The use of prefixes and suffixes in written and spoken English, known as affixation, allows us to extend our vocabulary range by modifying the beginning (prefix) or ending (suffix) of root words in order to alter their meaning. This post offers examples of affixation to guide writers towards broadening their linguistic range.
Prefixes and suffixes
We add affixes (prefixes and suffixes) to root words to form new words and meanings, which as mentioned above is a valuable approach to extending our lexical range in English. Prefixes (e.g. anti-, sub-) and suffixes (e.g. –ise, –tion) are referred to as bound morphemes, and thus cannot be used independently, but have to be bound or connected to the root of a word.
Prefixes are added to the front of a word (biotic → antibiotic, contract → subcontract) and can refer to time (prelude, postscript), position (submarine, vice-chancellor), attitude (pro-independence, anti-nuclear), change in condition (transformation, delaminate), opposites (dissatisfied, unreliable), criticism (pseudoscience, maladjusted) or size (microclimate, macroeconomics). They typically modify but do not change the word class (e.g. noun → noun, adjective → adjective).
The table below presents examples of commonly occurring prefixes, their meanings and the words that can be formed:
|anti-||against||anti-establishment, antifreeze, antibodies|
|co-||togetherness||cooperate, co-written, collaborate|
|dis-||opposite||disintegrate, disagree, displease|
|in-||not||indirect, indiscriminate, independent|
|inter-||between||interaction, integrate, interdependent|
|mis-||incorrectly||misdirect, mismanage, misinterpret|
|over-||above or beyond||overlook, oversee, overstep|
|under-||below, or below expectations||under-budget, underground, underwhelm|
Suffixes are placed at the end of the word and often change the word classification (e.g. actual (adjective) →’ actually (adverb), realise (verb) → realisation (noun), theory (noun) → theorise (verb)), but this is not always the case (e.g. lecture/theory (singular nouns) → lectures/theories (plural nouns)).
The table below includes examples of common prefixes, their meanings and the words that can be formed:
|-able||fulfilling its purpose||comfortable, dependable, reliable|
|-ed||past simple form||concluded, energised, waited|
|-en||to increase or decrease||lengthen, shorten, widen|
|-er||comparative form||hotter, stronger, quicker|
|-ful||to be full of a quality||beautiful, careful, delightful|
|-ing||present participle form||displaying, engaging, presenting|
|-ic||having the quality of||hygienic, linguistic, scenic|
|-ly||having the quality of||decisively, rapidly, undoubtedly|
|-ness||a state or condition||contentedness, happiness, peacefulness|
|-tion||forms abstract nouns from verbs||action, attention, detention|
|-s / -es||forms plurals||colleagues, studies, vehicles|