All About Suffixes

All About Suffixes

What is a suffix?

A suffix is a letter or group of letters that are added to the end of a word to change its meaning and make a new word. 

By adding a suffix, we turn the word into a different type of word. 

For example, let's take the word "build".

We can add the letters "er" to the end of the word to make the word "builder".

Adding the suffix "ing" to the word build makes the word "building".

The suffix "ing", when used along with the verb to be, can also be added to verbs to create the present continuous or the present progressive tense. This allows us to describe something that is happening now, in the current moment. For example:

It melts - it is melting.

If we add the suffix "ed", it means something that has happened in the past. For example:

The snowman has melted.


Why are suffixes important to learn?

Knowing what suffixes mean helps children develop a wide vocabulary. It's all part of being familiar with the code that helps us to figure out what words mean. 

For example, if a child knows that adding the suffix "ful" to the word "care", turns it into an adjective meaning full of care, they may be able to discern that the word 'sorrowful' means full of sorrow, even if they have not come across it before. 

They will also know that adding a suffix like "ful" or "less" will turn the word in to an adjective and allow them to use the word in different contexts. 

Tricky suffix rules

Most words just have the suffix tacked on to the end without having to remove or change any letters, however there are some exceptions:

  • Words ending in the letter y

When adding a suffix to words ending in the letter y, generally we just remove the y and add an i instead. 

For example:

happy - happily

silly - silliness

beauty - beautiful

The exceptions to this rule are when a vowel comes immediately before the y, for example:

play - player

joy - joyful

Another exception is when we add the suffix "ing", as in this instance we also keep the y.  For example:

tidy - tidying 

cry - crying 

  • Words ending in a silent "e"

If the word ends in a silent e and the suffix begins with a vowel, the vowel is removed before adding the suffix. For example:

care - caring

bare - bared

But keep the e if the suffix starts with a consonant, for example:

care - careful

bare - barely

The most common exception to this is the word true, which does drop the e

True - truly

  • Final consonant rule

If a word ends in a consonant and the letter before it is a vowel, AND it has a single syllable or the stress falls on the final syllable of the word, the consonant is generally doubled before adding a suffix starting with a vowel. 

For example:

run - runner, running

beg - beggar, begged

Stop - stopped, stopping

Regret - regretted, regretting BUT regretful (only double the final letter when the suffix starts with a vowel).

The English language is full of quirks and exceptions, but with lots of reading and practice, these rules will really help to nail correct spelling!


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