Don’t -Er your Suffixes | All you need to know

Thank you all for keeping up with our Free Blogs Learning Corner so far! Today we will veer off a tiny bit by talking about all things suffixes. 

Suffixes are letter combinations that can be added to the end of words to create a different meaning or change the grammatical function of a word. In the English language, there are many different suffixes, but today we will go through the most common ones. 


Understanding the Suffix Meanings

When learning English, it can be easy to fall into the hole of learning words off by heart. This is great to start off by learning common phrases to get you by. However, to truly become fluent, you’ll need to be able to have educated guesses on how to speak grammatically correctly just in case you are in a situation where you have never used a word in a certain context. Understanding suffix meanings will really help you to speak with ease, and help you to identify a word while reading text. 


Here are some rules to cover a lot of suffixes: 

  1. With words that end in y, when a suffix is added to the end, you will replace the y with an i. For example, the word “worry” can be changed to the plural “worries” or the adjective “worrier”. 
  2. With words that have a silent e at the end, normally we can drop the e when adding a suffix that begins with a vowel, such as able. For example, the word “use” can be changed to “usable” (you will never see “useable”). 
  3. Some suffixes can have double meanings, such as er. You can use this suffix to mean “more” or to change the noun to the person completing an action. For example, “larger” and “dancer” mean two very different things. 

Now that we understand a little more about suffixes, we’ll give you some of the most common suffixes used in the English language. 



As mentioned above, ER has two meanings depending on the word it’s used with. It can mean the one who did something or larger than the noun. 

Some examples of the larger meaning are: 

  • Larger
  • Smaller (ironically) 
  • Faster
  • Bigger
  • Slower

For the decreasing terms, it decreases even more, like “smaller” is seen as “more little” than something. There are some describing words that you can’t add an ER, and for these, we simply say “more …”. An example of this is “more exaggerated”. 

Some examples of “the one who” are:

  • Farmer (a person who farms) 
  • Lighter (an object that lights) 
  • Harvester (a person who harvests, such as grains) 
  • Grower (normally a substance that grows living things like plants)
  • Crammer (a person who crams or does things last minute, normally for exams) 

For the person who does things, if they are a professional at it, you will see OR instead of ER. Such examples include Professor and Administrator. 


AL is put at the end of nouns to describe the act or process of the noun. That sounds a little complicated, we know, but you’ll get it from the examples below and realize that it’s used quite a lot! 

  • Refusal (for example, a refusal letter is a letter stopping you from doing something)
  • Recital  (the process of reciting in public, like a ballet recital) 
  • Rebuttal (the act of disagreement) 



If you see MENT at the end of a noun, this is changing the noun to be the condition of it. 

Some examples include: 

  • Harassment (the event of being harassed or harmed) 
  • Argument (the condition or event of arguing) 
  • Endorsement (the condition of endorsing or promoting something) 



IST is a very common one for describing people. This, like ER or OR, means the one who. It is referred mostly to your profession or vocation. It would be more than just a job, but a title for those who have studied and worked in the same field, normally in a technical field. 

Some examples include: 

  • Pharmacist
  • Biologist
  • Chemist

It can also be used to describe someone’s attributes or tendencies. For example, a narcissist is someone who only thinks of themselves and an opportunist is someone who thinks on the positive side and aims for the best outcome. 



NESS is a big one and we’ve actually used it throughout this blog several times. It describes a state of being and is normally used with a describing noun. Some examples of this include: 

  • Heaviness (something or someone being heavy) 
  • Gratefulness (someone feeling grateful) 
  • Happiness (someone feeling happy) 

And to leave you with a fun quote by Lewis Carrol “Much of a muchness”. Yes, this is a made-up word by this great author, but it is definitely something that the Mad Hatter would say! 

Verb Suffixes

All of the examples so far are noun suffixes, but now let’s go through some verb ones. This does not mean that the original word we are using is a verb, but that the word created after the suffix is added is a verb (whether or not the word was a verb before doesn’t matter). 


awakens suffix


ATE, EN & IFY are widely used in the verb suffixes world. As most verb suffixes do, they will change the word’s meaning to “become”. Here are some examples with their sentence form for context: 

  • I regulate the safety controller at work every day. 
  • You enunciate your words very clearly. 
  • She awakens in the middle of the night to the doorbell. 
  • He strengthened his core muscles within 3 weeks at the gym. 
  • The solar eclipse blackens the night sky. 
  • They will terrify small children during Halloween. 
  • Would it rectify the situation? 

In these examples, you can see that these suffixes can be used in all tenses, for people or objects, and in the interrogative format. The examples are quite varied just to show you that verb suffixes tend to pop up in conversation a lot! 



This one we’ve kept separate because there are different ways of spelling depending on where you are in the world. It also changes the meaning of the word to “become”. 

In American English, verbs end with -ize, versus British English, in which the spelling changes to -ise.

  • American English: finalize, realize, emphasize, standardize
  • British English: finalise, realise, emphasise, standardise


Adjective Suffixes

The last type of suffix you’ll see is the adjective suffixes. There are lots of these, but we will go through the most popular ones. The reason there are so many is that adjectives can be added to the end of sentences to describe a thing or situation. When they are added to the end, we must add a suffix to complete the sentence. 


Adding a Y to the end of a word will characterize it. You’ll see different combinations of this including LY and TY.

  • Hasty (something or someone to move at haste or fast). 
  • Calmly (to do something in a calm manner) 


You will see both ABLE and IBLE depending on the word. This means “capable of being”. Some examples include edible, presentable, abominable, and credible. 



This suffix is used to describe an attribute, mostly. Putting IC at the end of the word will mean “pertaining to”. Some examples of this include erratic, mythic, eccentric, and lethargic. They are all describing the subject’s state.



We hope you’ve enjoyed our blog on suffixes. Remember this is the rule of thumb and there are lots of irregularities that you’ll see while learning English. You can also have examples of more than one suffix being used, like Gratefulness. Great can go to Grateful and then expand to Gratefulness, all with different meanings. English is a funny language! All you need is time and practice. 


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