How Word Changes Indicate Parts of Speech

Instructor: Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

In this lesson, we're working with some of the eight parts of speech including verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. We'll also cover suffixes and show how that changes the meaning of the word.

Roots and Suffixes

Sometime in elementary school, you learned about the types of words we use for speaking and writing to make our meaning clear. There are eight parts of speech, including verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Let's look at how root words can be changed and used in different ways.

We can take a single root word and add a suffix, a new ending, to change the word to another part of speech. The types of words that can be changed in this way are the parts of speech that form the basic building blocks of English grammar.

A root word is sort of like a train engine. Even on its own, it counts as a train. Adding a suffix is like adding a car, it makes the train longer and can change its purpose. A root word, the part that carries the meaning of the word, often remains exactly the same. But sometimes we can add on to it to change the meaning.

Parts of Speech Review

As a reminder, let's first look at some parts of speech and their role in a sentence.

A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. This means that 'cat', 'garage','table', and 'sympathy' can all be classified as nouns. Every sentence needs a noun to serve as the subject of the sentence.

A verb is an action word like 'run', 'dance', and 'organize'. Verbs can also be verbs of being like 'is' and 'are'. Every sentence needs a verb along with a subject to form a complete thought.

An adjective is a word of description that tells us something more about a noun. In English, adjectives usually appear right before the noun they modify. 'Green', 'talented', and 'terrible' are all adjectives.

An adverb adds additional information to a verb, adjective, or another adverb. The information provided by an adverb tells us how, when, where, or to what extent. 'Lightly dance', 'really terrible', and 'barely there' all involve the use of adverbs.

Adding a Suffix

Now let's try using one of the nouns we mentioned: 'sympathy'. This word is an idea, or a concept noun. If we replace the 'y' with 'ize,' we get 'sympathize', which is a verb. Here's a sentence:

  • ''I sympathize with Sam on the loss of his dog.''

We can change the word again in a different way and create a different kind of noun, a person. Let's use 'sympathizer' in a sentence, like this:

  • ''She is a sympathizer with the cause of prison reform.''

Can we change the root word again? Yes, we can. We can add an 'ing' to get the word 'sympathizing', which can be a verb or an adjective. Now that sounds a bit confusing. Here are two sentences as illustration:

  • ''I can tell from the expression on your face that you're sympathizing with Sam because his dog ran away.''
  • ''Sam appreciated my sympathizing attitude when I went by his house this afternoon.''

Changes to Make Nouns

Let's try another word, but this time, let's keep the root and change the suffix. This time try to find a pattern in the type of suffix used for each type of transformation.

This time, let's start with the root word verb 'arrange'. You can arrange flowers in a vase, or arrange for a doctor's appointment next week. Let's say you arrange a bunch of flowers into a beautiful pattern in a vase. What do you have when you're finished? You have created an 'arrangement'. By adding the suffix 'ment' we created a noun form, a thing.

Now let's use the verb form and make it a different kind of noun by using a different suffix. If you work arranging flowers every day, we might call you an 'arranger' by adding the suffix 'er.' Of course, the usual term for this job is 'florist'. How did we create this word? By using the root of the word 'flower'!

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