Word Formations using Prefixes and Suffixes (Affixes) English Grammar

Word Formations: Formation of new words means modifying the base word, many a time, for a different parts of speech. Many words are there that can be used as different parts of speech without any modification i.e. with the same spelling structure and this is done by conversion of words .

Primary Words

The words that belong to the original stock of words in the language are known as primary words. Primary or base words are not formed with the help of any prefixes or suffixes. They are not derived, developed or compounded from other words, in fact, it is from these words that other words are formed.

For example – eat, sun, night, clock, force, sing

Types of Word formation

There are four main kinds of word formation:

  1. Primary Derivatives: (lose-loss, prove-proof, advise-advice)
  2. Secondary Derivatives
    • Prefixes (unable, befriend)
    • Suffixes (Secondary derivatives) – (employer, reasonable)
  3. Conversion: (water as verb and water as noun or adjective)
  4. compounds: (earmark, backyard)

Primary Derivatives

Primary derivatives are formed by making some change in the primary word. These changes are brought by modifying the internal structure i.e. letters of the word by replacing and also together with adding new letters.

For example,

broad: breadth
break: breach
heal: health
lose: loss

Note: The most important class of words formed by internal change consists of the past tenses of primary verbs. These, however, are not usually classed as derivatives.

See some examples of change in word class:

Verb Noun 
advise advice 
bear bier 
bind bond 
break breach 
bless bliss 
burn brand 
choose choice 
chop chip 
deal dole 
deem doom 
float fleet 
grieve grief 
live life 
lose loss 
prove proof 
sing song 
sit seat 
speak speech 
strike stroke 
strive strife 
wake watch 
weave web 

Noun Verb 
bath bathe 
belief believe 
blood bleed 
breath breathe 
brood breed 
cloth clothe 
food feed 
tale tell 
wreath wreathe 
gold gild 
glass glaze 
grass graze 
half halve 
knot knit 
price prize 
sale sell 
sooth soothe 
thief thieve 

Adjective Noun 
dull dolt 
hot heat 
proud pride 
Noun Adjective 
milk wit milk wise 
Verb Adjective 
float fleet 
lie low 
Adjective Verb 
hale heal 

Secondary Derivatives

Secondary derivatives are words formed by affixation i.e. the addition of a prefix or a suffix to the base word For example,

  • tonight (to- + night)
  • welcome (wel- + come)
  • foolishness (foolish + ness)
  • comfortable (comfort + able)
Base wordAffixationWord
ableun + ableunable
employemploy + eremployer
polarbi + polarbipolar
followfollow + ingfollowing


A prefix  is a letter or a group of letters which is placed at the beginning of a word to qualify its meaning and form a new word. They can indicate negation, repetition, a specific time or place, and more.

For example,

Un: undo, unzip, unhappy
Dis: disagree, disable, disappear
In: inflate, indicate, insist
Re: replay, refurbish, rebuild
Pre: preview, prescribe, prevent
Post: postpone, postgraduate, postscript
Bio: biography, biology, biosphere

A prefix  may qualify the meaning of a word in various ways. 

Base wordPrefixed WordType of Meaning
powerempowerchange of Parts of Speech – noun to verb
warprewartime (before) or sequence
terrestrialextraterrestrialplace (outside of/beyond)
cookovercookmanner (too much)
colourtri colourExpress number
busmini busdegree or size

Different Kinds of Prefixes

Negative Prefixes
a-without, notasocial, amorphous, abiotic, atrophy
anti-againstanti national, antibacterial, antibiotics
de-down, reducedescend, decry, deject, demote, decline
dis-opposite ofdisinterested, disproportionate, displeasure
dis-apart, off, awaydisband, disturb, disburse, dismiss
dys-baddystopia, dysfunctional, dyslexia
il-notillogical, illegitimate, illegible
im-notimprobable, impossible, impenetrable
in-notincomplete, indecisive, independent
ir-notirresponsive, irresponsible, irrevocable
mal-bad/ badlymalfunction, malevolent, malediction, malnutrition
mis-wrong/wronglymisinterpret, misunderstand, miscalculation
mis-hatemisogynist, misogamist, misanthrope
non-notnonviolent, nonchalant, non-invasive
un-notuncomfortable, unbearable, unforgivable
Prefixes Expressing Size or Degree
equi-equalequidistant, equivalent, equisonant
macro-bigmacroeconomics, macrocosm, macro level
maxi-bigmaximum, maximal, maxim
mega-bigmegalomaniac, megapolis, megapixel
micro-small, tinymicroscope, microorganism, microcosm, micromanage
mini-smallminimum, minicomputer, miniature
semi-halfsemicircle, semiconductor, semi-active, semicolon
Prefixes Showing Position or Location
ab-awayabduct, abstain, abjure, abdicate
by-nearbypass, bygone, by-product
circum-aroundcircumspect, circumnavigate, circumscribe, circumvent
contra-againstcontravene, contradict, contralto, contrast
de-downdescend, decline, demote, decrease
dia-acrossdiagonal, diaphanous, diachronic, diagnosis
epi-uponepidermis, epilogue, epitaph
ex-outexterior, external, extraneous, extract
hyper-overhypertrophy, hyperactivity, hyperbole, hypertension
hypo-underhypothermia, hypothyroid
in-/ im-insideinternal, induce, imbibe, impregnate, influence
infra-belowinfrared, infravision, infrarealism
inter-betweeninterstellar, intermediate, interval, intervene
meta-beyondmetastasis, metabolise, metamorphic, metaphysics
mid-betweenmidterm, middle, midday
ob-againstobloquy, obnoxious, object, obfuscate
per-throughpercolate, pervade, perfect, perforated, perceive
peri-aroundperimeter, periscope, perimortem
post-backpostern, posterior
pro-forprologue, provide, protect, project, procreate
sub-, suc-, sus-undersubterranean, susceptible, submit, submarine
super-over, abovesuperfluous, supersede, superintendent, supervisor
sur-oversurface, surfeit, surrender, survive, surcharge
syn-, sym-togethersynthesis, syndicate, sympathy
trans-acrosstransfer, transport, transgress, transmit
ultra-beyondultraviolet, ultramodern, ultra-royalist, ultrasonic
under-underunderground, underachiever, underestimate
Prefixes Showing Time & Sequence
after-afterafter-effects, afterthought
ante-beforeantediluvian, antebellum
chron-timechronology, chronicle
fore-beforeforetell, forestall, foresight
post-afterposterity, posthumous, postlude, post-marital
pre-beforeprevent, prepare, predict, premonition, prelude
prime-firstprimary, primordial, prima donna, primate, primeval
pro-beforeprogenitor, proceed, prologue, prophecy, prophylactic
re-againrecur, recount, rethink
retro-beforeretrogression, retroflex, retrospect
Prefixes Showing Numbers and Amount
bi-twobicentennial, biannual, bicycle, bigamous, bipolar
cent-hundredcentury, century, centipede
dec-tendecade, decimal, decathlon
dodeca-twelvedodecahedron, dodecaphony
du-, di-twoduo, dual, dicotyledon, dichromatic
hector-thousandhector, hectogram
hendeca-elevenhendeca colic, hendecagonal
hepta-sevenheptagonal, heptathlon
hex-sixhexagon, hexadecimal, hexameter
mega-millionmegaton, megahertz
mono-onemonotheism, monologue, monochromatic, monarch
multi-manymultimillionaire, multipurpose
nov-ninenovena, November
octa-eightoctagon, October, octopus, octuplets
penta-fivepentagram, pentacle, pentagon
poly-manypolynomial, polygon, polymath
quad-fourquadruple, quadruplets, quadrilateral
quint-fivequintuplets, quintal
sept-sevenseptuagenarian, septuplets
sex-sixsextuplets, sextet
tetra-fourtetrapods, tetrameter
tri-threetrident, tricolour, triumvirate, trifecta, trilogy, tripod
uni-oneuniverse, unitary, union, unanimous, unity
Some Miscellaneous Prefixes
alb-whitealbino, albinism
ambi-bothambidextrous, ambivalent, ambiguous
amo-, amiloveamorous, amicable, amiable
amphi-bothamphibian, amphitheatre
aqua-wateraqueduct, aquatic
auto-selfautomated, autonomous, autocrat
bene-goodbenevolent, benediction, benign
bio-lifebiology, biohazard, biosphere
bon-goodbon voyage, bonhomie, bonafide
cario-heartcardiovascular, cardiogram
co-, com-, con-together, jointco-dependent, companion, congregation
en-, em-make, becomeengender, empower, endanger
eu-goodeuthanasia, eulogy, euphemism
homo-samehomonym, homophone, homoeopathy
hydr-waterhydrogen, hydraulic, hydrophobia
ig-badignominy, ignoble, ignorant
neo-, nov-newneologism, novelty
pan-allpanacea, pan Asiatic, panorama
The Most Common Prefixes
anti-against/opposed toanti-government, anti-racist, anti-war
auto-selfautobiography, automobile
de-reverse or changede-classify, decontaminate, demotivate
dis-reverse or removedisagree, displeasure, disqualify
down-reduce or lowerdowngrade, downhearted
extra-beyondextraordinary, extraterrestrial
hyper-extremehyperactive, hypertension
il-, im-, in-, ir-notillegal, impossible, insecure, irregular
inter-betweeninteractive, international
mega-very big, importantmegabyte, mega-deal, megaton
mid-middlemidday, midnight, mid-October
mis-incorrectly, badlymisaligned, mislead, misspelt
non-notnon-payment, non-smoking
over-too muchovercook, overcharge, overrate
out-go beyondoutdo, out-perform, outrun
post-afterpost-election, post-war
pre-beforeprehistoric, pre-war
pro-in favour ofpro-communist, pro-democracy
re-againreconsider, redo, rewrite
semi-halfsemicircle, semi-retired
sub-under, belowsubmarine, sub-Saharan
super-above, beyondsuper-hero, supermodel
tele-at a distancetelevision, telepathic
trans-acrosstransatlantic, transfer
under-less than, beneathundercook, underestimate
up-make or move higherupgrade, uphill


A suffix is a group of letters that are fixed to the end of a root word or a base word. Often, the suffix causes a spelling change to the original word.


  1. beauty, duty + -ful → beautiful, dutiful (-y changes to i)
  2. heavy, ready + -ness → heaviness, readiness (-y changes to i)
  3. able, possible + -ity → ability, possibility (-le changes to il)
  4. permit, omit+ -ion → permission, omission (-t changes to ss)

A suffix may be used to change the meaning of a word in various ways. It can be used to form—

Functions of Suffix

Change the part of speech of the word

Verb Formation

Verbs can be formed by adding suffixes ‘ize’  and ‘ify’ after nouns and adjectives.


i. Memory + ize = Memorize.  (Here, the new word ‘Memorize’ is  created using the noun ‘Memory’ and suffix  ‘ize’)

ii. Stable + ize = Stabilize.  (Here, the new word ‘Stabilize’ is  created using the adjective ‘Stable’ and suffix  ‘ize’)

iii. Beauty + ify = Beautify. (Here, the new word ‘Beautify’ is  created using the noun ‘Beauty’ and suffix  ‘ify’)

Adverb Formation

Adverbs can be formed by adding ‘ly’ after  the adjectives.


i. Slow + ly = Slowly.

 (Here, the new word ‘Slowly’ is created  using the adjective ‘Slow’and suffix ‘ly’)

ii. Easy + ly = Easily.

 (Here, the new word ‘Easily’ is created  using the adjective ‘Easy’and suffix ‘ly’)

Noun Formation

Nouns can be formed by adding ‘er’, ‘ment’,  ‘and’ ‘ation’ after verbs. And also ‘ity’ / ‘ty’  and ‘ness’ can be added after adjectives to  form nouns.


i. Build + er = Builder.

ii. Achieve + ment = Achievement.

iii. Starve + ation = Starvation.

iv. Opportune + ity = Opportunity

Adjective Formation

An adjective can be formed by adding ‘y’,  ‘ic’, ‘ical’, ‘ful’, and ‘less’ after. The ending  ‘able’ can be added after verbs to form  adjectives.


i. Luck + y = Lucky.

ii. Democrat + ic = Democratic.

iii. Irony + ical = Ironical.

iv. Prefer + able = Preferable.

Indicate whether the number is singular or plural
girl (singular noun)girls (plural noun)
stratum (singular noun )strata (plural noun)
lifts (singular verb)lift (plural verb)
Indicate the tense of the verb
hopped (past)hopping (continuous)
steal (past)stolen (past participle)
Indicate the gender of a noun
host (masculine)hostess (feminine)
steward (masculine)stewardess (feminine)
executor (masculine)executrix (feminine)

Different Types of Suffixes used to Change Word Classes

Suffixes forming Nouns
SuffixMeaning & UsageExamples (Formation of Nouns)
-alstaterefusal, betrayal, perusal
-ance, -ence, -ancy, -encyquality or statemilitancy, performance
-er/-ordoerpainter, trainer, actor
-graphrecordtelegraph, phonograph, polygraph
-iansomeone who doesGandhian, guardian, politician
-iceconditionmalice, novice, justice
-ingname of an activityreading, gardening, sleeping
-ismbeliefHinduism, communism, fascism
-istdoerpacifist, pianist, altruist
-itystatecontinuity, annuity
-logythe studygeology, neurology
-maniamadnessmonomania, bibliomania, egomani
-mentstateabandonment, refinement, entertainment
-nessstatehappiness, completeness, fullness
-orium, -ariumplacesanitarium, aquarium, crematorium
-oryplacedormitory, reformatory, laboratory
-phobiafearhydrophobia, cynophobia, mysophobia
-shipstate offriendship, kinship, sportsmanship
-sion, -tionthe process ofexpansion, determination, connection
-tionconditioncondition, relation
-urestatecomposure, exposure, leisure

Suffixes forming Verbs
SuffixMeaningsExamples (Formation of Verbs)
-ableto makeenable, disable
-ateLatin origin verbsrecreate, abate, mediate
-edsimple past or participle formkilled, toyed, booked
-enverbs formed from adjectivesbroken, frozen, sunken
-eractions that have a repetitive qualityblabber, snicker, mutter
-fydomagnify, specify, rectify
-ingaction in continuationhearing, yearning, making
-iseto make/dorevolutionise, apologise, despise
-ishbecome or doflourish, banish, demolish
-ntto doprevent, augment, content
-s, -essimple present tense formcriticises, runs, laughs
Suffixes forming Adjectives
SuffixesMeaningsExamples (Formation of Adjectives)
-able, -iblehaving the quality offlexible, available, eatable
-alrelated toventral, global, musical
-antdoingdependent, buoyant, resilient
-er, -estcomparative and superlative qualitiesfatter, tallest
-esquelike, having the qualitystatuesque, picturesque
-fulfull ofbeautiful, boastful, grateful
-ichaving the qualityterrific, generic, specific
-ingparticiple form of an adjectiveinteresting, frustrating, sleeping
-istichaving the qualityrealistic, artistic, surrealistic
-ivehaving the nature ofpensive, aggressive, massive
-osefull ofverbose, grandiose
-ous, -iousfull ofgaseous, spacious, gracious
Suffixes forming Adverbs
SuffixesMeaningsExamples (Formation of Adjectives)
-ablywith a qualitycomfortably, admirably, disagreeably
-iblywith a qualityaudibly, horribly, negligibly
-sshows time or placebackwards, always, forwards
-wiseshows manner or positionclockwise, otherwise, lengthwise


Word Formations

Conversion is a process in word formation where a word changes its syntactic category or part of speech without any changes in its form and  spelling and  without adding any prefixes or suffixes   It is also known as zero-derivation, because the new word is formed without any explicit morphological process. 

Here are some examples of conversion of words in word formation:

  1. Email: The word “email” originally started as a noun, but it was later converted into a verb, as in “I will email you.”
  2. Skate: The word “skate” can be used as a noun (“I bought new skates”) or as a verb (“I like to skate on the lake”).
  3. Text: The word “text” began as a noun, but it was later converted into a verb, as in “I will text you.”
  4. Google: The word “Google” was originally the name of a search engine, but it has since been converted into a verb, as in “I will Google that later.”
  5. Bottle: The word “bottle” can function as both a noun, as in “I bought a bottle of water,” and a verb, as in “I will bottle this sauce for later use.”
  6. Smoke: The word “smoke” can function as both a noun, as in “The smoke was thick,” and a verb, as in “I will smoke this fish to preserve it.”
  7. Friend: The word “friend” can function as both a noun, as in “He is my friend,” and a verb, as in “I will friend you on Facebook.”
  8. Skim: The word “skim” can function as both a verb, as in “I will skim the book for information,” and a noun, as in “The skim on the top of the milk.”
  9. Chair: The word “chair” can function as both a noun, as in “I sat in the chair,” and a verb, as in “I will chair the meeting.”

Conversion is a common process in English, and it is often used to create new words that are more efficient or effective in communicating a particular idea or concept. However, it can also be confusing, especially for non-native speakers, because the same word can function as different parts of speech in different contexts.

Compound Words

What are Compound Words?

Compound words are words that are created by combining two or more words to create a new word that has a different meaning. The new word may be a noun, verb, adjective, or adverb.

There are three types of compound words:

  • Closed or solid compound words: These are compound words that are written as a single word, such as “toothbrush” or “sunflower.”
  • Hyphenated compound words: These are compound words that are written with a hyphen, such as “mother-in-law” or “self-esteem.”
  • Open or spaced compound words: These are compound words that are written as separate words, such as “swimming pool” or “ice cream.”

Some examples of Compound Nouns

  • Moonlight
  • Toothpaste
  • Raincoat
  • Football
  • Sunflower
  • Headphones
  • Newspaper
  • Butterfly
  • Cupcake
  • Pancake
  • Snowflake
  • Waterfall
  • Fisherman
  • Bookshelf
  • Firefighter
  • Backpack
  • Toothbrush
  • Strawberry
  • Doorbell
  • Railroad

Compound words can be formed by combining words with similar or different meanings. For example, “blackboard” combines the colors “black” and “board,” while “firefighter” combines “fire” and “fighter.” Compound words are a common feature of many languages and can be found in both everyday conversation and in formal writing.

Compound verbs

Compound verbs can be formed in a number of ways.

Study these examples.

  1. noun + verb: backbite, brainwash, browbeat, earmark, henpeck, typewrite, waylay
  2. adjective + verb: dry-clean, safeguard, whitewash
  3. adverb + adjective: foretell, ill-use, overhear, overthrow, outdo, undertake, upset

Compound verbs can be used either transitively or intransitively.

For example,

• intransitive: ice-skate, play-act
• transitive: blow-dry, cross-examine, tape-record, baby-sit

Some compound verbs can be used transitively as well as intransitively. For example,
• ad-lib • criss-cross • mass-produce
• bottle-feed • deep-fry • spring-clean
• bulk-buy • double-check • stir-fry
• chain-smoke • double-park • tie-dye

Examples of Compound Verbs

  • Break up
  • Come across
  • Cut down
  • Get over
  • Give up
  • Go back
  • Look forward
  • Make up
  • Pick up
  • Put off
  • Run away
  • Set up
  • Take over
  • Turn down
  • Wake up

These compound verbs can be phrasal verbs, which means they are formed by combining a verb with a particle or preposition. For example, “look forward” is a phrasal verb, formed by combining the verb “look” with the preposition “forward” to create the compound verb “look forward,” which means to anticipate or be excited about something in the future.

Compound Adjectives

Compound adjectives are formed by combining two or more words to create a single adjective that describes a noun. Here are three common ways to form compound adjectives:

  1. Noun + Noun: This involves combining two nouns to create a compound adjective. For example, “coffee mug” becomes “coffee-flavored” when used as an adjective, as in “I prefer coffee-flavored ice cream.”
  2. Adjective + Noun: This involves combining an adjective and a noun to create a compound adjective. For example, “fast car” becomes “fast-moving” when used as an adjective, as in “The fast-moving car caught my attention.”
  3. Adverb + Adjective: This involves combining an adverb and an adjective to create a compound adjective. For example, “hard work” becomes “hardworking” when used as an adjective, as in “She is a hardworking student.”

Examples of Compound Adjectives

  • Bright-eyed
  • Blue-green
  • Cold-blooded
  • Deep-seated
  • Four-legged
  • Good-natured
  • Hard-working
  • High-pitched
  • Long-term
  • Open-minded
  • Quick-witted
  • Short-sighted
  • Soft-spoken
  • Straightforward
  • Thin-skinned
  • Two-faced
  • Well-behaved
  • Well-known
  • Wide-eyed
  • Yellow-bellied

Compound Adverbs

Compound adverbs are formed by combining two or more words to create an adverb that modifies the verb in a sentence. Here are three common ways to form compound adverbs:

  1. Adverb + Adverb: This involves combining two adverbs to create a compound adverb. For example, “well” and “together” become “well-together” to form the compound adverb “well-together” meaning in harmony or cooperation.
  2. Adjective + Adverb: This involves combining an adjective and an adverb to create a compound adverb. For example, “fast” and “forward” become “fast-forward” to form the compound adverb “fast-forward,” which means moving quickly and efficiently.
  3. Preposition + Adverb: This involves combining a preposition and an adverb to create a compound adverb. For example, “up” and “ahead” become “up ahead” to form the compound adverb “up ahead,” which means further along or in the distance.

Some examples of Compound Adverbs:

  • Afterward
  • Ahead of time
  • All together
  • Anywhere
  • Anyway
  • Backward
  • By chance
  • Downstairs
  • Everyday
  • Forever
  • Hereafter
  • Inwardly
  • Likewise
  • Meanwhile
  • Nonetheless
  • Onward
  • Overhead
  • Sideways
  • Somewhat
  • Upstairs

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