Can “-ness” be added to any adjective?

My friend and I have recently engaged in a little argument. It came about when he used the word “suaveness” and I argued that it wasn’t a word. While I will concede he was right in this example, he made the claim that he could put “-ness” on the end of any adjective.

I do not believe this to be true.

Words like “fastestness” or “sleepingness” don’t sit well with me. Are these words? If they are, are there any examples that don’t work?

I also brought up “polyesterness” as an example, but he won’t concede that “polyester” could be considered an adjective.


A quick search for -ness words on (a portal to numerous online dictionaries) generates a list of 100 examples just between abrasiveness and bitterness. I would guess there are several thousand.

However, these are not all the adjectives in English (well, I hope not). Some adjectives have their own noun forms that do not use –ness, for example, the noun form of indifferent is indifference, not indifferentness.

You also have to distinguish between different types of adjectives. Some are participles, verb forms that can be used like adjectives, as in your example sleeping. These are much less likely to be amenable to a -ness construction. In fact, the noun form for many participle adjectives is the gerund that has the same form as the participle, for example running. Similarly, as you suggest, the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives do not lend themselves to -ness formations.

Also some words used as adjectives are themselves nouns, such as car in car factory, or as you offer, polyester, a noun that can be used adjectivally.

In sum, you can form nouns by adding -ness to many, but not all adjectives.

Source : Link , Question Author : Cruncher , Answer Author : bib

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