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Prefixes and suffixes

What are prefixes and suffixes, as well as infixes? First off,  an affix is an element such as a prefix or suffix that attaches to another word. We attach affixes (prefixes, suffixes, and infixes) to words in order to create new words. So, just by knowing the most common prefixes and suffixes, you can increase your vocabulary without having to learn any new words! Let’s take a look at the chart below.

Remember, prefixes go at the beginning of a word and suffixes at the end of a word.

A quick example of prefixes and suffixes in action

WordAffix (prefix or suffix)New wordExample
Verb:  doubt.I doubt you’ll be able to resolve the problem.
Noun: doubt.There are still many doubts, I’m afraid.
Adjectival suffix: –ful.Doubtful.I’m doubtful about your plans.
Adverbial suffix: –ly.Doubtfully.He worked doubtfully.
Adjectival suffix meaning “without” or “not having”: –less.Doubtless.We’re doubtless because we have no idea.  
Prefix meaning “negation”: –un.Undoubted.I am the undoubted champion of the world.
Prefix meaning “negation”: –un + adverbial suffix: ly.Undoubtedly.Undoubtedly, you were right.  

By just knowing prefixes and suffixes, you can increase your vocabulary fivefold! As can be seen from the chart above using the word “doubt” of which we have five new words: doubtful, doubtfully, doubtless, undoubted and undoubtedly.

List of common prefixes

ante-beforeantenatal, anteroom, antedate,
anti-against, opposingantibiotic, antidepressant, antidote, antifreeze
circum-aroundcircumstance, circumvent, circumnavigate
co-with, togetherco-worker, co-pilot, co-operation, co-worker
de-off, down, away fromdevalue, defrost, derail, demotivate, deactivate
dis-opposite of, againstdisagree, disappear, disintegrate, disapprove
em-, en-cause to, put intoembrace, encode, embed, enclose, engulf
epi-upon, close to, after, central pointepicentre, episcope, epidermis
ex-former, out of, no longer withex-president, ex-boyfriend, exterminate
extra-More of, beyondextracurricular, extraordinary, extra-terrestrial
fore-before, beginningforecast, forehead, foresee, foreword, foremost
homo-same, two equal thingshomosexual, homonuclear, homoplastic
hyper-over, above, excess ofhyperactive, hyperventilate
il-, im-, in-, ir-not, to negate, negativeimpossible, illegal, irresponsible, indefinite
im-, in-into, withininsert, import, inside
infra-beneath, belowinfrastructure, infrared, infrasonic, infraspecific
inter-, intra-betweeninteract, intermediate, intergalactic, intranet
macro-large, big versionmacroeconomics, macromolecule
micro-small, tiny, petitemicroscope, microbiology, microfilm, microwave
mid-middle, centre pointmidfielder, midway, midsummer
mis-wrongly, not correctmisinterpret, misfire, mistake, misunderstand
mono-one, singularmonotone, monobrow, monolithic
non-not, withoutnonsense, nonentity, nondescript
omni-all, every, all placesomnibus, omnivore, omnipotent
para-besideparachute, paramedic, paradox
post-after, post-mortem, postpone, post-natal
pre-before, beginningprefix, predetermine, pre-intermediate
re-again, repeatreturn, rediscover, reiterate, reunite
semi-half, semicircle, semi-final, semiconscious
sub-under, belowsubmerge, submarine, sub-category, subtitle
super-above, over, above superfood, superstar, supernatural, superimpose
therm-heat, temperaturethermometer, thermostat, thermodynamic
trans-across, beyondtransport, transnational, transatlantic
tri-threetriangle, tripod, tricycle
un-not, to negate, negativeunfinished, unfriendly, undone, unknown
uni-one, unicycle, universal, unilateral, unanimous
English courses

List of common suffixes

-acystate or qualitydemocracy, accuracy, lunacy, fallacy 
-althe action or process ofremedial, denial, trial, criminal,
-ance, -encestate or quality ofnuisance, ambience, tolerance
-domplace or state of beingfreedom, stardom, boredom
-er, -orperson or object that does a specified actionreader, creator, interpreter, inventor, collaborator, teacher, terminator 
-ismdoctrine, belief, theoryJudaism, scepticism, escapism, cynicism 
-istperson or object that does a specified actionGeologist, protagonist, sexist, scientist, theorist, communist, physicist 
-ity, -tyquality ofextremity, validity, enormity, absurdity 
-mentcondition, state of beingenchantment, argument, agreement
-nessstate of being, conditionheaviness, highness, sickness, staleness 
-shipposition heldfriendship, hardship, internship, 
-sion, -tionstate of beingposition, promotion, cohesion, creation
-atebecomemediate, collaborate, create, mandate
-enbecomesharpen, strengthen, loosen
-ify, -fymake or becomejustify, simplify, magnify, satisfy, clarify
-ise, -izebecomepublicise, synthesise, hypnotise
-able, -iblecapable of beingedible, fallible, incredible, audible, comprehensible, doable
-alhaving the form or character offiscal, thermal, herbal, colonial,  
-esquein a manner of or resemblingpicturesque, burlesque, grotesque
-fulnotable for, possess a skillhandful, playful, hopeful, skillful, 
-ic, -icalhaving the form or character ofpsychological, hypocritical, methodical, nonsensical, musical
-ious, -ouscharacterised bypious, jealous, religious, ridiculous, malicious 
-ishhaving the quality of, being slightly of somethingsqueamish, sheepish, childish, 
-ivehaving the nature ofinquisitive, informative, attentive, native 
-lesswithout, zero meaningless, hopeless, homeless
-ycharacterised bydainty, beauty, airy, jealousy, hardly, dandy
-lyrelated to or qualitysoftly, slowly, happily, crazily, madly, hopefully
-ward, -wardsdirection, movementtowards, afterwards, backwards, inward, downward
-wisein relation tootherwise, likewise, clockwise

How prefixes and suffixes work

‘Affix’ is basically the umbrella term for all prefixes, suffixes, and infixes, (infixes are rare in English but very common in Spanish).

One really needs to understand prefixes (attached to the beginning of the word) and suffixes (attached to the end of the word) in order to speak English really well.

Correct implementation of prefixes and suffixes will allow you to completely alter or change the meaning of a word with ease and without having to change the whole sentence.

Moreover, there are not too many prefixes and suffixes, however, the problem resides in the fact that there is no rule to their correct implementation.

For example, the prefix ‘im’ negates ‘polite’ and not ‘in’, therefore, the correct negation for the adjective ‘polite’ is ‘impolite’.

The prefix ‘im’, just like all other prefixes, must be learned by heart or by memory, but nevertheless, it’s really not difficult to remember! Below, I’ll outline correct affix usage (prefixes and suffixes) with examples.

Remember, affixes alter: verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

See also