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Adjectival suffixes

Dutch features two types of morphologically derived adjectives: qualitative and relational adjectives. Qualitative adjectives denote a property of the noun that is the head of the relevant phrase, either as modifiers or as predicates of the noun, as in 1a and 1b.

Example 1

a. een bloedige aangelegenheid
a bloody affair
b. Deze aangelegenheid was bloedig
This affair was bloody

Relational adjectives denote a relation between a noun and the base of a derived adjective, as in 2.

Example 2

een wiskundig probleem
a mathematical problem, a problem that relates to wiskunde (= mathematics)

Relational adjectives cannot be modified, and are hardly used in predicative position, an then only to stress the nature of something, as in 3a and 3b.

Example 3

a. ?Een erg wiskundig probleem
A very mathematical problem
b. Dit probleem is wiskundig (van aard)
This problem is mathematical (in nature)

Some suffixes are used exclusively for coining qualitative adjectives, whereas others can be used for both semantic types of adjectives.


Both native and non-native suffixes are used for deriving qualitative adjectives. These suffixes can be attached to nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The native adjectival suffixes for qualitative adjectives are listed in table 1:

Table 1: Native adjectival suffixes for qualitative adjectives
Suffix Base category Example Derived adjective
-achtig N rots rock rotsachtig rocky
V weiger to refuse weigerachtig refusing persistently
A groen green groenachtig greenish
-baar V draag to carry draagbaar portable
N vrucht fruit vruchtbaar fruitful
-elijk N god god goddelijk divine
N erf to inherit erfelijk hereditary
A bang afraid bangelijk timid
-erig N hout wood houterig stiff
V bijt to bite bijterig biting
A groen green groenerig sort of greenish
-ig N bloed blood bloedig bloody
V nalaat to neglect nalatig negligent
A groen green groenig greenish
-loos N naam name naamloos nameless
-zaam N deugd virtue deugdzaam virtuous
V werk to work werkzaam active
A lang long langzaam slow

Non-native suffixes are also used to derive qualitative adjectives. They are listed in table 2.

Table 2: Derived qualitative adjectives with non-native suffixes
Suffix Base category Example Derived category Example
-aal N synode synod A synodaal synodical
-abel V accepteer to accept A acceptabel acceptable
-air N elite elite A elitair elitist
-eel N fundament fundament A fundamenteel fundamental
-esk N ballade ballad A balladesk ballad-like
-eus N rancune rancour A rancuneus rancorous
-iek N energie energy A energiek energetic
-ieus N mode fashion A modieus fashionable
-isch N apathie apathy A apathisch apathetic
-oir N emancipatie emancipation A emancipatoir emancipatory

Both native and non-native suffixes are used for deriving relational adjectives. This set of suffixes partially overlaps with the suffixes for qualitative adjectives. These suffixes are listed in table 3 (native suffixes) and table 4 (non-native suffixes).

Table 3: Derived relational adjectives with native suffixes
Suffix Example Phrase with relational adjective
en zilveren [zilver-en] silver-SUFF zilveren ring [zilver-en] ring silver ring
-er Edammer [Edamm-er] Edamm-SUFF Edammer kaas [Edamm-er] kaas Edam cheese
-ig toekomstig [toekomst-ig] future-SUFF toekomstige man [toekomst-ig-e] man future-SUFF husband
-(e)lijk vaderlijk [vader-lijk] father-SUFF vaderlijk gezag [vader-lijk] gezag paternal authority
-ling mondeling [monde-ling] mouth-SUFF mondeling examen [monde-ling] examen oral exam
-s buitenlands [buitenland-s] foreign countries-SUFF buitenlandse betrekkingen [buitenland-s-e] betrekkingen foreign relations
Amerikaans [Ameriaan-s] American-SUFF Amerikaanse regering [Amerikaan-s-e] regering American government

Most non-native adjectival suffixes can be used both in qualitative and relational adjectives. Table 4 provides examples of use in relational adjectives.

Table 4: Derived relational adjectives with non-native suffixes
Suffix Example Phrase with relational adjective
-aal muzikaal [muzik-aal] music-SUFF muzikaal talent [muzik-aal] talent musical talent
-air atomair [atom-air] atom-SUFF atomaire fysica [atom-air-e] fysica nuclear physics
-eel structureel [structur-eel] structure-SUFF structurele analyse [structur-el-e] analyse structural analysis
-eus religieus [religi-eus] religious religieuze strijd [religi-euz-e] strijd religious fight
-ief educatief [educat-ief] education-SUFF educatief verlof [educat-ief] verlof educational sabbatical
-iek metriek [metr-iek] meter-SUFF metriek systeem [metr-iek] systeem metrical system
-iel civiel [civ-iel] civ-SUFF civiel effect [civ-iel] effect civil effect
-isch filosofisch [filosof-isch] philosophy-SUFF filosofische discussie [filosof-isch-e] discussie philosophical debate
-oir emancipatoir [emancipat-oir] emancipation-SUFF emancipatoir probleem [emancipat-oir] probleem emancipation issue