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Common Spelling Rules, Prefixes, and Suffixes: Grammar Review Study Guide (page 3)

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

-tion, -cian, or -sion

The "shun" sound, spelled three different ways (-tion, -cian, -sion), is pronounced the same in all three spellings. Each suffix, though, is used with different kinds of root words. How will you know which one to choose? It's simple. Take a look.

Here is a list of words ending in -cian. Can you see a pattern for the spelling rule this suffix will follow?

electrician musician physician politician
beautician magician optician mathematician

All of these -cian words involve people and their careers or hobbies. So, -cian is used only when the spelling word has to do with people. The suffixes -tion and -sion are never used with these "people words."

Okay, let's see if you can identify the next spelling pattern for the spelling rule for the suffix -sion.

extend extension comprehend comprehension
suspend suspension apprehend apprehension
suppress suppression aggress aggression

Notice that all of the root words end in -s or -d. When the root word ends in -s or -d, the suffix -sion is used to make the noun form of verbs ending in -s or -d.

Additionally, one more rule applies to the -sion suffix. Can you spot it?
division conclusion adhesion exclusion vision

Do you hear a heavy "zhun" sound instead of the soft "shun" sound in these words? When a word contains a heavy "zhun," it is spelled with -sion only.

Inside Track

Verbs with the ending -mit use the suffix -mission to make the noun form of the word. For instance:

permit permission
commit commission
submit submission

Last, if the root word ends in -t or -te, then -tion is used to make the noun form of the verb. For instance:

protect protection project projection
reject rejection attribute attribution
contribute contribution educate education

The Letter Q

With the rapid growth and assimilation of world cultures in the United States over the past century, and the swift development of technology making the world "smaller" every day, American English becomes more and more infused with the influence of foreign words. With that comes the ever-growing list of exceptions to the spelling rules, some of which you have seen already.

In the English language, the letter q must be followed by a u in a word. Primarily, the use of the letter q in English is derived from the influence of the French language. Words such as queue, quarter, question, and picturesque are a ubiquitous part of everyday spoken language. You may run into other q words, such as Qatar, Iraq, Iraqi, Qantas, and Compaq in the news and in advertisements. All of these words are proper nouns, and simply because they are proper nouns, they become exceptions to this rule. Why? Because spelling rules apply only to common, everyday words, not special ones.

Prefixes and Suffixes

Adding prefixes, groups of letters that have a significant meaning, to the beginnings of words does not change the spelling of the original words (called root words). When a prefix is added, its meaning is combined with the original root word's meaning to form a new word. English prefixes and suffixes commonly come from Latin and Greek words, although Old English (Anglo-Saxon) was borrowed from as well. Take the Greek prefix astro-, for example. Astro- means "star" in Greek. Can you think of words beginning with astro- that have to do with stars and space? What about astronaut, astrology, astronomy, or asteroid?

Suffixes are added to the ends of words. Many suffixes actually change the original word's part of speech when they are added. For example, the verb bowl becomes the noun bowler when the suffix -er is added. Adding suffixes often requires that the spelling of the original word alter in some way, which is what makes spelling so challenging. Like prefixes, suffixes are derived from Greek, Latin, and Old English (Anglo-Saxon) words. Following are some of these common prefixes and suffixes.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Common Spelling Rules, Prefixes, and Suffixes: Grammar Practice Exercises.

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