Language is our way of describing the world, as well as sharing our opinion on it. English has an abundance of adjectives that we can write one after the other to share those opinions. That is why we can say we live in a beautiful little home, or that I gave my dad a handmade brown leather wallet. In Spanish, we do not tend to use more than a couple of adjectives in a row. There are other ways of expressing opinion or describing things, and one of them are appreciative suffixes.
So suffixes are letters (morphemes) that we add to a word to create a new one. In English, these suffixes change the class of the word. For example: to the verb “create” we can add “-ion” to the end and it becomes “*createion” which develops into the noun “creation.” In Spanish, suffixes have other functions as well. That is the case of appreciative suffixes: morphemes that add emotional value to a word. Depending on the suffix you use, they mean a change in size, or an emotion. The most common suffixes are “diminutivos” and “aumentativos.”
Their main objective is to describe something that is small. However, they are also used to show affection. The main suffixes in this category are:
–ito/a (-cito/a, -ecito/a): silla > sillita (small chair) // coche > cochecito (small car). This is the most standard diminutivo.
–ico/a (-cico/a, ecico/a): rato > ratico (a small amount of time). This is more common in the north of Spain.
–illo/a (-ecillo/a): pez > pececillo (small fish). This is more common in Andalusia.
–in (-ina): poco > poquitín (a smaller amount)
–uelo/a: calle > callejuela (small street)
–ete: perro > perrete (small dog)
Diminutivos are used a lot when talking to children to add affection to the expression. For instance, if we say “Ponte el abriguito,” we don’t mean only a small coat, but it is also a way to add tenderness to the sentence. In colloquial registers, using diminutivos is a sign of being close to someone (“¿Te apetece una cervecita?”) or trying to reduce the importance of something with the suffix -illo/a (“Tenemos un problemilla”). If the use is ironic, the suffixes are depreciative or magnifying, like in “¡Qué bromita tan graciosa!” (the “little” joke is not funny).
The main aumentativos that are used in Spanish are –azo, -ón, -ote, and -udo. The principal meaning they add is increase in size or intensity. But for the most part, they also magnify the positive and negative connotations of the word. For example:
–azo: libro > librazo (very big book, also very good book) // gol > golazo (incredible goal)
-ón: taza > tazón (very big mug) // fuerte > fortachón (very strong)
-ote/a: muchacho/a > muchachote/a (big lad) // amigo > amigote (good friend)
-udo/a: barriga > barrigudo (with a bigger tummy, also fat)
The suffix -azo is used to express the type of blow you make with parts of the body or objects. For instance, a “zapatazo” is a hit with a shoe, “codazo” with the elbow, “balazo” with a bullet, etc.
There are other suffixes that are not diminutivos or aumentativos but are appreciative are what we call peyorativos (pejorative). Pejorative adjectives are not the most common but they are still used. They show negative connotations and they are: –aco, -ajo, -ejo, -ucho. E.g.: “El niño de Marta es feúcho.”
Do you want to practise? Try this exercise:
EX1. Choose in each sentence the correct appreciative adjective (diminutivo, aumentativo or peyorativo):
- Lucía se subió a una silla del susto, ¿cómo puede alguien asustarse por un ratoncito/ratonazo?
- Ernesto me dijo que estaba muy contento en el nuevo trabajo porque ganaba un sueldillo/sueldazo
- El nuevo administrador no me gusta nada, es un bocas/bocazas que va contando lo que no debe por ahí.
- Luis y Lola se han comprado una casita/casucha a las afueras del pueblo que no vale nada.
- El médico le ha dicho a Carlos que puede tomarse una copita/copón de vino en la comida, que es bueno para el corazón.
PDF with answers here!
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