Understanding Affixes: Building Blocks of Words

What are Affixes?

Affixes are small units of language that are added to a base word to create new words or alter the meaning or grammatical function of a word. There are three main types of affixes: prefixes, suffixes, and infixes. Prefixes are added to the beginning of a word, suffixes are added to the end of a word, and infixes are inserted within a word.


Prefixes are affixes that are added to the beginning of a base word to change its meaning. For example, in the word “unhappy,” the prefix “un-” changes the meaning of “happy” to the opposite.


Suffixes are affixes that are added to the end of a base word to change its meaning or function. For instance, in the word “teacher,” the suffix “-er” indicates a person who performs the action of teaching.


Infixes are less common than prefixes and suffixes. They are inserted within a base word to create a new word. An example of an infix is the word “absobloominlutely,” where the infix “-bloomin-” is inserted within “absolutely.”

How Do Affixes Work?

Affixes play a crucial role in expanding our vocabulary and understanding the structure of words. By adding affixes to base words, we can create a variety of derivatives that convey different meanings. Understanding how affixes function can help us decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words and improve our overall language skills.

Affixes in Action

Let’s explore some examples of how affixes work in practice:

  • Prefix Example:
    Base Word: “Do”
    With Prefix “Re-“: “Redo”
    Meaning: To do again
  • Suffix Example:
    Base Word: “Friend”
    With Suffix “-ly”: “Friendly”
    Meaning: Showing friendliness
  • Infix Example:
    Base Word: “Absolutely”
    With Infix “-bloomin-“: “Absobloominlutely”
    Meaning: Emphasizing absolute certainty

Common Affixes

There are many common prefixes and suffixes in the English language that can help us understand and build new words. Here are a few examples:

Common Prefixes

  • “re-“: Again or back (e.g., redo)
  • “un-“: Not or opposite of (e.g., unhappy)
  • “dis-“: Opposite or reverse of (e.g., disagree)

Common Suffixes

  • “-able/-ible”: Capable of being (e.g., comfortable, visible)
  • “-tion”: Act or process of (e.g., exploration)
  • “-ly”: Like or in a certain manner (e.g., quickly)

By familiarizing ourselves with these common affixes, we can enhance our word-building skills and better understand the nuances of the English language.

Practice Makes Perfect

Now that you have learned about affixes and how they function, it’s time to put your knowledge to the test. Try the following exercises to reinforce your understanding:

  1. Prefix Practice:
    Add the correct prefix to the following words to complete each new word:
    • (Word: “do”) Prefix: “re-” New Word: _
    • (Word: “read”) Prefix: “mis-” New Word: _
  2. Suffix Challenge:
    Add the correct suffix to the following words to create new words:
    • (Word: “perform”) Suffix: “-ance” New Word: _
    • (Word: “happy”) Suffix: “-ness” New Word: _
  3. Word Building:
    Create new words by adding prefixes or suffixes to the following base words:
    • Base Word: “understand” Affix: “mis-” New Word: _
    • Base Word: “help” Affix: “-ful” New Word: _

By practicing with affixes, you can strengthen your vocabulary and become more adept at decoding unfamiliar words in your reading and writing.

Here are some additional examples of affixes, including prefixes and suffixes, to further illustrate how they work in forming new words:

Prefix Examples:

  1. “pre-“: Before (e.g., preview)
  2. “bi-“: Two (e.g., bicycle)
  3. “anti-“: Against (e.g., anti-inflammatory)
  4. “post-“: After (e.g., postgraduate)
  5. “semi-“: Half (e.g., semi-circle)

Suffix Examples:

  1. “-less”: Without (e.g., homeless)
  2. “-ful”: Full of (e.g., beautiful)
  3. “-ism”: State or condition (e.g., socialism)
  4. “-able”: Capable of (e.g., comfortable)
  5. “-ist”: One who (e.g., artist)

These examples showcase the versatility of affixes in constructing new words and expanding our vocabulary. Feel free to explore more affixes and experiment with combining them with base words to create a wide array of terms with distinct meanings.

Here are examples of words where both a prefix and a suffix are used, demonstrating how multiple affixes can be combined to modify a base word:

  1. “Unhappily”
    • Base Word: Happy
    • Prefix “Un-“: Not
    • Suffix “-ly”: In a certain manner
    • Meaning: Not in a happy manner
  2. “Disrespectful”
    • Base Word: Respect
    • Prefix “Dis-“: Opposite of
    • Suffix “-ful”: Full of
    • Meaning: Lacking respect or showing disrespect
  3. “Misunderstanding”
    • Base Word: Understand
    • Prefix “Mis-“: Wrongly
    • Suffix “-ing”: Present participle
    • Meaning: A wrong or faulty understanding
  4. “Rehearsals”
    • Base Word: Hear
    • Prefix “Re-“: Again
    • Suffix “-als”: Plural form
    • Meaning: Practices or sessions of hearing again
  5. “Overcooked”
    • Base Word: Cook
    • Prefix “Over-“: Too much
    • Suffix “-ed”: Past tense
    • Meaning: Cooked too much or excessively

These examples highlight how the combination of prefixes and suffixes can alter the meaning and function of a base word, showcasing the flexibility and creativity that affixes bring to language construction.

Mastering Affixes

Congratulations! You have delved into the world of affixes and learned how these linguistic building blocks can transform words and enrich our language. By mastering the art of affixation, you can unlock a treasure trove of vocabulary and communication skills. Keep exploring the realm of affixes, and watch as your word power grows exponentially!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Translate »