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What is a suffix?

Suffixes are word endings. Children learn suffixes and how to use them to help them improve their spelling and understand of nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Find out more about how to help your child with KS1 and KS2 spelling and the use of suffixes in our guide.

What is a suffix?

A suffix is a string of letters that go at the end of a root word, changing or adding to its meaning. Suffixes can show if a word is a noun, an adjective, an adverb or a verb.

The suffixes -er and -est are also used to form the comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and some adverbs.

Prefixes are groups of letters added to the beginning of a word.

What suffixes will your child learn?

Children will be taught about suffixes at different stages during their time in KS1 and KS2. 

 SuffixExample wordExplanation
Year 1-ing
In Year 1, children learn about suffixes that are added without changing the root word.
Year 2-ied
Children learn that to add some suffixes, you have to change the root word. For example, 'pat' has to have another 't' added before the suffix '-ed' can be added. 'Copy' has to have the 'y' removed before '-ied' is added.
Year 3 and 4-ation
Children continue to learn that some suffixes change the root word, for example, happy becomes happily, and gentle because gently.
Year 5-ology
Children learn that 'ology' means 'study,'  'graph' means 'to write' and 'port' means 'carry.'
Year 6 -ing
Sometimes a letter has to be added before a suffix can be added.

Why are children taught suffixes?

Children are taught the meanings of different suffixes (for example, -ette means 'small'). Then they will look at words with these suffixes and how that meaning is incorporated into the word, for example: a cigarette is a small version of a cigar, a maisonette is smaller than a house (they may be told that 'maison' is French for house). This 'breaking down' of words helps children to understand the meaning of other words and to think carefully about how these words are spelled.

Teaching children words with suffixes means that they are broadening their vocabulary by learning new words and their meanings, which they can then incorporate into their writing. It also means that they are learning the spellings of new words.

Verb, noun, adjective and adverb suffixes

Teaching groups of words with one suffix can be a good way of teaching children about adjectives, verbs and adverbs.

Common verb suffixes are -ed and -ing.

Common noun suffixes are -ness and -ment.

Common adjective suffixes are -al and -able.

Common adverb suffixes are -ly and -fully.

Children may also be taught about comparatives and superlatives and how they are formed using suffixes (for example, small, smaller and smallest).

Suffix spelling rules

Adding a suffix to some words changes the spelling of the new word. Children are taught the rules attached to certain suffixes.

For example:

For the suffix -er, the spelling changes according to the root word.
  • If it ends in a 'y' like happy, the 'y' is taken off and -ier is added.
  • If it is a word with a short vowel ending in one consonant (hot, sad, fit), the last word is doubled before -er is added: hotter, sadder, fitter.

How do children learn about suffixes?

It is quite common for a teacher to choose one particular suffix and then give a list of spellings with that suffix for the children to learn.

Other ways to encourage the learning of words with suffixes are:

  • The process of Look, Cover, Write, Check, where a child looks at a word, covers it over, writes it from memory and then looks back at the original word to check they have got it right.
  • Worksheets where a words needs to be matched with a definition.
  • 'Fill the gap' worksheets, where a few sentences are given, each missing a certain word with a suffix. A list of these words with suffixes is given in a box on the sheet, and children need to decide which word goes where.
  • Asking children to find words with a certain suffix and find out their meanings (using a dictionary).

To find worksheets and activities to help your child practise suffixes look through the selection of spelling worksheets on the site.

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