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Miss Uzma Kayany

Word Building (Vocabulary) In English

By Miss Uzma Kayany

English is a very flexible language and we can build at our own vocabulary and learn how to make new words. When we know one word in English, it is often easy to make several words from that one root word.
For example if we take the word KIND, which is an adjective; ( she is such a kind person ) .We can also make the noun kindness, the adverb kindly, the opposite unkind, unkindly etc.

Importance of Word Building

This is imperative to make students familiar with the easy word building rules so that they could make new words first and later several sentence at their own. Reasons for doing this can be observed in the following discussion and then examples.
One way of doing this is to add prefixes (such as dis, pre or co) before the word .Here is a list of common prefixes with their meaning and some examples.

  • anti (=against)
  • antibodies, anti-social
  • auto (self)
  • autonomous, autobiography, automobile
  • bi (two)
  • bicycle, bisexual, bi-wiring
  • co (=with)
  • cooperate, coordinate
  • contra (against)
  • contradict, contravene
  • de (remove)
  • deregulate, deselect
  • dis (= not)
  • disappear, disadvantage
  • il (=not)
  • illegal, illiterate
  • im (=not)
  • immaterial, immature
  • inter (= between)
  • international, interlink
  • mis (= badly/wrongly)
  • misinform, misbehave, and misunderstand
  • multi (= many)
  • multinational
  • non (= opposite)
  • non-profit
  • out (=more than)
  • outperform, outdone
  • over (=too much)
  • oversleep, overwork
  • post (=after)
  • postpone, postnatal
  • pre (= after)
  • pre (= before)
  • predict, precaution
  • re (= again)
  • relative, rewrite
  • sub (= under)
  • submarine
  • super (= higher / improved)
  • supermarket
  • trans (=across)
  • transatlantic
  • uni (= one)
  • uniform
  • under (=not enough)
  • underpaid, underfed

Word Endings (suffixes)

We can also make new words from the words we already know by using different endings . For example , “the person who employs me has a fast car”. We can make this sentence simpler by replacing “the person who employs me” with “my employer”. This gives us “My employer has a fast car”.
In English, we can make nouns from verbs (to employ gives employer and end employee).We can also make verbs from nouns or adjectives: government gives to govern; modern gives modernize and so on. Learning what endings we can put on word means we can expand our vocabulary more easily.

Here Are Some Word Endings


  • -er/-or: a person who does something
  • Adviser /adviser, teacher, learner, instructor
  • -ian
  • Optician, mathematician
  • -ment: result of action
  • Improvement, advancement
  • -ism: name of system or belief
  • realism, empiricism
  • -ist: a person who believes in the system
  • realist, empiricist
  • -ion
  • confusion, apparition
  • -ness
  • happiness, sadness
  • -ship
  • leadership, friendship
  • -ence / ance
  • permanence, appearance
  • -acy
  • lunacy
  • -age
  • marriage
  • -ity
  • annuity
  • -y
  • photography
  • -cy
  • fluency


  • -ify
  • falsify, modify
  • -ise
  • Modernize
  • Adjectives

    • -ic
    • idiotic, periodic
    • -ful
    • awful, wonderful
    • -able /ible
    • comfortable, horrible
    • -proof / resistant
    • waterproof, childproof, fireproof
    • -free
    • nuclear free zone, sugar free coffee
    • -less: without
    • hopeless, childless
    Summing up the discussion, I would mull over that knowledge and learning of word building is effective and automatic in learning English language. When it comes to students’ competency over English language, word building is again very powerful and useful. Process of word building and the habit of doing more often can make students’ fluency and accuracy simultaneously better along with developing a high level of interest and confidence in them.

    Uzma Kayany is Research Officer at National Educational Equipment Centre Lahore and can be e-mailed at here.

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