Getting Started with Reading Skills

Suffixes are word roots and parts that are put at the end of the word. They usually change the meaning of the word as well as the part of speech. Learning them can help you guess new vocabulary in addition to helping improve your word choice when writing. Below are tables describing common suffixes, what they mean, and examples of words using these suffixes. 

adjective suffix meaning examples
-able/-ible can, be able to – created with a verb adorable, excusable, credible
-al related to – created with a noun emotional, ethical, logical
-ant/-ent related to – created with a verb defiant, different, confident
-ful full of – created with a noun colorful, wonderful, beautiful
-less without – created with a noun homeless, hopeless, worthless
-ic similar to – created with a noun athletic, empathetic
-ish similar to – created with a noun selfish, childish
-ive has qualities of – created with a verb imaginative, creative
-ous full of – created with a noun delicious, ferocious, furious
-y full of – created with a noun happy, lucky, sleepy
noun suffix meaning examples 
-er/-or/-ar person/thing that does (verb) author, painter, teacher
-ist person dentist, artist, racist
-ance/-ence the act of doing something confidence, independence
-tion/-sion the act of doing something passion, dictation, action
-ment the act of doing something environment, discernment, agreement
-ness the state of being (adjective) happiness, kindness, darkness
-ity the state of being (adjective) charity, purity, clarity
-ship the idea, quality of a group (noun) kinship, sportsmanship, friendship
verb suffix meaning examples
-ate to make venerate, exonerate, relate
-ify to make (from an adjective) magnify, beautify, clarify
-ize to make (from a noun or adjective) familiarize, sympathize, fertilize


It is great that we can usually predict the part of speech of a word using the suffix and sometimes guess the meaning. However, how does that help us improve our vocabulary in writing?

Unfortunately, you can’t just put together any noun and the suffix -al to make an adjective to fit in your sentence ( “tigeral” isn’t a word). Also, it doesn’t mean that all words that end in -al are adjectives (approval, for example).

In the following practice exercise is a chart with some general rules that you can use to build new words to use in writing, by adding more suffixes at the end or changing to a different suffix with a different part of speech. But be careful–sometimes it’s not possible to add or change the suffix. For example, I can’t put -al on “action” to make the adjective “actional”–it’s just not a word used in English. Please check a dictionary if you are unsure.

Practice 1:

In the chart below, add or change the suffix to create a new word.

Q suffix add or change will make example
1 -less -ness adj. ➔ noun homeless ➔
2 -y -iness adj. ➔ noun tasty ➔
3 -ish -ness adj. ➔ noun selfish ➔
4 -able -ity adj. ➔ noun stable ➔
5 -ist -ism person ➔ idea sexist ➔
6 -tion -al noun ➔ adj. function ➔
7 -ance/-ence -ant/-ent noun ➔ adj. defiance ➔
8 ment -al noun ➔ adj. element ➔
9 -ic (noun) -al noun ➔ adj. magic ➔
10 -ive -ity adj. ➔ noun passive ➔
11 -ous -ness adj. ➔ noun rebellious ➔
12 -ate -tion verb ➔ noun graduate ➔
13 -ify -ification verb ➔ noun personify ➔
14 -ize -ization verb ➔ noun organize ➔
15 -de -sion verb ➔ noun invade ➔

Practice 2:

Using the previous charts, make a new form of the word.

  1. NOUN of capitalize: _________________________________________
  2. NOUN of exclude: ___________________________________________
  3. NOUN of capable: ___________________________________________
  4. NOUN of levitate: ___________________________________________
  5. NOUN of simplify: ___________________________________________
  6. ADJ. of logic: ________________________________________________
  7. ADJ. of childishness: _________________________________________
  8. ADJ. of adaptability: ___________________________________________
  9. VERB of authorization: _______________________________________
  10. VERB of elevation: __________________________________________
  11. VERB of erosion: ___________________________________________
  12. IDEA of racist: _____________________________________________
  13. ADJ. of deviance: __________________________________________


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It’s All Greek to Me! by Charity Davenport is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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