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Prefixes and Suffixes, The Basics

By Joan Whetzel

Words are categorized by the way they are used in grammar and as parts of speech. The word types are: verbs, nouns, pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, interjections, and conjunctions. Words have roots, which give them their basic meaning. Yet, there are ways to tweak those words to give them new meanings - by adding prefixes and suffixes.

What Are Prefixes and Suffixes?

In English, many words begin with a basic root word which has its own meaning. But by adding a prefix or suffix, that root takes on a new meaning. Sometimes, a prefix and a suffix can be placed together without a root word. For example, the deject is made up of a prefix (inter-) and a suffix (-ject); de- between or away and -ject meaning between. Literally, then interject would be defined as to throw between. In common usage, to interject is to say something abruptly in the middle of a discussion, to throw out a statement between everyone else’s contribution to the discussion.

Prefixes consist of a one or two syllable attachment that is added – or fixed – to the beginning of a word. Suffixes consist of one, two, or three syllable attachments fixed to the end of the word. The words prefix and suffix make use of prefixes and suffixes; pre- meaning before; suf- meaning sub, below or under; and -fix meaning to fasten, attach, or affix.


Prefixes are those groups of letters that are added to the beginning of a word to change its meaning. Each prefix has its own meaning, as seen in the table below.

List of Common Prefixes

List of Common Prefixes

Examples of prefix use:

  • · Dis + agree = changes agree to not in agreement
  • · Mis + take = changes take to take something wrongly, or the wrong way
  • · Im + patient = changes patient to not patient
  • · Pre + arrange = changes an arrangement into something that was arranged in well in advance, or ahead of time.
  • · Re + write = changes write to a second or third writing in order to make changes
  • · Un + decided = changes decide to the absence of a decision.


Suffixes are groups of letters affixed to the end of a word to change its meaning. Like prefixes, suffixes have their own meaning.

List of Common Suffixes

List of Common Suffixes

Examples of words with suffixes added:

  • · Admire + able = admirable, meaning something that is able to be admired or can be admired.
  • · Black + en = to create a state of blackness
  • · Command + er = a person who commands
  • · Hope + ful = being full of hope
  • · Breath + less = without breath, unable to catch one’s breath, out of breath
  • · Honest + ly = having the qualities of honesty
  • · Foolish + ness = the state of being foolish

There are, of course, many more prefixes and suffixes than are listed here. These are some of the most commonly used, though. This list goes on and on, as does the list of root words to which they can be added.


Study Guides and Strategies. American Spelling: Prefixes.

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Study Guides and Strategies. American Spelling: Suffixes.

The Free Online Dictionary.

Virtual Salt. Root Words and Prefixes.

Michigan State University. Suffixes and Parts of Speech.

Michigan State University. Common Prefixes, Suffixes and Root Words.


Ali on October 13, 2015:

Hi Joan, Do you have a printable version of the tables you created? I love them! Ali

Joan Whetzel (author) on January 22, 2013:

Thanks frmoran.

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on January 21, 2013:

Thanks for an excellent hub Joan. We can never get enough of the basics.

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