Differences between Prefixes and Suffixes

The following article aims to briefly explain what function prefixes and suffixes play within grammar and how to differentiate them. This can be of particular use to us when reasoning about the real meaning of a word, since prefixes and suffixes are, in some way, word modifiers that are used to in turn generate new words that are generally used for us on a daily basis, sometimes without realizing it.


The word prefix derives from the Latin -praefixus- which means -to place in front-. Therefore, we can define prefixes as grammatical elements that can be placed in front of a word to modify its meaning. Also, they can be defined as a word or a syllable that is placed before a word to form another with a similar meaning.

In this way, it is possible to generate new words based on others. These elements cannot be used autonomously, since they lack their own meaning. Similarly, when using prefixes, none of the words formed change grammatical category.

Let’s look at some examples:

Super : By using this prefix with a word, you can highlight that it is superior to something common. We can find supermarket, supercars, superhero, among many others.

Post/pos : by using this prefix with a word it can be expressed that something has already happened, or that it is after something. We can find postpartum, post-birthday, post-temporary, among others.

I/in/im : by using this prefix with a word you can express the opposite meaning or something or the negation of the word. Invaluable, incredible, illegitimate, impartial, among others.


Suffixes can be defined as grammatical elements that are placed after a word, also modifying its meaning. It should be noted that the suffixes cannot be used individually either, since they do not have their own meaning. Some suffixes can cause a change in the grammatical category of the original word and the created word. Other suffixes do not generate a change in the grammatical category of the created word. This means that through a suffix a noun can be created through a verb, as in the case of eating – food, by using –ida-.

Let’s look at some examples:

They do not change the grammatical category :

  • Ito/ita: used to show a smaller size or affection. We can find grandmother-grandmother, car-cart, school-school. Among others.
  • Ote/ota: denote affection or larger size. Grandfather-grandfather, car-carrot, cat-cat, fat-fat.

They generate change in the grammatical category :

  • Leisure to Leisure (There is a change from noun to adjective)
  • Beautiful to Beauty (There is a change from adjective to noun)

Differences between prefix and suffix:

Prefix Suffix
Prefixes are placed before the word they modify. Suffixes are postponed to the word they modify.
Prefixes can sometimes be used with a hyphen between the suffix and the word they modify. In the case of suffixes, the word they modify will always be written in full.
Prefixes do not change the grammatical category of a word. Some suffixes do not change the part of speech of a word and some suffixes do change the part of speech of a word.

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