How to use prefixes & suffixes to manipulate sentences

Updated March 23, 2017

Children who have learnt to read are able to study prefixes and suffixes. A prefix goes at the beginning of a word while a suffix goes at the end. Because your students change the meanings of the root words they are working with, they should be familiar with the dictionary so they can look up both the root word and the new word they formed with a prefix or suffix. Your students might be interested to know that words such as iPod, iTunes or iPhone are connected to the Internet. The same is true of words such as e-commerce or e-learn.

Write a list of base words, such as friend, stand, polite, end, begin, wind, sun, rain, cloud and snow. Post this at the front of your classroom for your students to work from.

Develop a list of prefixes. Include common prefixes and those that are not well known, such as ambul, ad, act, acto, anima, acro, audi, be, benne, bio, cess, cede, chron, cis, cide, circum, claus, con, contra, com, counter, cred, common and cycl. You will be using these prefixes to show your students how they can form new words and change the meanings of sentences. After making your list of prefixes, post them on a notice board in your classroom. Post this prefix list next to your list of base words.

Post a list of suffixes such as age, able, al, isy, acy, ial, eal, ance, ence, ible, er, or, ed, ery, dom, ent, en and eur next to your list of base words. As your students learn how suffixes change word and sentence meanings, they will use each suffix to create new words and make different sentences.

Set up different word games so your students learn continuously. Using slips of paper with adhesive on the back, write down root words (stand, friend, polite) and place them in a bag. Do the same with prefixes and suffixes, then put these in the same bag. Invite your students to pull a slip out and stick it to their shirts. Have them mingle, looking for someone wearing a prefix or suffix that forms a new word. When students pair up with their root words, prefixes and suffixes, ask them to write down sentences using the root word, prefix or suffix.

Assign your students to write a help wanted ad that describes a job. They should include a base verb or noun to use as a clue: "This restaurant needs people to wash dishes. Please apply here." As students apply for jobs, they have to write down the word for the advertised job using the correct suffix -- in this case, "dishwasher."

Write sentences on a piece of paper and make a copy for each student. Underline a root word in each sentence. Using the lists of prefixes and suffixes you posted earlier, ask them to find a prefix or suffix and add that to each word. Once the class has completed your handout, ask them to read their sentences and explain how the meaning of the sentences changed. As an example, "Mary is a friend girl." Using the prefixes or suffixes, they could come up with, "Mary is an unfriendly girl." or "Mary is a friendly girl."


Your students should be proficient in word recognition and reading before they start learning prefixes and suffixes. Help your students learn how a word's meaning changes when a prefix or suffix is added. Point out that, not only does the word's meaning change, the meaning of the sentence also changes.

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About the Author

Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.