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The Complete List of
English Spelling Rules

Lesson 9: Common English Suffixes


In this series of lessons, you will learn useful spelling rules in English.

This lesson talks about some common English suffixes. We will talk about how suffixes work, how they are spelled, and how they will help you to understand English words and how they are used in sentences.

a scientist

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A suffix is a group of letters that comes at the end of a word and has a specific meaning. There are many suffixes in English, but in this lesson we will focus on ten of the most common.

We will look at the suffixes in groups because, in addition to their meaning, suffixes also can tell you what part of speech you are looking at.

We will start with nouns.

Noun suffixes

1. -ist

a scientist

The first two pictures in this article show scientists. The first picture is probably of a physicist. Perhaps the second picture is of a chemist, a biologist, or a geneticist.

Do you see the pattern? Words that end in -ist are always nouns, and this suffix means "a person who does an action" or "a person who believes in." There are many words with this suffix, but here is a list of some common ones:
  • artist
  • linguist
  • pianist
  • socialist
  • feminist
  • cartoonist
  • dentist
  • humorist
  • specialist

2. -ment

two people having an argument

Unfortunately, these two people are having an argument.

The suffix -ment tells you that the word is a noun. This suffix means "action or process."

Here are some more common words that end in -ment:
  • enjoyment
  • movement
  • placement
  • shipment
  • treatment
  • government
  • payment
  • requirement
  • improvement

3. -ness

a happy man

His happiness is very evident!

You will find many words in English that end in -ness. This suffix means "state of being" or "quality."

Here are some of the most common words with this ending. Remember that you will find many more of them, too:
  • business
  • illness
  • awareness
  • sickness
  • sadness
  • thickness
  • kindness
  • weakness
  • darkness
  • brightness
  • softness

4. -ship

two friends talking

It is important to have some strong friendships, even if you do not have lots of friends.

The suffix -ship always indicates a noun, and it means "state or condition of."

Here are some very common words with this suffix:
  • relationship
  • leadership
  • membership
  • ownership
  • championship
  • citizenship
  • fellowship
  • kinship
  • dictatorship
  • partnership

5. -tion

an open book

You can find lots of information in books.

-tion is another extremely common noun suffix. It also means "a state of being." You will also find many words that end in slight variations of this suffix, including, -sion, -ition, -ation, or simply -ion. However, the most common is -tion.

Here are some common words with this suffix:
  • information
  • question
  • education
  • position
  • action
  • section
  • decision
  • situation
  • condition
  • production
  • population
  • operation

Adjective suffixes

6. -able, -ible

a woman looking at a calendar

You can check your calendar to see when you are available.

When you see a word in English that ends in -able, you will know that you are looking at an adjective. The suffix -able can also appear as -ible, and they both mean "can be done."

Here are some more common words that end in -able or -ible:
  • possible
  • available
  • considerable
  • responsible
  • variable
  • reasonable
  • acceptable
  • suitable
  • visible
  • flexible
  • accessible

7. -ious, -ous

a girl looking at a warning sign

Sometimes we see signs that warn us about dangerous situations.

Words that end in -ious, -ous, or -eous are always adjectives. These suffixes mean "full of" or "having the quality of."

There are many words with this suffix in English. Here are some of the most common:
  • various
  • obvious
  • curious
  • enormous
  • anxious
  • conscious
  • generous
  • ridiculous
  • precious
  • famous
  • mysterious
  • delicious

8. -less

a sweet dog

Our dog is harmless. He is so sweet! He would never hurt anyone.

The suffix -less tells you that the word is an adjective and this suffix means "without."

You will find lots of words with this suffix, but here are some of the most common:
  • endless
  • wireless
  • homeless
  • hopeless
  • helpless
  • meaningless
  • restless
  • pointless
  • careless
  • motionless
  • speechless
  • toothless

Verb suffix

9. -ize

a woman in a messy living room

She hopes that her children will help her organize the living room!

When you see a word that ends in -ize, you know that you are looking at a verb. There are many verb suffixes in English, but this is one of the most common. The suffix -ize (or -ise in British English) most often means "become."

Here are some of the most common English verbs with this suffix:
  • realize
  • recognize
  • emphasize
  • summarize
  • minimize
  • authorize
  • specialize
  • mobilize
  • stabilize
  • apologize

Adverb suffix

10. -ly

a woman relaxing and reading a book

Lee worked hard all year. Now she finally has some time to relax.

When you see a word that ends in -ly, it is usually an adverb, but not always. The -ly suffix means "in what way."

You will find this suffix in many adverbs, but here are some of the most common examples:
  • really
  • exactly
  • usually
  • particularly
  • actually
  • simply
  • happily
  • sadly
  • especially
  • clearly
  • quickly
  • generally

Review

So, let's review what we have learned about common English suffixes:

Suffix Part of Speech Meaning Example
-ist noun a person who
does an action
scientist
-ment         noun action or process argument
-ness noun state of being happiness
-ship noun state or
condition of
friendship
-tion, -sion noun state of being information
-able, -ible adjective can be done available        
-ious, -ous adjective full of dangerous
-less adjective without harmless
-ize verb become organize
-ly adverb in what way finally

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