Parts of Speech and Suffixes

The Parts of Words: Roots, Prefixes, and Suffixes

Words can be broken into two pieces: the root of the word, the part which conveys the meaning, and any potential affixes. You are probably more familiar with the name of the two different types of affixes in English: prefixes, which are added before the root of the word, and suffixes, which are added after the root of the word. 

For example, in the word bicycles, bi- is the prefix, cycle is the root, and -s is the suffix. 

Types of Suffixes


Inflectional suffixes do not change the part of speech of the word that they are added to. Instead, they fill a specific number of roles. In fact, there are only eight different inflectional suffixes in English. See the chart below to see those eight inflectional endings.

Suffix FunctionExample Sentence
-sNoun Plural Jeremy’s family owns ten bicycles.
-sNoun PossessiveEach bicycle’s wheels are a different color.
-sVerb Present TenseJeremy rides his bicycle, the one with purple wheels, every afternoon.
-edVerb Past TenseYesterday, Jeremy wanted to bake instead of riding, but his sister baked his cake for him.
-enVerb Past Participle Jeremy had beaten the eggs before he went for his ride.
-ingVerb Present ParticipleThat afternoon, he saw a turtle while riding.
-erAdjective ComparativeThe turtle walked faster than Jeremy expected.
-estAdjective SuperlativeIn his family, Jeremy is the fastest rider.


Unlike inflectional suffixes, derivational suffixes create new words when added to a word root. (They derive new words from the root word.) Often, derivational suffixes change a word’s part of speech. Derivational suffixes follow a specific pattern—certain kinds of suffixes, when added to one part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, or adverb), form a specific new part of speech. See below for key examples of those suffix patterns.

To Form Nouns:

Original Part of SpeechDerivational EndingChange in MeaningExample Word
Verb-erperson or thing who does _____teacher
Verb-mentcondition of _____argument
Verb-ationstate of being/doingadmiration
Adjective-ity or tyhaving the quality of _____oddity
Adjective-nessstate of beingdarkness
Noun-istperson who promotes _____communist
Noun-ismdoctrine or belieffeminism

To Form Adjectives:

Original Part of SpeechDerivational SuffixChange in MeaningExample Word
Verb-ableadds a sense of possibilitydoable
Verb -ed or -enadds a sense of completionrisen
Verb-ingadds a sense of continuationshining
Verb-iouscharacterized by _____rebellious
Verb-ivecharacterized by _____creative
Noun-ycharacterized by _____dirty
Noun -icpertaining to _____atomic
Noun-alpertaining to _____instrumental
Noun-icalpertaining to _____biological
Noun-fulhaving the quality of _____careful
Noun-lesslacking the quality ofcareless

To Form Verbs:

Original Part of SpeechDerivational SuffixChange in MeaningExample Word
Noun-izebecoming/making sth/sostandardize
Noun-ifymaking sth/sopersonify
Adjective-izebecoming/making sth/sonormalize
Adjective-ifymaking sth/sopurify

To Form Adverbs:

Original Part of SpeechDerivational SuffixChange in MeaningExample Word
Adjective-lydescribing howslowly


The resources below will help you practice the skills explained in this webpage, one per each section. The “Word Families Practice” is a worksheet in which you can practice adding both kinds of suffixes to root words, creating word families. The “Inflectional Suffixes Practice” is an online Flippity escape room in which you identify the word with a certain inflectional suffix in a sentence. The “Derivative Suffixes Practice” is an online Flippity manipulative in which you can add derivative suffixes and identify changes in speech.

Click the link here to find the answer key to the “Word Families” worksheet: Word Families Practice Answer Key

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