English Suffixes and Typical Base Words

The suffix –proof can be attached to ‘base’ words which belong to the word class of nouns, e.g. water, fire, sound: waterproof, fireproof, soundproof.

The suffix –ness can be attached to adjectives, e.g. damp, sad, happy: dampness, sadness, happiness.

The suffix –able can be attached to verbs, e.g. read, accept, drink: readable, acceptable, drinkable.

The suffix –wise can be attached to adjectives or nouns, e.g. other, clock, arch: otherwise, likewise, clockwise.

The suffix –most can be attached to adjectives, e.g. eastern, latter, inner: easternmost, lattermost, innermost.

When adding the suffix –proof, the resulting word belongs to the class of adjectives.

When adding the suffix –ness, the resulting word belongs to the class of nouns.

When adding the suffix –able, the resulting word belongs to the class of adjectives.

When adding the suffix –wise, the resulting word belongs to the class of adverbs.

When adding the suffix –most, the resulting word belongs to the class of adjectives.

proof: the words waterproof or fireproof can be placed before nouns determining them: They would wear fireproof clothing. More so, these words can occur in predicative position like most adjectives can: Is the watch waterproof?

ness: the words sadness or happiness can be paired with determiners, e.g.: this happiness. These words can be in the position of the subject of the sentence. Her happiness did not last forever.

able: the word readable, like all adjectives, can be places before the noun: a readable text. It can also be in the predicative position: It was not readable at all.

wise: words like clockwise are placed after verbs: turn it clockwise. Adverbs like ‘likewise’ can be used as linking words in the sentence: Likewise, you will need to do this.

most: the word easternmost is an adjective because it appears in the position in front of the noun: the easternmost temple. As any other adjective, easternmost can be in the predicative position: It is easternmost.

The suffix –wise (or –ways) can also be added to adjectives or adverbs to denote that something should be similar to something mentioned above or something should happen in the same way as it has been done by somebody earlier: flatways, edgeways, etc. Not to be confused with the suffix –with which means that something should happen in a particular way (it is not about somebody’s previous actions): clockwise. In this case, the definite direction is pointed out.

The suffix –poof is added to nouns and adjectives to denote that something cannot be affected (damaged) by something mentioned (base word), like in waterproof, i.e. water cannot spoil it. However, there are exceptions: the word shatterproof means that something is still breakable, but it breaks down in a special way. Likewise, the suffix –able is added to nouns and the new words have the meaning: able to be, e.g. lovable – able to be loved. In case with the word peaceable, the rule is inapplicable as it is impossible to say that something is “able to be peaced”. This makes this word an exception.

Work Cited

Tallerman, Maggie. Understanding Syntax (Second Edition). Oxford: University Press, 2005.