Word Families

Nouns and adverbs and verbs, oh my!

Parts of speech are the building blocks for English sentences, and studying them early on is 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 one of the word forms of the prompt in brackets. 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.

Example: [protect] Female bears are very ___protective__ of their young. (adjective)

  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 in a mediator.
  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)


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Leave a Comment ↓

  1. Shiwantha Wishwananth says:

    Apr 17, 2019 at 3:19 am

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

    • Tanya Trusler says:

      Apr 22, 2019 at 1:40 pm

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

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