish < red, greyish < grey, childish < child.

THE PRODUCTIVE ADJECTIVE-FORMING SUFFIXES

SUFFIX/PREFIX

MEANING

EXAMPLES

-able/-ible

1. that you can do something to;

2. having a particular quality or condition.

usable, readable, washable, loveable, unbreakable; intelligible, responsible, comfortable, knowledgeable (=knowing a lot), visible.

-ful

1. full of something;

2. having the quality of something or causing something.

eventful, colourful;

useful, deceitful, restful, painful

-less

1. without something;

2. not doing or using something;

3. not possible to treat or affect in a particular way.

colourless, powerless, childless, tasteless;

careless, harmless, useless;

countless, tireless

-like

used after a noun to say that something is similar to or typical of the noun.

jelly-like, childlike, ladylike, businesslike.

THE LESS PRODUCTIVE SUFFIXES

-ish

1. of a particular space;

2. typical of or like a particular type of person;

3. to show disapproval;

4. equal to the meaning “rather”, “quite” (used after the adjectival root-stem);

5. equal to the meaning “approximately” (after the numeral root-stem).

Spanish, British, Turkish;

foolish, childish, snobbish;

selfish;

youngish, tallish, reddish; greyish, yellowish

eightish (=at about 8 o’clock), fortyish (=about 40 years old).

-ant/-ent

1. describes something that does something;

2. describes something that has a particular quality.

expectant, pleasant, confidant,

consequent, current, consistent.

-ous

describes something that has a particular quality

dangerous, spacious, curious, obvious, industrious, infectious.

-some

Tending to behave in a particular way, or having a particular quality

troublesome, bothersome, quarrelsome.

-en

made of a particular material or substance

golden, wooden, woolen, wooden, silken.

-an/-ian/-ean

describes someone or something of, from, or connected with a particular thing, place, or person.

suburban, American, Italian, Austrian, Caucasian, Jamesian.

-y

1. full of something or covered with something;

2. having a quality or feeling, or tending to do something;

3. like or typical of something;

4. fond of or interested in something.

sugary, dirty, hairy;

messy, curly, easy;

wintry, horsy, watery, snowy, rainy;

horsy.

-ic

-ical

1. of, like, or related to a particular thing.

Another form of suffix -ic

photographic, alcoholic, Byronic, historic, economic;

grammatical, hysterical, musical, historical, economical.

-ive

-ative

doing something or having ability to do something;

liking something or tending to do something or show a particular quality.

communicative, active, explosive, derivative, adoptive.

Talkative, argumentative, imaginative.

-ate

-ite

full of showing a particular quality.

Relating to a particular set of religious or political ideas or with the ideas of a particular person

affectionate, delicate, animate, accurate;

definite, composite

-ory/ary

describes something that does a particular thing

compulsory, consolatory, preparatory; customary, stationary, sanitary

-ing

forms the present participle of verbs

surprising, perplexing

-ed

forms the regular past tense and past participle of verbs;

having a particular thing

Barbed

a bearded man (=a man with a beard), a kind-hearted woman, beaded

-ly

1. happening at regular periods of time

2. like a particular thing in manner, nature, or appearance

monthly (=once every month), hourly (=done every hour);

friendly, womanly, queenly, motherly (= showing the love, kindness etc of a mother)

THE ADJECTIVE-FORMING PREFIXES

pre-

  1. before someone or something;

  2. in preparation

prewar, preteen, preterm;

prearranged

pro-

supporting or approving of something

pro-American, pro-choice

ante-

before someone or something;

antedate (=earlier than something), antenatal (=before birth)

un-

used to show a negative, a lack, or an opposite

unfair, unhappy, unusual, unpredictable

in-

the opposite or lack of something [= not]

insensitive, inanimate

im-

the form used for in- before b, m, or p

impossible, immoral, immobilize

il-

the form used for in- before l

illiterate, illogical

dis-

shows an opposite or negative

dishonest, disinterested

a-

  1. in a particular condition or way;

  2. not or without

aloud, alive;

amoral, atypical

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