CSE Reviewer: Understanding Prefix and Suffix

Understanding the meanings of prefixes and suffixes along with root words will give you the ability to determine a word’s meaning without having to look it up. Having this knowledge will vastly improve your chances of passing the Civil Service exam in just your first take. Not only that, prefixes and suffixes are a really common part of the English language and it will come in handy once you need to use it! So learning how to use them correctly will help you boost your language skills enormously. Hopefully, the tutorial below will help you have a better grasp on prefixes and suffixes.

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Prefixes are syllables which we add to the beginning of a word to make a new word with a different meaning. Prefixes can, for example, create a new word opposite in meaning to the word the prefix is attached to. They can also make a word negative or express relations of time, place or manner. Check out some examples below:

Civil Service Reviewer on Prefixes

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Base Word Prefixed Word Type of Meaning
practical impractical opposite
ability inability opposite
payment non-payment negation
war post-war time (after)
historic prehistoric time (before)
cook overcook manner (too much)
terrestrial extraterrestrial place (outside of/beyond)

It’s impractical to have so many people all trying to use the equipment at the same time.

If he was self-conscious about his inability to talk, he gave no indication.

Jason have received an eviction order from the council for non-payment of rent.

The meat was overcooked and quite tasteless.

Common Prefixes

Here are the most common prefixes used in the English language. There’s a high probability that you will encounter these words when you take the Civil Service Eligibility exam.

anti- against/opposed to anti-government, anti-racist, anti-war
auto- self autobiography, automobile
de- reverse or change declassify, decontaminate, demotivate
dis- reverse or remove disagree, displeasure, disqualify
down- reduce or lower

downgrade, downhearted

extra- beyond extraordinary, extraterrestrial
hyper- extreme hyperactive, hypertension
il-, im-, in-, ir-, not illegal, impossible, insecure, irregular
inter- between interactive, international
mega- very big, important megabyte, mega-deal, megaton
mid- middle midday, midnight, mid-October
mis- incorrectly, badly misaligned, mislead, misspelt
non- not non-payment, non-smoking
over- too much overcook, overcharge, overrate
out- go beyond outdo, out-perform, outrun
post- after post-election, post-war
pre- before prehistoric, pre-war
pro- in favor of pro-communist, pro-democracy
re- again reconsider, redo, rewrite
semi- half semicircle, semi-retired
sub- under, below submarine, sub-Saharan
super- above, beyond super-hero, supermodel
tele- at a distance television, telepathic
trans- across transatlantic, transfer
ultra- extremely

ultra-compact, ultrasound

un- remove, reverse, not undo, unpack, unhappy
under- less than, beneath under-cook, underestimate
up- make or move higher upgrade, uphill



A suffix is a letter or group of letters added at the end of a word which makes a new word. The new word is most often a different word class from the original word. In the table below, the suffix –ful has changed verbs to adjectives, –ment, and –ion have changed verbs to nouns. If you see a word ending in –ment, for example, it is likely to be a noun (e.g. commitment, contentment).

Civil Service Reviewer on Suffixes

Word Suffix New Words
forget, use -ful forgetful, useful
state, govern -ment statement, government
complicate, create -ion complication, creation


Often, the suffix causes a spelling change to the root word. In the table above, the -e ending of complicate and create disappears when the –ion suffix is added. Other examples of spelling changes include:

  1. beautyduty + -ful → beautiful, dutiful (-y changes to i)

  2. heavyready + -ness → heaviness, readiness (-y changes to i)

  3. able, possible + -ity → abilitypossibility (-le changes to il)

  4. permitomit + -ion → permission, omission (-t changes to ss)


Common Suffixes

Here are the most common suffixes used in the English language. Just like prefixes, you will encounter a hefty amount of these words when you take the CSC Eligibility test.

Noun Suffixes

Suffix Examples of Nouns
-age baggage, village, postage
-al arrival, burial, deferral
-ance/-ence reliance, insistence
-dom boredom, freedom, kingdom
-ee employee, payee, trainee
-er/-or driver, writer, director

brotherhood, childhood, neighborhood

-ism capitalism, Marxism, socialism (philosophies)
-ist capitalist, Marxist, socialist (followers of philosophies)
-ity/-ty brutality, equality, cruelty
-ment amazement, disappointment, parliament
-ness happiness, kindness, usefulness
-ry entry, ministry, robbery
-ship friendship, membership, workmanship
-sion/-tion/-xion expression, population, complexion


Adjective Suffixes

Suffix Example of Adjectives
-able/-ible drinkable, portable, flexible
-al brutal, formal, postal
-en broken, golden, wooden
-ese Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese
-ful forgetful, helpful, useful
-i Iraqi, Pakistani, Yemeni
-ic classic, Islamic, poetic
-ish British, childish, Spanish
-ive active, passive, productive
-ian Canadian, Malaysian, Peruvian
-less homeless, hopeless, useless
-ly daily, monthly, yearly

cautious, famous, nervous

-y cloudy, rainy, windy


Verb Suffixes

Suffix Examples of Verbs
-ate complicate, dominate, irritate
-en harden, soften, shorten
-ify beautify, clarify, identify
-ise/-ize economise, realise, industrialize (-ise is most common in British English; -ize is most common in American English)


Adverb Suffixes

Suffix Examples of Adverbs
-ly calmly, easily, quickly
-ward(s) downwards, homeward(s), upwards
-wise anti-clockwise, clockwise, edgewise
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Test question exercises for Prefixes and Suffixes will be added soon. For the meantime, re-read the reviewer above so you can familiarize yourself with Prefix and Suffixes. Doing so will make you have an easier time when you encounter them in the Civil Service Examination. Also, check out more grammar and correct usage reviewers to broaden your prefix and suffix knowledge.

Check Also

IS vs ARE Examples and Usage

Getting confused whether to use IS or ARE? Then this CSE reviewer is just right for you!


  1. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumbleupon on a daily basis. Its always useful to read content from other authors and practice something from their websites.

  2. Thanks. A lot can be learned from here

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