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    Learn Courses Advanced level Word formation Prefixes and suffixes

Word Formation - Lesson 10.1

Prefixes and Suffixes

(Los prefijos y sufijos)

If we start with the word "happy" and we add a prefix or a suffix, the meaning of the word changes. "Unhappy", "happiness" are examples of these words. Continue the lesson below to learn more.

Prefixes and Suffixes are letters or groups of letters which are added to either the beginning of a word (prefix) or the end of a word (suffix) to change its meaning and/or function. Many prefixes and suffixes have Latin roots. An understanding of the various meanings of prefixes and suffixes can help us determine the meaning of new words that we encounter.


Prefixes are attached to the beginning of a word to change its meaning.


 moral → amoral
 modern → postmodern
 wrap → unwrap

Common Prefixes

The four most common prefixes are in bold below. These four prefixes represent the grand majority of prefixed words in printed English.

Prefix Meaning Example
a-, an- without   atypical
anti- against/opposite   antihero
auto- self   autobiography
bi- two   bilingual
co- with   codependent
com-, con- with   compassion, conjoin
de- off/away from   detach
dis- not   disintegrate
en- cause to   enlarge
extra- beyond/more than   extraordinary
il-, im-, in-, ir- not/without   impotent, irregular
in- into   invert
inter- between   interact
macro- large   macroeconomics
micro- small   microwave
mis- incorrectly   misunderstanding
mono- one   monolingual
non- not/without   nonexistent
post- after   postscript
pre-, pro- before   prehistoric
re- again   reuse
sub- under   subway
trans- across   transport
tri- three   trilingual
un- not   unhelpful


Suffixes are attached to the end of the word to create a new word or to change the function of a word. For example, verbs can be altered to become adjectives or nouns with the addition of a suffix.


Noun Suffix

 maintain [v.] → maintenance [n.]

Verb Suffix

 bright [adj.] → brighten [v.]

Adjective Suffix

 enjoy [v.] → enjoyable [adj.]

Common Suffixes

The most common suffixes are those used for creating various verb tenses (“-ing”, “-ed”), plurals (“-s”, “-es”) and adverbs (“-ly”), which we have seen in previous lessons. The table below includes other common suffixes.

Suffix Meaning Example
-acy state or quality of   privacy
-al act or process   proposal
-ance, -ence state or quality of   appearance
-dom place or state of being   freedom
-er, -or one who   teacher, actor
-ism doctrine, belief   nationalism
-ist one who   nationalist
-ity, -ty quality of   complicity
-ment condition of   treatment
-ness state of being   happiness
-ship position   relationship
-sion, -tion state of being   procession, education
Verb Suffixes
-ate become   placate
-en become   harden
-ify, -fy make or become   terrify
-ize, -ise become   harmonize
Adjectives Suffixes
-able, -ible capable of   sensible
-ful notable for   beautiful
-ic, -ical pertaining to   scientific, magical
-ious, -ous characterized   obnoxious
-ish having the quality of   feverish
-ive having the quality of   productive
-less without   hopeless
-y characterized by   lazy
Prefixes and Suffixes Listen to Lesson