Is there a sharp difference between the meanings of adjectives ending up with "al" vs. adjectives ending up with "ive"? If so, what is that difference? Can they ever be used exchangeably?

Example: intuitive vs. intuitional creative vs. creational

Contrasting different examples, I think -ive adjective is about possessing a feature/thing, while -al adjectives are about being related to such a feature/thing. But I am not sure if this is applicable as a rule everywhere.

Also, does anyone know of any source where the answers to this kind of questions can be found?

1 Answer 1


They both come from French, and they are used with adjectives to convey different meaning:


  • suffix forming nouns of action from verbs, mostly from Latin and French, meaning "act of ______ing" (such as survival, referral), Middle English -aille, from French feminine singular -aille, from Latin -alia, neuter plural of adjective suffix -alis, also used in English as a noun suffix. Nativized in English and used with Germanic verbs (as in bestowal, betrothal).


  • word-forming element making adjectives from verbs, meaning "pertaining to, tending to; doing, serving to do," in some cases from Old French -if, but usually directly from Latin adjectival suffix -ivus (source also of Italian and Spanish -ivo). In some words borrowed from French at an early date it has been reduced to -y (as in hasty, tardy).


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