got a question for you. Is there any rule which tells us when to
use ....er and when to
use .....ist at the end of a job name? For example:
are no rules, I'm afraid, although a number of patterns emerge.
Unskilled or semi-skilled job-holders are often denoted with er,
whilst those in scientific or medical professions are often designated
with ist. But there are many exceptions.
er suffix is very common, but so is or.
The ist ending is also quite common, but so is an.
We also have ant (accountant, shop assistant,
civil servant, flight attendant) man
(postman, fireman, dustman, barman,
draughtsman, fisherman), ess (waitress,
hostess, Headmistress) ee (trainee,
employee) and ive (representative, machine
is really a matter of leaning them and knowing them. Learn them
in word families, as in these examples below.
(but not only er)
a well-known local builder who employs two plumbers, three
carpenters, a roofer, four electricians and
half a dozen unskilled labourers.
teachers, education officers, child minders
and social workers had worked together, none of these children
would have suffered abuse.
a writer - the author of four books about China,
but he's also worked as a translator and interpreter,
(but not only or)
Managing Director delegated responsibility for the project
to the supervisor, but he was a poor administrator and
would never become a manager.
that noun and verb forms relating to common occupations ending in
er and or are closely linked: teachers
teach, writers write, actors act, supervisors
supervise, directors direct, bus and truck drivers
drive their buses and lorries, sailors sail, etc.
also that the er / or suffixes are also
used for machines and equipment that do a particular job:
kitchen is full of the latest gadgets: dishwasher, gas
cooker with five burners, electric toaster,
electric can opener, blender / liquidiser
- you name it, I've got it.
son's got all his stuff in his bedroom: DVD player, videorecorder, camcorder, film projector.
(but not onlyist)
whole family are musicians: Ed's a percussionist
and pianist, Viola's a flautist and cellist and
Barry's a Frenchhornplayer. Their parents
are both singers.
a doctor - a general practitioner, but he wants
to become a specialist - a gynaecologist and obstetrician.
older sister's a chemist / pharmacist, his younger
sister's a speech therapist and his mother works as his
receptionist and telephonist.
(bothian and man)
you say you were an optician? ~ No, I'm a politician.
I'm spokesman for international affairs and chairman
of the refugee committee. My older brother is the parliamentary
librarian. My younger brother's a magician.
the above example, man can refer to both men or women.
Some people now argue that using man is sexist and
prefer to use spokesperson or chairperson. We obviously
do not have the same problem with policeman and policewoman,
although if we don't wish to specify the sex of the person, we can
use police officer instead.
(but not only - suffix)
that there are a number of jobs and professions which do not have
suffixes such as those outlined above. Here are a few of the most
the Roman Catholic Church, bishops are senior to priests
and in the Anglican Church rectors normally have wider
responsibilities than vicars and curates.
a nurse on a hospital ward but hopes to be promoted to
sister and matron one day.
pastry chef at the Dorchester now, but started out as a
cook in a two-star hotel.
two passions were animals and flying: he never made it as a vet
but became a successful pilot.
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