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Common affixes in IELTS vocabulary

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 What are affixes?

Affixes are typically described as groups of letters added at the beginning or the end of a word. By adding these letters you are usually changing the meaning and a possible function of the original word.

 

Affixes are divided into two groups: prefixes and suffixes.

What are prefixes?

prefxes ielts image explanation

Prefixes are groups of letters added to the beginning of a word to create a new word with a different meaning. Different prefixes can give different meanings. For example, some prefixes can make new words with opposite meanings to the original stem, e.g. likely > unlikely. Other prefixes may modify stem words in terms of time, place, action etc. 

Affix

Meaning

Examples

Anti-

  • Something imposing against;
  • Opposite of;

Antisocial, antiseptic, antibiotic

De-

  • Opposite meaning of original word;
  • Reduce, remove;

Degrade, depersonalize, decaffeinated

Dis-

  • Opposite meaning of original word;

Disadvantage, dissatisfied, disbelieve

Mal-

  • Negative, wrong

Malpractice, malcontent

Non-

  • Opposite meaning of original word;

Non-payment

Mis-

  • The action referred to by the verb has been done wrong 

Misleading, mispronounce

Re-

  • The action referring to repetition of the action

Rebuild, revisit, reproduce

Out-

  • More/ better than

Outgrow, outbid

Co-

  • Together, mutually

Co-author

Sub-

  • Under, beneath

Submarine, subway, subcontractor

Un-

  • Opposite meaning of original word;

Untidy

Over-

  • The action referring to exceeding the limit

Oversleep, overwork

Under-

  • The action referring to not enough or not done

Underestimate,

In-

  • Opposite meaning of original word;

Inconvenient, inexpensive, invariable

Im- (before b, m, p)

  • Opposite meaning of original word;

Impossible, imperfect, immature

Il- (before l)

  • Opposite meaning of original word;

Illegal , illiterate, illogical

Ir (before r)

  • Opposite meaning of original word;

Irresistable, irregular, irreplacible

What are suffixes?

suffixes ielts image explanation

Suffixes are groups of letters that are added to the end of a word in order to change its meaning and create a new word. Like prefixes, suffixes also have a variety of meanings:

For example:

"less" as in "sleepless" = not having enough sleep
"ism" as in "modernism" = the action or condition

Here are some of the most common suffixes divided into sections used with verbs, nouns and adjectives:

Suffixes used with verbs

Suffix

Meaning

Examples

-ise

  • To make/convert into something

Stabilize, symbolize, prioritize

-ate

  • To act in specified manner;

Duplicate, liquidate

-fy

  • The process describing ‘’making into’’

Classify, modify, simplify

-en

  • To increase/ develop

Widen, shorten, strengthen

 

Suffixes used with nouns

Suffix

Meaning

Examples

-sion; -tion

  • The state or action

Expansion, invasion, organization

-ity

  • The state or condition

Clarity, equality

-ness

  • The state or condition

Tidiness, happiness, kindness

-ment

  • The state or action

Development, environment

-age

  • Action, result in action or even the place

Courage, postage, village

-ery

  • The condition, business, establishment

Machinery, winery, bakery

-ism

  • Action, state of condition

Capitalism, modernism, plagiarism

-ship

  • Condition, character

Friendship, leadership

 

Suffixes used with adjectives

Suffix

Meaning

Examples

-ative; -itive

  • Having the characteristics

Talkative, competitive

-ic; tic

  • Having the characteristics

Economic, fantastic

-eous; -ious; -ous

  • Full of particular quality or characteristics

Nervous, delicious, hideous

-able; -ible

  • Capable of doing something

Comfortable, eligible


How to memorise different prefixes and suffixes?

Sometimes it can be challenging to memorise different affixes and identify the correct function for each of them. One useful way to find and learn prefixes and suffixes is to think in terms of opposites.

For example:

Prefixes: "un"  - happy and unhappy; "il" l - egal and illegal; " "im"  - possible and impossible
Suffixes: "less" - price and priceless; "age" - post and postage; "active" -  talk and talkative

It may also help if you associate some words together in order to memorise them more quickly.

For example:

The word sleepless = sleep less or not enough. If you separate these words and understand the meaning it will be easier to memorise it.