T is for Tiger

You may visit this tiger at the Toronto Zoo.
You may visit this tiger at the Toronto Zoo.

Some T prefixes

tachi—, tacho—, tachy— all imply “swift”.

tachometer

tachycardia

tauto— means “the same”.

tautology

techno— relates to the use of technology.

technobabble, technocracy

tele— comes from the Greek “far off” and often refers to television or telephone.

telecast, telegraph, teleprompter, telescope

ter— means “three” or “thrice”.

tercel, tercentennial

tera— means a factor of one trillion (1012) or, in computing, a multiple of 240.

terahertz, terawatt

terabit, terabyte

Some T suffixes

t replaces the suffix —ed in some words.

gild, gilded [past tense/adjective], gilt [adjective]

spill, spilled [past tense], spilt [past participle]

spell, spelled [past tense], spelt [past participle]

spend, spent [past tense/past participle]

shall, shalt [second person singular, archaic]

 

th, —eth are archaic or Biblical verb endings (third person singular, present tense).

He leadeth me beside still waters…

th, —eth are endings that form ordinal numbers.

sixth, hundredth, millionth

nineth, twentieth

th may refer to an act, process, state, or quality.

depth, growth, health, wealth, width

the— may refer to God or gods.

atheist, pantheism

Exercises

  1. Look through the prefixes and suffixes. Do you see any that you might use on a day-to-day basis? Create a sentence with each of those.
  2. For the prefixes and suffixes that look less familiar, identify where you might find them, e.g., in a scientific text or a medical paper.

Special reading assignment

  1. Two tigers tore through three treacle tarts.
  2. Time and tide wait for no man. —Geoffrey Chaucer

S is for Strawberries

strawberry
Wild strawberries are small but delicious and sweet.

S is for Syllables

A syllable is a unit of pronunciation having a vowel sound and usually one or more consonant sounds. Syllables give words their rhythm and make poetry possible.

Saying an unfamiliar word syllable by syllable may help, although an understanding of prefixes and suffixes is essential for proper pronunciation.

A word may have only one syllable or many:

air (1 syllable)

afar (2 syllables)

ambush (2 syllables)

ambushed (3 syllables)

absolute (3 syllables)

absolutely (4 syllables)

avocation (4 syllables)

A prefix may have more than one syllable.

anti— an + ti (2 syllables)

A suffix may have more than one syllable.

─ally  al + ly (2 syllables)

A root word may have more than one syllable, as well as a prefix and a suffix, making up a long word.

septic  sep + tic (2 syllables)

antiseptically  an + ti + sep + tic + al + ly (6 syllables)

R is for Raccoon

 

Toronto, Canada, has a large population of raccoons. Sometimes they get into mischief.
Toronto, Canada, has a large population of raccoons. Sometimes they get into mischief.

Prefixes

re— stands for “again” or “go back”. Sometimes, especially when the root word begins with R or RE, there is a hyphen. Also, if you make up a word starting with RE, you ought to use a hyphen.

react

redo

regrow

re-release

re-roof

rerun

restore

retry

Note that a hyphen may indicate a different meaning.

redress vs re-dress

reform vs re-form

rhodo— means “red” or “rosy”.

rhodonite

rhododendron

radio— indicates a relationship with radio or radiation.

radioactive

radiowave

 

Suffixes

er creates an adjective or adverb indicating more, by comparison.

bigger

faster

higher

stronger

er designates someone (or something) who does or is something.

banker

foreigner

New Brunswicker

swimmer

2-wheeler

cutter

re is sometimes preferred over the more common —er, most often in words that originate from French or Latin. This is one place where spelling variations occur, especially in the USA.

chevre [from French] (cheese)

goitre, goiter [US]

litre, liter [US]

louvre, louver

metre, meter [US]

sabre, saber [US]

theatre, theater [US]

ry, —ery designate a place for something, a class of something, a state or condition of something, or a quality or characteristic of something or someone.

bakery, tannery

finery, mastery

cheery, misery, slavery

snobbery, watery

Exercises

  1. Find a paragraph in a newspaper or online and look for all the words containing the letter R. How many of them contain a prefix or suffix beginning with R? What is the root of these words? Does the root make sense on its own?
  2. Write down as many verbs as you can think of. Place the prefix re— in front. Do the verbs still make sense? Try to use them in a sentence.

 

Special reading assignment

  1. Raccoons are native to North America but have spread around the world.
  2. Raccoons do not make good pets. Do you know anyone who has tried to make a pet of one? What happened?

 

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published in the summer of 2015.

Q is for Quail

Coturnix japonica?
These lovely quails are marching across a planter.

Prefixes

quad—, quadr—, quadri— denote four of something, or a square.

quadrangle

quadrennium

quadrilateral

quadruped

quant— denotes a number of something or a measurement.

quantity

quantum

quart— denotes a fourth of something.

quarter

quartet (or quartette)

Exception:

The mineral quartz has a trigonal crystal form. The name is of Slavic origin.

quasi— means “as if” in Latin, but in English it now implies something that looks OK but is not quite right; “somewhat” or “almost.”

quasi-democratic

quasi-scientific

quasi-stellar object (a quasar)

quin— denotes the number five.

quinary

quincentenary (500th anniversary)

quintet

quintuplets

Suffixes

que in Latin words means “and”, but English words with this ending are usually (but not always) derived from French. The original Latin ending may have been —icus or
icare.

antique

appliqué

communiqué

grotesque [from Italian]

opaque

plaque [from Dutch]

Exercises

  1. Can you identify additional words to add to the lists of prefixes and suffixes?
  2. Use the words in sentences to clarify their meanings.

Special reading assignment

  1. Quail belong to the same family as partridges and pheasants.
  2. Quail eggs were sent to the Mir space station in 1990, where they were incubated and successfully hatched.

Q, q
Q was once a little quail,
Quaily
Faily
Daily
Quaily
Stumpy-taily
Little Quail!

— Edward Lear, The Complete Nonsense and Other Verse

 

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published in the summer of 2015.

P is for Pelican

Pelicanus erythrorhynchos
The White Pelican, which summers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Canada, has a wingspread of about nine feet.

Prefixes

ped— usually relates to feet, footed, or a line of descent.

pedestrian

peddle

pedigree

post— means “after”, “afterwards”, “later”, or “behind”.

posterior

post-glacial

post-graduate

postpone

pre— means “before” in time or place, or in the order or importance of things.

precaution

precede, precedent

predate

preface

prescribe, prescription

president

pro— can mean “before” in time or place, or in the order of things.

promise

prophet

pro— can mean “favouring” or “supporting”.

pro-government

pro— can mean “in front of”, “forwards”, or “onward”.

probation

proceeds

progress

pros— means “towards” or “in addition to” something.

prosecute

prosper

prospect

proto— means “first”.

protocol

prototype

Suffixes

pede or —pedal create a noun or adjective that refers to feet or something footed.

bipedal

centipede

impede

stampede

 

pod or —pode also refer to feet or a number of feet.

hexapod

megapode

tripod

Exercises

  1. Which suffixes correspond to a prefix similar in meaning?
  2. Identify additional words with prefixes and suffixes beginning with the letter P.

Special reading assignment

  1. Philippa and her friend Stephen sloughed off their scarves and photographed the phantom pheasant phenomenon in the pharmacy.
  2. White pelicans scoop up fish while swimming; brown pelicans plunge from a height, bill-first, to catch fish.

 

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, “English Manual: Letter by Letter,” to be published sometime soon.

O is for Owl

Sculpture
Wordsworth the Owl can be found outside the library on Queen Street East in Toronto. Sculptor, Ludzer Vandermolen.

Prefixes

ob—, oc—, of—, op— mean “in the way of”, or “facing” and, usually, something in opposition or contrary. Notice that the c, f, and p are doubled.

obstruct

object

obvious

occasion

occult

occupy

offence [or offense]

offer

opponent

oppose

opposite

Special reading assignment

  1. Our one and only objective was to organize the office and outline the operation.
  2. Owls have broad wings, which allow them silent flight and more successful hunting.
  3. Otters have thick, waterproof fur. When they swim, hundreds of shiny, silver bubbles follow in their wake.

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published in the summer of 2015.

N is for Nest

Song birds' nest
This birds’ nest was built last year. Perhaps the same birds will return to it this spring.

Significance

N is a consonant and is spelled, en

 

Prefixes

narco— relates to narcotics or a numbing effect, as from drugs.

narcolepsy, narcotic

necro— creates a noun or adjective to do with death or the dead.

necrophobia, necrosis

neo— describes something new or renewed.

neo-classical, neocortex, neolithic

nervo— relates to nerves.

nervous, nervy

nitr—, nitro— describes a compound or something containing the element nitrogen.

nitric acid, nitroglycerin, nitrous oxide

non— gives a negative sense or describes a lack of something.

non-addictive, non-believer, non-delivery, non-payment, non-profit, nonsense

nona— stands for nine or ninth.

nonagenarian

nucle—, nucleo— describe a nucleus or something to do with it.

nuclear physics, nucleic acid

nucleoplasm

nutri— describes something nourishing.

nutrient, nutrition

 

Suffixes

naut describes a person who navigates a space vehicle or something similar.

aeronaut, astronaut, cosmonaut

nd, —and, —end describes a person or sometimes a thing to be treated with some respect.

brigand, graduand

dividend, fiend, friend, reverend

ness creates a noun from an adjective to express the state or condition of someone or something.

artfulness, calmness,  closeness, idleness, sweetness, wilderness

nik describes a person with certain characteristics, especially reminiscent of the 1960s.

beatnik, peacenik, refusenik

nomy denotes an area of knowledge or system of laws in a certain field of study.

economy

Exercises

  1. Do a search on the Internet for words in the list of prefixes and suffixes. How are the words used? Do you understand them in context?

Special reading assignment

  1. Birds’ nests are difficult to see in the summer when the leaves fill out on the trees.
  2. Nuthatches nest in cavities in trees.

 

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published in the summer of 2015.