Roots, Prefixes & Suffixes No matter how many words you study in school, you can’t learn all the words you’ll ever encounter. So, you’ll need to understand how words work – what roots, prefixes and suffixes mean – so that when you encounter new words, you can see their components and figure out their meanings. [Holt Literature and Language Arts, Fifth Course] Roots: According to The American Heritage Dictionary (3rd edition), a root is the element (part) that carries meaning in a word and provides the base for inflection. Example: biology (bio=life). Prefixes and Suffixes: A root word stands on it own as a word, but you can make new words from it by adding beginnings (prefixes) and endings (suffixes). For example, ‘comfort’ is a root word. By adding the prefix ‘dis’ you can make a new word: discomfort. Also, by adding the suffix ‘able’ you can make a new word: comfortable. Some root words will have both prefixes and suffixes, such as ‘uncomfortable’. By recognizing prefixes and suffixes, you can easily find the root of the word and try to figure out what its meaning might be. There two types of suffixes: derivational and inflectional. Derivational suffixes: These suffixes give related words different meanings and/or show that they belong to different word classes. In this example, prince – princess, the suffix -ess relates princess to prince, with a change of meaning indicating gender. Derivational suffixes, in particular, can help you figure out the part of speech so you understand the word’s function in a sentence. The following are some of the most common derivational suffixes. They are given here with their grammatical functions in order to stress their importance in grammar as well as in spelling; notice how most of them give a relatively unambiguous clue to the word class of the word containing them. ism forms nouns from other nouns (e.g. race/racism, organ/organism); ist forms nouns or adjectives from nouns (e.g. tour/tourist, Buddha/Buddhist); ful forms nouns or adjectives from nouns (e.g. spoon/spoonful, skill/skilful); ation forms nouns from verbs (e.g. emigrate/emigration, civilise/civilisation); ity forms nouns from adjectives (e.g. moral/morality, able/ability, rapid/rapidity); ly forms adverbs from adjectives, (e.g. actual/actually, sincere/sincerely); ise forms verbs from adjectives or nouns (e.g. normal/normalise, synchrony/synchronise). This list is by no means complete, and many of those not shown here are important for spelling. Derivational suffixes can combine with one another, which gives great flexibility in creating new words but also leads to further spelling complications. For example, -ity can be added to -able, but the result is -ability (e.g. suitability); and when adverbs are formed by adding -ly to an adjective ending in -ic, the result is usually -ically (e.g. frantically). Notice that the first of these complications can be guessed from the pronunciation, but the second cannot. Inflectional suffixes. These relate different forms of the same word. In this example, book – books, the suffix s relates the plural books to the singular form of the same word. There are very few inflectional suffixes but they are extremely frequent and important so it is essential for pupils to have a good understanding of their spelling as well as of their grammatical function. The following are the regular inflectional suffixes, all of which feature in the KS3 spelling lists. They are given here with their grammatical functions in order to stress their importance in grammar as well as in spelling; notice how most of them give a relatively unambiguous clue to the word class of the word containing them. s marks a noun as plural, but a present tense verb as (third person) singular: e.g. The books look interesting but The book looks interesting; s changes to es after a hissing sound (e.g. hiss - hisses) ed marks a verb as either a past tense or a past participle: e.g. She walked or She has walked. ing marks a verb as a present participle: e.g. She was walking. er marks an adjective or adverb as comparative: e.g. quicker, sooner. est marks an adjective or adverb as superlative: e.g. quickest, soonest. This list is complete as far as regular inflections are concerned. Irregular inflections either lack the suffix entirely (e.g. took) or have an exceptional suffix whose spelling must be learned (e.g. kept).