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Suffixes Unleashed: Your Guide to Word Transformers

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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Whether you’re an aspiring wordsmith, a curious language enthusiast, or a seasoned communicator, Edulyte’s comprehensive suffix guide has something for everyone. From transforming words to unleashing their hidden meanings, this resource lets you handle language with finesse. Rest assured, you will no longer be confused about the suffix -gram, suffix -pnea, where to use the suffix -ium, suffix -ive or suffix -ia. 

Introduction to Suffixes: How They Can Transform Your Words

The definition of a suffix states that it is a linguistic element attached to the end of a base word to modify its meaning or create a new word. 

In English grammar, suffixes play a crucial role in word formation and allow for a vast vocabulary expansion. 

Suffix meaning makes it clear that words with suffixes are not standalone words; they must be combined with root words (also known as base words) to create meaningful units. For example, in the word “happiness,” “-ness” is the suffix added to the root word “happy” to indicate the state or quality of being happy.

How Suffixes Transform Words and Add Meaning

Now that you know the answer to what is a suffix, you realise that they are potent tools that can completely change a word’s meaning or grammatical function. 

  1. Change of Part of Speech: Suffixes can alter the part of speech of a word. For instance, adding “-ly” to the adjective “quick” results in the adverb “quickly.”

  2. Forming Nouns: Suffixes can create nouns from other parts of speech. For example, adding “-tion” to the verb “communicate” forms the noun “communication.”

  3. Forming Adjectives: Suffixes can turn nouns into adjectives. For instance, attaching “-ful” to the noun “beauty” creates the adjective “beautiful.”

  4. Indicating Plurals: Some suffixes, like “-s” and “-es,” are used to form plural nouns, as in “cats” or “watches.”

  5. Showing Verb Tense: Suffixes can also mark verb tense. For example, “-ed” in “walked” indicates past tense.

  6. Expressing Comparative and Superlative: Suffixes like “-er” and “-est” are used to compare things. For example, “taller” and “tallest.”

  7. Denoting Possession: Suffixes like “‘s” indicate possession. For instance, “John’s car.”

Understanding the Meaning of Suffixes: Common Suffixes List You Need

Suffixes are integral to understanding the meaning and function of words in the English language. 

Suffixes serve various roles in word formation:

  1. Change of Meaning: Suffixes can alter the core meaning of a word, either by intensifying it, making it more specific, or changing it altogether. For instance, the suffix “-er” added to “teach” forms “teacher,” indicating someone who imparts knowledge.

  2. Derivation of New Words: Suffixes are essential for creating new words in English. They help expand the language by generating derivatives from existing root words. For example, “friendship” is formed from the root word “friend” by adding the suffix “-ship.”

  3. Inflection and Grammatical Function: Suffixes play a role in inflecting words to indicate tense, number, case, or gender. For instance, the suffix “-s” in “cats” marks the plural form of “cat.”

Common Suffixes Found in the English Language

Below is the list of some suffixes that you come across regularly in the English language. 

  1. -er/-or: A person or thing associated with a specific action or occupation, e.g., “teacher,” “actor.”
  2. -ment: Forms nouns from verbs, denoting an action or process, e.g., “movement,” “development.”
  3. -ful: Creates adjectives indicating fullness or possession of a quality, e.g., “beautiful,” “hopeful.”
  4. -ly: Forms adverbs from adjectives, indicating the manner of an action, e.g., “quickly,” “happily.”
  5. -ing: Used to create present participles or gerunds from verbs, e.g., “running,” “swimming.”
  6. -ed: Indicates the past tense of regular verbs, e.g., “walked,” “jumped.”
  7. -s/-es: Forms plural nouns, e.g., “cats,” “boxes.”
  8. -less: Creates adjectives indicating the absence of a specific quality, e.g., “fearless,” “hopeless.”
  9. -ness: Forms nouns denoting a state or quality, e.g., “happiness,” “kindness.”
  10. -able/-ible: Used to create adjectives indicating capability or possibility, e.g., “comfortable,” “visible.”

Many suffixes are popular in the fields of science and medicine. These include:

  1. The suffix -physis means growth or growing.
  2. The suffix -penia means deficiency or a decline.
  3. The suffix -centesis means a perforation
  4. The suffix -stasis means balance or stagnation. 

Exploring Specific Suffixes: Their Exclusive Details For Your Language Development

Exploring the suffix allows us to delve into the intricacies of word formation, decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words, and grasp the nuances of language.

Suffix “-gram”: Meaning and Usage With Examples

The suffix “-gram” is derived from the Greek word “gramma,” which means “something written” or “drawing.” “-gram” often denotes a visual representation, a record, or a written description of a particular subject or object. 

Examples of Words with the Suffix “-gram”:

  1. Diagram: A diagram visually represents information or data using geometric shapes, lines, and labels to explain or illustrate a concept or process.

  2. Telegram: A telegram is a written or printed message sent and delivered quickly over a long distance, often through telecommunication systems.

  3. Monogram: A monogram is a design consisting of one or more letters, usually the initials of a person’s name, combined into a single decorative element.

  4. Program: Originally derived from “programma” in Greek, it refers to a plan, schedule, or series of activities, often written or structured for a specific purpose.

  5. Epigram: An epigram is a concise, witty statement or poem that conveys a clever or humorous message.

The Suffix “-pnea”: Its Meaning Revealed With Examples 

The suffix “-pnea” is derived from the Greek word “pnoia,” which means “breathing” or “respiration.” When attached to the end of a word, “-pnea” denotes conditions or phenomena related to breathing, respiratory processes, or air intake. 

Words Incorporating the Suffix “-pnea”:

  1. Apnea: Apnea refers to the temporary cessation or suspension of breathing, often characterised by the absence of airflow for a certain period, particularly during sleep.

  2. Dyspnea: Dyspnea is the medical term for difficulty or laboured breathing. 

  3. Tachypnea: Tachypnea refers to an abnormally rapid or shallow breathing rate. 

  4. Bradypnea: Bradypnea is the opposite of tachypnea; it denotes an abnormally slow breathing rate. 

  5. Hyperpnea: Hyperpnea describes an increase in the depth and rate of breathing. 

Suffix “-ium”: Unravel its Meaning With Important Examples

When added to the end of a base word, “-ium” often signifies a substance, element, or specific type of matter. It is derived from the Latin suffix “-ium,” which has a similar function of denoting a place or material. 

Notable Examples of Words with “-ium”:

  1. Calcium: Calcium is a chemical element essential for various physiological processes in living organisms. It is crucial for bone health, nerve function, and muscle contraction.

  2. Sodium: Sodium is a metallic element with the symbol Na and is well-known for its role in regulating fluid balance, nerve transmission, and muscle function in the body.

  3. Titanium: Titanium is a solid and lightweight metallic element commonly used in aerospace, medical implants, and various industrial applications.

  4. Plutonium: Plutonium is a radioactive element primarily used in nuclear reactors and weapons.

  5. Lithium: Lithium is an alkali metal used in rechargeable batteries, pharmaceuticals, and various industrial applications.

Suffix “-ive”: Discovering the Purpose of “-ive” in Word Formation

When added to base words, “-ive” imparts a distinctive and significant meaning, transforming the word into an adjective that expresses the quality of being characterised by the action or state denoted by the root word

Notable Examples of Words with “-ive”

  • Active: Showing initiative or being engaged in action.
  • Creative: Characterised by the ability to produce original and imaginative ideas.
  • Inquisitive: Displaying curiosity and a tendency to inquire or investigate.
  • Seductive: Exerting charm or attraction in a captivating and alluring manner.
  • Destructive: Causing damage or harm, leading to destruction.

The suffix “-ia”: Explore Its Significance in Vocabulary

Derived from Latin and Greek origins, “-ia” is unique in vocabulary, signifying conditions, states, or qualities. 

Notable Examples of Words with “-ia”

  • Mania: A state of extreme excitement, enthusiasm, or obsession.
  • Euphoria: A feeling of intense happiness and joy.
  • Amnesia: A condition characterised by partial or complete memory loss.
  • Anemia: A medical condition marked by a deficiency of red blood cells or hemoglobin.
  • Utopia: An imaginary ideal society or place of perfection.

Common Suffixes Cheat Sheet: Your Tool To Upskill

Our team of expert English trainers has curated the perfect toolkit to unravel the hidden potential of suffixes. From transforming words to unlocking new meanings, this cheat sheet is your passport to mastering the art of wordplay. 

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Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Suffixes are word parts added to the end of a base word to modify its meaning or function.

  2. Function: Suffixes can change the part of speech of a word, such as turning a verb into a noun or an adjective into an adverb.

  3. Word Formation: Suffixes enable the creation of new words and expand vocabulary by adding specific meanings or nuances.

  4. Grammatical Changes: Suffixes can indicate verb tense, pluralisation of nouns, possession, and other grammatical aspects.

  5. Common Suffixes: Examples of common suffixes include “-ing” (the present participle), “-ed” (past tense), “-er” (comparative), “-est” (superlative), “-ment” (noun indicating an action or result), and “-ly” (adverb).


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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know when to use a specific suffix in a word?

Knowing when to use a specific suffix in a word requires understanding the rules and patterns of word formation in English. 

  1. Identify the Part of Speech: Determine the part of speech you want the word to be (noun, verb, adjective, etc.).
  2. Understand the Meaning: Consider the meaning you want to convey. 
  3. Analyse the Root Word: Start with a base word you wish to modify or extend.
  4. Observe Common Patterns: Pay attention to common suffix patterns used with certain types of words. 
  5. Read and Listen: Read extensively and listen to fluent speakers. 
What is the difference between a prefix and a suffix?


A prefix is an affix added to the beginning of a base word or root word. It comes before the root word, alters its meaning, or creates a new word.


  • “Un-” unhappy 
  • “Re-” redo


A suffix is added to the end of a base word or root word. Examples:

  • “-ing” – running
  • “-ly” – quickly
Are there any rules or patterns for adding suffixes to words?
  1. Silent “E” Rule: When adding a suffix that begins with a vowel (e.g., -ing, -ed, -er) to a base word that ends with a silent “e,” the “e” is usually dropped before adding the suffix. For example: “hope” becomes “hoping,” “love” becomes “loving,” “like” becomes “liked.”

  2. Y to I Rule: When adding a suffix that does not begin with “i” to a word ending in a consonant + “y,” the “y” is changed to “i” before adding the suffix. For example: “study” becomes “studying,” “cry” becomes “cried,” and “beauty” becomes “beautiful.”

  3. Keeping “E” Rule: When adding a suffix that begins with a vowel to a word ending in “i.e.,” the “e” is usually retained before adding the suffix. For example: “die” becomes “dying,” and “lie” becomes “lying.”

  4. Changing “Y” Rule: When adding a suffix that begins with “i” (e.g., -ing, -ish) to a word ending in a consonant + “y,” the “y” is changed to “i” before adding the suffix. For example: “beauty” becomes “beautify,” “busy” becomes “busier.”
How do suffixes change the meaning of base words?

Suffixes change the meaning of base words by adding specific nuances, context, or grammatical functions to the original word. example, “-less” indicates the absence of something, as in “fearless.” Suffixes like “-ment” and “-tion” form nouns denoting the act or process of something, as in “achievement” and “communication.”

What are some medical suffixes and their definitions?

Medical terminology often uses specific suffixes to describe various conditions, procedures, and body parts.

  1. -itis: This suffix denotes inflammation. For example, “tonsillitis” refers to inflammation of the tonsils.
  2. -ectomy: Refers to surgical removal. For example, “appendectomy” is the surgical removal of the appendix.
  3. -ology: Denotes the study or science of a particular subject. For instance, “cardiology” is the study of the heart.
  4. -plasty: Denotes surgical repair or reconstruction. For example, “rhinoplasty” is the surgical procedure to reshape the nose.
  5. -scope: Indicates an instrument used for examination. For instance, an “endoscope” is a medical device to examine body organs or cavities internally.
Where can I find a comprehensive list of suffixes and their meanings?

There are several resources where you can find comprehensive lists of suffixes and their meanings:

  1. Online Medical and Language Dictionaries: Websites like Merriam-Webster, Dictionary.com, and TheFreeDictionary offer comprehensive dictionaries with extensive lists of suffixes and their definitions.

  2. Medical Terminology Books: Medical textbooks and reference books focusing on medical terminology often include lists of common medical suffixes and their meanings.

  3. Language and Linguistics Books: Books on English language and linguistics may also provide lists of suffixes and their meanings, primarily if they cover word formation and morphology.

  4. Educational Websites and Language Learning Platforms: Some educational websites and language learning platforms like Edulyte may offer lessons or resources on word formation, including suffixes and their meanings.
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