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Top 10 Suffixes

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Did you know that 20 suffixes account for 93% of ALL suffix occurrences!?

(White, T.G., Soewell, V., and Yanagihara, A., 1999)


When students have a beginning understanding of phonemes and phonological awareness, at Latch Onto Learning we start incorporating morphological instruction into their program (especially the first 4 suffixes!).


That said, it is never to early to start talking about suffixes because your child is already learning how to use them in their spoken language. You can ask your child what is the difference between a farm and a farmer? What do the words hugged, jumped, and spotted have in common? What makes them different? This is a great way for your child to start to understand that morphemes have meaning and can be added to or taken away from words.


Today I wanted to dig into the top 10 suffixes!


Suffix #1: s, es

This suffix describes plural words, and it makes up 31% of all suffix occurrences. We use this suffix all the time in our spoken and written language. Thus, it makes sense, that when we start exploring suffixes we start with this suffix. While this suffix is the most common suffix, it does have several unique rules regarding spelling and when we use it.


Suffix #2: ed

This suffix describes the past-tense and is added to verbs. It makes up 20% of all suffix occurrences. One unique aspect of this suffix is its oral pronunciation. It can make three different sounds: /ɪd/, /d/ and /t/. The sound it makes depends on the type of sound that occurs before it. When children are learning how to spell, morphology is critical when spelling words with this suffix because the writer needs to be able to think, “I am describing something in the past so I will write ‘ed’, even though I hear ‘t’”.


Suffix #3: ing

This suffix describes something happening right now (present participle). It makes up 14% of all suffixes. This suffix also has a few relatively well known spelling rules that help kids add this suffix to words.


Suffix #4: ly

This suffix describes the characteristics of someone. It makes up 7% of all suffixes. In printed school English, the above four suffixes make up 97% of all suffix occurrences (Honig, B., Diamond, L., and Gutlohn, L, 2000)! As a result, as educators, parents, or tutors, we really want kids to be familiar with these four suffixes.


Suffix #5: er, or

This suffix describes a person connected to that word. It makes up 4% of all suffix occurrences. For example: teach + er = teacher.


Suffix #6: tion, ion, ation, ition

The suffix describes the act or process of doing something. It makes up 2% off all suffix occurrences. This is another example of a morpheme that is best understood through the lens of morphology. If you tried to pronounce this suffix as individual phonemes it would be very difficult. If we learn the suffix ‘tion’ than when we encounter it in words it will be easier to decode and the word meaning will be easier to understand.


Suffix #7: able, ible

The suffix describes something that can be done. This suffix makes up 1% of suffix occurrences.


Suffix #8: al, ial

This suffix describes something that has the characteristics of something. For example, final.


Suffix #9: y

This suffix describes being characterized by something. For example, funny.


Suffix #10: ness

This suffix describes being in the state of something or the condition of something. For example: happiness is describing the state of being happy.



By the time your child is in grade 4 or 5, they should be familiar with these suffixes and may have begun to explore the top 20 suffixes or other suffix classifications. However, not all literacy programs teach morphology. If that is your experience, at Latch Onto Learning we are happy to supplement and support your child's educational journey as they become skilled readers and writers.



White, T.G., Soewell, V., and Yanagihara, A (1999). Teaching elementary students to use word-part clues. The Reading Teacher, 42, 302-308.


Honig, B., Diamond, L., and Gutlohn, L (2000). Teaching Reading Sourcebook: For Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade.

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