Word Forms

Prefixes and suffixes that are used in English give clues as to the meaning and, or, the function of words. Typically suffixes indicate the function of a word in a sentence. For instance there are some suffixes that are used only for nouns and others that are used for verbs, adjectives and adverbs. The particular suffix used in forming a word also helps to give meaning to a word, for instance competition and competitor are both nouns that are formed from the verb compete. The -or suffix, however, indicates that there is a person performing the action, whereas the -tion suffix indicates a condition or state of being. Do note, that some suffixes are used with more than one type of word, so on their own they cannot be used to infer the function of the word in the sentence. In those situations, other context clues are needed to provide the function of that word in a particular sentence. For example, an -ing suffix occurs with nouns, verbs and adjectives; in the sentence “Teaching is interacting with interesting people,” teaching is a noun (a gerund), interacting is part of a verb phrase in the present progressive tense, and interesting is an adjective that qualifies people.


The tables below provide the more common noun, verb and adjective suffixes and give the usage and examples. There is only one common suffix for adverbs, and that is -ly. It is often added to adjectival suffixes as in creative and creatively.

Noun Endings

Ending        Usage        Example
-al        the act of doing, or the state of        betrayal, refusal
-ance/-ancy/-ence/-ency        relating to quality, state or condition        performance, infancy, prominence, urgency
-ation        action or process of; result of        creation, reformation
-ice        condition, quality or act        cowardice, notice
-er/-or        person or thing that performs the action        teacher, worker, competitor, legislator
-graph        a writing or record        telegraph, polygraph
-ian        person or thing        politician, amphibian
-ing        having the quality of (gerund ending)        teaching, working
-ism        action or practice, theory or doctrine        nationalism, Hinduism
-ist        one who, or that which does or has to do with        nationalist, typist
-ity        state, condition or quality        inferiority, confidentiality
-ization        nouns formed from verbs; condition, act, process        harmonization, urbanization
-ment        the product or result of; the means of        achievement, government
-ness        relating to quality, state or condition        happiness, sadness
-ogy        the study of        biology, geology
-oid        like, resembling        humanoid, android
-ory        a place for the action of the verb stem        dormitory, repository
-ship        the state, condition or quality of; art or skill of        friendship, marksmanship
-sion/-tion        action or process of; condition or state of being; result of        rejection, completion, connection

Verb Endings

Ending        Usage        Example
-ate        verbs from some Latin forms        fascinate, participate
-ed        forms the simple past and past participle of regular verbs        walked, has walked
-en        verbs formed from adjectives        soften, weaken
-er        verbs with a habitual or repeated action        stutter, canter
-fy        cause to be or become        beautify, liquefy
-ing        present participle and part of progressive tenses        walking, is walking
-ise/-ize        to cause to become, resemble; make into; to act in the manner of        authorize, sympathize
-s/-es        ending of third person singular, present tense        walks, runs

Adjective Endings

Ending        Usage        Example
-able/-ible/-ble        capable of, fit for, tending to, likely to        trainable, flexible
-al        relating to, having the nature of        musical, personal
-ant        in the act or process of doing        vigilant, militant
-ed        adjectives formed from nouns        interested, bored
-ent        having the quality of        dependent, resilient
-er        comparative ending        bigger, faster
-est        superlative ending        biggest, fastest
-ful        full of, characterized by        beautiful, bountiful
-ic        pertaining to, connected with, resembling        volcanic, angelic
-ing        participial form as an adjective        interesting, boring
-istic        having the qualities of, formed from        realistic, socialistic
-ite        derived from some Latin verbs        infinite, polite
-ive        having a tendency to or the nature of        attentive, massive
-ory        a place or instrument for doing the main element        laboratory, dormitory
-ose        full of; like        verbose, grandiose
-ous/-ious        full of; having the qualities of        poisonous, anxious


Prefixes aid in determining the meaning of words. While some prefixes have only one meaning, others may have more than one, or there may be several prefixes with the same meaning. It is a situation that helps lead to the richness of the English vocabulary.

Prefix        Usage        Example
a-/an-        without        amoral, anarchy
ad-        to, toward, near        adhere, advert
ante-        before in time or order        antechamber, antecedent
anti-        against, opposed to        antiaircraft, antibiotic
bene-        good        beneficial, benefactor
bi-        two        bicycle, bipolar
by-        aside or apart from        bystander, byproduct
circum-        around        circumpolar, circumnavigate
       together, with, jointly        co-author, collaborate, combine, conspire, correspond
contra-        against, opposite        contraception, contraband
de-        down from, away, off        descent, declassify
dia-        across, through        diagonal, diagram
dis-        away from, apart        disconnect, disown
epi-        upon, above, outside, in addition to        epidermis, epilogue
ex-        out of, thoroughly        exhale, exasperate
hyper-        beyond, excessive, extreme        hyperbole, hyperactive
hypo-        under, beneath, down, less than        hypodermic, hypothesis
il-/im-/in-/ir-        in, into, on
       illegible, impolite, inoperable, irrefutable
inter-        between, with each other        interchange, intercede
intra-/intro-        within, inside of        intramural, introvert
mal-        bad, evil, wrong        malformed, malignant
micro-        small        microscope, microorganism
mis-        wrong        mistake, misinformation
mono-        one, alone        monotone, monopoly
multi-        many, much        multilingual, multiply
non-        not        nonentity, nonconformist
ob-        against, in opposition        objection, oblivious
over-        above, on top of, superior        overactive, overdraft
peri-        around, near        perimeter, perihelion
poly-        many        polygamy, polygon
post-        after in time or order        postdated, postmortem
pre-        before in time or order        predict, precaution
pro-        forward, toward the front, occurring earlier        project, prognosis
re-        back again        redo, renew
retro-        back again, backward        retrospective, retroactive
semi-        half, partly        semiconductor, semiconscious
sub-/suc-/suf-/sup-/sus-        under, beneath        submarine, succumb, suffocate, support, suspect
super        above, greater, better        superfluous
syl-/sym-/syn-        with, together, associated with        syllable, sympathy, synapse
tri-        three        tricycle
trans-        across, through        transform, transfuse
ultra-        beyond, excessive, extreme        ultramarine, ultraviolet
un-        not, opposed to; back        unavoidable; undo
uni-        one, alone        unicorn, uniform

There are many words that have noun, verb, adjective, and adverb forms. A few of these word form families are given in the chart below as examples. Any good dictionary will give you the various forms of a word.

noun        verb        adjective        adverb
beauty        beautify        beautiful        beautifully
competition/competitor        compete        competitive        competitively
creation        create        creative        creatively
management/manager        manage        manageable        manageably
nationalist/nationalism        nationalize        national        nationally
nature        naturalize        natural        naturally
notice        notice        noticeable        noticeably
sadness        sadden        sad        sadly
significance        signify        significant        significantly