ESL Library is now Ellii!

Unsupported Browser

Ellii may not function properly in Internet Explorer. We recommend using Google Chrome or Firefox instead.

Unsupported Browser

Ellii may not function properly in older browsers. We recommend updating yours to the latest version for the best experience.

for an upcoming webinar or workshop.

Word Families

February 1, 2018

Nouns and adverbs and verbs, oh my!

Parts of speech are the building blocks for English sentences, and studying them early on can be beneficial for English language learners. Along with common sentence patterns, learning the parts of speech (nouns, verbs, prepositions, etc.) can help students form English sentences more easily.

But how do students know which vocabulary words are nouns, verbs, etc.? This is where suffixes (word endings) come into play. Learning common word endings can help students easily guess at the part of speech of a new vocabulary term.

Parts of speech and suffixes aren’t just for beginner students. This knowledge can boost students’ abilities in both grammar and vocabulary at any level, and is quite useful for higher‑level students who need to decipher complex and unfamiliar words. Learning and practicing word families in context can help higher-level students with speaking and writing as well as on tests such as the TOEIC.

Try presenting the word family chart below to your intermediate- to advanced‑ level learners, and then see if they can complete the following practice exercise. Subscribers can access a printable pdf of the chart and exercise here: Advanced Word Families. See our Parts of Speech lesson for lower‑level practice.

Word Families

Verb Noun Adjective Adverb
act action active actively
apologize apology apologetic apologetically
beautify beauty beautiful beautifully
believe belief believable believably
benefit benefit beneficial beneficially
care care careful carefully
create creation creative creatively
decide decision decisive decisively
differ difference different differently
divide division divisive divisively
exclude exclusion exclusive exclusively
identify identification identifiable identifiably
justify justification justifiable justifiably
protect protection protective protectively
rely reliability reliable reliably
signify significance significant significantly
succeed success successful successfully
tolerate tolerance tolerable tolerably
understand understanding understandable understandably


Have students complete the sentences below with a form of the prompt word. Allow them to refer to the chart above. You may also want to have students identify the parts of speech. Note that they may have to change the word form by making a noun plural or conjugating a verb into the correct tense.


# Prompt Sentence
Ex protect Female bears are very protective (adjective) of their young.


# Prompt Sentence
1 succeed Practice and patience are the keys to ______ .
2 rely My best friend has never let me down. I ______ on her many times in the past.
3 differ I can’t see what’s ______ in the second version of this document.
4 act ______ speak louder than words.
5 apologize After tripping me on my way to my desk yesterday, my coworker ______ profusely.
6 identify Please show me your ______ and your insurance papers.
7 understand He was ______ upset when he heard about the accident.
8 divide There were so many ______ issues that they called a mediator in.
9 decide Because the manager reacted ______ , the problem didn’t spiral out of control.
10 benefit This document was a ______ resource for the project.


  1. success (noun)
  2. have relied (verb)
  3. different (adjective)
  4. Actions (noun)
  5. apologized (verb)
  6. identification (noun)
  7. understandably (adverb)
  8. divisive (adjective)
  9. decisively (adverb)
  10. beneficial (adjective)


Not an Ellii member?

Get unlimited access to 1,000+ lessons and 3,000+ flashcards.

Sign Up

Comments (6)

Shiwantha Wishwananth(Guest)

Great work. as an English teacher i make maximum use of these lessons. thank you verymuch.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

You're welcome! I'm happy to hear this.

Lindsay Rose(Guest)

This was SO INCREDIBLY HELPFUL for my brilliant English Language Learners!

Most of the word family resources I find are aimed toward early elementary and this was so great to find. THANK YOU!

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Lindsay, I'm so glad to hear this was useful for your higher-level learners! Thanks for letting us know.

Jessica P.(Teacher)

How do you determine at what level to teach this?

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Jessica,

That's a great question. I usually teach this to my intermediate levels and above. However, I also always taught this in my TOEIC classes even when they included low-intermediate students. Remind students that knowing the word endings and patterns can help them determine the part of speech even if they don't know the meaning of a word. Learning the meanings of various longer words with endings like these would happen much more gradually (and at higher levels, depending on the word), but learning suffixes and patterns can happen at almost any level. If you teach lower levels, you could start by teaching them sentence patterns ( and suffixes ( before presenting word families.

Leave a Comment

Log In to Comment Reply

Comment Reply as a Guest
  • **bold**_italics_> quote

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    Thinking of joining Ellii?

    Complete this form to create an account and stay up to date on all the happenings here at Ellii.