Prefixes and suffixes


A key part of the Cambridge Exam English assessments is word formation. You need to take the root form of a word and adapt it so that it makes sense in a sentence. You need to focus on learning the high frequency root words and put them into context so that you can recognise how to fill in the gaps. Try these exercises to improve your understanding HERE.

Word formation is important as it allows language learners to increase their knowledge of word classes and helps them to increase their vocabulary base. For example, if you learn the word SPEND, you should learn all of the different forms of the word.

Verb = spend

Noun = expense(s)

Adjective = (un)expensive

Adverb = expensively

This way you will learn all of the words in the word family and not just one. Try our vocabulary game HERE to test your knowledge of word formation.


Another essential part of word formation is having an extensive knowledge of prefixes and suffixes. You need to know what the mean and how they fit into individual contexts. For instance, it is convenient to understand that Re = again and Anti = against. Be careful with negative prefixes as they can be confusing.

non-                                      not                                         nonsense

dis-*                                      not, opposite of               disable

in-, im-, il-, ir-*                not                                         injustice, impossible, illegal, irregular

un-*                                      not                                         unkind




It is recommendable to learn words in context and through examples, not just memorize individual prefixes and suffixes.

Recent Posts