Difference between Prefix and Suffix

Published on August 13, 2016

Do you still have trouble understanding the difference between prefixes and suffixes? Know that you are not the only one struggling with this problem. Therefore, we chose to dedicate one article to this issue. Not only will you better understand what they are and how they work, but you will also get an idea of some very interesting things that can be done with the help of these two sets of letters.

Definitions

Prefix vs Suffix

A prefix is a set of letters placed at the front of the root word. It is not considered a word in itself and must always be attached to a word to make sense. Common prefixes are “un”, “mis”, “ir”, “im”, “anti”, “sub”, “over” etc.

The words created with the help of prefixes usually have altered meanings from the meanings of the stem word. Take “comfortable” and “uncomfortable” for example, “possible” and “impossible”, “understood” and “misunderstood”.

A suffix is a set of letters placed at the end of the root words. It is not considered a word in itself and must always be attached to a word to make sense. Suffixes can be inflectional and derivational. Inflectional suffixes are the ones that help create the plural and the various tenses and forms of a word, without necessarily altering the meaning. These are “s”, “es”, “ies”, “ing”, “ed” and the negative contraction “n’t”. Derivational suffixes change the meaning of the word base. Some of the most common derivational suffixes are “ism”, “ist”, “full”, “ness”, “ment”, “ation” etc. These suffixes convert verbs into nouns, nouns into adjectives, verbs or adverbs.

Prefixes vs Suffixes

So what is the difference between prefixes and suffixes?

Both of them are sets of words which cannot stand on their own and must be attached to a word. They are called affixes. The main difference between the two consists in the location they are placed in relation to the root word. Prefixes are always at the front of the root word, while suffixes are always at the end.

Prefixes are only of one type and their role is to change the meaning of the word they are attached to. Suffixes are either inflectional – meaning that different tenses and plurals are created with their help – or derivational – they change the meaning of the words. A word can have both a prefix and a suffix at the same time.

Comparison Chart

PrefixesSuffixes
A set of letters without meaning on its own and which must be attached to a wordA set of letters without meaning on its own and which must be attached to a word
Always placed at the front of the wordAlways placed at the end of the word
Changes the meaning of the wordChanges the meaning of the word or helps with the formation of tenses
Only one typeThere are two types of suffixes: inflectional and derivational