Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Cleaning up that grammar #2

A prefix is a group of letters (affix) that is added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning. Some prefixes such as UN- are called antonymic prefixes; this just means that it gives the new word the oppisite meaning (E.g. happy, unhappy) Prefixes you see everday, but might not know they're prefixes, include:

When you add a prefix to the beginning of a word it doesn't change the word's spelling or the prefix's spelling. This rule applies to 99%* of words; even if the last letter of the prefix and the first letter of the word are the same. If you want to test this theory check out the words: unnecessary, dissimilar, dissatisfied. unnerve.

All- and Well- are also used as prefixes, not just root words, but when you add these to the root word you have to remove one l. If you're adding an all or well prefix to a hyphenated word then this rule doesn't apply.

* words such as dispirited like to break the rule.

 Un- isn't the only antonymic prefix. Dis-, il-, in-, mis-, im, ir- also create words that have the opposite meaning to their root word.
   Did you know that il-, ir- and im- are all varients of in-? They are used when the root word begins with l, r, b, m and p.

If there's one thing you need to remember from this post it's not to get confused with root words that can take two or more prefixes. The words created often have different meanings altogether. To help you understand here is an example:

I collected my children's disused toys, intending to donate them to the fundraiser. However, years of misuse had left many of them fit only for the dustbin.
Understand now?

A suffix is an affix that you add to the end of a word. These also change the meanings of the word. Some suffixes you'll see quite often are:


Unlike a prefix most suffixes do alter the spelling of the root word. For example:

If a word ends in a y you get rid of that y. Then, you replace the y with an i and add the suffix.
But this only works if the letter before the y is a consonant. (E.g Happy -> Happiness)

If the letter before the y is a vowel (a,e,i,o,u) then you keep the y. (E.g Enjoy -> Enjoyment)

If the word ends in an e not a y then you drop the e! Simples huh? (E.g Love -> Lovable)
Wait up! There is an exception to this one though: if dropping the e changes the pronunciation of the word- don't drop the e! (E.g Pronouncable would be pronounced pronounkable! So keep the e and it'll be quite prounounceable!)

Saying that some words like likable and likeable are both correct. So are aging and ageing.

These suffixes are all derivational suffixes. The other type of suffix is an inflectional suffix. These include:

  • -s      third person singular present
  • -ed    past tense
  • -ing   progressive/continuous
  • -en    past participle
  • -s      plural
  • -en    plural (irregular)
  • -er    comparative
  • -est   superlative
  • -n't    negative

We use inflectional suffixes in everyday words; you shouldn't need to worry about getting these correct as we automatically add inflectional suffixes to our words. See?

Finally, if you're not asleep already...

ALWAYS HAVE A DICTIONARY HANDY- it's hard to learn the rule for which words end in -ible and which in -able. This is because the rule depends on whether the word has a latin root or a french root. Instead of wasting your time deriving the root each time you come across a word; buy a good dictionary and it'll tell you instantly.

And that brings us to the end of the prefix and suffix post.

Next week the post will be on Parts of Speech (noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective.)


  1. Dictionary's always help! I run into the problem of the whole -ible and -able thing.
    One doesn't think much about prefixes, but it's interesting when you run into a problem with one, and you aren't sure which prefix to or disorganized? I've heard them both! And I thought one was wrong, but they're both okay. lol.

  2. It's amazing how the small things can inhibit us! Touching up on rules and knowing helpful tips always enables us to ovecome those pesky problems.

    As for the unorganized/disorganized scenario- if that still poses a problem- unorganized means it has never previously been organized but disorganized means that the usual organization isn't there. Example:

    The unorganized presentation notes meant that the team were disorganized during their meeting.


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