A lot of people say that English is a complicated language that doesn’t follow its own rules. In many ways, this is very true. For this reason, it is important to take any advantage that you can. English prefixes and suffixes can help make English learning far easier by teaching you the little codes we have in our everyday words.
As well, although there are many suffixes and prefixes in English, the vast majority of words that use them share the most common prefixes and suffixes. Learn these most common examples, and it’ll help you make your English reading a lot easier.
What is a Prefix and Suffix?
Prefixes and suffixes come at the beginning or endings of words to help you change their meanings. Prefixes are put at the beginning of words, while suffixes come at the ends of words.
Sometimes it can be easier to understand what we mean by seeing some common words with prefixes and suffixes.
One common prefix is re-, which means again. A common word where we use re- is with the verb do. When combined, they make the word redo, meaning to do again. We can add re- to other verbs like read (reread, to read again), try (retry, to try again), or adjust (readjust, to adjust again) to make other common English words
A common English suffix is -ly. It is added to adjectives to make adverbs. So adjectives like quick, intelligent, or angry can be changed into quickly, intelligently, or angrily. Learning this suffix can help you identify adverbs and understand their meanings easily.
The Most Common English Prefixes and Suffixes
The vast majority of words that have prefixes and suffixes in English use just a couple of common ones. If you want to move into advanced English, you can look beyond these common prefixes and suffixes, but these eight should be okay most of the time.
The Four Most Common Prefixes
According to Scholastic, 97% of school English words with a prefix will use one of these four categories of prefixes.
Prefix Dis Words
Dis- means not or the opposite of. For example, to be disabled means to not be able to do something. Here is a full list of dis- words.
Prefixes In-, im-, il-, ir-
These prefixes all mean not. For example, illegal is something that is not legal. Click for a full list of these words.
Prefix Re Words
Re- means again. For example, redo means to do again. Click for a full Re- list.
Prefix Un Words
Un- means to reverse something that has already been done. It can also mean not. So, for example, you can zip your bag to close it and unzip it to open it again. Click for your full Un- list.
The Four Most Common Suffixes
These four suffixes make up 97% of English school words with suffixes according to Scholastic.
Suffix -ed Words
Any regular verb will have an -ed form when in the past tense. We won’t list all of those here. You can check out our post on the simple past tense if you are looking for more information on that.
Suffix -ing Words
When conjugating into a progressive or continuous tense regardless of past, present, or future, you will get the -ing ending to verbs. Again, we won’t go over too many examples of these.
Suffix -ly Words
An adjective with an -ly ending is usually an adverb. They share the same meaning as their adjective roots but are used to describe actions instead of people, places, or things.
Quick – Quickly
Smart – Smartly
Cute – Cutely
Passionate – Passionately
Suffix -s/-es Words
For most nouns, when we turn them into their plural forms, we add an s or es.
Cat – Cats
Dog – Dogs
House – Houses
Window – Windows
Suffix and Prefix Words List
In this section, we are going to address common words that fall under prefixes or suffixes that weren’t addressed in the above sections. Our suffix and prefix word list is going to be ordered first by suffixes, then prefixes, all of which will be done alphabetically.
Words with the Suffix able / ible
This means that something is possible or can be done. For example, something that is affordable is an item that you are able to afford.
Words with the Suffix al /ial
It means to have the characteristic of the word that it is paired with. So, glacial means to have the characteristics of a glacier (usually cold or slow).
Words with the Suffix en
This suffix means to be made up of something. For example, something that is silken is something that is made of silk.
Words with the Suffix er
Used to show a comparison. I am tall, but he is taller.
Words with the Suffix est
Used to show that something is the most of a certain quality. I am fast, but he is the fastest.
Words with the Suffix ful
Means to be full of. It is used with emotions and not physical things. For example, someone who is careful is full of care when they do something.
Words with the Suffix ic
It means to have characteristics of. Something described as comedic has the characteristics of comedy.
Words with the Suffix ion / tion / ation /ition
This suffix indicates an act or process. So imitation is the act of imitating.
Words with the Suffix ity / ty
This suffix indicates a state, referring to the word that it comes after. Reality means a state of being real.
Words with the Suffix ive / ative / itive
We use this suffix to turn a word into an adjective. An example of this is creation/create, which turns into creative.
Words with the Suffix less
This means without. For example, endless means to have no end.
Words with the Suffix ment
This suffix means an action, resulting state, product, or process. Enjoyment is a state of enjoying.
Words with the Suffix ness
This word describes a state or condition. Happiness is the state of being happy.
Words with the Suffix ous / eous / ious
It means to have the quality of something. Outrageous means to have the quality of outrage.
Words with the Suffix y
Words ending in y mean to have the quality of something. When someone is worthy, they have the quality of worth.
Words with the Prefix anti-
Anti- means against. We often use anti- in constructions that are not technically words. You may see examples of this in advertisements.
Words with the Prefix de-
The prefix de- means opposite or the reverse of. To deactivate is the opposite of to activate.
Words with the Prefix en-/em-
Means to cause to. To empower someone is to cause them to feel powerful or to give them power.
Words with the Prefix fore-
Fore- means before. A forefather is a father that came before your own (an ancestor).
Words with the Prefix in- / im-
These words mean in. Notice that in- and im- can also mean not. You can find those in our common prefixes section.
Words with the Prefix inter-
Inter- means between. International describes something between nations.
Words with the Prefix mid-
Mid- means middle. Midday is the time that comes in the middle of the day.
Words with the Prefix mis-
Mis- means that something has been done incorrectly. If you misfire a weapon it means you accidentally fired it.
Words with the Prefix non-
Non- means not. Nonsense describes something that makes no sense.
Words with the Prefix over-
Over- just means over. An overlook is a place that looks over a view.
Words with the Prefix pre-
Pre- means before. Preschool is the education that comes before you start grade school.
Words with the Prefix semi-
Semi- means half. So, semisweet chocolate is chocolate with only half the sweetness of regular chocolate.
Words with the Prefix sub-
Sub- means under. A submarine is a vehicle that goes beneath the water.
Words with the Prefix super-
Super means more than. It often isn’t in the physical sense. A star is someone famous, but a superstar is someone who is really famous.
Words with the Prefix trans-
Trans- means across. A transatlantic flight is a flight that takes you across the Atlantic ocean.
Words with the Prefix under-
Under- simply means under. This can be in the physical sense (underground) or have more to do with numbers or quality (underperform).
We’ve done our best to give you an introduction to the most common English prefixes and suffixes. If you have any questions about the meanings of a particular suffix, prefix, or individual word, we would be happy to answer them. Just comment on this post with your question. Good luck with your studies, and we at the Learner’s Nook hope to hear from you soon.