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Session 1

What's the difference between smokeless and smoke-free? These are the two suffixes we're exploring in this session. Join us for 6 Minute Vocabulary and lots of practice activities

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Activity 1

6 Minute Vocabulary

Suffixes: -less & -free

Are e-cigarettes harmless or do you think all public places should be smoke-free? Catherine and Neil listen to a politician and talk about the suffixes -free and -less in this episode of 6 Minute Vocabulary.

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Catherine   
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Vocabulary. I'm Catherine...

Neil
And I'm Neil. Today we're looking at the suffixes -less and -free.

Catherine
Suffixes are two or three letters at the end of a word that affect its meaning.

Neil
We'll look at what the suffixes -free and -less mean and give you some examples...

Catherine
There'll be a quiz...

Neil
...and we'll leave you with a top tip for learning vocabulary.

Catherine
Let's start by listening to Markus. He's a politician and he's talking about his party's policies.

Neil
Right. So while you listen, think about this question: Do e-cigarettes produce smoke? Here's Markus.

INSERT
Markus
We're focusing on the jobless, the homeless, the sick and the elderly - people who are powerless to change things for themselves. We're campaigning for more car-free and smoke-free zones. We're going to extend the smoking ban to include e-cigarettes, which may be smokeless, but they aren't harmless, and we're going to raise the penalties for careless drivers.

Catherine
So we asked you: Do e-cigarettes produce smoke?

Neil
And the answer is: No they don't. E-cigarettes are smokeless.

Catherine
And smokeless is a key word in this programme because it ends with the suffix less, spelt l-e-s-s. This means 'without'.

Neil
So smokeless cigarettes are cigarettes without smoke - they don't produce any smoke.

Catherine
And if something is harmless, it doesn't cause harm. Markus said that e-cigarettes are not harmless. In other words, they are dangerous.

Neil
Markus also said his party was going to raise penalties - or increase punishments - for careless drivers - people who drive without care.

Catherine
Yes, careless means not being careful. 

Neil
So, by adding -less to the nouns smoke, harm and care, we turn them into adjectives. Let's hear some more examples with -less.

INSERT
Markus
We're focusing on the jobless, the homeless, the sick and the elderly - people who are powerless to change things for themselves.

Neil
So we had the jobless...

Catherine
That's people without jobs...

Neil
...the homeless...

Catherine
...people who have nowhere to live. We can create a noun to describe a particular group of people, by using the word the with a ­-less word. The jobless, the homeless.

Neil
Lastly, we had the adjective powerless, which describes people who are unable to do certain things. If we add the, we get a group noun: the powerless.

Catherine
Let's have another clip. Listen out for the suffix -free.

INSERT
Markus
We're campaigning for more car-free and smoke-free zones.

Neil
We had car-free and smoke-free. Now if you add -free to a noun, you get an adjective, meaning that there isn't any of that noun, or it's not allowed, or both. Car-free means there are no cars because they're not allowed. Smoke-free means smoking is not allowed and so there is no smoke.

IDENT        
6 Minute Vocabulary from BBC Learning English.

Catherine
And we're talking about the suffixes -free and -less. And Neil how was your journey to work today; stress-free, I hope?

Neil
No, actually, it was awful! I tried to use my contactless credit card to pay for the train, but it didn't work, so I had to walk all the way...

Catherine
Oh, won't do you any harm, Neil.

Neil
No. It's good for me, I suppose.

Catherine
It is. And contactless credit cards are the cards that work without a PIN number.

Neil
Usually you use either -free or -less with a particular word. But occasionally you can use -free and -less interchangeably, as in sugarless and sugar-free. These both mean: without sugar.

Catherine
But be very careful with the words careless and carefree because they have very different meanings.

Neil
Yes, they do. A careless person is someone who doesn't take much care over what they're doing...

Catherine
...whereas a carefree person like you, Neil, doesn't worry about anything.

Neil
No, I don't worry about a thing.

Catherine
Now, it's time for a quiz. Choose the correct word. Ready? Number one: Jack looks scary, but he's actually very kind and gentle. He's a) careless b) harmless c) powerless.

Neil
And the answer is b) harmless.

Catherine
Number two. Dalya doesn't check her work properly so she makes lots of mistakes. She's very a) careless  b) carefree  c) contactless.

Neil
And the answer is a) careless.

Catherine
Number three: To cut the risk of cancer, some people smoke e-cigarettes which are a) smokeless b) smokeless-free c) smoke-free.

Neil
And the answer is a) smokeless.

Catherine
And that's the end of the quiz. Well done if you got them right.

Neil
And now, here's today's top tip for learning vocabulary: record yourself saying new words and then listen to them every day. 

Catherine
Top tip. And there's more about this at bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Vocabulary.

Both
Bye!

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Vocabulary points to take away

careless
without care or attention
Many road accidents are caused by careless drivers. People should pay more attention when driving.

contactless
not touching
It's so much quicker and easier now that we can use our phones to make contactless payments.

harmless
not likely to cause harm
There is only one poisonous snake in the UK. The others are harmless.

homeless
without anywhere to live
The flood destroyed their house. They were homeless for several months and had to stay with friends.

jobless
unemployed
Many of the jobless today are young people leaving university. They just can't find jobs as so many people are applying for the same position.      

powerless
unable to do anything to change a situation
When the huge wave hit the boat, he was powerless. He could only stand and watch as the boat sunk.

smokeless
not producing any smoke
In some parts of the city, only smokeless coal can be used in fires, which is cleaner for the environment.

sugarless
not containing any sugar
I'm on a diet, so I'm only having sugarless drinks.

car-free
cars are not allowed
Now that the city centre is car free, it's so much more pleasant to walk in the centre of the city without worrying about cars and buses

carefree
without worries or anxiety
I wish I was on my gap year again - I miss those carefree days, not having to worry about paying the mortgage or getting to work on time.

smoke-free
in which no one is smoking or smoking is not allowed
"I'm sorry, sir, you'll have to put out that cigarette - this is a smoke-free area."

stress-free
without any stress or worry
The journey was completely stress-free. The taxi picked us up at the door and took us straight there. There wasn't any traffic and we arrived early.

sugarfree
not containing any sugar
This drink doesn't have any calories as it's sugarfree.

Next

We've had a look at lots of words which use these two suffixes. But how well do you know them? Next is your chance to practise the words from this programme.

Session Vocabulary

  • careless
    without care or attention

    contactless
    not touching

    harmless
    not likely to cause harm

    homeless
    without anywhere to live

    jobless
    unemployed   

    powerless
    unable to do anything to change a situation

    smokeless
    not producing any smoke

    sugarless
    not containing any sugar

    car-free
    cars are not allowed

    carefree
    without worries or anxiety

    smoke-free
    in which no one is smoking or smoking is not allowed

    stress-free
    without any stress or worry

    sugarfree
    not containing any sugar