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10.4: Prefixes and Suffixes

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  • The English language contains an enormous and ever-growing number of words. Enhancing your vocabulary by learning new words can seem overwhelming, but if you know the common prefixes and suffixes of English, you will understand many more words. Mastering common prefixes and suffixes is like learning a code. Once you crack the code, you cannot only spell words more correctly but also recognize and perhaps even define unfamiliar words.


    A prefix is a word part added to the beginning of a word to create a new meaning. Study the common prefixes in the table below.


    The main rule to remember when adding a prefix to a word is not to add letters or leave out any letters. See the table below for examples of this rule.





    not, opposite of

    dis + satisfied = dissatisfied



    mis + spell = misspell



    un + acceptable = unacceptable



    re + election = reelection



    inter + related = interrelated



    pre + pay = prepay



    non + sense = nonsense



    super + script = superscript



    sub + merge = submerge


    against, opposing

    anti + bacterial = antibacterial

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\)Meanings of prefixes

    Exercise 10

    Identify the five words with prefixes in the following paragraph, and write their meanings on a separate sheet of paper.

    At first, I thought one of my fuzzy, orange socks disappeared in the dryer, but I could not find it in there. Because it was my favorite pair, nothing was going to prevent me from finding that sock. I looked all around my bedroom, under the bed, on top of the bed, and in my closet, but I still could not find it. I did not know that I would discover the answer just as I gave up my search. As I sat down on the couch in the family room, my Dad was reclining on his chair. I laughed when I saw that one of his feet was orange and the other blue! I forgot that he was color-blind. Next time he does laundry I will have to supervise him while he folds the socks so that he does not accidentally take one of mine!


    Please share with a classmate and compare your answers.

    Exercise 11

    Add the correct prefix to the word to complete each sentence. Write the word on your own sheet of paper.

    1. I wanted to ease my stomach ________comfort, so I drank some ginger root tea.

    2. Lenny looked funny in his ________matched shirt and pants.

    3. Penelope felt ________glamorous at the party because she was the only one not wearing a dress.

    4. My mother said those ________aging creams do not work, so I should not waste my money on them.

    5. The child’s ________standard performance on the test alarmed his parents.

    6. When my sister first saw the meteor, she thought it was a ________natural phenomenon.

    7. Even though she got an excellent job offer, Cherie did not want to ________locate to a different country.

    8. With a small class size, the students get to ________act with the teacher more frequently.

    9. I slipped on the ice because I did not heed the ________cautions about watching my step.

    10. A ________combatant is another word for civilian.


    A suffix is a word part added to the end of a word to create a new meaning. Study the suffix rules in the following boxes.

    Rule 1

    When adding the suffixes –nessand –ly to a word, the spelling of the word does not change.


    • dark + ness = darkness
    • scholar + ly = scholarly

    Exceptions to Rule 1

    When the word ends in y, change the y to i before adding –nessand –ly.


    • ready + ly = readily
    • happy + ness = happiness
    Rule 2

    When the suffix begins with a vowel, drop the silentein the root word.


    • care + ing = caring
    • use + able = usable

    Exceptions to Rule 2

    When the word ends inceorge, keep the silent e if the suffix begins withaoro.


    • replace + able = replaceable
    • courage + ous = courageous
    Rule 3

    When the suffix begins with a consonant, keep the silentein the original word.


    • care + ful = careful
    • care + less = careless

    Exceptions to Rule 3


    • true + ly = truly
    • argue + ment = argument
    Rule 4

    When the word ends in a consonant plusy,change theytoibefore any suffix not beginning withi.


    • sunny + er = sunnier
    • hurry + ing = hurrying
    Rule 5

    When the suffix begins with a vowel, double the final consonant only if (1) the word has only one syllable or is accented on the last syllable and (2) the word ends in a single vowel followed by a single consonant.


    • tan + ing = tanning (one syllable word)
    • regret + ing = regretting (The accent is onthe last syllable; the word ends in a single vowel followed by a single consonant.)
    • cancel + ed = canceled (The accent is not on the last syllable.)
    • prefer + ed = preferred

    Exercise 12

    On your own sheet of paper, write correctly the forms of the words with their suffixes.

    1. refer + ed

    2. refer + ence

    3. mope + ing

    4. approve + al

    5. green + ness

    6. benefit + ed

    7. resubmit + ing

    8. use + age

    9. greedy + ly

    10. excite + ment

    Key Takeaways

    • A prefix is a word part added to the beginning of a word that changes the word’s meaning.
    • A suffix is a word part added to the end of a word that changes the word’s meaning.
    • Learning the meanings of prefixes and suffixes will help expand your vocabulary, which will help improve your writing.

    Writing Application

    Write a paragraph describing one of your life goals. Include five words with prefixes and five words with suffixes. Exchange papers with a classmate and circle the prefixes and suffixes in your classmate’s paper. Correct each prefix or suffix that is spelled incorrectly.

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