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Noun Suffixes

Sep 2, 2022

Read the following pair of sentences: 

  1. I have some work to finish. 

Aaron is your typical average worker

  1. One should never cheat his/her friends. 

One should never indulge in cheating

In pair 1, the word work  in the first sentence is in its base form. The addition of -er at the end of work  in the second sentence of the pair changes it into worker

In pair 2, the word cheat in the first sentence is also in its base form. The addition of -ingat the end of cheat in the second sentence of the pair changes it into cheating

Also, the word work in the first sentence of pair 1 is a verb. With the addition of -er, it changes to worker, which is a noun


Similarly, the word cheat in the first sentence of pair 2 is a verb. But, even after the addition of -ing, it doesn’t change its class. Cheating  is still a verb

The group of letters that are added at the end of work and cheat  in the above sentences are called suffixes

We can define suffix as a letter or a group of letters that we add at the end of a word in order to form a new word. 

Suffixes come under the group called affixes which themselves come under a group called morphemes

Before diving straight into the differentiation of suffixes, it is important to look at some elements that are very vital. They are affixes and morphemes


So, let’s define Affixes and Morphemes: 


Instead of giving a clearcut definition to morphemes right away, let’s try it this way, with the help of examples. Consider the word kindness. It consists of two units, kind and -ness. Such units are called morphemes.  

Thus, we can say that the word kindness is made up of two morphemes: kind and -ness. Similarly, the word unkindly is made up of three morphemes: un-, kind, and -ly.  

Therefore, a morpheme may be defined as “the smallest meaningful unit in the structure of a language.”  

A morpheme that can occur freely or in combination with other morphemes is called a free morpheme

Examples:happy, trust, man, child, etc. 

A morpheme that cannot exist independently is called a bound morpheme

Examples:-ed, -ing, -ment, un-, etc. 

This goes on to prove that all suffixes are bound morphemes. 

Now, take the word friendship. Here, the principle word that carries the meaning of the entire semantic unit is friend.  

It is the core or the nucleus of the word upon which its meaning is depended. Therefore, in friendship, the word friend is the base or the root

 The bound morpheme -ship is called the affix as it is attached to the root. When the affixes are removed from words, all we are left with is the root or base

This goes on to prove that affixes are always subservient to the roots because it is the roots that get modified to form new words.  

More examples: 

  • In the word childhood, child is the root and -hood is the affix. 
  • In the word teacher, teach is the root and -er is the affix.  

Where does all this come to? 

This proves the point that suffixes are the affixes that occur at the end of words, like: 

  • Madness – mad + -ness 
  • Rightly – right + -ly 

From the pair of sentences given in the beginning, it is clear that the addition of a suffix to a word can result in a change of its class. According to their ability to change the class of a word, suffixes can be classified as inflectional suffixes and derivational suffixes. 

Inflectional Suffixes

Suffixes that change the form of a word alone, and not its class are called inflectional suffixes.  

Infectional suffixes do not change the meaning of the word altogether, and therefore do not create new words. 

For example, in ‘smile, smiles, smiling, and smiled’, -s, -ing, and -ed are the inflectional suffixes. 

The function of inflectional suffixes is to indicate grammatical relations such as number, gender, tenses, and so on.  

Thus, adding the inflectional suffix -s to boychanges it into its plural form boys. Here, boy and boys are not two entirely different words that belong to two separate classes, nor do they have two entirely different meanings. 

More examples: 

  • Talk, talks, talking, talked. 
  • Laugh, laughs, laughing, laughed. 
  • Girl, girls. 
  • Tree, trees
  • Lion, lioness
  • Tiger, tigress
  • Big, bigger, biggest
  • High, higher, highest

Inflectional suffixes are not followed by any other suffixes as they occur at the end of the words. Therefore, they are called the closing morphemes

Derivational Suffixes

Suffixes that create new words from the root word are called derivational suffixes. For instance, take the word child. Adding the suffix -hood to it results in a total change of meaning and the resultant word would be childhood. 

Derivational suffixes also can change the class of a word. For instance, take the word kind. Kind is an adjective. 

 Now consider adding either of the suffixes -ness or -ly. Adding -ness results in the formation of kindness, which is a noun, and adding -results in the formation of kindly, which is an adverb. Derivational suffixes are therefore class changing affixes

More examples: 

  • Judge- judgement 
  • Happy (adjective)- happiness (noun) 
  • Organize (verb)- organization (noun) 
  • Write (verb) – writer (noun) 

Derivational suffixes can be succeeded by other derivational or inflectional suffixes, like: 

  • Organ /iz / ation/ al 
  • Human / iz/ ation 

 Some commonly used derivational suffixes are: 

-ant/ -ent: 

  • Preside – president 
  • Reside- resident 
  • Account- accountant 


  • Address- addressee 
  • Interview- interviewee 
  • Refer- referee 

-er/ -or: 

  • Work- worker 
  • Teach- teacher 
  • Act- actor 
  • Edit- editor 


  • Critic- criticism 
  • Human- humanism 
  • Journal- journalism 


  • Govern- government 
  • Enjoy- enjoyment 
  • Develop- development 



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