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Prefixes and Suffixes– How to Change the Meanings of Words

Prefixes and Suffixes– How to Change the Meanings of Words

Prefixes and suffixes are not words. They are groups of letters added to words. They change the meanings of words. We add prefixes to the beginning of a word to change its meaning. For example, un + happy becomes unhappy, meaning not happy. Suffixes go at the end of words. They change a word’s meaning, and sometimes they change the word’s part of speech. For example, beauty + ful becomes beautiful, meaning full of beauty. Beauty is a noun, but beautiful is an adjective. In this posting I give you some of the most common prefixes and suffixes. In addition, I give you their meanings and some example words. The download at the end will give you additional practice using prefixes and suffixes.


Prefixes are added to the beginning of a word. They change the meaning of the word, but not its part of speech. Below are some common prefixes, their meanings, and example words.

  1. a (not or opposite)–atypical 
  2. un (not or opposite)–unsafe, unlock, unhappy 
  3. re (again, back)–reread, return 
  4. in (into, not)–invade, inexpensive 
  5. im (into, not–used when the root or regular word begins with the letters m or p)–important, immoral 
  6. ir (not–used when the rood word begins with the letter r)–irregular, irrational 
  7. il (not–used when the rood word begins with the letter l)–illegal, illogical 
  8. dis (not, away)–disagree, distrust, discredit 
  9. em, en (causes something to happen)–employ, enjoy 
  10. non (not)–nonsense, nonverbal 
  11. over (too much)–oversleep 
  12. mis (wrong)–mistake, misjudge 
  13. sub (under)–submarine 
  14. pre (before)–preschool, preview, prepay 
  15. inter (between, among)–interstate, international 
  16. fore (before)–forecast 
  17. de, dis (opposite of, not)–decaffeinated, disapprove 
  18. trans (across, move between)–transatlantic, transfer 
  19. super (above)–superstore, supervise 
  20. semi (half)–semifinal, semicircle 
  21. anti (against)–antifreeze, antibiotic 
  22. mid (middle) Midwest, midnight 
  23. under (too little, not enough)–underfed, underweight 
  24. co (with)–copilot, cooperation 
  25. post (after)–postpone, post-natal 
  26. para (beside)–paramedic 
  27. tri (three)–triangle 
  28. uni (one)–universe, universal 


Suffixes go at the end of words. A suffix always changes the meaning of the root word. It sometimes changes the part of speech as well. Here are some common suffixes, their meanings, and example words. They are arranged by part of speech.

Suffixes that make words nouns

  1. acy (state or quality)–democracy, accuracy 
  2. ance, ence (state or quality of)–tolerance, independence 
  3. dom (state of being or state of mind)–freedom, boredom 
  4. er, or, ist, ian, eer (one who does something)–teacher, doctor, hair stylist, comedian, engineer 
  5. ty, ity (quality)–honesty, clarity 
  6. ment (condition)–argument 
  7. ness (state of being)–happiness, heaviness 
  8. ship (condition, position held)–friendship, internship, citizenship 
  9. sion, tion (state of being)–obsession, position, promotion  

Suffixes that make words verbs

  1. ate (become)–create, collaborate, cooperate 
  2. en (become)–sharpen, loosen, strengthen 
  3. ify, fy (make or become)–satisfy, justify 
  4. ize (become)–realize, publicize 

Suffixes that make words adjectives

  1. able, ible (capable of being)– edible, incredible, capable 
  2. al (having to form of character of, pertaining to)–national, thermal, herbal 
  3. ful (full of)–playful, hopeful, beautiful 
  4. ic, ical ( having the form or character of)–comic, musical 
  5. ious, ous (characterized by, having the quality of)–jealous, religious, ridiculous 
  6. ish (having the quality of, being like)–childish, sheepish 
  7. ive (having the nature of)–attentive, informative 
  8. less (without)–homeless, hopeless 

Suffixes that make words adverbs

  1. ly (in the manner of)–slowly, happily, softly 
  2. ward, wards (in the direction of)–backwards, towards, inward 
  3. wise (in relation to)–otherwise, likewise, clockwise 

Grammatical suffixes

These suffixes change the meaning of the root word, but not the part of speech

  1. s, es–These suffixes make nous plural–hotels, dishes 
  2. ed–This suffix indicates a verb in the past tense–looked, walked 
  3. ing–This is a marker for the present progressive tense–going, looking 

Words with both prefixes and suffixes

Many words have both a prefix and a suffix. Here are some examples, with example sentences.

  1. unhappily  — She walked home unhappily (not in a happy manner) after she failed the math test.
  2. rereading    — I finally understood the chapter after my third rereading of it. ( I had to read it over three times)
  3. uninteresting   –That movie was very uninteresting. I fell asleep! (I was very bored during the movie.)
  4. unusually   –She was unusually tired after work. Maybe she’s getting sick. (She was much more tired than she usually is after work)
  5. forecasting   Forecasting the weather is a difficult science. (It is difficult to predict the weather.)

You now know many common English prefixes and suffixes. Prefixes go in front of words. They change the meaning of the root word, but not the part of speech. Suffixes go at the end of words. They change the meaning of the root word, and quite often the part of speech, as well. Prefixes and suffixes are very common in English. Perhaps many of the are the same or similar in your language. Now that you know many common prefixes and suffixes in English, it will be easier for you to form and understand many English words. the download will give you additional practice using prefixes and suffixes.

You can download the practice sheet now!

Idioms of the day

  1. to go along for the ride   — This means to go someplace with someone, but not take any part in the activity, You can use this expression even if you are walking. My friend and I went shopping. I did not plan to buy anything. I just went along for the ride.
  2. a hop, skip, and a jump   — This means a very short distance. When you go to see your mother, stop by my house and visit me. I only live a hop,skip, and a jump from her.



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Misty Davidson
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