Grammar Suffixes and Prefixes

Suffixes | A Comprehensive Guide with Definitions, Usage, and Examples

Suffixes | A Comprehensive Guide with Definitions, Usage, and Examples
Written by ilmPak

Similar to any living thing, language changes and adapts with time. The way suffixes are used in English is an interesting part of this progression. Suffixes are crucial language components that have the power to change a word’s meaning and give it a richer, more expressive quality that improves communication. We’ll dive into the realm of suffixes in this blog article, covering their meanings, full usage in the English language, and useful examples that highlight their adaptability.

What are Suffixes?

A morpheme, or set of letters appended to the end of a word to change its meaning or form an entirely new word, is called a suffix.

Suffixes, as opposed to prefixes, which are appended to the beginning of a word, have the power to significantly alter a word’s grammatical category, converting a verb into a noun or a noun into an adjective.

Learn more: English Grammar Lessons

Definitions of Common Suffixes:

  1. -er/-or:
    • Definition: denoting a person or thing that performs an action.
    • Example: teacher, actor, writer.
  2. -ful:
    • Definition: characterized by or full of.
    • Example: joyful, helpful, beautiful.
  3. -less:
    • Definition: without.
    • Example: fearless, hopeless, endless.
  4. -ly:
    • Definition: in a specified manner.
    • Example: quickly, softly, beautifully.
  5. -tion/-sion:
    • Definition: state or action; the result of an action.
    • Example: celebration, expansion, discussion.

Complete Usage of Suffixes in English

Suffixes play a crucial role in constructing words with specific meanings and functions. Understanding how they function can enhance your vocabulary and language skills. Here are some common ways suffixes are used in English:

  1. Changing Word Class:
    • Example: Change the noun “music” to the verb “musical” by adding the suffix -al.
  2. Forming Adjectives:
    • Example: Turn the noun “fame” into the adjective “famous” by adding the suffix -ous.
  3. Creating Nouns:
    • Example: Transform the verb “communicate” into the noun “communication” by adding the suffix -tion.
  4. Expressing Comparison:
    • Example: Modify the adjective “big” to indicate a higher degree with the suffix -er, as in “bigger.”

Learn more: English Vocabulary Lessons

Helpful Examples of Suffixes

  1. -ize/-ify:
    • Definition: to make or cause.
    • Example: criticize, beautify, clarify.
  2. -ment:
    • Definition: state or condition.
    • Example: excitement, development, improvement.
  3. -ology:
    • Definition: the study of.
    • Example: biology, psychology, sociology.
  4. -ish:
    • Definition: having the qualities of.
    • Example: childish, selfish, foolish.

A suffix can make a new word in one of two ways:

  1. Inflectional Changes (Grammar Makeover):
    • This is like giving words a small makeover to show things like more than one or that it happened before. For instance, turning “dog” into “dogs” or changing “walk” to “walked.” The main idea of the word stays the same; it’s just dressed up differently.
  2. Derivational Changes (Making New Words):
    • Here, it’s like creating a brand-new word that has a fresh meaning, kind of like making a new friend from an old one! For example, turning “teach” into “teacher” or changing “care” to “careful.” The new word has a different job or meaning, but it came from the original word like a close relative.

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suffix goes at the end of a word. A prefix goes at the beginning.

Inflectional Suffixes

  • These little additions at the end of words don’t really change what the word means. For example, in “I walk to school” and “Yesterday I walked to school,” the words “walk” and “walked” mean pretty much the same thing. Even when we say “I have one car” or “I have two cars,” the main idea of “car” doesn’t really change. We’re just adding these bits to make the sentence sound right. Look:
  • “I walk” → “Yesterday I walked”
  • “I have one car” → “I have two cars”

Inflectional Suffixes Examples:

  1. Cats (cat + s)
  2. Dogs (dog + s)
  3. Played (play + ed)
  4. Walking (walk + ing)
  5. Happier (happy + er)
  6. Slowly (slow + ly)
  7. Happening (happen + ing)
  8. Jumped (jump + ed)
  9. Fastest (fast + est)
  10. Happily (happy + ly)

Learn more: Picture Vocabulary lessons

Suffix Grammatical Change Original Word Suffixed Word
-s Plural Dog Dogs
-en Plural (irregular) Ox Oxen
-s 3rd Person Singular Present Like He likes
-ed Past Tense
Past Participle
Work He worked
He has worked
-en Past Participle (irregular) Eat He has eaten
-ing Continuous/Progressive Sleep He is sleeping
-er Comparative Big Bigger
-est Superlative Big The biggest

Derivational Suffixes

“When you use derivational suffixes, you make a whole new word with a new meaning, and it often becomes a different kind of word. But, here’s the cool part: the new meaning is connected to the old meaning – it comes from it, like the word cousin!”

We can add more than one suffix, as in this example:

derive (verb) + ation → derivation (noun) + al → derivational (adjective)
There are several hundred derivational suffixes. Here are some of the more common ones:
Suffix Making Example
Original Word
Suffixed Word
-ation Nouns Explore
-sion Persuade
-er Teach Teacher
-cian Music Musician
-ess God Goddess
-ness Sad Sadness
-al Arrive Arrival
-ary Diction Dictionary
-ment Treat Treatment
-y Jealous
-al Adjectives Accident Accidental
-ary Imagine Imaginary
-able Tax Taxable
-ly Brother Brotherly
-y Ease Easy
-ful Sorrow
-ly Adverbs Helpful Helpfully
-ize Verbs Terror
-ate Hyphen Hyphenate

Derivational Suffixes Examples:

  1. Teacher (teach + er)
  2. Careful (care + ful)
  3. Darkness (dark + ness)
  4. Quickly (quick + ly)
  5. Happiness (happy + ness)
  6. Actor (act + or)
  7. Beautifully (beautiful + ly)
  8. Manager (manage + er)
  9. Decision (decide + ion)
  10. Childish (child + ish)

Learn more: Other ways to say Lessons

Huge List of Suffixes Examples

Here’s a substantial list of examples of various suffixes along with complete words:

-er (denoting a person or thing that performs an action):

  • Teacher
  • Writer
  • Player
  • Dancer
  • Singer

-ful (characterized by or full of):

  • Beautiful
  • Joyful
  • Careful
  • Playful
  • Colorful

-less (without):

  • Fearless
  • Endless
  • Careless
  • Homeless
  • Thoughtless

-ly (in a specified manner):

  • Quickly
  • Happily
  • Softly
  • Suddenly
  • Carefully

-tion/-sion (state or action; the result of an action):

  • Celebration
  • Decision
  • Expansion
  • Discussion
  • Confusion

-ish (having the qualities of):

  • Childish
  • Foolish
  • Selfish
  • Reddish
  • Smallish

-ize/-ify (to make or cause):

  • Organize
  • Beautify
  • Simplify
  • Intensify
  • Clarify

-ment (state or condition):

  • Excitement
  • Development
  • Improvement
  • Adjustment
  • Movement

-ology (the study of):

  • Biology
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Technology
  • Geology

-est (expressing comparison):

  • Tallest
  • Fastest
  • Strongest
  • Brightest
  • Happiest

-ism (belief or practice):

  • Racism
  • Capitalism
  • Feminism
  • Activism
  • Idealism

Learn more: English Sentences Lessons

-ian (relating to or belonging to):

  • Musician
  • Historian
  • Technician
  • Vegetarian
  • Electrician

-ful (amount to the capacity):

  • Spoonful
  • Handful
  • Cupful
  • Mouthful
  • Pocketful

-able/-ible (capable of being):

  • Comfortable
  • Understandable
  • Responsible
  • Invisible
  • Flexible

-al (related to):

  • Musical
  • Critical
  • Historical
  • Biological
  • Magical

-ate (to make or become):

  • Celebrate
  • Educate
  • Operate
  • Communicate
  • Participate

-ify (to make or become):

  • Identify
  • Intensify
  • Simplify
  • Beautify
  • Purify

-hood (state or condition of being):

  • Childhood
  • Brotherhood
  • Neighborhood
  • Adulthood
  • Sisterhood

-ize (to make or become):

  • Organize
  • Recognize
  • Energize
  • Customize
  • Maximize

-y (characterized by or inclined to):

  • Rainy
  • Sunny
  • Happy
  • Sleepy
  • Cloudy

-ship (state or quality of being):

  • Friendship
  • Leadership
  • Citizenship
  • Partnership
  • Scholarship

-ous (full of):

  • Delicious
  • Courageous
  • Mysterious
  • Fabulous
  • Glorious

-ward (in the direction of):

  • Forward
  • Upward
  • Backward
  • Toward
  • Downward

-dom (state or quality of being):

  • Freedom
  • Wisdom
  • Kingdom
  • Random
  • Fiefdom

-en (become):

  • Lengthen
  • Darken
  • Strengthen
  • Shorten
  • Brighten

-ate (state or quality of being):

  • Desperate
  • Separate
  • Elaborate
  • Considerate
  • Adequate

-er (more):

  • Faster
  • Smarter
  • Bigger
  • Stronger
  • Taller

-ist (one who practices or believes in):

  • Artist
  • Scientist
  • Pianist
  • Optimist
  • Realist

Learn more: 12 Verb Tenses Lessons

-ee (one who receives the action):

  • Employee
  • Referee
  • Trainee
  • Interviewee
  • Trustee

-ize (to become):

  • Civilize
  • Energize
  • Modernize
  • Prioritize
  • Stabilize

-ive (having the nature of):

  • Creative
  • Active
  • Positive
  • Productive
  • Sensitive

-en (made of):

  • Wooden
  • Golden
  • Silken
  • Woolen
  • Earthen

-ify (to make or become):

  • Simplify
  • Beautify
  • Purify
  • Intensify
  • Modify

-ous (characterized by):

  • Delicious
  • Spacious
  • Courageous
  • Glorious
  • Ambitious

-al (related to):

  • Historical
  • Musical
  • Medical
  • Magical
  • Critical

-ify (to make or become):

  • Clarify
  • Intensify
  • Identify
  • Notify
  • Simplify

-er (related to):

  • Solar
  • Lunar
  • Singular
  • Circular
  • Scholar

-able/-ible (capable of):

  • Comfortable
  • Understandable
  • Flexible
  • Responsible
  • Visible

-y (characterized by):

  • Happy
  • Rainy
  • Cloudy
  • Sleepy
  • Sunny

-ship (state of being):

  • Friendship
  • Leadership
  • Relationship
  • Membership
  • Citizenship

Suffixes VS Prefixes

Here’s a simple table comparing suffixes and prefixes:

Suffixes Prefixes
Definition Affixes added at the end of a word Affixes added at the beginning of a word
Example -er (teacher) un- (undo)
Example -ly (quickly) re- (return)
Function Changes word form or meaning Changes word form or meaning
Transformation Can change a noun to an adjective, or a verb to a noun Can change the meaning of a word oppositely or show repetition
Usage -ful (beautiful) adds “full of” to a word mis- (misunderstand) implies wrong or badly
Commonality Very common in English Less common than suffixes

Suffixes VS Infixes

However, it’s important to note that infixes (morphemes inserted within a word) are not as common in English as suffixes and prefixes. Infixes are more prevalent in some other languages. Nonetheless, here’s a simple table comparing suffixes and infixes:

Suffixes Infixes
Definition Affixes added at the end of a word Morphemes inserted within a word
Example -er (teacher) -bloomin’- (unbelievable)
Example -ly (quickly) (not as common in English)
Function Changes word form or meaning Changes word meaning within itself
Transformation Can change a noun to an adjective, or a verb to a noun Alters the meaning of the base word
Usage -ful (beautiful) adds “full of” to a word Limited use in English, more common in some other languages
Commonality Very common in English Less common in English, and more common in some other languages

Suffixes in English | Images

Suffixes | A Comprehensive Guide with Definitions, Usage, and Examples

Inflectional and Derivational Suffixes

Suffixes | A Comprehensive Guide with Definitions, Usage, and Examples

Suffixes | A Comprehensive Guide with Definitions, Usage, and Examples

Suffixes | A Comprehensive Guide with Definitions, Usage, and Examples

Suffixes VS Prefixes and Infixes

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Frequently Asked Questions:

Q1: What are suffixes, and how do they work in English?

Answer: Suffixes are groups of letters added to the end of a word, altering its meaning or creating a new word. They can change the word’s grammatical category (e.g., turning a noun into an adjective) or provide additional information. For example, adding “-er” to “teach” creates “teacher.”

Q2: Can you provide more examples of inflectional suffixes and how they’re used?

Answer: Certainly! Inflectional suffixes don’t change the core meaning of a word but indicate aspects like tense, number, or degree. Examples include turning “walk” into “walked” or “dog” into “dogs.” They help convey grammatical information.

Q3: What is the difference between inflectional and derivational suffixes?

Answer: Inflectional suffixes primarily modify the grammatical form of a word, while derivational suffixes create new words with different meanings. For instance, turning “teach” into “teacher” involves a derivational suffix, creating a new word.

Q4: Why are suffixes important in English?

Answer: Suffixes enhance the expressiveness of the English language. They allow for the creation of new words, modification of meanings, and adaptation of words to fit grammatical structures. Understanding suffixes improves vocabulary and language comprehension.

Q5: Can you give more examples of derivational suffixes and how they change word meanings?

Answer: Absolutely! Derivational suffixes, like “-ful” in “careful” or “-er” in “teacher,” alter the fundamental meaning of a word, often changing its part of speech. They enable the creation of a wide variety of words from a common root.

Q6: How do prefixes differ from suffixes?

Answer: Prefixes are affixes added to the beginning of a word, whereas suffixes are added to the end. Both modify word meanings, but prefixes can change the word’s root meaning or provide opposite meanings, while suffixes often alter grammatical form.

Q7: Are infixes common in English?

Answer: Infixes, morphemes inserted within a word, are not common in English. English typically uses prefixes and suffixes for word modification. Infixes are more characteristic of certain languages with different linguistic structures.

Q8: Why are tables used to compare different linguistic elements?

Answer: Tables provide a clear and organized way to present information. Comparing linguistic elements, such as suffixes and infixes, in a table helps readers grasp the distinctions easily, facilitating comprehension and reference.

Q9: How can understanding suffixes improve language skills?

Answer: Understanding suffixes enhances vocabulary, improves word comprehension, and allows for better communication. It empowers individuals to decipher unfamiliar words, create new words, and express nuanced meanings, contributing to overall language proficiency.

Q10: Can you provide more examples of words with suffixes for practice?

Answer: Certainly! Here are a few more examples:

  • Actor (act + or)
  • Beautifully (beautiful + ly)
  • Decision (decide + ion)
  • Friendship (friend + ship)
  • Quickly (quick + ly)

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