Vocabulary – Word Transformations


One of the simplest and quickest ways to expand your vocabulary in English is learning some of the rules of changing words from one form to another: from nouns into adjectives, into verbs and back again.


One of the easiest methods of doing this is by adding appropriate suffixes to the end of the root word to form either a noun, a verb or an adjective. Look at these examples: 

  • power (noun) changes to powerful or powerless (adjectives)
    -ful and -less are typical adjective endings. 
  • beautiful (adjective) changes to beautify (verb) 
    -ify is a typical verb ending. 
  • to educate (verb) changes to education (noun)
    -ation (or -ion) is a typical noun ending.

Read more of the rules and patterns of adjective, noun and verb suffixes below. 



Look at these typical adjective endings and an example sentence for each one: 

  • -able/-ible: capable, understandable, drinkable, doable, reasonable
    Eg. That water is drinkable.
  • -al: biographical, logical, rational, practical, historical
    Eg. His behaviour was not very logical
  • -ful: careful, grateful, harmful, useful, helpful
    Eg. Smoking can be harmful to your health.
  • -less: breathless, careless, restless, helpless, useless
    Eg. That was a very careless mistake you made. 
  • -ic: terrific, scientific, energetic, athletic, economic
    Eg. The country has a lot of economic problems at the moment. 
  • -ive: attractive, inventive, effective, persuasive, supportive
    Eg. The new vaccine is 95% effective.
  • -ous: courageous, dangerous, disastrous, nervous, furious
    Eg. She was very nervous before the job interview.
  • -y: rainy, dirty, healthy, salty, hairy
    Eg. He has a very healthy diet.
  • -ent/ant: intelligent, elegant, different, innocent, important
    Eg. She has a very elegant way to dress.
  • -ed/ing: bored, interesting, excited, tiring, entertaining
    Eg. The film was not very interesting and he was bored by the end. 



Look at these typical noun endings and an example sentence for each one: 

  • -ness: (the most common noun suffix) happiness, kindness, softness, goodness, loneliness
    Eg. A lot of people suffer from loneliness in the modern world.
  • -ment: government, enjoyment, management, development, excitement
    Eg. There was a lot of excitement about her new film. 
  • -ance/-ence: intelligence, elegance, difference, innocence, importance
    Eg. The importance of wearing a seatbelt cannot be underestimated.
  • -ation: population, information, communication, celebration, operation
    Eg. The operation was a success. 
  • -sion/tion: invasion, discussion, permission, description, connection
    Eg. We had a very interesting discussion.
  • -ship: friendship, citizenship, leadership, membership, relationship
    Eg. You haven’t paid your club membership for this year yet. 
  • -ity: simplicity, stupidity, publicity, reality, personality
    Eg. She has a very friendly personality
  • -ism/ist: journalism, criticism, socialist, feminism, violinist
    Eg. He is a member of the socialist party.



Look at these typical verb endings and an example sentence for each one: 

  • -ate: demonstrate, generate, communicate, illustrate, graduate
    Eg. Let me demonstrate to you how the system works.
  • -en: Shorten, widen, strengthen, freshen, sweeten
    Eg. He added a little sugar to sweeten his coffee.
  • -ify: Clarify, identify, modify, simplify, qualify
    Eg. Ireland didn’t qualify for the football World Cup finals. 
  • -ise (British) /-ize (American): Criticise, realise, advertise, advise, exercise
    Eg. I advise you to think carefully before you make your decision.

Are there similar rules and patterns for word endings in your language? Can you think of any more examples for each of the word endings above? 

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