How to use suffixes in your writing

  • A suffix is a letter or group of letters added to the end of a word to form a new word.
  • You might need to add a suffix to change the tense of a word.
  • There are some useful patterns and rules that can help you use the right suffix.
Learn the patterns and rules for using suffixes

Using suffixes

Sometimes the root form of a word isn’t enough. You need to add a group of letters to the end of a word to make a new word. For example, if the suffix ‘ing’ is added to the end of the word ‘look’, the new word is ‘looking’ - or the suffix ‘ed’ could be added to make it past tense.

Often, it isn't as simple as adding the suffix - you need to change the ending of the root word in some way.

To understand the suffix patterns, it helps to know the difference between a vowel - a, e, i, o, u - and a consonant - all the other letters in the alphabet.

Doubling the consonant

When a verb - a ‘doing’, ‘having’ or ‘being’ word - ends with a single vowel and a single consonant, usually, you double the consonant before adding the suffix to change tense:

  • run can become running
  • stop can become stopped
  • fog can become foggy
  • rot can become rotted

Dropping the ‘e’

The ‘e’ usually gets dropped from the end of a word when a vowel suffix is added. A vowel suffix is a suffix that starts with a vowel, like ‘ing’ and ‘able’:

  • write can become writing
  • excite can become excitable
  • love can become lovable
  • adventure can become adventurous

However, there are some words that keep the ‘e’ when a vowel suffix is added. For example, with words ending in ‘ce’ or ‘ge’:

  • knowledge can become knowledgeable
  • notice can become noticeable
  • advantage can become advantageous
When a vowel suffix, such as ‘ous’, is added to the word ‘adventure’, the letter ‘e’ is dropped and the word ‘adventurous’ is formed

Keeping the ‘e’

When you are adding a consonant suffix you usually keep the ‘e’ at the end of the word. A consonant suffix is a suffix that starts with a consonant, like ‘ly’, ‘less’ or ‘ment’:

  • definite can become definitely
  • late can become lately
  • lone can become lonely
  • effective can become effectively
  • manage can become management
  • home can become homeless

There are a few words that don’t follow this rule, for example, the word argument does drop the ‘e’ even though it has a consonant suffix.

Adding ‘ied’

When a word ends with a consonant and a ‘y’ you almost always add an ‘i’ to the ‘ed’ suffix. These words are usually verbs that are being changed into the past tense:

  • try can become tried
  • hurry can become hurried
  • marry can become married
  • worry can become worried
  • party can become partied
Often when a word ends in a ‘y’ like ‘party’, after dropping the ‘y’ you almost always add an ‘i’ to the ‘ed’ suffix. ‘Party’ becomes ‘partied’

Adding ‘ful’

When you change a noun into an adjective you often add a suffix. A noun is a word to name an object or idea and an adjective describes a noun. For example, sometimes you drop the letter ‘y’ and add an ‘i’ to the suffix ‘ful’:

  • beauty can become beautiful
  • mercy can become merciful

It’s useful to remember that very few suffixes end in a double ‘l’. For example, the suffix ‘ful’ is spelt with only one ‘l’ and is not spelt ‘full’ - even though the suffix does mean ‘full of’:

  • thought can become thoughtful
  • care can become careful
  • power can become powerful

When the word is turned into an adverb, the suffix does have a double ‘ll’. An adverb gives more information about the verb, an adjective or another adverb:

  • power can become powerfully
  • general can become generally

Remember

Suffix rules can be confusing and are often explained in slightly different ways. Notice how many times the word ‘usually’ or ‘often’ is used in this explanation. That’s because there are also words that don’t follow the rules. Stay curious about these tricky spellings and look out for patterns in suffix words you use every day.

Quiz

Find out how much you know about using suffixes in this short quiz!

Where next?

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