Word Formation


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Exercises using prefixes and suffixes:1|2|3|4|5|

 


When you are reading, you will come across unfamiliar words. It is often possible to guess their meanings if you understand the way words in English are generally formed:
 
PREFIX
STEM
SUFFIXES

An English word can be divided into three parts: a prefix, a stem, and a suffix. Pre- means 'before. A prefix, therefore, is what comes before the stem. Consider, as an example, the prefix de- (meaning 'reduce' or 'reverse') in a word like demagnetize (meaning 'to deprive of magnetism'). A suffix is what is attached to the end of the stem. Consider, as an example, the suffix -er (meaning 'someone who') in programmer ('a person who programmes').

Suffixes change the word from one part of speech to another. For example, -ly added to the adjective quick gives the adverb quickly. Prefixes, on the other hand, usually change the meaning of the word. For example, un- changes a word to the negative. unmagnetizable means 'not capable of being magnetized'.

Let us now consider some prefixes, their usual meanings, and how they change the meanings of English words.
Part 1: prefixes

Prefixes:

Negative & positive
Size
Location
Time & order
Number
un-
semi-
inter-
pre-
mono-
non-
mini-
super-
ante-
bi-
in-
micro-
trans-
fore-
hex-
dis-
ex-
post-
oct-
re-
extra-
multi-
peri-

Study these tables. Try and find additional examples using your dictionary:

1. Negative and positive prefixes:

  Prefix Meaning Examples
Negative:
un-
not
unmagnetized
in-
not
incomplete
im-
not
impossible
il-
not
illegal
ir-
not
irregular, irrelevant
non-
not connected with
non-programmable
mis-
bad, wrong
misdirect
mal-
bad, wrong
malfunction
dis-
opposite feeling
disagree
dis-
opposite action
disconnect
anti-
against
antiglare, antistatic
de-
reduce, reverse
demagnetize, decode
under-
too little
underestimate
Positive:
re-
do again
reorganize
over-
too much
overload

2. Prefixes of size:

Prefix Meaning Examples
semi-
half, partly
semiconductor
equi-
equal
equidistant
mini-
small
minicomputer
micro-
very small
microcomputer, microscopic
macro-
large, great
macroeconomics
mega-
large, great
megabyte

3. Prefixes of location:
Prefix Meaning Examples
inter-
between, among
interface, interactive
super-
over
supersonic
trans-
across
transmit, transfer
ex-
out
exclude, extrinsic
extra-
beyond
extraordinary
sub- under subschema, subtraction
infra- below infra-red
peri- around peripheral, periscope

4. Prefixes of time and order:
Prefix Meaning Examples
ante-
before
antecedent
pre-
before
prefix, preceding, precedent
prime-
first
primary, primitive
post-
after
postdated, post-natal
retro-
backward
retrograde, retroactive

5. Prefixes of numbers:
Prefix Meaning Examples
semi-
half
semicircle
mono-
one
monochromatic
bi-
two
binary
tri-
three
triangle
quad-
four
quadruple
penta- five pentagon
hex- six hexadecimal
sept(em)- seven September
oct- eight octal
dec- ten decimal
multi- many multiplexor, multicoloured
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6. Other prefixes:
Prefix Meaning Examples
pro-
before, in advance, forward
programme, progress, procreation
auto-
self
automatic
co-
together with
co-ordinate, co-operate
con-
together with
connect

Exercises using prefixes:1|2|3|4

Part 2: suffixes

We have already seen how prefixes can change the meaning of a word. Let us now consider some suffixes, their usual meanings, and how they change the meanings of English words:

Suffixes

Nouns
Verbs
Adjectives
Adverbs
-ance
-ize
-able
-ly
-ence
-ate
-ible
-or
-fy
-less
-er
-en
-ic
-ist
-ify
-ical
-ish
-ive

Study these tables. Try and find additional examples using your dictionary:

1. Noun-forming suffixes:
Suffix
Meaning
Examples
-ance
state
performance
-ence
quality of
independence
-er, -or
a person who
a thing which
programmer, operator, biographer
compiler, accumulator, processor, calculator
-ist, -yst
a person who
analyst, typist
-ian
pertaining to
electrician
-tion, -ation
the act of
compilation
-ness
condition of
readiness, cleanliness, happiness
-ion
action/state
conversion
-ing
activity
multiplexing
-ment
state, action
measurement, requirement
-ity
state, quality
electricity
-ism
condition/state
magnetism
-dom
domain/condition
freedom
-ship
condition/state
relationship, partnership

2. Verb-forming suffixes:
Suffix Meaning Examples
-ize/-ise
to make
computerize
-ate
automate, activate, calculate
-ify
simplify
-en
harden, widen, lengthen, shorten

3. Adverb-forming suffix:
Suffix Meaning Examples
-ly
in the manner of
electronically, logically, comparably, slowly, quickly, automatically, carefully

4. Adjective-forming suffixes:
Suffix
Meaning
Examples
-al

having the quality of
computational, logical
-ar
circular, rectangular, cellular, regular
-ic
magnetic, automatic
-ical
electrical
-able

capable of being
comparable
-ble
divisible
-ous
like, full of
dangerous, insiduous, miraculous
-ful
characterized by
helpful, careful
-less without careless, meaningless
-ish
like
yellowish
-ed
having the quality of
computed, processed
-ive
interactive

5. Words ending in -ing
Note that words ending in -ing are formed from verbs. The -ing form may be used as a noun, part of a noun phrase, or part of a verb
  1. Programming is an interesting job (noun)
  2. Programming in C is interesting (part of a noun phrase)
  3. He is working as a programmer (part of a verb)

Exercises using prefixes and suffixes:1|2|3|4|5|

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