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I have read some posts about the suffix -ee, which is added to a verb to turn it into a word that describes a person having the action done to them: e.g. employ becomes employee, a person who is employed. I may have missed a question or thread, but I could not find anything that describes the limits of what -ee can be attached to.

I know that the verb has to be transitive, and the subject must be alive, but that is all.

  • These usually come in pairs employer/employee, And if an actor type word ends in -er (a person who does something to someone), then it is easy to make up a new word replacing -er- with -ee meaning, the person done to. But what about divorcee, fiancee, soiree, etoufee, marquee, banshee? – Mitch Jul 4 '16 at 14:57
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    Warning: There are people who dislike -ee words. A word like employee has been around long enough to become OK, but askee, asylee? After only the "a" list from the answer of @Max Williams I felt a strong urge to barf. +1 for his answer but minus infinity for some of the words on the list he referenced. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Jul 4 '16 at 17:38
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It's not a rule of English grammar that you can add -ee to any verb to describe the subject.

It should be seen more as a common approach to creating a new word. Like any new word, or neologism, the resulting word still needs to be accepted by the community: many new words fail and die because people just don't like them.

You will find that in some cases, people can guess the meaning of your new -ee word, and accept it. In other cases, they might be confused or just dislike it. Many people might be resistant to the whole idea of inventing new -ee words and find the word "distasteful" for that reason.

The -ee words you could think of, like "employee", are neologisms that have gone through the "acceptance process".

Either way, it's a new word that you've created, rather than a product of standard grammar, and you should bear that in mind. If you were writing something formal, you would not normally include any neologisms - they are more well suited to something more light-hearted.

EDIT: the following page lists the -ee suffix words which have entered the language to date. More may enter in the future.

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_words_suffixed_with_-ee

  • Can you give some example words that show where it is possible and where not? – Mitch Jul 4 '16 at 12:11
  • Note that this isn't a list of what is possible, it's a list of accepted words created with this process. There might be lots of others which will enter the language in the future (and therefore are "possible"). – Max Williams Jul 4 '16 at 12:22
  • Can you add a couple of those to you answer to make your answer complete by itself? And also give an acceptable neologism (one not on that list)? – Mitch Jul 4 '16 at 12:23
  • I've added the link, I don't see the value of picking some examples from that page and reproducing them in my answer. – Max Williams Jul 4 '16 at 12:24

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