• Dutch
  • Frisian
  • Afrikaans
Show full table of contents

The suffix -baar /bar/ derives adjectives from verbs. Examples are

Example 1

drinkbaar drinkable
werkbaar workable
inzetbaar usable, available


  • 'possible to be X-ed', 'able to X' eetbaar edible, vloeibaar liquid, leefbaar liveable

The different semantic aspects correlate with the transitivity of the base and the semantics of the verbal arguments (ergative, unergative).

Some -baar-adjectives have a slightly idiosyncratic meaning, e.g. betaalbaar payable, affordable: its literary meaning 'payable' is superseded by the conventionalized meaning 'affordable' (Hüning 1994, Van Marle 1984).

[+]General properties

The suffix -baar productively forms adjectives out of verbs. An exception is vruchtbaar fertile, which has a nominal base, i.e. vrucht fruit (this word reflects the etymology of the affix; the original meaning of -baar was 'bearing'). Another nominal base can be found in zichtbaar visible, which is a loan from German. A special case is dierbaar precious, whose base is not an existing word of Dutch.

The meaning of the -baar-adjectives is 'possible to be X-ed' (passive) with transitive and unergative verbs (draagbaar portable < dragen to carry, werkbaar workable < werken to work), and 'able to X' (active) with intransitive verbs (ontvlambaar inflammable < ontvlammen ignite, vloeibaar liquid < vloeien flow).

If the semantics allow it, -baar adjectives can appear in the comparative and the superlative: deze kleding is betaalbaarder these clothes are more affordable.

[+]Stratum, input and phonological properties

The bases that the suffix attaches to are mostly Germanic (brandbaar inflammable < branden to burn). Some are non-Germanic (reduceerbaar reducible > reduceren to reduce). They can be morphologically simple (aaibaar cuddly < aaien to pet) or complex (aanraakbaar touchable < aanraken to touch, analyseerbaar analysable < analyseren to analyse).

The affix has a functional competitor, -(e)lijk.

[hide extra information]

In the varieties of Dutch spoken in Belgium, -(e)lijk can be used with stems that in the Dutch spoken in the Netherlands would take -baar. (Taeldeman 1985) discusses eetbaar edible versus etelijk edible; the latter form is virtually unknown outside Flanders. In Belgium, both forms are attested, allegedly with a semantic difference: eetbaar means 'edible' in the literal sense (consumable without dangers), while etelijk means 'good to eat' (Taeldeman 1985).

Phonologically, -baar is a non-cohering suffix, it behaves as a phonological word of its own. -baar-adjectives are usually stressed on the last syllable before the suffix, which means that polysyllabic bases with initial stress are assigned a new stress pattern ( /ˈtoelaten/ permit vs. /toeˈlaatbaar/ permissible. This regularity holds for all particle verbs, as opposed to prefixed verbs which keep their stress pattern ( /weerˈleggen/ refute > /weerˈlegbaar/ refutable). Exceptions are compounds such as ˈonderverhuurbaar sublettable which retain their stress pattern even after addition of -baar.

[+]Morphological potential

Adjectives ending in -baar can be negated by using the prefix on- (onverstaanbaar unintelligible) or they can be nominalized with the suffix -heid (onontkoombaarheid inescapability). Negated forms inherit the particular semantics of their base: drinkbaar drinkable often means 'pleasant to drink' rather than 'possible to drink'; consequently, ondrinkbaar undrinkable usually means 'unpleasant to drink' rather than 'unsafe to drink'. Some -baar adjectives beginning with the negative prefix on- lack a positive form without this prefix (onontkoombaar inescapable - ?ontkoombaar escapable).

  • Hüning, Matthias & Santen, Ariane van1994Produktiviteitsveranderingen, de adjectieven op -lijk en -baarLeuvense Bijdragen831-29
  • Marle, Jaap van1984A Case of Morphological Elaboration: the History of Dutch -baarFolia Linguistica Historica9213-34
  • Taeldeman, Johan1985'De soep is wel eetbaar maar niet etelijk'. Over deverbatieven op -(e)lijk in de Vlaamse dialekten en het A.N.Spektator1594-103
  • Taeldeman, Johan1985'De soep is wel eetbaar maar niet etelijk'. Over deverbatieven op -(e)lijk in de Vlaamse dialekten en het A.N.Spektator1594-103