Word-building in English

In English grammar word-building, pertains to the creation of new words through the addition of prefixes, suffixes, or other morphemes to existing words.

These processes allow for the expansion of vocabulary and the formation of words with specific meanings or functions.





Application of Prefixes:

Prefixes play a significant role in English word derivation, providing versatility and nuance to vocabulary.

Various situations dictate the application of prefixes in word formation:




Negative Prefixes:

These prefixes are commonly used to form negative or opposite meanings:

unhappy (not happy)

inactive (not active)

impossible (not possible)

illegal (not legal)

disagree (not agree)




Prefixes Indicating Position or Direction:

These prefixes denote position, sequence, or direction:

relocate (to locate again)

prepay (to pay in advance)

postpone (to delay until a later time)

submarine (underwater vessel)

transatlantic (across the Atlantic Ocean)

interact (to act between or with others)




Prefixes for Intensity or Degree:

Certain prefixes modify the degree or intensity of a word’s meaning:

superhuman (above normal human abilities)

hyperactive (excessively active)

ultramodern (extremely modern)

megacity (a city with a population of over ten million)




 Prefixes Denoting Time:

These prefixes indicate time relationships:

prewar (before the war)

postgraduate (after completing a degree)

antebellum (before the Civil War)

procrastinate (to delay or postpone)




Prefixes Signifying Size or Quantity:

These prefixes relate to size or quantity:

microscopic (extremely small)

macroeconomics (the study of large-scale economic factors)

megabyte (a unit of digital information)

minivan (a smaller version of a traditional van)

multinational (operating in multiple nations)




Prefixes in Verbs:

Certain prefixes are commonly used to form verbs:

devalue (to reduce the value)

rewrite (to write again)

disapprove (to not approve)

misinterpret (to understand incorrectly)

overcook (to cook too much)





Word building by prefixes:



antibacterial (against bacteria)

anti-inflammatory (against inflammation)

antifreeze (a substance preventing freezing)




underestimate (to underestimate the extent, quantity, or value of something)

underprivileged (lacking the advantages of others)




counteract (to act against something with equal force)

counterproductive (having the opposite of the desired effect)




cooperate (to work together towards a common goal)

coexist (to exist together in harmony)




 interact (to act upon or influence each other)

interconnected (linked or connected with each other)




ex-boyfriend (former boyfriend)

ex-president (former president)




 ultraviolet (beyond violet light in the spectrum)

ultramodern (extremely modern or advanced)




 submarine (a watercraft that operates underwater)

subconscious (existing or operating in the mind beneath or beyond consciousness)




enrich (to improve the quality or value of something)

enable (to give someone the ability or means to do something)





Prefixes that form one part of speech from others:



action (noun) – reaction (noun) – to react (verb)

to cover (verb) – recovery (noun)

useful (adjective) – to reuse (verb)




happy (adjective) – unhappy (adjective)

to lock (verb) – to unlock (verb) – unlockable (adjective)




to appear (verb) – to disappear (verb)

honest (adjective) – dishonest (adjective)




to lead (verb) – to mislead (verb)

understandable (adjective) – to misunderstand (verb)




school (noun) – preschool (noun)

to heat (verb) – preheat (adjective)




marine (noun) – submarine (adjective)

contract (adjective) – subcontract (noun)




act (noun) – to interact (verb)

national (adjective) – international (adjective)




pilot (noun) – copilot (adjective)

to operate (verb) – cooperation (noun)







Suffixes are affixes added to the end of a word to modify its meaning or function.


Noun Suffixes:

-er, -or: Forms nouns denoting a person who performs a particular action or activity, should be added to verbs:

to buy – buyer

to direct – director

to sell – seller

to visit – visitor   



-ian: Forms nouns denoting a person’s nationality or affiliation with a particular place:

Hungarian, Canadian, Norwegian, Russian



-ist: Indicates a person who practices or is skilled in a particular activity or discipline:

artist, biologist, pianist, scientist.



-ism: Forms nouns denoting a belief, ideology, principle, or practice:

socialism, capitalism, feminism, Buddhism.



-ian: Denotes a person belonging to or associated with a particular place, group, or ideology:

Canadian, historian, vegetarian, musician.



-age: Forms nouns from verbs indicating a collection or group of things, or the action or result of an action:

to pack – package,

to marry – marriage,

to store – storage,

to pass – passage.



-ance, -ence: Forms nouns from adjectives denoting a state, condition, or quality:

important – importance,

different – difference,

tolerant – tolerance,

dependent – dependence.



-dom: Forms nouns from nouns and adjectives indicating a state, condition, or quality of being:

king – kingdom,

free – freedom,

wise – wisdom,

martyr – martyrdom.



-hood: Denotes a state or condition of being associated with a particular quality or group, forms nouns from other nouns:

child – childhood,

brother – brotherhood,

neighbour – neighbourhood,

parent – parenthood.



-ion (-ation, -tion, -sion, -ssion): Forms nouns from verbs, denoting the action or result of a verb:

to celebrate – celebration,

to explore – exploration,

to invent – invention,

to organize – organization.

to submit – submission



-ment: Forms nouns from verbs denoting the result or product of an action:

to develop – development,

to agree – agreement,

to enjoy – enjoyment,

to involve – involvement.



-ness: Forms nouns from adjectives denoting a state or quality of being:

happy -happiness,

dark – darkness,

kind – kindness,

sad – sadness.



-ship: Denotes a state, condition, or quality of being associated with a specified person, thing, or activity, forms nouns from other nouns: friend friendship,

leader – leadership,

owner – ownership,

relation – relationship.



-ure: Forms nouns from verbs denoting a state, condition, or process of being:

to advent – adventure

to please – pleasure

to press – pressure

to depart – departure





Adjective suffixes:

-able, -ible: Often used to form adjectives from verbs, indicating capability or suitability:

to comfort – comfortable

to rely – reliable

to eat – eatable



-al: Forms adjectives from nouns, denoting relation or connection to a specific noun or concept:

accident – accidental

national – national

post – postal



-ant, -ent: Often forms adjectives indicating possession of a certain quality or characteristic:

to resist – resistant

to depend – dependent

to excel -excellent



-ful: Forms adjectives from nouns, denoting the presence or possession of a particular quality or attribute.

beauty -beautiful

use – useful

fruit – fruitful



-ish: Often used to indicate resemblance to or similarity with something or to indicate to nationality:

child -childish

green – greenish

Dane – Danish

Scott – Scottish



-ive: Forms adjectives from verbs and nouns, indicating tendency or capacity to perform a certain action or possess a certain quality.

to create -creative

to talk – talkative

effect – effective



-less: Forms adjectives from nouns, indicating absence or lack of a certain quality or characteristic.

care – careless

fear – fearless

hope – hopeless

home – homeless



-ous: Forms adjectives from nouns, indicating possession of a certain quality or characteristic.

ambition – ambitious

danger – dangerous

fame – famous



-y: Often forms adjectives from nouns, indicating resemblance to or characteristic of something.

sun – sunny

fog- foggy

dirt – dirty

wind – windy






Verb suffixes:

-en: Forms verbs from adjectives and nouns. Typically used to indicate the act of making something or causing it to become the quality represented by the base word

soft – to soften

length – to lengthen

strength – to strengthen

wide – to widen

short – to shorten



-fy: Forms verbs from adjectives, indicating the act of making something into the quality represented by the base word.

intensive – to intensify

simple – to simplify



-ize: Often used to form verbs from nouns,

indicating the act of making something conform to a particular standard or state, or to perform a specified action.

reality – to realize

character – to characterize

crystal – to crystalize






Root Words:

Many English words are derived from root words, which are morphemes that carry the primary meaning of a word and to which prefixes and suffixes can be added.

For example:

the root word act can combine with the suffix –ion to form action.



How to work with Root Words:


Word: Unhappiness


Identifying Root Words:

Prefix: Un-

Root word: Happy

Suffix: -ness



Understanding Meaning:

Root word: Happy (meaning: feeling or showing pleasure)

Prefix: Un- (meaning: not)

Suffix: -ness (forming a noun indicating a state or quality)



Deciphering Unknown Words:

Un- (not) + happy (feeling pleasure) + -ness (state or quality) = not feeling pleasure; state of not feeling pleasure;




Building Vocabulary:

Learn the root word happy and its meaning, which can help you understand other words related to happiness or its absence.



Creating New Words:

Combine the root word happy with different prefixes and suffixes to create new words like unhappy,


happily, etc.



Contextual Analysis:

In the sentence

Despite her unhappiness, she put on a brave face,

the word unhappiness is used to describe the state of not feeling pleasure or joy.



Practice with Word Families:

Explore other words derived from the root word happy, such as happier, happiest, unhappier, unhappiest, etc., to see how the root word’s meaning is expressed across different forms.



Consulting Dictionaries:

Look up the root word happy in a dictionary to understand its definition and usage, which can help you grasp the meaning of related words like unhappiness.



Reviewing Word Origins:

Research the etymology of the word happy to learn about its origins and how it has been used in different languages throughout history.

Origin: Middle English (in the sense lucky): from the noun hap + -y I



Using Contextual Clues:

In a passage discussing the effects of unhappiness on mental health, surrounding sentences or paragraphs may provide additional context to help clarify the meaning of the word unhappiness.


By applying these steps to analyze and understand the word unhappiness, you can effectively use root words to enhance your vocabulary and comprehension skills.







Word Formation: Word derivation; Word Building in English

Punctuation Marks in English

I wish, Would, and If Only in Conditionals

Would and Should in Conditional sentences

Compound Sentences

The Interjection