Happy #morphememonday! Just as a refresher, morphemes are the smallest unit of meaning in the English language. It is important to explicitly teach students to about morphemes throughout their schooling to help develop their morphological awareness.

This week, the prefix <sub> and the root <min> are featured and they are both ones for individuals’ who are at an intermediate level of morphological awareness.


This week’s suffix <s>/<es> is a great suffix to use to introduce the concept of changing words by adding a morpheme to students in kindergarten and grade one.  When you first introduce this suffix, do not overwhelm the students with all of the spelling rules associated with making a word into its plural form, just focus on the function of it. It is okay to mention the two different spellings and talk about the exceptions.

Origin: Latin

Definition: down, near, under, secondary

Examples: submarine, subsoil, subtraction, subtropics, subdivide, substandard

<sub> + <skill> = subskill

<sub> + <total> = subtotal

<sub> + <culture> = subculture

<sub> + <merge> = submerge

<sub> + <arctic> = subarctic

<sub> + <due> = subdue

  • The prefix <sub> has a consistent pronunciation with a short vowel /u/ sound.
  • The prefix <sub> should be taught in the middle grades once students are coming across words containing the prefix more frequently.

Origin: Latin

Definition: small, less, little

Examples: minutiae, mini, minister, minimum, minus, minstrel

<min> + <or> =minor

<min> + <uet> = minuet

<min> + <ute> = minute

<min> + <ce> = mince

<ad> + <min> + <ister> = administer

<di> + <min> + <ish> =diminish

  • The root <min> is a bound root with a consistent pronunciation with a short vowel /i/ sounds.
  • This root should be taught in once students have a solid foundation in morphemes in the middle school grades.

Origin: Old English

Definition: plural, more than one

Examples: cats, minutes, trucks, apples, boxes, parties

<dog> + <s> = dogs

<wish> + <s> = wishes

<cow> + <s> = cows

<city> + <s> = cities

<Jones> + <s> = Joneses

  • The suffix <s>/<es> is considered to be an inflectional or grammatical suffix
  • The suffix <s>/<es> for plural forms of words is one of the easier suffixes and should be one of the first morphemes taught.
  • The pronunciation of the suffix varies depending on the base word it is attached to, sometimes it makes the /s/ sound like in minutes, sometimes it makes the /z/ sound like in cows, and sometimes it makes the /ez/ sound as in wishes
  • Spelling rules associated with the suffix <s>/<es> can be taught by using a word sort with students (a sample lesson description can be viewed here)
  • The following spelling rules are associated with plurals:
    • If the word ends in a ‘s’, ‘x’, ‘z’, ‘ch’, ‘sh’ or a consonant and the vowel ‘o’, add <es>
      Examples: <bus> + <s> = buses; <fox> + <s> = foxes; <buzz> + <s> = buzzes; <peach> + <s> = peaches; <bush> + <s> = bushes; <potato> + <s> = potatoes
      Exception: <ox> + <s> = oxen
    • If the word ends in a vowel followed by a ‘y’, just add <s>
      Examples: <delay> + <s> = delays; <toy> + <s> = toys
    • If the word ends in a consonant followed by a y, change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ and add <es>
      Examples: <patry> + <s> = parties; <baby> + <s> = babies
    • Words ending in ‘ff’ just add <s> to make plural
      Examples: <sniff> + <s> = sniffs; <cuff> + <s> = cuffs
    • Most words ending in ‘lf’ or ‘fe’ change the ‘f’ to a ‘v’ and add ‘es’
      Examples: <calf> + <s> = calves; <life> + <s> = lives
      Exceptions: <chief> + <s> = chiefs; <roof> + <s> = roofs; <spoof> + <s> = spoofs; <oaf> + <s> = oafs; <chef> + <s> = chefs; <handkerchief> + <s> = handkerchiefs
      Words that work both ways: scarfs/scarves; wharfs/wharves; dwarfs/dwarves
    • Proper names pluralize like regular words, if the name ends in an ‘s’ or ‘z’ add <es>, in all other cases (including ending in ‘y’) just add s
      Examples: <Thompson> + <s> = Thompsons; <Fernandez> + <es> = Fernandezes; <Hardy> + <s> = Hardys

*Do not worry about teaching all of the spelling rules associated with plurals when you first teach it.

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If there is anything we can do or post to help you learn more about the importance of morphological awareness (or any other topic for that matter) please send an email to blog@garfortheducation.com

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Last week ,July 22, 2019, we focused on the prefix <bi>/<bin>, the root <act>/<ag> and the suffix <ly>.


Next week, August 5, 2019, we will be focusing on the prefix <un>, the root <aud>, and the suffix <ion>.