The suffix -ful has been derived from the English word "full" and the literal meaning is "full of". Some meanings are can be a little more abstract and it may be harder to understand the meaning the first time you meet these words. For example the suffix -ful can also mean "characterised by or given, able or tending to be something".
NOTE: the suffix -ful is written with only one 'l'.
- Bill is hopeful of receiving a job offer. - Literally "Bob is full of hope".
- Mary brought in an armful of washing. - Literally "Mary's arm are full".
- We ate a wonderful meal in the new Japanese restaurant. - "Full of wonder" is not the right meaning here. 'Excellent' is a better translation.
The suffix -less has been derived from the English word "less" and the literal meaning is "without" or "lacking". Some meanings are more abstract. For example the suffix -less can mean "unable to act or be acted on in a specified way".
- The liquid produced in the reaction is colourless. - Literally "without colour".
- His addiction ruined his life. He lost everything and eventually became homeless. - Literally "without a home".
- Susan really hurt Tony's feeling with that comment. She can be so thoughtless sometimes. - Literally "without a thought", although better translated as "inconsiderate".
Often the suffices -ful and -less and be found in pairs:
- thought —→ thoughtful : thoughtless
- help —→ helpful : helpless
- law —→ lawful : lawless
However there are many case when the adjective ending in -ful does not have the corresponding adjective ending in -less and vice versa
- sleep —→ sleepful : sleepless
- beauty —→ beautiful : beautiless
NOTE: it is more common for the adjective ending in -less not to have the corresponding adjective ending in -ful.