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Deconstructing Mindfulness in English

You might recently have been advised to be more mindful. Some believe that, when life isstressful, your work seems endless and you feel helpless, being mindful can be a powerful tool. Whether or not you agree, mindfulness is useful for English teachers as an excuse to talk about a group of adjectives that are formed by adding the suffixes -FUL or -LESS to the ends of nouns,often with opposite meanings.

With and Without

Only With or Only WithoutWhen you add FUL to a noun, you mean that something has that noun, so meaningful looks are full of meanings, and when you add LESS, you’re suggesting that it doesn’t have it, so a wireless internet connection shouldn’t need any wires… Medical operations can pe painful or painless, companies can be powerful or powerless and drinking whisky is a good way to achieve a more mindless state. Knowing these two terminations can help you to guess what words mean when you see them but, unfortunately, it’s not so easy to invent them. These adjectives are not as effortless as they look.

Only With or Only Without

The problem is that many words will accept one suffix but not the other. The opposites of
stressful, beautiful and peaceful are not formed with LESS (options could be stress-free, ugly
and violent, respectively). Similarly, endless, pointless and priceless all require a more creative
solution to express their opposites than just replacing LESS with FUL. Basically, you can
organise these adjectives into three columns: some that only have a FUL version, some with
only LESS, and a smaller group that can have either with opposite meanings.

The Usefulness of NESS and LY

The good news is that once you’ve learned one of these adjectives, you can amplify the meanings quite easily by adding yet another suffix to the end. If you want to say how actions are performed, stick -LY on the end to say that something was needlessly delayed or peacefully settled. To talk about abstract concepts, add -NESS to produce big and important- sounding words like mindfulness and shamelessness, when a simpler word like mind or shame doesn’t sound right. Unless anyone has a better idea (and suggestions are always welcome via LinkedIn), my next blog will explain how to sex up (or tone down) your comparative sentences with some easy vocabulary that will make your English sound noticeably posher.

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