Adjective Formation in English Grammar
Learn about adjective formation with Lingolia’s online lesson. In the exercises, you can practise forming adjectives from nouns and verbs.
We can use suffixes to change nouns and verbs into adjectives, or to change the meaning of an adjective. Some suffixes have a general meaning whilst others simply transform words into adjectives.
- The suffix -less usually means without something whilst the suffix -ful usually means to have something.
- (with hope) hopeful ← hope → hopeless (without hope)
- Not all words can be made into adjectives pairs like this. It’s best to check your dictionary.
- homeless (but not:
homefull) beautiful (but not: beautyless)
- The suffix -ish changes nouns and adjectives into adjectives that mean like something.
- Don’t be childish. (like a child)
The jacket is a bluish colour. (like blue)
- For materials we can add -en to nouns to create adjectives that mean made of.
- A wooden chair.
A woolen jumper.
- When added to a verb, -able creates adjectives that express ability.
- Is the water drinkable?
We don’t normally add or take away letters, we simply add the suffix to the end of the word. However, there are some exceptions:
- We double the final consonant in words that have a short stressed vowel before the final consonant.
- sun → sunny
- A -y at the end of a word changes to to -i.
- bounty → bountiful
- An -e at the end of a word is dropped when the suffix begins with a vowel, but -ee, -oe, -ye remain unchanged.
- fortune → fortunate
agree → agreeable
- An -l is dropped before adding the suffix -ful to words that end in –ll.
- skill → skilful
There are many more suffixes that we can use to create adjectives. The tables below provide an overview of adjective formation using verbs and nouns. Unfortunately, there are no rules to follow but we can always use a dictionary.
Table: Adjectives from Nouns
This table shows a list suffixes or adjective endings that can be added to nouns to form adjectives.
|-able||comfort||comfortable||This chair is so comfortable.|
|-al||brute||brutal||He lifted the car off the ground with brutal strength.|
|-ate||passion||passionate||Ms Smith is a passionate teacher.|
|-en||gold||golden||She wears a golden bracelet.|
|-ful||beauty||beautiful||Look at those beautiful flowers.|
|-ible||response||responsible||Angela is very responsible.|
|-ic||history||historic||This town has many historic sites.|
|-ical||alphabet||alphabetical||The names are in alphabetical order.|
|-ish||child||childish||Don’t be so childish.|
|-less||home||homeless||If I don’t find a new flat soon, I’ll be homeless.|
|-ly||day||daily||Anna goes for a daily run.|
|-some||trouble||troublesome||She is experiencing a troublesome pregnancy.|
|-ous||fame||famous||Who is the most famous person in the world?|
|-y||wind||windy||A windy day.|
Table: Adjectives from Verbs
This table shows a list suffixes or adjective endings that can be added to verbs to form adjectives.
|-able||read||readable||The teacher’s handwriting was not very readable.|
|-ative||inform||informative||The lecture was very informative.|
|-ed||annoy||annoyed||an annoyed glance|
|-ing||confusing||confusing||The question is confusing.|
|-tive||produce||productive||Today has been very productive.|
-ing or -ed?
Many adjectives for feelings can end in either -ing and -ed.
- We use adjectives that end in -ing to describe the effect of a noun. In the case, the -ing adjective can also be rewritten as a verb.
- Erica’s job is boring.
- The job bores Erica.
- Michael thinks grammar is confusing.
- Grammar confuses Michael
- My mother is so embarrassing.
- My mother embarrasses me.
- We use adjectives that end in -ed to describe how a person feels. In this case, the verb be an be replaced by a linking verb (look, seem, feel etc.).
- Erica is bored with her job.
- Erica seems bored with her job.
- Michael is confused by grammar.
- He looks confused by grammar.
- I was embarrassed about the hole in my trousers.
- I feel embarrassed about the hole.
Adjectives that describe nationality are always written with capital letters.
- We usually form country adjectives by adding -n to the end of the word.
- America → American
- But we can also use -ese, -i, -ian and -ish to build country adjectives.
- Japan → Japanese
The table below provides an overview of country adjectives.
In China, we met a lot of Chinese people.
Pakistani cuisine is often served with rice or bread.
Canadian people are famous for being very polite.
|British weather is not the best.|
|Jamaican music is famous all of the world.|
- Some countries have irregular forms.
- Germany → German
France → French
Greece → Greek
Switzerland → Swiss
Ireland → Irish
For a detailed list of countries, languages and adjectives see: List of Countries and Nationalities
dis-, in- and un-
Most adjectives in English have an opposite adjective: big/small, hot/cold, tall/short, good/bad etc. However, we can also use prefixes to form the opposites of many adjectives. The most common prefixes for forming opposite adjectives are un-, dis-, and in-. Some examples are listed in the table below.
|un-||lucky||unlucky||Jerry is a very unlucky person.|
|comfortable||uncomfortable||This chair is uncomfortable.|
|dis-||honest||dishonest||It’s dishonest to lie about something.|
|respectful||disrespectful||Janice was disrespectful to the teacher.|
|in-||correct||incorrect||The answer is incorrect.|
|humane||inhumane||Torture is inhumane.|
il-, im- and ir-
The prefixes il-, im- and ir- are only used before particular letters. il- comes before words that start with an -l, im- comes before words that start with an -m or a -p and ir- comes before words that start with an -r.
|il-||legal||illegal||It’s illegal to bring fruit into this country.|
|logical||illogical||His thought process was illogical.|
|im-||patient||impatient||Matthew is an impatient man.|
|mature||immature||My little sister is so immature.|
|ir-||regular||irregular||The verbs be, do and have are irregular.|
|responsible||irresponsible||It’s irresponsible to drive if you have been drinking.|