English Spelling Rules: Adding Prefixes and Suffixes

by Amy Nutt

Knowing proper spelling is very important for a number of reasons. First of all, when words cannot be spoken from our mouths we can write them down. If these words are not spelled properly, then that communication is compromised. Since communicating in writing is very important in many of our jobs, it is important that we know some very important grammar rules. Second, many use writing to write down their ideas. If proper grammar isn’t used, then those who like to write in diaries and journals would not understand what they wrote when reading it years down the road. So not only is it important to learn English speaking skills, writing is also important when communicating with others, it is also important when communicating with ourselves.

Below are rules regarding the addition of prefixes and suffixes to words.


Prefixes are those additions that usually do not change the spelling of the word. The prefix is attached to the word despite any consonant duplications, accents, or syllabication. Examples are:

– Unavailable – the prefix is the “un” and it is easy to see that the remainder of the word, available, does not change.

– Misspell – Ironically, this word is the most misspelled word. A great way to remember how to spell misspell is that “mis” is the prefix and “spell” is the main word. The spelling of the main word does not change at all, but it is amazing how often this word is not spelled correctly.


When adding a suffix, the main part of the word usually changes the spelling of the word, but sometimes there are exceptions. Take the word treatment, for instance. “ment” is the suffix of the word and “treat” is the original word. Simply add the “ment” to “treat” and you have treatment without any spelling modifications.

For those words that have a short vowel sound and end with a single consonant, the consonant is doubled when adding on a suffix that starts with a vowel. These suffixes canbe ed, ing, or er. Some examples:

– Biggest- big is the main word that has a short vowel sound and ends in a singal consonant. As a result, we add another “g” and then the “est” since it starts with a vowel.

There are exceptions, though. There are some words that end in r,x,w or y and don’t require doubling. Such a word is blowing. The suffix is “ing,” but because the single consonant is a ‘w’, there is no need for doubling.

If there are two consonants at the end of your main word, or two vowels, the consonant doesn’t need to be doubled. An example is the word keeper. The vowels are e e, so the “er” can be added on without doubling the consonant. Another thing to keep in mind is that when a suffix is added that begins with a vowel and the main words ends with a silent “e”, that silent “e” should be dropped like it is in the words pricing and surprising. However, if the suffix used begins with a consonant, the silent “e” should be kept such as in the words likeness and advancement.

It is also necessary to drop the final “Y” in the main word when adding a suffix if the “Y” has a consonant before it. The word worry becomes worried and supply becomes supplies. But this rule does not apply to words ending in why in which the “ing” suffix is added. Examples are: Crying and obeyed.

English lessons are very helpful and it is important to know the rules regarding prefixes and suffixes. It is easy to see that there is more involved with adding a suffix than a prefix, but with practice suffixes can be added on without even thing about them. These rules are vital for effective communication, so knowing the rules is very important.

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