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Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
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Prefix and Suffix Words

Prefix and suffix definition: A prefix is a word part that cannot stand alone. It comes at the beginning of a word and changes its meaning. For example, re- is a prefix that can be added to the word act and form a new word i.e., react. Some of the more common prefixes are:

re- pre- bi- tri- im- in- dis-
a- co- anti- de- ex- il- mis-

In contrast, a suffix is a word part that is added to the end of a word, does not stand alone, and changes the meaning of the word. A common suffix in the English language is -ed that is added to the end of the regular verbs to render their verb tense to the past tense. For instance, walk is a verb in the present tense, but by adding -ed, it becomes walked which is a verb in the past tense.

Below is a list of commonly used suffixes in English.

-s -ed -ing -ion -able -ly
-er -or -less -ity -ful -en

-Ion in the word destination is an example of a suffix.

prefix and suffix words - Suffix

The following tables show prefix and suffix examples words. Some explanations are also provided to show the combinations of prefix and suffix words.

Examples Explanations
Telecommunication This word is formed from the prefix tele- + communicate + the suffix -ion. Tele- means distant, and -ion is a suffix that when added to a verb constructs a noun.
Insecure This example is made up of the prefix in- which shows negation + secure.
Impossible Impossible consists of the prefix im- and the word possible. The prefix im- shows negation; therefore, impossible is the opposite of possible.
Biweekly This word is formed from the prefix bi-, meaning two, + week + the suffix -ly. The suffix -ly is usually added to adjectives to make them adverbs.
Restate The prefix re- is added to the beginning of verbs to show a repetition of the verb. Thus, restate means to state again.
Precondition In this example, pre- is a prefix that means before, and the suffix -ion is a marker of a noun.
Writing The suffix -ing is added to the verb write to form the present participle of the verb to write.
Coordinator This word is formed by adding the prefix co-, meaning together, + ordinate + the suffix -or that turns a verb to a doer noun.
Chairs The suffix -s is a common suffix in English. It is added to singular regular nouns to render them plural, hence, chair + -s.
Eatable This example is made up of the verb eat and the suffix -able. The suffix -able shows possibility and ability. Usually, it turns verbs to adjectives.
Driver Driver is formed by adding the verb to drive to the suffix -er. This suffix when added to verbs, turns them into doer nouns.
Triangle The prefix tri- means three; hence, this word refers to a shape that has three angles.

Tri- is an example of a prefix word part in the word triangle.

prefix and suffix words - Prefix

Root Words in English

Root words in English are word parts that constitute the base of words. While many root words cannot stand alone and need affixes (suffixes and prefixes) added to them, there are some root words that make sense by themselves. Words can be broken down to separate their affixes; root word parts cannot be broken further. For example, the word unwitting can be broken to the prefix un- + wit + the suffix -ing. After removing the affixes un- and -ing, the word wit is left. Wit cannot be further broken down; therefore, it is a root word.

The following sections provide examples for words with root words. Topics such as morph, phon, corp, and tri root word will also be discussed.

Example: “Phon” as a Root Word

Phon is a root word that means voice or sound. This root word cannot stand alone and needs affixes to make sense. For example, telephone is a word with phon root word and the word part tele.

There are other root words that cannot stand alone. The following is a list of root words in English that cannot stand alone.

Root Words Meaning Examples of Words with Root Words
voc voice, sound vocal, advocate
sent feel sentimental, resent, consent
mort death mortify, mortician
rupt break eruption, disruption
mater mother maternity, maternal
chron time chronology, chronic
hydr hydrate dehydration
logy study sociology, biology
tele far telephone, telegraph
therm heat thermometer, thermal

Example: “Corp” as a Root Word

There are some root words in English that can stand alone and are words by themselves. These root words do not need any affixes; however, they can accept different affixes to form new words and meanings.

The following table lists some of these root words that can stand alone as well as be added to different affixes to create new words.

Root Word Meaning Examples of Words with Root Words
corp Corp is the abbreviation of the words corporation and corporal, and it means body. Corporation is made up of the corp root word and the suffix -ion.
morph The morph root word can stand alone, and it means change. Metamorphosis is an example that is consisted of the prefix meta- meaning above, the morph root word that means change, and the suffix osis which means condition. This word means reconstruction and transition.
graph Graph means writing and drawing. Autograph means signature as the prefix auto- means self, and graph means writing.
auto Auto means self. Automatic is made up of the root word auto and the suffix -matic.
reaction Act means to do. Re- is a prefix that means again, act is the root word, and -ion is a suffix that when added to verbs renders them nouns.
phobia The root word phobia means fear. Hydrophobia is consisted of the prefix hydro- and the root word phobia i.e., the fear of water.

Lesson Summary

There are different word parts in each word. Sometimes a word consists of only a root word. A root word, also known as a base word, is the word part that cannot be broken further down. Prefixes and suffixes can be added to root words to change their meanings. Prefixes are word parts that precede a root word, while suffixes are word parts that are added to the end of root words.

Some root words, such as morph and act can stand alone, but other root words like rupt cannot stand alone. Some of the most common affixes (prefixes and suffixes) i.e., word parts, are re- , -ion, -ing, -or, and in-.

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