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Suffixes: What Are They?

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Suffixes are “word parts” that can alter many different components of a word. Because of that, it’s vital to know how to use them correctly. We’ll show you how.

What's a suffix? Find out below.
“Suffixes” are a type of “affix.”
What’s a Suffix?

A suffix is a letter or a group of letters that are added to the end of a word. It can change its meaning or grammatical properties. For example, the suffix “-al” can change nouns into adjectives, and “-s” can change nouns from singular to plural.

  • Music → Musical
  • Phone → Phones

First Things First: What’s an Affix?

To thoroughly understand what suffixes are, you must first be familiar with affixes.

Consider these the alchemists of the spelling and vocabulary world. Affixes are basically “word parts” (morphemes) that are added to the base of a word and have the power to completely alter its meaning or word form.

The two major types of affixes in English are prefixes and suffixes. This blog post will focus on suffixes and tell you what they are, go over the different types, and provide examples.

What Is a Suffix?

A suffix is a type of affix that is found at the end of a word. A suffix can be just one letter or a group of letters.


In the examples above, “-ful,” “-less,” and “-s” are suffixes. All of these suffixes serve a different purpose and uniquely change the word. Here are some more examples of suffixes and their meanings:

“-able” means “capable of being” → debatable
“-ful” means “full of” → wonderful
“-hood” means “state or condition of” → puppyhood
“-less” means “without” → defenseless
-ment” means “action or process of” → encouragement
“-ship” means “state or condition of” → friendship
“-tion” means “action or process of” → hospitalization
“-ity” means “state or quality of” → clarity
“-ize” means “to make or become” → accessorize

This is just a brief list of English suffixes. There are many of them, and each adds to words in different ways. There are different categories of suffixes, though, which we’ll explore below.

What’s the Difference Between a Prefix and a Suffix?

While a suffix is found at the end of a word (e.g., relationship), a prefix is found at the beginning of a word (e.g., disinfect). A few more examples of prefixes include:

  • “anti-” (which means “against or opposed to”): Antiviral
  • “pre-” (which means “before”): Prerequisite
  • “un-” (which means “not or opposite of”): Unstable

Types of Suffixes

In English, there are two different types of suffixes: inflectional suffixes and derivational suffixes.

Inflectional Suffixes

Inflectional suffixes are suffixes that change the grammatical properties of a word, including function, tense, mood, aspect, and more. They do not, however, change the word’s basic meaning or part of speech.


Change Made



Changes a verb to past tense

Walk vs. Walked


Changes a verb to past participle (irregular)

Take vs. (had) Taken


Creates a comparative degree in adjectives and adverbs

Slow vs. Slower


Changes a verb to past participle and gerund

Dance vs. Dancing


Changes noun from singular to plural

Cat vs. Cats


Creates a superlative degree in adjectives and adverbs

Slow vs. Slowest


Changes a verb to its third-person present

Make vs. Makes

Derivational Suffixes

Derivational suffixes, on the other hand, can create a new word with a different meaning and part of speech. For example, adding “-ly” to “slow” changes it from an adjective to an adverb.

There are two types of derivational suffixes: class-changing derivation and class-maintaining derivation. Those that are class-maintaining create a new word but maintain the part of speech. Here are examples of derivational suffixes and what category they fall under:


Changes Made



Verbs → Adjectives

Tolerate vs. Tolerable


Verbs → Nouns

Ignore vs. Ignorant


Word remains a noun

Actor vs. Actress


Word remains a noun

Neighbor vs. Neighborhood


Adjectives → Nouns

Absurd vs. Absurdity


Nouns → Adjectives

Child vs. Childlike


Adjectives → Nouns

Dark vs. Darkness


Verbs → Nouns

Imagine vs. Imagination

Keep in mind that roots of a word can have more than one suffix. For instance, the word playfulness has the suffixes “-ful” and “-ness.”

Suffix Rules: Understanding and Using Them Correctly

Please be aware that you can’t just add a suffix to any word. Using suffixes correctly requires a thorough comprehension of their rules and guidelines.

For example, when you’re adding a suffix that starts with a vowel to a word that ends in a final silent “-e,” the final “-e” should be dropped.

imagine + “-able” = imaginable
exercise + “-ing” = exercising

Or, when adding a suffix to a word that ends in a consonant plus “y,” change the “y” to an “i” in most cases.

try + “-ed” = tried
busy + “-ily” = busily

These are just two of the many rules behind using suffixes. Luckily, LanguageTool can ensure proper spelling and use of suffixes. This advanced writing assistant goes beyond checking for errors and also analyzes your text thoroughly to make stylistic recommendations and enhance your writing completely.

It supports more than 30 languages and is free to try!

What is an affix? What is a suffix? Can you now answer these questions?
Suffixes can alter a word’s meaning or form.

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