The Ending Gives It Meaning – Suffixes

The English language uses affixes to root words to give new meaning by adding prefixes to the beginning and suffixes to the end of a word. It’s efficient – we don’t have to learn new words to get a new word, we just add something to the beginning or the end of a word we already know and there we have it, a new meaning.

Suffixes, endings and stable endings are three words used when describing the ending added to a word to change its meaning. Those three terms mean the same thing and are used interchangeably. I use suffix, so that is what I will use in the post, but any of those three will do.

Suffixes can begin with vowels or consonants. This is important to teach students because when learning suffix rules later, it matters. Suffixes beginning with a vowel are called “vowel suffixes” and suffixes beginning with consonants are called “consonant suffixes.”

The reason to teach suffixes and their meanings is twofold. One, by teaching what they are and what they mean, you increase the student’s vocabulary skills dramatically. Two, when a student can decode a word by immediately seeing the suffixes and dividing the word out, suddenly, a word that was very long and scary is much easier to manage.

For example, Institutional   becomes   institu tion al

In order to prepare students for suffix addition rules that are coming their way, like the E-drop rule and Y-change rule, you should present the most common suffixes.

They are: -ed, -en, -er, -est, -ful, -ing, -ish, -less, -ly, -ness, -y.

Students need to know that suffixes come at the end of words to sometimes add new meaning and/or to put a base word into a particular part of speech. For example, -ed is used as a past tense ending; -er is a noun ending, as in teacher, or to make a comparative degree of an adjective as in smaller.

Other tidbits:

  • Teach/learn simple endings first. –er, -ing, -ness
  • Some endings only go on words which are a certain part of speech. For example, -ous (outrageous) only goes on words used as adjectives. –ist (pianist) words are always nouns and refer to people.
  • You cannot hear the spelling of some suffixes because the schwa is present. Examples, -ance, -ence, -able, -ible, -ant, -ent.
  • Some endings are tricky for even the best spellers. For example, -or (actor) vs. –er (grammar)

Here are common suffixes and example words.

Vowel Suffixes

-ed (yelled)

-ing (falling)

– y (rainy)

– er (lower)

-en (sweeten)

-est (slowest)

-ist (lobbyist)

-ish (babyish)

-able (payable)

-age (package)

Consonant Suffixes

-ful (thankful)

-ly (bravely)

-less (nameless)

-ness (fitness)

-ment (statement)

Want more? Check out the Workbook Store. This information plus worksheets are in the workbook store.

Sources: Schenck school class and the book How to Teach Spelling Laura Toby Rudginsky and Elizabeth C. Haskell

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