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Spanish has, to my knowledge, more possible suffixes than for example English or German. Many adjectives can be transformed into nouns by adding -ness, -ism, -ity in English, or -keit, -heit, -ismus in German.

Which suffixes exist in Spanish for this case, which one should know to make vocabulary learning/remembering easier?

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Many adjectives can be used in Spanish as nouns as they are, with no changes. Here's one example: the adjective listo means "clever", as in "es un niño muy listo" ("he's a very clever boy"), but you can use it as a noun and then the meaning changes slightly, as in a famous blog we sometimes refer here:

Ya está el listo que todo lo sabe.

In that case the meaning is more similar to that of "clever clogs". But in many cases the meaning does not change. Take sevillano ("born in Seville, Spain" or "related to Seville") as an example: you can say "yo nací en tierras sevillanas" (used as an adjective) or just "yo soy un sevillano" (used as a noun).

But then, there are many ways to form noun from adjectives, creating new, different words. Let's see which ones there are:

  • -dad / -edad / -idad / -bilidad: Forms abstract nouns from adjectives. Depeding on the adjective ending or the syllable count you must use one form or another: mocedad, terquedad, suciedad, barbaridad, efectividad, liviandad, maldad, culpabilidad.
  • -ería: Indicates the quality and condition of the root word. Example: tontería.
  • -ez: Indicates the quality of the root adjective. Examples: altivez, lucidez, idiotez, madurez.
  • -ía: Forms nouns meaning situation, mind state, social condition and others. Examples: cercanía, lejanía, alegría, hidalguía, villanía. Also with the meaning of "something disqualifiable": grosería, majadería.
  • -ismo: It forms nouns from almost every kind of word, also from adjectives. Examples: analfabetismo (from "analfabeto"), modernismo (from "moderno").
  • -ncia: Another way to form abstract nouns. Examples: impaciencia (from "impaciente"), extravagancia (from "extravagante").
  • -ón: It may form nouns derivated from adjectives with a superlative meaning. Example: inocentón.
  • -ura: Another way to indicate the quality of the root word: Examples: blancura, bravura, frescura.

Unfortunately, there is no small subset of suffixes you may learn to create every noun. For instance, you say blancura to convey the meaning of "whiteness", but you don't say blanqueza even though you can speak with franqueza but not with francura. You may think that this is a barbaridad but probably you won't think this is a barbarencia. And if you think it's silly to have this many suffixes you will say that it is a tontería and an idiotez, but not a tonterez neither an idiotería.

| improve this answer | |
  • Of course it's not really that you can't, it's just that you don't. It's not uncommon to find in older Spanish or in regional dialects other endings being used. CORDE has 5 examples for blanqueza and Google has a few of idiotería (although many —but not all— are typos for Indiotria, a city) – user0721090601 Jul 29 '19 at 9:50
  • @guifa indeed. I searched for "blanquez" and didn't find anything, I didn't thought of searching for "blanqueza". I'll edit the answer. – Charlie Jul 29 '19 at 10:11
  • I think all those suffixes are optional and we can keep using the adjective as the noun itself. the only reason we would add a suffix is to avoid ambiguity, for example :"el blanco de tus ojos es hermoso" or "la blancura de tus ojos es Hermosa", the first one can be interpreted as the white part of your eyes, while the second is specific to the "how white" – Mike Jul 29 '19 at 16:34

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