Suffix Spelling Rules

Whether you are a native English speaker or someone new to the language, suffixes can be tricky to learn and master. Suffixes are important elements of the English language.

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Suffixes are used to make new words and give base words different meanings. By learning and understanding each of the spelling rules for suffixes, you will be able to use them correctly and know which ones to use when. Keep in mind that there are exceptions to each of the rules.

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Basic Suffix Spelling Rules

Suffixes are added to the end of words to make new words. There are two types of suffixes: vowel and consonant. Vowel suffixes include endings such as -ed, -er,-es, -end, and -ing. Consonant suffixes include endings such as -s, -less, -ness, -ment, and -ly.

The following are the basic rules of using suffixes in the English language.

Rule 1: Double the Consonant

When a word ends in a short vowel sound and a single consonant, you double the last letter. Examples of this rule are:

  • Fat + er = Fatter
  • Flip + ed = flipped
  • Mud + y = muddy
  • Shop + ed = shopped
  • Swim + ing = swimming

When a word has more than one syllable and ends with the letter "l" you will double the "l" when adding the suffix. Examples include:

  • Cancel + ed = cancelled
  • Control + ed = controlled
  • Propel + er = propeller
  • Compel + ing = compelling
  • Fulfil + ment = fulfillment

Keep in mind that the doubling rule does not apply if the word ends in "w," "x" or "y."

Rule 2: Drop the Final E

When a word ends in a silent letter "e," drop that final "e" if the suffix you are using begins with a vowel. Examples of this rule are:

  • Drive + ing = driving
  • Hope + ing = hoping
  • Make + er = maker
  • Adore + able = adorable
  • Use + er = user

Rule 3: Keep the Final E

When the word ends in the letters "ce" or "ge," you will keep the final "e" if the suffix begins with the letters "a" or "o." Examples of this rule are:

  • Advantage + ous = advantageous
  • Change + able = changeable
  • Courage + ous = courageous
  • Service + able = serviceable
  • Notice + able = noticeable

You will also keep the final "e" in the following examples:

  • Like + able = likeable
  • Size + able = sizeable
  • Care + ful = careful
  • Use + ful = useful
  • Peace + ful = peaceful

Remember to keep the "e" if using the suffix -ly. For example:

  • Late + ly = lately
  • Rare + ly = rarely
  • Love + ly = lovely
  • Home + ly = homely
  • Definite + ly = definitely

Lastly, you will also keep the "e" at the end of the word if it ends in "ee" or "ye." Examples include:

  • Agree + ing = agreeing
  • Decree + ing = decreeing
  • Eye + ing = eyeing
  • Foresee + ing = foreseeing
  • See + ing = seeing
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Rule 4: Keep the Y

When the word ends with "y" and has a vowel before it you keep the "y." Examples of this rule are:

  • Boy + s = boys
  • Enjoy + ed = enjoyed
  • Play + ing = playing
  • Buy + er = buyer
  • Joy + ful = joyful

Exceptions to this rule are:

  • Pay + ed = paid
  • Say + ed = said

Another time to keep the "y" is if the suffix starts with the letter "i." You cannot have two i's in a row. Examples of this rule are:

  • Worry + ing = worrying
  • Copy + ing = copying
  • Carry + ing = carrying
  • Supply + ing = supplying
  • Marry + ing = marrying

Rule 5: Change the Y to an I

When the word has a consonant before the "y," you will change the "y" to a letter "i," then add the suffix. Examples of this rule are:

  • Beauty + ful = beautiful
  • Baby + s = babies
  • Army + s = armies
  • Duty + ful = dutiful
  • Happy + ness = happiness

Keep in mind that there are exceptions to this rule, such as:

  • Dry + er = dryer
  • Baby + hood = babyhood
  • Lady + ship = ladyship

Rule 6: Changing IE to Y

When a word ends in "ie," change the ending to a "y" when you add the suffix -ing. Examples of this rule are:

  • Die + ing = dying
  • Tie + ing = tying
  • Untie + ing = untying
  • Lie + ing = lying
  • Vie + ing = vying

Expand Your Vocabulary

It may seem hard to master suffixes at first — there is a lot to remember — but they open up your vocabulary to endless expressions of thoughts and emotions. These word endings can give words new meanings or create an entirely new word. Once you understand the spelling rules for adding suffixes, the language possibilities are endless.