Grammar: Suffix

Posted January 11, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

Like the prefix, a suffix is a handy little group of letters — a bound morpheme which occurs after a root, a.k.a., an unbound morpheme. It enables you to create alternative meanings from existing words. ‘Cause English doesn’t have enough words, lol. Actually I do love the precision of English, the richness of it.

In contemplating the suffix, you will find that a particular word retains its base meaning and adding a suffix allows you to fine-tune it to be more specific.

Consider bag and baggage. Bag is quite general and could call up images of a grocery sack, a lunch bag, a purse, or a bratty old woman. Baggage, well, that sounds like luggage or an overly full carload of kids.

Music can make you think of the store where you can buy a CD, downloading tunes, album covers, sheet music, instruments, a song you particularly like (or dislike). Now add -ian to create a musician. And that suffix automatically narrows down the possibilities. It could, of course, be any musician from rock ‘n roll to symphony, jazz to country, but it is specially a person who plays an instrument.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone on an area of grammar with which you struggle or on which you can contribute more understanding.

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Credit to: Skillin, 470-473; Merriam-Webster
Definition: A letter or group of letters that is put or attached after a word to change or refine its meaning. They may be adjectives, adverbs, nouns, or verbs. The opposite of a prefix.

Affix is a general term for infix, prefix, and suffix.

A.k.a., postfix, ending

There are two types of suffixes:

Some good sites with lots more suffixes include Thoughtful Learning’s Prefixes, Roots, and Suffixes and Prefix-Suffix has a English Language Roots chart that lists and explains the more common suffixes to root words and is a small part of their 2,000 word root database which is searchable using their root search engine.
Types of Suffixes
Definition: Changes the word from singular to plural or present tense to past tense, AND the basic meaning of the word does not change.
Third Person Singular Present Rule: Uses an -s to create verb agreement
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like he likes
run she runs
Past Tense & Past Participle Rule: Adds an -ed or a -t to create a past tense form.
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boat boated
spend spent
paint she has painted
open he has opened
Plural Rule: Uses an -s for a regular plural.
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truck trucks
run runs
Irregular Plural Rule: Words that end in -s, keep the -s and adds -es
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brass brasses
glasses glasses
Rule: An irregular plural uses -en
backwoodsman backwoodsmen
snowman snowmen
ox oxen
Comparative / Superlative Rule: To compare is to add -er, to be better, the very best is to add -est
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Root Word Comparative Superalative
good better best
red redder reddest
big bigger biggest
princely princelier princeliest
Continuous /
Rule: Adds an -ing
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speed speeding
race racing
Negative Definition: Attaches a negative meaning to the word or word-stem preceding it.

a.k.a., pejorative

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-n’t could couldn’t
-ard dull
-aster philosophy philosophaster
-er stone stoner
-ite Shia Shiite
-nik peace peacenik
-rel wast wastrel
Definition: Adding the suffix creates a new meaning for the word, the new word derives from its root word.
Ending Root Word Altered Word Ending Root Word Altered Word
-ish elf elfish
-al adjective adjectival -ism real realism
-ary diction dictionary -ist alarm
-ate hyphen hyphenate -less back
-ation adore adoration -ly pure purely
-ce two twice -ment govern
-cian music musician -ness good goodness
-ee employ employee -ology sediment sedimentology
-er read reader -or advice advisor
-ess butcher butcheress -ship relation relationship
beauty beautify -sion persuade persuasion
-ful beauty beautiful -th bread breadth
-hood brother
-tion realize realization
-ic myth mythical -ways side sideways
-ive create creative -wise length lengthwise
real realize -y easy

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Suffix Exceptions include…
Words ending in…
c Rule: Words ending in c usually have a k inserted when adding a termination beginning with e, i, or y so that c will not be pronounced like an s.
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arc arced
bivouac bivouacked
colic colicky
frolic frolicked
havoc havocking
mimic mimicking
picnic picnicker
panic panicky
politic politicking
shellac shellacked
traffic trafficker
ce or ge Rule: Words ending in ce or ge keep the e before suffixes beginning with a, o, or u, so that the c or g is not pronounced with a hard sound.
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advantage advantageous
change changeable
enforce enforceable
peace peaceable
Exceptions include:
advise advisor
mortgage mortgagor
pledge pledgor
e Rule: Words ending in a silent e generally drop the e before a suffix beginning with a vowel.
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age aging
blue bluing
cringe cringing
force forcible
line linage
route routing
sale salable
true truism
Exceptions include:
enforceable hoeing
mileage shoeing
Rule: Keep the e in certain words to distinguish them from others.
dyeing vs. dying
singeing vs. singing
tingeing vs. tinging
Rule: Derivatives formed from proper names keep the e and add -an
Rule: Words ending in a silent e generally keep the e before a suffix beginning with a consonant.
awe awesome
hate hateful
move movement
polite politeness
Exceptions include:
Many words ending in silent e immediately preceded by another vowel…except e…drop the e when forming derivatives.
due duly
argue argument
abridge abridgment
acknowledge acknowledgment
awe awful
judge judgment
nurse nursling
whole wholly
wise wisdom
ie Rule: Words ending in ie generally drop the e and change the i to y when adding an -ing.
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die dying
vie vying
y Rule: Words ending in y preceded by a vowel generally keep the y before any suffix.
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annoy annoyance
buy buying
enjoy enjoyment
Exceptions include:
day daily
gay gaily
lay laid
pay paid
say said
slay slain
consonant Rule: Double the final consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel IF the emphasis is on the last syllable
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allot allotted
bag baggage
control controller
corral corralled
forget forgettable
occur occurrence
prefer preferred
run running
Rule: Do NOT double the final consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel IF the word is accented anywhere but on the last syllable
benefit benefited
bias biased
cancel cancelled
combat combated
kidnap kidnaper
repeal repealed
tranquil tranquilize
transfer transferee
Exceptions include:
cobweb cobwebbed
diagram diagrammatic
handicap handicapped
humbug humbugged
monogram monogrammed
outfit outfitted
zigzag zigzagged
Rule: There are no hard-and-fast rules for these two endings; memorize ’em or look ’em up.
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advise advisable
combust combustible
comprehend comprehensible
defense defensible
define definable
depend dependable
digest digestible
repair repairable
reverse reversible
Rule: Words ending with:

  • c sounding like a k
  • g has a hard sound
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signify significance
Rule: Words ending with:

  • s sound that is -sede preceded by a c
  • g having the sound of j
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benefice beneficence
coalesce colaescence
indigent indigence
negligent negligence
Rule: In English, three words end in -ceed; one word ends in -sede.
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-ede -ceed -sede
accede exceed supersede
antecede proceed
concede succeed
Rule: American English uses -ise. A few centuries back, when scholars were trying to regularize spelling, the rule was to use -ize if the original word was Greek or Latin while -ise was used if the word was originally French.
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advertise demise improvise
advise despise incise
apprise devise merchandise
chastise disguise premise
circumcise enterprise reprise
comprise excise revise
compromise exercise supervise
exorcise surmise
franchise surprise

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C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves?