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6.4: Word Form – Adjectives and Adverbs / Prefixes and Suffixes

  • Page ID
    50955
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    Learning Objectives

    1. Identify adjectives and adverbs.
    2. Use adjectives and adverbs correctly.
    3. Identify the meanings of common prefixes.
    4. Become familiar with common suffix rules.

    Adjectives and adverbs are descriptive words that bring your writing to life. Using the appropriate word form in your writing shows you understand how word variety and use is important. This also helps your writing be clear to the reader.

    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 can not only spell words more correctly but also recognize and perhaps even define unfamiliar words.

    Adjectives and Adverbs

    An adjective is a word that describes a noun or a pronoun. It often answers questions such as which one, what kind, or how many?

    • The green sweater belongs to Iris.
    • She looks beautiful.
      • In sentence 1, the adjective green describes the noun sweater.
      • In sentence 2, the adjective beautiful describes the pronoun she.

    An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs frequently end in-ly. They answer questions such as how, to what extent, why, when, and where.

    • Bertrand sings horribly.
    • My sociology instructor is extremely wise.
    • He threw the ball very accurately.
      • In sentence 3, horribly describes the verb sings. How does Bertrand sing? He sings horribly.
      • In sentence 4, extremely describes the adjective wise. How wise is the instructor? Extremely wise.
      • In sentence 5, very describes the adverb accurately. How accurately did he throw the ball? Very accurately.

    Comparative versus Superlative

    Comparative adjectives and adverbs are used to compare two people or things.

    1. Jorge is thin.
    2. Steven is thinner than Jorge.
      • Sentence 1 describes Jorge with the adjective thin.
      • Sentence 2 compares Jorge to Steven, stating that Steven is thinner. So thinner is the comparative form of thin.

    Form comparatives in one of the following two ways:

    1. If the adjective or adverb is a one syllable word, add-er to it to form the comparative. For example, big, fast, and short would become bigger, faster, and shorter in the comparative form.
    2. If the adjective or adverb is a word of two or more syllables, place the word more in front of it to form the comparative. For example, happily, comfortable, and jealous would become more happily, more comfortable, and more jealous in the comparative.

    Superlative adjectives and adverbs are used to compare more than two people or two things.

    1. Fatoumata is the loudest cheerleader on the squad.
    2. Kenyatta was voted the most confident student by her graduating class.
      • Sentence 1 shows that Fatoumata is not just louder than one other person, but she is the loudest of all the cheerleaders on the squad.
      • Sentence 2 shows that Kenyatta was voted the most confident student of all the students in her class.

    Form superlatives in one of the following two ways:

    1. If the adjective or adverb is a one-syllable word, add-est to form the superlative. For example, big, fast, and short would become biggest, fastest, and shortest in the superlative form.
    2. If the adjective or adverb is a word of two or more syllables, place the word most in front of it. For example, happily, comfortable, and jealous would become most happily, most comfortable, and most jealous in the superlative form.

    Tip

    Remember the following exception: If the word has two syllables and ends in -y, change the -y to an -i and add -est. For example, happy would change to happiest in the superlative form; healthy would change to healthiest.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\):

    Edit the following paragraph by correcting the six errors in comparative and superlative adjectives.

    Our argument started on the most sunny afternoon that I have ever experienced. Enis and I were sitting on my front stoop when I started it. I told him that my dog, Jacko, was more smart than his dog, Merlin. I could not help myself. Merlin never came when he was called, and he chased his tail and barked at rocks. I told Enis that Merlin was the most dumbest dog on the block. I guess I was angrier about a bad grade that I received, so I decided to pick on poor little Merlin. Even though Enis insulted Jacko too, I felt I had been more mean. The next day I apologized to Enis and brought Merlin some of Jacko’s treats. When Merlin placed his paw on my knee and licked my hand, I was the most sorry person on the block.

    Irregular Words: Good, Well, Bad, and Badly

    Good, well, bad, and badly are often used incorrectly. Study the following chart to learn the correct usage of these words and their comparative and superlative forms.

    Table \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    Comparative

    Superlative

    Adjective

    good

    better

    best

    Adverb

    well

    better

    best

    Adjective bad worse worst

    Adverb

    badly worse worst

    Good versus Well

    Good is always an adjective — that is, a word that describes a noun or a pronoun. The second sentence is correct because well is an adverb that tells how something is done.

    Incorrect: Cecilia felt that she had never done so good on a test.

    Correct: Cecilia felt that she had never done so well on a test.

    Well is always an adverb that describes a verb, adverb, or adjective. The second sentence is correct because good is an adjective that describes the noun score.

    Incorrect: Cecilia’s team received a well score.

    Correct: Cecilia’s team received a good score.

    Bad versus Badly

    Bad is always an adjective. The second sentence is correct because badly is an adverb that tells how the speaker did on the test.

    Incorrect: I did bad on my accounting test because I didn’t study.

    Correct: I did badly on my accounting test because I didn’t study.

    Badly is always an adverb. The second sentence is correct because bad is an adjective that describes the noun thunderstorm.

    Incorrect: The coming thunderstorm looked badly.

    Correct: The coming thunderstorm looked bad.

    Better and Worse

    The following are examples of the use of better and worse:

    Tyra likes sprinting better than long distance running.

    The traffic is worse in Chicago than in Atlanta.

    Best and Worst

    The following are examples of the use of best and worst:

    Tyra sprints best of all the other competitors.

    Peter finished worst of all the runners in the race.

    Tip

    Remember better and worse compare two persons or things. Best and worst compare three or more persons or things.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{2}\):

    Write good, well, bad, or badly to complete each sentence. Copy the completed sentence onto your own sheet of paper.

    1. Fasika always felt ________ if she did not see the sun in the morning.
    2. The school board president gave a ________ speech for once.
    3. Although my dog, Comet, is mischievous, he always behaves ________ at the dog park.
    4. I thought my back injury was ________ at first, but it turned out to be minor.
    5. Razak was shaking ________ from the extreme cold.
    6. Apple crisp is a very ________ dessert that can be made using whole grains instead of white flour.
    7. The meeting with my son’s math teacher went very ________.
    8. Juan has a ________ appetite, especially when it comes to dessert.
    9. Magritte thought the guests had a ________ time at the party because most people left early.
    10. She ________ wanted to win the writing contest prize, which included a trip to New York.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{3}\):

    Write the correct comparative or superlative form of the word in parentheses. Copy the completed sentence onto your own sheet of paper.

    1. This research paper is ________ (good) than my last one.
    2. Grace likes country music ________ (well) of all.
    3. My motorcycle rides ________ (bad) than it did last summer.
    4. That is the ________ (bad) joke my father ever told.
    5. The hockey team played ________ (badly) than it did last season.
    6. Heejoo plays guitar ________ (well) than she plays the piano.
    7. It will go down as one of the ________ (bad) movies I have ever seen.
    8. The deforestation in the Amazon is ________ (bad) than it was last year.
    9. Movie ticket sales are ________ (good) this year than last.
    10. My husband says mystery novels are the ________ (good) types of books.

    Tip

    The irregular words good, well, bad, and badly are often misused along with their comparative and superlative forms better, best, worse, and worst. You may not hear the difference between worse and worst, and therefore type it incorrectly. In a formal or business-like tone, use each of these words to write eight separate sentences. Assume these sentences will be seen and judged by your current or future employer.

    Key Takeaways

    • Adjectives describe a noun or a pronoun.
    • Adverbs describe a verb, adjective, or another adverb.
    • Most adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective.
    • Comparative adjectives and adverbs compare two persons or things.
    • Superlative adjectives or adverbs compare more than two persons or things.
    • The adjectives good and bad and the adverbs well and badly are unique in their comparative and superlative forms and require special attention.

    Prefixes

    A prefix is a word part added to the beginning of a word to create a new meaning. The main rule to remember when adding a prefix to a word is not to add letters or leave out any letters. See the following table "Common Prefixes" for examples of this rule.

    Table \(\PageIndex{2}\): Common Prefixes

    Prefix

    Meaning

    Example

    dis

    not, opposite of

    dis + satisfied = dissatisfied

    mis

    wrongly

    mis + spell = misspell

    un

    not

    un + acceptable = unacceptable

    re

    again

    re + election = reelection

    inter

    between

    inter + related = interrelated

    pre

    before

    pre + pay = prepay

    non

    not

    non + sense = nonsense

    super

    above

    super + script = superscript

    sub

    under

    sub + merge = submerge

    anti

    against, opposing

    anti + bacterial = antibacterial

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{4}\):

    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!

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{5}\):

    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. Hang 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, Mariam 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.

    Suffixes

    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 -ness and -ly to a word, the spelling of the word does not change.

    Examples:

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

    Exceptions to Rule 1: When the word ends in y, change the y to i before adding - ness and -ly.

    Examples:

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

    Rule 2

    When the suffix begins with a vowel, drop the silent e in the root word.

    Examples:

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

    Exceptions to Rule 2: When the word ends in ce or ge, keep the silent e if the suffix begins with a or o.

    Examples:

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

    Rule 3

    When the suffix begins with a consonant, keep the silent e in the original word.

    Examples:

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

    Exceptions to Rule 3:

    Examples:

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

    Rule 4

    When the word ends in a consonant plus y, change the y to i before any suffix not beginning with i.

    Examples:

    • 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.

    Examples:

    • tan + ing = tanning (one syllable word)
    • regret + ing = regretting (The accent is on the 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 \(\PageIndex{6}\):

    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.

    This page titled 6.4: Word Form – Adjectives and Adverbs / Prefixes and Suffixes is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Barbara Hall & Elizabeth Wallace (GALILEO Open Learning Materials) .

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