Suffixes, particles added to the ends of words, do not affect the meanings of words as much as prefixes, which come at the beginning of a word, because in English we typically do not accent the endings of words. (Learn more here.)
English suffixes do little more than indicate the part of speech of a word: noun, adjective, or adverb. Having discussed suffixes that indicate nouns previously, I am going to discuss suffixes that indicate adjectives, words that modify or describe a noun (a word that names a person, place or thing) or pronoun (a word that takes the place of a noun).
Two special suffixes used with adjectives are -er and -est. These word endings indicate degrees of comparison. The suffix -er is used to compare two, while the suffix -est is used to compare more than two. (Their child is bright; your child is the brighter of the two; my child, however, is the brightest of all.) Some adjectives, however, require the use of more and most. (Their child is intelligent; your child is the more intelligent of the two; my child, however, is the most intelligent of all.) A very few adjectives, such as good and bad, have irregular comparisons. (Their child is good; your child is the better of the two; my child is the best of all.) Some adjectives do not allow comparison. A woman about to give birth to eight children is not “more pregnant” than someone about to give birth to only five or six. The adjective unique is used to describe something that is the only one of its kind. A three-headed calf may be unique, but a four-headed calf is not “more unique.”
Two other special suffixes used to form adjectives are -ed and -ing, added to verbs to make participles, forms of verbs used as adjectives. “On the cooking show, they presented a dish of barely cooked pork.” The present participle or -ing form (cooking) of verbs is always regular, but the past participle (cooked) may be irregular. So, we have the “spoken or written word.”
Two suffixes on the ends of adjectives refer to quantity, -ful and -less, as seen in bountiful and motiveless.
At least two suffixes may not be added to an English word but to a word root. The suffix -ive (also -ative or -itive) means having the quality of, as in intuitive (having the quality of intuition) or punitive (having the quality of punishing). The suffix -oid means resembling as in android (resembling a human, andros in Greek) and asteroid (resembling a star, aster in Greek).
Beyond those, many of the suffixes forming adjectives almost have no meaning. They simply make it possible to use another word as an adjective.
The suffix -able (also spelled -ible) means able to be, as in admissible (able to be admitted) and readable (able to be read).
The suffix -al (also -ial or -ical) means related to, as in territorial (related to territory). It can also be added to nouns that already have suffixes: zoological (related to zoology).
The suffix -ar (also -ary) also means related to, as in unitary (related to units) and binary (related to groups of two).
The suffix -ic (also -tic or -ical or -ac) also suggests a relationship with something, as in biblical (related to the bible) or dramatic (related to drama), which may be theatrical (related to theater).
The suffix -ish means having the character of, as in boyish (having the character of, or like a boy) or girlish (having the character of, or like a girl). It has a rather new-ish slang use referring to time, as in, “I’ll get up noon-ish, and I’ll see you two-ish,” a usage which makes me rather “crazy-ish.”
The suffix -ous (also -eous, -ose, or -ious) also refers to having the quality of or relating to, as in adventurous or courageous, having the quality of or related to adventure or courage.
The suffix -y means having as in dirty (having dirt) or thirsty (having thirst). Some languages, interestingly, do not have an adjective corresponding to thirsty. In Spanish, instead of saying “I am thirsty,” you say, literally, “I have thirst.” (Yo tengo sed.)
This article on suffixes used to form adjectives is not the end of my articles on word endings. I will write one more, on suffixes related to verbs and adverbs. You can find my articles about other topics related to the English language, in this index of my articles here.