Noun endings

Exploring suffixes and how they affect word class

In this activity we will look at suffixes which change verbs and adjectives into nouns. This process is a part of derivational morphology


  • Practise changing adjectives and verbs into nouns using certain suffixes.
  • Identify the patterns and restrictions on using suffixes to change verbs and adjectives into nouns.
  • Discuss the way that nouns derived from verbs and adjectives behave differently in sentences from verbs and adjectives.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will add suffixes to words to change their word class. Adding a suffix to a word sometimes changes the word class, for example from adjective to noun (kind/kindness). This contributes to the vocabulary of the language, giving us more ways to express meanings.

The Activity page appears in the menu entitled 'This Unit' in the upper right corner of this page. The Activity page contains slides that can be displayed on a projector or smart board. Slide 1 presents verbs and adjectives which can be turned into nouns by adding certain suffixes. Students should work out which suffix to add to each word. In some cases, they will need to allow for a change in spelling at the end of the word when the suffix is added (the change is not shown in the puzzle).

Present the activity in slideshow mode on a projector or smart board, and complete the following tasks:

  • Drag a card to the right or left of another card to join them together. The other card should briefly flash.
  • Double-click a joined card to separate it from the other one.
  • Ask your students to decide whether a spelling change is necessary and to describe it.

Then ask the following questions: 

  • Which of the suffixes turn verbs into nouns? Which ones turn adjectives into nouns?
  • Are there any suffixes that could be used to create other types of word?
  • Do you notice anything about the spelling of any of these words you have created?
  • It might be useful to check the dictionary to see if the words you have created actually exist and to check the spellings of them if they are ‘real’ words.

Students have probably noticed that the verbs are quite 'fussy' because they generally only take one of the suffixes. If we swap suffixes around, we get results which sound quite strange!

Extension task

Now, students should choose three nouns from the examples and do the following:

  • Write two sentences, one with the noun, and one with the original verb or adjective from which it was derived. 
  • How can we tell that one of the sentence examples includes the noun, and the other includes the verb or adjective from which it was derived? Can you show how they behave differently in sentences?

Teacher's Notes

Here are some possible nouns created by adding -er to a verb base:

  • play-er
    = someone who plays
  • read-er
    = someone who reads
  • walk-er
    = someone who walks

What is happening here?

  • pure-er

These base forms are adjectives. Adding -er to an adjective makes it a comparative adjective (purertaller). (Remember to allow for a change in spelling at the end of the word when the suffix is added.) 

Some of the verbs can only be made into nouns by adding -ing, e.g.:

  • read-ing
    as in He gave a reading of his poetry.
  • play-ing
    as in Your playing has improved.

In the examples above, these words behave as nouns. How do we know? Because they have a determiner in front of them.

Of course, these forms ending in -ing can also be used as verbs, for example in He is reading/playing. This form of a verb is called the present participle form.

Different endings can be added to the same base word.

  • perform-er
    = someone who performs (noun)
  • perform-ance
    = the result of performing (noun)
  • perform-ing
    = the -ing participle form of the verb


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