Noun Formation: Common Suffixes

Nouns are words that refer to people, places, and things. We use suffixes to make new words. For example, we can add a suffix to a verb and create a noun – adding ‘-ion’ to the verb ‘act’ gives us the noun ‘action.’

Thus, a suffix is a letter or group of letters added to the end of a word. Suffixes are commonly used to show the part of speech of a word (a noun, adjective, verb, etc.). Suffixes also tell us whether the words are plural or singular.

suffix position
via https://www.myenglishteacher.eu/blog/prefixes-suffixes-list/

Suffixes go on the end of words.

  • They always arrive late on Wednesdays. (verb)
  • The arrival of a new puppy made everyone happy. (noun)

By adding -al, the verb ‘arrive’ becomes a noun.

Here are some other examples of nouns ending in -al:

Root WordNounMeaning
professionprofessionalRelated to the action of a verb
approveapproval
denydenial

Thus, suffixes can determine the word’s part of speech. Certain suffixes make the base or root word a noun, a verb, an adjective, or even an adverb. For example, look at the base word ‘real’, which is an adjective. Add the suffix ‘-ity’ to get ‘reality’, which is a noun. Add ‘-ize’ to make it ‘realize’, which is a verb. Last, add ‘-ly’ to make it ‘really’, which is an adverb. 

Noun suffix meanings

There are other suffixes that we can use to create nouns, such as -tion/-ation, -ness, -ity, -ment, -ship, -ance/ence, -er/or, -ian, -ist, and many more. We can divide them into several main groups to distinguish them by meaning.

Nouns describing professions or activities

Nouns describing people doing some activity (often an occupation) and people experiencing some activity (suffix -ee).

SuffixExample
-antassistant, participant
-eeattendee, referee, grantee
-entcorrespondent, respondent
-(e)erengineer, manager
-ian librarian, historian
-ic mechanic, paramedic
-icianmathematician, politician
-orsupervisor, survivor
-istMarxist, capitalist (followers of philosophies)
  • I don’t think I am a good writer.
  • She works as a biologist for a research company.

Nouns describing devices

These suffixes denote equipment, appliances, or devices.

SuffixExample
-ercondenser, opener
-oralternator, razor
  •  Today we can’t live without computers.

Nouns describing abstracts

These suffixes can denote abstract notions or concepts, feelings and emotions.

SuffixExample
-agemileage, percentage
-aldisposal, proposal
-ance/-enceappearance, attendance, dependence
-ationinformation, transformation
-domfreedom, kingdom
-iety society, variety
-ism capitalism, idealism (philosophies)
-itydensity, diversity
-mentagreement, statement
-nessusefulness, weakness
-shipmembership, relationship
-sionconclusion, explosion
-ureexposure, failure
-thbreadth, length
  • I do not like taking public transportation in this city.
  • No one knows what happiness really is.
  • Equality between different groups is important for the future of the country.
  • His preference for tea over coffee surprised me.

Tips to learn noun suffixes

  1. Some suffixes have more than one meaning. For example, the suffix -er may denote a person who performs an action (a teacher) or a device (a computer).
  2. Unlike prefixes, the spelling of a base word can change when a suffix is added. This is true of most base words ending in the letter ‘y.’ For instance, when we add the suffix -ness to the word ‘crazy’ to make ‘craziness,’ we replace the ‘y’ with an ‘i.’

Spelling Tips

Often, the suffix causes a spelling change to the original word. The following changes may occur:

Dropping letters

The final -e is dropped:

  • argueargument.

Changing ‘y’ to ‘i‘

In words that end in ‘-y’, the ‘y’ becomes an ‘i’:

  • denydenial
  • happyhappiness

Changing ‘-le’ to ‘-il’

  • able, possible + -ity → ability, possibility

Changing ‘-t’ to ‘-ss’

  • permit, omit + -ion → permission, omission

Suffixes can help expand your vocabulary. For example, if you know the word ‘happy’ or ‘create’, you can use that to understand and use new words like ‘happinessand ‘creativity.

Check out this video from LikWhat? to get the general idea of noun formation and common suffix meanings:

Read more on this topic:

Noun Formation: Common Prefixes

Verb Formation: Common Prefixes and Suffixes

Adjective Formation: Common Prefixes and Suffixes

How to Form Adverbs

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