Tools to Dispel Confusion in Word Building
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Tools to Dispel Confusion

Word Building and Vocabulary Instruction for EFL and ESL Learners

(As taken from Module 5 of the TEFL for Target Learner Groups Course)


A Near-Comprehensive List of PREFIXES AND SUFFIXES With meanings, denotations, examples and language of origin.

confused EFL learnerIf you have taught English to Asian students, you have learned that Asian languages generally do not have prefixes or suffixes (which enable useful word-building), and you also have learned that when we native speakers use them they often just cause confusion and make our students self-conscious about what they consider to be their "poor vocabulary".

Indeed, they are in a very real sense correct about having a poor vocabulary, because just knowing the "root word" in English is not enough to master effective expression, given that 25-30 other words may have sprung into existence through the process of building from that one word.

As an example of how this impacts on Asian learners of English, you have probably seen than a class of intermediate level students generally know the basic root words, such as "desire" (though they usually don't pronounce it correctly, which is another topic for discussion later on). However, if you wish to discuss the "undesirability" of some action (this word consisting of one prefix and two different suffixes joined together), your students will almost certainly be lost and confused.

Why would you not want to help them overcome this problem? Certainly, there are numerous prefixes and suffixes to be found in every single English conversational development lesson. Why not help them with any meanings these might have, and how these may have changed the functions as well as the words of the sentences they are part of?

To answer our own question, we at TEXT-AND-TALK Academy fully realize that English native speakers often use the language so well in practice themselves that they have never taken the opportunity to learn and review the elements of our language which, while second nature to us in application, are a total mystery to foreigners who must learn it. Thus, people who begin EFL or ESL teaching careers often do not realize which aspects of our language they need to bone up on in order to be good teachers.

But there is also a second answer to the above question, and that is that information needed by EFL and ESL teachers often is simply not available in a form that is usable for them, given that their busy lives do not allow them to do a lot of study and research on their own.

Prefix and suffix information is a case in point. Compilations of these can be found, and, with a bit more patience and diligence, a number of meanings for prefixes can be found also. But how useful are these? In order to comprehend fully how prefixes and suffixes (collectively called "affixes") impact on word-building, it is necessary to distinguish the usages between these two, and to fully comprehend how suffixes actually rearrange the whole language at times!

To the best of our knowledge, Module 5 of our TEFL for Target Learner Groups Course is the only source for comprehensive information on this topic in the world, unless resource materials have been greatly updated in recent times. We are not boasting. Indeed, there is nothing at all difficult for English native speakers to learn regarding prefixes and suffixes – but learn they must, if they are to do an effective teaching job for Asian learners!

We trust that the following excerpt from our Module 5 will be useful to you in your career, or if you plan on just starting a career now, that you will consider doing our own TEFL course, as what is contained in it is, in many more ways than this, unique in presentation and, we believe, value.


Prefix or Meaning Examples From
A- - on, in abed, aboard, ashore, ajar, asleep English
A- - out, from arise, awake, alight English
A- An without, not atheist, apathy, anarchy Greek
Ab- A-, Abs- from, away abuse, avert, abstract Latin
Ad- Ac-, Af-Ag-, An- to adjoin, accord, affect, aggrieve, Latin
Ap-, Ar-, As-, allege, announce, appoint,   
At-, A- arrest, assign, attach, avail  
Ambi- Amb-, Am- on both sides, around  ambiguous, ambition, amputate Latin
Amphi- around, on both sides amphitheatre, amphibious Greek
Ana- - up, back anachronism, analysis Greek
Ante- Anti-, An- before antedate, anticipate, ancestor Latin
Anti- Ant- against antipathy, antagonist Greek
Apo- Ap- from apostate, apology Greek
Arch- Archi- chief archbishop, archangel, architect Greek
Auto- - self autocrat, autobiography, autograph Greek
Be- - by beside, betimes, besmear, bedaub English
Bene- - well benediction, benefactor, benefit Latin
Bis- Bi-, Bin- twice, two biscuit, bisect, binocular Latin
Cata- - down cataract, catastrophe, catalogue Greek
Circum- Circu- around circumnavigate, circumference Latin
Con- Col-, Com-, Cor- with, together contend, collect, combine, correct Latin
Contra- Counter- against contradict, counteract, counterfeit Latin
De- - down descend, dethrone, depose Latin
Di- - twice dilemma Greek
Dia- - through diagonal, diameter Greek
Dis- Dif-, Di- apart disjoin, differ, divide Latin
Demi- - half demigod Latin
Dys- - badly dyspepsia, dysentery Greek
En- Em- in encyclopaedia, emblem Greek
Epi- - upon epilogue, epitaph Greek
Eu- - well eulogy, euphony, eugenics Greek
Ex- Ef-, E- out of extract, effect, educe Latin
Ex- Ec- out of exodus, eccentric Greek
Gain- - against gainsay Latin
Hemi- - half hemisphere Greek
Homo- Hom- like homogeneous, homonym Greek
Hyper- - over, beyond hyperbole, hypercritical Greek
Hypo- - under hypothesis, hypocrite Greek
In- - in income, inland, inlay English
In- Il-, Im-, Ir-, in, into invade, illustrate, immerse, Latin
En-, Em- irrigate, enact, embrace
In- Il-, Im-, Ir- not insecure, illegal, imprudent, irregular Latin
Inter- Entro-, Inter- among, within intervene, introduce, entertain Latin
Male- Mal- ill, badly malevolent, malcontent Latin
Meta- Met- implying metaphor, metonymy Greek
Mis- - wrong, wrongly misdeed, mislead, misjudge English
Mono- - alone, single monoplane, monopoly Greek
Non- - not, nonsense (joins before a hyphen) Latin
Ob- Oc-, Of- in the way of, against object, occupy, offend Latin
Over- - above, beyond overflow, overcharge English
Pan- - all panacea, panorama, pantheism Greek
Per- Pel- through pervade, pellucid Latin
Peri- - round period, perimeter, periscope Greek
Philo- Phil- love philosophy, philanthropy Greek
Post- - after postscript, postdate, postpone Latin
Preter- - beyond preternatural Latin
Pro- Por-, Pur- for pronoun, portray, pursue Latin
Pro- - before prophesy, programme Greek
Re- - back, again reclaim, refund, renew, return Latin
Retro- - backwards retrospect, retrograde Latin
Se- Sed- apart secede, separate, seduce, sedition Latin
Semi- - half semicircle, semicolon Latin
Sine- - without sinecure Latin
Sub- Suc-, Suf-, Sug-, Sum-, Sup-, Sur-, Sus- under subdue, succeed, suffer, suggest, summon, support, surmount, sustain Latin
Syn- Sym-, Syl-, Sy- with, together synonym, sympathy, syllable, system Greek
To- - this today, tonight, tomorrow English
Trans- Tra-, Tres- across transmit, traverse, trespass Latin
Un- - not untrue, unkind, unholy English
Un- - reverse (an action) untie, undo, unfold English
Under- - beneath, below undersell, undercharge, undergo English
Vice- - in the place of viceroy, vice-president Latin
With- - against, back withdraw, withhold, withstand English



Suffix or Denoting Examples From
-age - state, action, result bondage, marriage, breakage Latin
-ain -an, en, -on agent or doer chieftain, artisan, citizen, surgeon Latin
-ance -ence state, action, result abundance, excellence Latin
-ar -er, -eer, -ier, -ary agent or doer scholar, preacher, engineer, financier, missionary Latin
-ary -ery, -ry place library, nunnery, treasury Latin
-ate -ee, -ey, -y agent or doer advocate, trustee, attorney, deputy Latin
-cule -ule, -cel, -el, -le diminutive animalcule, globule, parcel, damsel, chapel, circle Latin
-cy - state, action, result fancy, accuracy, bankruptcy Latin
-dom - state, action, result freedom, martyrdom, wisdom English
-e -y state, event, catastrophe, monarchy, study, philosophy Greek
-el -le diminutive satchel, kernel, girdle, handle English
-en - diminutive maiden, kitten, chicken English
-er -ar, -or-, -yer agent or doer painter, beggar, sailor, lawyer English
-et - diminutive owlet, lancet, trumpet Latin
-ette - diminutive cigarette, coquette Latin
-hood -head state, action, result manhood, childhood, godhead English
-ic -ique person, thing cynic, phonetic Greek
-ice -ise state, action, result service, cowardice, exercise Latin
-ie - diminutive dearie, birdie, lassie English
-ion - state, action, result action, opinion, union Latin
-isk - thing asterisk, obelisk Greek
-ism -asm state patriotism, enthusiasm Greek
-ist  - practitioner artist, chemist Greek
-kin - diminutive lambkin, napkin English
-let - diminutive leaflet, piglet English
-ling  - diminutive duckling, darling, weakling English
-lock -ledge state, action, result wedlock, knowledge English
-ment - state, action, result punishment, judgement Latin
-mony - state, action, result parsimony, matrimony Latin
-ock - diminutive hillock, bullock English
-or -our, -eur, -er  agent or doer emperor, saviour, amateur, interpreter Latin
-ship - state, action, result hardship, friendship, lordship English
-sis -sy state or activity crisis, analysis, heresy, poesy Greek
-ster - agent or doer youngster, spinster, songster English
-ter -ther agent or doer daughter, father English
-ter -tre place cloister, theatre Latin
-th - state, action, result health, stealth, wealth, growth English
-ty - state, action, result cruelty, frailty, credulity Latin
-ure - state, action, result pleasure, forfeiture, verdure Latin
-y - state, action, result misery, victory Latin



Suffix or Denoting Meaning Examples From
-al - - - national, legal, regal, mortal Latin
-an -ane - - human, humane, mundane Latin
-ar - - - familiar, regular Latin
-ary - - - customary, contrary, necessary Latin
-ate - - - fortunate, temperate, obstinate Latin
-ble -ible, -able - - feeble, sensible, laughable Latin
-ed - - having gifted, talented, learned English
-en - - made of wooden, golden, woollen English
-esque - - - picturesque, grotesque Latin
-ful - - full of hopeful, fruitful, joyful English
-ic -ique - - angelic, phonetic, unique Greek
-id - - - humid, vivid, lucid Latin
-ile - - - servile, fragile, juvenile Latin
-ine - - - feminine, canine, feline, divine Latin
-ish - - like somewhat, boorish, reddish, girlish English
-ive - - - attentive, active, sportive Latin
-lent - - - corpulent, indolent,turbulent Latin
-less - - free from, without fearless, shameless, hopeless, boundless English
-ly - - like manly, Godly, sprightly English
-ose -ous - - verbose, dangerous, onerous Latin
-some - - with the quality of wholesome, meddlesome, quarrelsome English
-ward - - inclining to forward, wayward, toward English
-y - - with the quality of wealthy, healthy, windy, slimy, greedy, needy, thirsty, dirty English



Suffix or Denoting Meaning Examples From
-ly - - like boldly, wisely English
-long - - - headlong, sidelong English
-ward -wards - turning to homeward, backwards English
-way -ways - - straightway, anyway, always English
-wise - - manner, mode likewise, otherwise English



Suffix or Denoting Meaning Examples From
-ate - - - assassinate, captivate Latin
-en - - (a causative, forming transitive verbs) weaken, sweeten, gladden, deaden, strengthen English
-er - - (an intensive, or frequentative) chatter, glitter, glimmer, fritter, flutter English
-esce - - - acquiesce, effervesce Latin
-fy - - - simplify, purify, fortify, sanctify, terrify Latin
-ish - - - publish, nourish, punish, banish Latin
-ize - - - sympathize, civilize, criticize Greek
-se - - make cleanse, rinse English


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