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Wednesday, November 03, 2010

ESL Student Blog: Words with the Suffix -en

The -en suffix can be used to make verbs from adjectives. The verbs in bold below are followed by a direct object and have the meaning of ‘make + their corresponding adjective’:
sharpen a pencil/scissors/a knife (make sharp)
soften skin/fabric/water (make soft)
flatten a box/cars or trees (as by the storm) (make flat)
sweeten tea/coffee/a deal (make sweet)
brighten someone’s day/life/spirits (make bright=happy/hopeful)
tighten bolts/security/a tie (make tight)
Sometimes the -en verbs can be used with no object at all. The verbs in bold have the meaning of ‘become + the related adjective, showing that something has reached the necessary or higher degree’:
The tomatoes ripened. (became ripe)
The soup thickened. (became thick)
The screws loosened. (became loose)
His eyes widened. (became wider)
Her vision worsened. (became worse)
Their pace quickened. (became quicker)
Some -en verbs have pairs of antonyms:
darken/lighten (whiten)
The suffix -en can also be used to form adjectives from nouns (this list is quite limited):
Another common adjective with the suffix -en is brazen (openly done, not hidden), such as in ‘a brazen daytime attack’. The adjective brazen may also mean ‘made of brass’.
Lastly, there are a lot past participle forms with the suffix -en associated with irregular verbs:
The past participle forms can also be used to create compound adjectives/common word combinations (adjective + adjective or adjective + adverb):
a clean-shaven man
a softly-spoken woman
a well-written essay
a recently stolen car
a carefully chosen location
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