The alphabetical list of suffixes on this page gives you important information about the meanings and uses of different word endings in English. Suffixes show where to use a word in a sentence, when something happened, whether there are one or more things, etc.
Some suffixes identify nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. (These can also be used to change the part of speech: add ‘-ment’ to ‘govern’ to change it from a verb to a noun, so it can take a different place in a sentence.) Other common suffixes show tenses, plurals, and comparisons.
To keep this page from being extremely long, explanations of each type of suffix, a second grouping, by type of suffix, along with more examples, have been moved to Suffix List Arranged by Use. The links to each section in the list will take you to the correct part of that page.
The alphabetical list gives each suffix, its use (and its meaning when there is a specific meaning), and 1-3 examples. (If its use is to show the word's part of speech, it will just say Adj, N, V, etc., not say "shows that this word is an adjective " (or noun, or verb.)
Several suffixes have two listings because they have more than one use, and some of the listings actually cover two related uses. For example, -en is an irregular past participle ending for verbs like to eat and to write.
Those past participles can also be used as adjectives (a half-eaten apple or a written test.) -En can also be added to nouns or adjectives to make them into verbs: to brighten, lengthen, straighten, or whiten.
When you know these word-building suffixes, you can guess the part of speech (the role) of a new word, and how to use it correctly.
Study the examples below. If any words are new to you, do you recognize any parts? Can you figure out their meanings?
Many of these are cognates-- close relatives-- to words in French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. For example,
If you know that the English suffix ‘-ity’ is like the Spanish ‘-idad’, or ‘-ify’ like “-ificar’, you can recognize many other words with the same suffix. (Do remember that the way we use the words in English may be different, though the basic sense is usually similar.) Watch for examples of other cognates below.
Use the links below to go straight to the explanation for that suffix use (and the back button to come back to this page.) . The suffix list is right below them.
Note: All the suffixes labeled 'Aj' make words into adjectives (or show that the word is an adjective). The 'Adv' suffixes mark adverbs, 'Ns' mark nouns, and 'Vs' mark verbs. Their meanings are discussed in each section.
CP suffixes are used for adjective comparisons, and PT suffixes for plurals of nouns as well as for past tenses, continuous tenses, and the third person singular of the present tense, as well as to show plurals of nouns. Again, for a more complete explanation see each section below.
If you want to teach suffixes (alone or along with prefixes and roots) there are several helpful pdf lesson packets (with the information from this and other pages, as well as teaching suggestions and games) on the Root, Prefix, and Suffix Worksheets page. The basic suffix packet is free; the complete one or combination bundles are inexpensive-- and have lots of time-saving teaching ideas.
Go to Suffix List by Use for an explanation and more examples of each type of suffix, as well as to see all the suffixes of each type together. (I think that makes it easier to understand and learn them.) Practice Suffixes, Word Families, Word Family Practice, and Word Formation Examples & Exercises provide more practice with suffixes that show parts of speech.
Be sure to check out Word Families for an explanation of how roots, prefixes, and suffixes work together and the parts of speech formed by different suffixes.