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Basic Speller - Lesson 21 - The Suffixes -er and -est

Lesson Twenty-one

The Suffixes -er and -est

1. Read the following sentences:

a. Those are green apples.

b. They are greener than the apples we had before.

c. They are the greenest apples I have ever seen.

d. Look at that black cloud!

e. It is blacker than the other clouds.

f. It must be the blackest cloud in the world!

2. Look at the words in bold type again and sort them into these three groups:

Words that end in <er> Words that end in <est> Words that don't end in <er> or <est>

3. Look again at the words that end in <er>. Each one is made up of two parts: a shorter word and the letters <er>. For instance, greener is made up of the shorter word green plus the letters <er>.

Greener means “more green.” The part of greener spelled <green> carries the basic meaning of the word, “green.” The part of greener spelled <er> adds the meaning “more.” Since the parts spelled <green> and <er> add meaning to the word, we call them elements.

An element is the smallest part of a written word that adds meaning to the word.

When we talk about elements, we italicize them, just as we italicize words: greener = green + er

4. Some elements are called bases. A base carries the basic meaning of the word. In the words greener and greenest the base is green.

Bases like green that can stand free by themselves as words are called free bases.

A base is an element that carries the basic meaning of the word and that can have other elements added to it.

Bases that can stand free by themselves as words — like green — are called free bases.

5. Some elements are not bases but add meanings to the base. The element er adds the meaning “more” to the base green: Greener means “more green.”

The element er comes after the base and cannot stand free by itself as a word. An element like er that comes after the base and cannot stand free is called a suffix. When we write a suffix by itself, we put a hyphen in front of it, to show that it should have something added on there: -er.

A suffix is an element that goes after the base and that cannot stand free by itself as a word.

6. Here are the four words you found before that end in suffixes -er or -est. Divide each word into its two elements:

Word = First Element (Free Base) + Second Element (Suffix)
greener = green + er
greenest = +
blacker = +
blackest = +

7. Be ready to talk about this question: If the suffix -er adds the meaning “more” to greener and blacker, what meaning do you think the suffix -est adds to greenest and blackest?

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