Verb Formation: Common Prefixes and Suffixes

Verbs are words that describe what people do, how they feel and how things are in general. We can make new verbs by adding prefixes and suffixes to words we already know.

Prefixes to form verbs

Prefixes go at the beginning of words. We use prefixes to change the meaning of words, including verbs:

  • Alex decided to rewrite his paper to get a better grade. (‘write’ ‘rewrite’)
  • Why did you undo all of the work I did on the website? Now I have to redo it all. (‘do’ undo’)
  • I think you should disconnect the printer and then reconnect it. That might work. (‘connect’ ‘disconnect’)
  • You have to preorder items so that you get them on time. (‘order’ ‘preorder’)

The most common verb prefixes and their meaning:

re-again or backrestructure, revisit, reappear, rebuild, refinance
dis-reverses the meaning of the verbdisappear, disallow, disarm, disconnect, discontinue
over-too muchoverbook, oversleep, overwork
un-reverses the meaning of the verbunbend, uncouple, unfasten
mis-badly or wronglymislead, misinform, misidentify
out-more or better than othersoutperform, outbid
co-togetherco-exist, co-operate, co-own
de-do the opposite ofdevalue, deselect
fore-earlier, beforeforeclose, foresee
inter-betweeninteract, intermix, interface
pre-beforepre-expose, prejudge, pretest
sub-under/belowsubcontract, subdivide
trans-across, overtransform, transcribe, transplant
under-not enoughunderfund, undersell, undervalue, underdevelop
Note: You may see verbs with prefixes written with a hyphen (-).  This happens when a verb is not commonly used with a prefix, such as: ‘re-submit’.  This will also depend on the type of English (American or British).

Suffixes to form verbs

Suffixes go at the end of words. We use suffixes to change a word, like a noun or an adjective, to a different type of word, such as a verb.  

  • The butter is very soft because of the heat. – The butter softens when it is hot.  

Soft’ is an adjective, and it changes to a verb when we add ‘-en’.

Another example is ‘-ize’, which turns nouns to verbs.

  • I find it hard to sympathise with you because my life is so different.
  • We should try to synthesize all of this information so that it is easier to understand.

The most common verb suffixes and their meaning:

-enTo becomeSoften, darken, widen, weaken, strengthen
-ise/-izeTo make or becomeSympathise, empathise, synthesize
-ateTo become  Activate, collaborate, create
-ify, -fyTo make or become Justify, magnify, amplify, satisfy
  • Nowadays students need to learn how to collaborate on projects.
  • You should use clear arguments to justify the opinions in your essay.

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, add ‘-ize’ to make it ‘realize’, which is a verb.

Note: It is important to be able to identify the root word or base word. This will help you create new words, such as ‘justify – justice – justification – just – justly. The root word is often the verb and then other words, like nouns, adjectives, and adverbs, are created with it, like ‘create – creative – creativity’.

Check out this video from Daniel Byrnes showing how we can make new verbs adding suffixes:

Read more on this topic:

How to Form Adverbs

Noun Formation: Common Prefixes

Noun Formation: Common Suffixes

Adjective Formation: Common Prefixes and Suffixes

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