Children learn a range of words with suffixes and prefixes throughout their time at primary school, usually starting in Year 2 and Year 3. Often, children will be given a list of spellings to learn at home that all have the same suffix, or all have the same prefix.
It is a good idea for them to be informed of root words, as learning one root word (for example: education), will then advantage them to spell other words containing that word such as co-education and educational.
Learning root words, suffixes and prefixes also help children to understand words better, as they begin to see links between different words and identify word families.
What is a root word?
A root word is a basic word with no prefix or suffix added to it. By adding prefixes and suffixes to a root word we can change its meaning.
A prefix is a string of letters that go at the start of a word. A suffix is a string of letters that go at the end of a word.
The suffixes -er and -est are also used to form the comparative and superlative of adjectives (for example, light / lighter / lightest).
The root word lingual could have the prefix bi- added to it to make the word bilingual. ‘Bi’ means two and ‘lingual’ means pertaining to language. Someone who is bilingual is fluent in two languages.
The root word astro could have the suffix -nomy added to it to make the word astronomy. ‘Astro’ means ‘stars’ and ‘nomy’ means the study of something. Astronomy is the study and knowledge of stars.
Some root words can have both prefixes and suffixes attached to them to turn them into words with different meanings:
With a prefix added
With a suffix added