The importance of word formation

Word formation matters because it helps you

build a bigger vocabulary more quickly

allows you to say things more flexibly

stops you making so many mistakes

If this is new to you read the information at the top of the page, then try the word formation exercises further down to test your skills.

What is it?

Very simply word formation is taking one word and getting more words. See this example for analyse – a key word int he Academic Word List.

It is not one word but many:

analyse – the verb

analysis – a noun

analytical – an adjective

analytically – an adverb

Learning words in this way is part of what my daily word exercise is all about.

Word formation and nouns and suffixes

Nouns are a very large part of the language. Sometimes they are the same form as the verb, for example contract and contract. Very often though we add bits onto the verb or the adjective (suffixes) to make a noun. See below:

significant → significance

vary → variation

involve → involvement

Some common noun suffixes

There are many suffixes for making nouns. here are some of the most common with examples:

ment – require – requirement

tion -accommodate – accommodation

ness – helpful – helpfulness

hood – child – childhood

ence/ance – significant – significance

ancy/ency – current – currency

ity – real – reality

ship – friend – friendship

How do you learn the skill?

I have three slightly different answers.

1. You can learn one word at a time – slow but sure. My daily word will help here.

2. You can learn to identify patterns. -ate verbs mostly make nouns ending –ation. This is quicker but English is a very irregular language so be prepared to be surprised.

3. Practice of course. This is where my exercises below may help you.

Word formation exercises making nouns 

Try this exercise with 20 questions to test your knowledge of the most common suffixes  (-ment -ation -ity -ence). All the words here come from list 1 of the Academic Word List – the sort of words you need to get right.

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Using the nouns in sentences

The next step is to make sure that you can use the words in sentences! It’s no good knowing them otherwise.

Now check that you can use the nouns in paragraphs

This is the real test. These exercises ask you to think about the meaning and form of words in paragraphs.