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Using Suffixes for Spelling Help Study Guide

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Updated on Sep 28, 2011

Introduction

Like prefixes, suffixes are added to roots to create new words. In this lesson, you will learn the origins of suffixes and how to understand and identify them.

A SUFFIX IS similar to a prefix, except that it is added to the end of a word to form a new one, instead of the beginning. There are other differences as well. For example, unlike prefixes, more than one suffix can be added to a word. If you look at the word beautifully, for instance, you can see that two suffixes, -ful and -ly, have been added to beauty to create the new word.

Technically, suffixes include plural endings and conjugation endings. A part of speech is how a word is used rather than what a word is: for example, a word might be used as a noun in one sentence but as a verb in another.

TIP: Not all parts of speech can take all endings. This chart will show which endings can be added to the different parts of speech.

Part of Speech Job Examples Common Endings
noun names of person, place, thing, or idea roads, theses, carpenter, wilderness, advantage, miscreant, element -s, -es, -er, -ness, -age, -ant, -ent
verb names an action plays, goes, waiting, wanted, identify, embolden -s, -es, -ing, -ed, -ify, -en
adjective modifies a noun or a pronoun tolerable, contemptible, beautiful, frantic, clueless, pretty -able, -ible, -ful, -ic, -less, -y
adverb modifies a verb, an adjective, another adverb, a clause, or a sentence quietly -ly

Some words change when certain suffixes are added to them. For instance, many words ending in a silent e will drop the -e before adding -ed and -ing, as in the word love. Love becomes loved and loving. Many of those words, however, do not make any change when adding -ing. For example, supply becomes supplied and supplying. Words that end in a vowel and -y, on the other hand, add both -ed and -ing without making any changes. The word delay, for example, becomes delayed and delaying.

Don't let the required changes confuse you. The rules for adding suffixes are actually fairly straightforward and consistent. There are six main rules that you will need to learn to ensure that you use suffixes properly. Let's look at them one at a time.

1. If a suffix begins with consonant, it usually can be added to a word that ends in a consonant or a silent e with no change to the word or the suffix. Some examples include good + ness = goodness, quick + ly = quickly, love + ly = lovely. Some notable exceptions to this rule include argument, awful, duly, judgment, ninth, truly, wholly, and wisdom. Since there are far fewer exceptions than words that follow the rule, take a little time to commit them to memory.
2. If a word ends in a silent e and the suffix begins with a vowel, drop the -e before adding the ending. For example, move + able = movable and fortune + ate = fortunate.
3. If a word ends with a consonant followed by a y, change the -y to an -i before adding the ending. If the word ends in a vowel plus -y, keep the final y. For example, happy + ness = happiness and marry + age = marriage. On the other hand, pay + ment = payment and destroy + er = destroyer.
4. If a one-syllable word ends in a consonant-plus-vowel combination, double the final consonant when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel. Examples of doubling the final consonant include tip + ing = tipping, rot + en = rotten, and set + ing = setting. Remember that this rule applies only to suffixes that begin with vowels. You do not need to double the final consonants when adding a suffix that begins with a consonant, like fear + less = fearless. Also, this rule does not apply to words with -w or -x as their final consonant, for example follow + er = follower, flex + ing = flexing.
5. If a polysyllabic word ends in a consonant-plus-vowel-plus-consonant combination and the accent is on the final syllable, double the final consonant when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel. Phew! That's a long rule. It is less confusing than it appears, though. Examples of words that take this rule include excel (accent is on the second syllable) + ent = excellent, begin (accent is on the second syllable) + ing = beginning, and submit (accent is on the second syllable) + ing = submitting.
6. If a word ends in any other combination of vowels and consonants, do not double the final consonant when adding an ending. This rule means that these other combinations take suffixes without requiring any change to the word or the suffix. Some examples are beat + ing = beating, comfort + able = comfortable, and read + ing = reading.

Common Suffixes 

This list covers the most common suffixes, their meanings, and some examples of words using each prefix. The suffixes are categorized by their type: whether they are noun, adjective, or verb endings.

Suffixes

Suffixes

Suffixes

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Using Suffixes for Spelling Help Practice Exercises

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