Accessibility links

Breaking News

Learning New Words: Parts of Speech, Suffixes

Learning New Words: Parts of Speech and Suffixes
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:05:53 0:00

Hello! This week on Ask a Teacher, we will answer a question from Erol from Turkey.



My name is Erol. What is the best way of learning words? I am very confused about this subject. Can you give me some advice about learning words, please?


Thank you for emailing us this very important question, Erol!

There are many ways to learn words in English. Over the next two weeks, we will talk about learning different parts of speech, or word families, and using suffixes.

What are parts of speech or word families?

Many language teachers say there are eight different parts of speech in English. We will look at the four major parts of speech that include most content words: nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs.

Nouns are people, places, things, or ideas. Adjectives are words that describe nouns. Verbs describe actions or states of being. And adverbs describe adjectives, verbs or even other adverbs.

In this simple sentence we can see all four major parts of speech.

Warm days have quickly come.

“Warm” is the adjective that describes the noun, “days.” “Quickly” is the adverb that describes “have come,” the verb in the sentence.


We use suffixes after the base form or root of a word. The root is the simplest form of the word. We can use suffixes to change the meaning of words by adding them to the base form.

So, if we know one word, like a verb, we could use a suffix to change that part of speech to another part of speech. This idea is very helpful for learning new words. We can create several new words from a base form when we add suffixes.

For example, if we have the verb “to argue,” we can add the suffix -ment to make the noun “argument.”

Or if we have a verb like “create,” we can add -ive to the end to make the adjective “creative.”

In this case, we drop the final e at the end of the verb and add the suffix.

Making verbs

To turn some nouns and adjectives into verbs, we can use the suffixes -ize or -ify.

For example:

“Beauty” (noun) + suffix -ify = “beautify”

Remove the -y and add the suffix.

“Organization” (noun) + suffix -ize = “organize”

We can drop the ending -ation, a noun suffix, to get the base form. Then add –ize, the verbal ending.

Making nouns

To turn some verbs into nouns, we can use the suffix -er, -ment or -ation.

For example:

“Argue” (verb) + suffix -ment = “argument”

Drop the -e and add the suffix.

“Dance” (verb) + suffix -er = “dancer”

“Create” (verb) + suffix -ation = “creation”

Drop the -e and add the suffix

Some adjectives can also become nouns with suffixes -ity or -ty.

For example:

“Responsible” (adjective) + suffix -ity = “responsibility”

Drop the -e and add the suffix

We can also use the suffixes -ist or -ism to make other nouns.

For example:

“Active” (adjective) + suffix -ist = “activist”

Drop the -e and add the suffix

“Magnet” (noun) + -ism = “magnetism.”

Some English teachers use a chart to show the possible words you can make using suffixes.

























Next week on Ask a Teacher, we will continue learning how to make new words by adding suffixes. And we will fill in the chart of words we have been talking about by making adjectives and adverbs with suffixes.

What question do you have about American English? Send us an email at

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Faith Pirlo

Faith Pirlo wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

suffix –n. a letter or group of letters added to the end of a word to change its meaning

confusedadj. to be uncertain or unable to understand something

content words n. words that add meaning to a sentence

chart –n. a form of presenting information using a table or columns to group things

Do you have a question for the teacher? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section.