Lesson 21 FCE First Certificate course

Dialogue lesson 21

Dialogue 21: Prefixes and Suffixes

Having told Emma what to revise, Gordon decides to test Emma on her knowledge of prefixes and suffixes, which are a crucial element of the exam and have already been highlighted by Emma as one of her weaknesses.

GORDON: Ok, Emma, don’t feel too intimidated, but we’re just going to do a mini test about some grammatical items, especially focusing on prefixes and suffixes. Ok?

EMMA: Sure, let’s give it a go!

GORDON: Excellent, ok. So first of all, can you tell me what a prefix actually is?

EMMA: Yes. A prefix is a set of letters which is added to the start of a word, thus creating a new word with a different meaning. The same goes for a suffix, but for a suffix, the letters come at the end of the word.

GORDON: Ok and out of prefixes and suffixes, which is the one which is most likely to change the class of the word? For example, to change a verb to a noun or a noun to an adjective?

EMMA: That would be suffixes, right? I’m guessing that because I know you can add ‘-LY’ to the end of an adjective to make it an adverb.

GORDON: Very good, Emma! So let me just test you a little. If I give you the adjective ‘different’, what would you add to the end of this word to form the verb which means ‘to make something different’? Would you add -ise, -iate, -fy, or -en?

EMMA: Um, would it be -ise?

GORDON: That’s incorrect, sorry… The right answer would be -iate: “differentiate” is the verb we use to express that we are making something different. Ok, here is another one. If I give you the verb “advertise”, what would you add to create the noun which is the result of the verb? Would you add -ment, -ant, -er, or -sion?

EMMA: I would say -er: “advertiser”?

GORDON: That’s not right either unfortunately… However, “advertiser” is a word but it is “advertisement”: which is the result of the verb “to advertise”. 

When I say “result”, I mean that if someone advertises something, the end product which they are advertising is the “advertisement”. Do you see? But an “advertiser” is the person who carries out the act of the verb. 

As a common rule for verb to noun suffixes, we either add -tion,-age, -ment, -sion, -al, -ence, -ance, -ery, or -ry at the end of the verb, to change it to the noun, which is the action or result of this verb. In addition, we add -er, -ant, or -ent to the verb to create the noun which describes the person doing this verb. And moreover we add -ship, -ity, -ness, or -cy to express a state of being. 

Now let’s focus on the change from nouns to adjective! The most common suffixes for adjectives are -al, -ent, -ive, -ous, -ful, -less and -able. Out of these, which would you add to the noun ‘drink’ to create the adjective which means something which people are able to drink?

EMMA: Um, that’s a tricky one. Well, I doubt it will be “-less” because this usually has a negative connotation rather than the affirmative one you have presented to me. What about “-able”? Because people are able to drink it. Yes, that sounds right. Is it the word “drinkable”?

GORDON: Absolutely! Well done! You worked that out well. Now, let’s have a look at prefixes! 

So, the most common prefixes in English are re-, dis-, over-, un-, mis- and out-.

If I give you the verb ‘visit’, which prefix out of these would you add to the start of the word to convey the meaning of visiting something again?

EMMA: I think that if you are doing something again, you use the prefix re-, don’t you? So, “revisit”?

GORDON: Exactly! So, if I give you the verb “appear”, which prefix would you add to convey the completely opposite meaning?

EMMA: Would it be “un-“?

GORDON: Not quite! In this case, it would be “dis-“. But I see how you could have been confused. Un- and Dis- are both used to reverse the meaning of the verb. As for the other prefixes I mentioned:

  • “over-” means to do something too much.
  • “mis-” means to do something badly or wrongly.
  • “out-” means to do more or better than others. 

As you’ll have noticed, the prefixes added haven’t changed the verb from word class to another like suffixes have the ability to do, but they have just changed the meaning in a significant way. How do you feel about prefixes and suffixes now Emma?

EMMA: Better, thank you for your help!

Vocabulary lesson 21

ENGLISH
SYNONYM or DEFINITION
crucial
very important, essential
to highlight
to emphasise
let’s give it a golet’s try
to advertise
to promote a product, to let something be known to others
advertisement
a means to promote something (on TV, radio, in publication…)
a connotation
word: association
to convey
to communicate
to reverse
to turn back to previous state to back to front, to exchange
significant
with meaning, important

Exam tips #21

EXAM TIP FOR FCE LESSON 21

A prefix is a set of letters which is added to the start of a word, thus creating a new word with a different meaning. The same goes for a suffix, but for a suffix, the letters come at the end of the word.
 
1) SUFFIXES
Suffixes are most likely to change the class of the word. For example, to change a verb to a noun or a noun to an adjective.
 

For verb to noun suffixes:

  • We add -tion,-age, -ment, -sion, -al, -ence, -ance, -ery, or -ry at the end of the verb, to change it to the noun, which is the action or result of this verb, i.e. rampage, segment, immersion, entrance, explosion, migration etc.
  • We add -er, -ant, or -ent to the verb to create the noun which describes the person doing this verb, i.e. adviser, controller, maker, washer etc.
  • We add -ship, -ity, -ness, or -cy to express a state of being: i.e. happiness, friendship, cleverness, sadness etc

For noun to adjective suffixes we have: -al, -ent, -ive, -ous, -ful, -less and -able, i.e. edible, reversible, youthful, delightful, fearless, useless, sleepless, corrosive, likeable, manageable etc. 

For adjective to adverb suffixes we add -ly: i.e. slowly, repeatedly etc.

2) PREFIXES
Prefixes have the ability to change the meaning of a word in a significant way.
 

The most common prefixes in English are re-, dis-, over-, un-, mis- and out-

  • “re-” is used for repetition: i.e. to resit an exam, to rewrite, to reappear, to remove, to rename, to redo etc.
  • “dis-” is used to express the opposite: i.e. to disrespect someone, to disappear, to disconnect, to disobey, dishonest, disobedient, a dislike etc.
  • “over-” means to do something too much, to oversleep etc.
  • “un-” is used to express the opposite: i.e. to unload a truck, unable, unfamiliar, unkind, unreal etc.
  • “mis-” means to do something badly or wrongly: i.e. to mislead a customer, to mispronounce, to misread, to misbehave, to misplace etc.
  • “out-” means to do more or better than others: i.e. to outbid the other buyers etc.
  • “pre-” means before: i.e. prepaid, to prebook, a preview etc.
  • “in-” and “im-” are used to express the opposite: i.e. inactive, incorrect, incomplete, impossible, impolite, impure etc.
 

Grammar and Vocabulary recommended Videos

Exercises FCE 21

Vocabulary Exercise

Comprehension Exercise

Use of English Exercise

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