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Concourse 2

Word formation


How does English make new words?
Here are some examples:

drive (verb) drive (noun)
writer co-writer
tick tick-tock
cup + board cupboard
perambulator pram
motor + hotel motel
happy happily

Take this little test to see if you can match the term for word formation to the examples.

If you found that test too difficult, you would be wise to do the initial training guide in this area before returning to try this again.

English makes a good deal of use of affixation (either suffix or prefix attachment), compounding and conversion but less of the other means of word formation.  (Other languages may include, e.g., infixing in the middle of a word, circumfixing to both beginning and ends of words and so on.)  Affixation and Conversion are the focus of this guide.  Compounding deserves a section to itself and a link to that guide is in the list at the end.

affixation building


building new words

Can you complete these sentences?  Click here when you have.

Inserting a prefix usually changes the __________ but not the __________.
Inserting a suffix usually changes the __________ but not the basic __________.

For this part of the guide, you need to download the worksheet.
The first exercise involves sorting the prefixes in the list into groups under the headings in the table.  Do that now and then click for the answer.

As we noted above, these usually change word class while retaining the essential meaning of the root form.  So friend changes to friend-ly but the sense remains.

Go back to the worksheet and try the task on suffixation before returning and clicking here.

Go back to the worksheet and try the final exercise on this area and then click when you have done it.

If you are happy that you have understood the nature of word formation in English, you can go on to considering the teaching and learning implications in this area.  Click here to do that.

Related guides
word stress for a guide to heteronyms among other things
teaching word formation the obvious next step
compounding for a related area of word formation
nominalisation in EAP for a consideration of how making nouns from verbs and adjectives produces a more academic style
morphology for a more general and theoretical guide
the initial training guide for a simpler version of this guide
lexis index for links to other guides in the general area