or 'sugarless'? When to add 'less' and when to add '-free' to form
Mladenova from Bulgaria asks:
I find it a great idea to help people with their English via the Internet.
So my question is: What's the difference (if any) between the adjectives
ending in -less and in -free (Is the chewing gum 'sugarless'
your particular example, chewing gum, breakfast cereal, or food in
general can often be described as 'sugarless' or 'sugarfree'.
Whenever you form the adjective by adding the suffix -less
or -free, you are describing something as not having or not
affected by the thing mentioned. But I can only think of one other
example (although there must be more) where they can be used quite
interchangeably in this way, as in:
'This piece of work was quite error-free. It was an
errorless piece of work.'
usage prescribes one OR the other. In the following examples, only
one is possible. Test your knowledge by using either less or
-free in each example. Check your answers with those below.
doubtless the case
Note that the suffix 'less' or '-free' is normally added to nouns
to form the adjective. In the penultimate example, it is added to
the verb 'tire' and in the final example, 'doubt' can be viewed
as either noun or verb.
about 'careless' and 'carefree' you might ask. These are both possible.
Indeed they are, but note that they are not alternatives. They are
quite different in meaning. A 'careless person' is someone who does
not take very much care over what he is doing, whereas a 'carefree
person' is someone who has no worries.
You will have noticed that the suffix '-free' is usually hyphenated
and is a stressed syllable (unlike 'less'). However, in two of the
above examples, 'sugarfree' and 'carefree', there is normally no
hyphen, at least in the examples I have seen.