Base forms of words: Definition and examples

Definition and Examples of Base Forms of Words

Base words: Definition, formation, and examples

A base word is a word form to which affixes (prefixes or suffixes) can be added to create new words. For example, the word “play” is a base word. By adding the suffix “-er”, we get the new word “player”. Another example is the word “instruct” which is the base for forming words such as “instruction”, “instructor”, and “reinstruct”. A base word can also be called a root or stem. A base word itself has meaning, and it can usually be found in a dictionary.

Examples of base words:


  • Actor
  • Action
  • Activity


  • Friendly
  • Friendship
  • Unfriendliness


  • Happiness
  • Unhappy
  • Happily


  • Player
  • Playful
  • Replay


  • Careless
  • Careful
  • Caregiver

How to use base words?

Knowing base words helps to expand your vocabulary and understanding of the English language. When you know base words, you can more easily decipher new words you encounter. For example, if you know that “happy” means “happy”, it will be easier for you to understand the word “unhappy” (unhappy).

Thus, knowledge of base words is an important component of successfully learning English. It opens the door to understanding many other words and helps you become more confident in communicating in English.

Table of base words  with prefixes and suffixes

Base wordPprefixSuffixA new word

Base words vs root words

A base word already has meaning and can be a standalone word, while a root word is the part of a word that remains after removing all affixes. For example, in the word “unhappiness” the base word is “happy”, and the root word is “happi-“. Root words form the base for creating other words, but they do not always have meaning on their own. Base words are words that do not derive from other words and have meaning independently.

Exercise – Form new words from base words

Here is an exercise for you to practice base words. Add the suffix “-er” to the following base words:

  • Teach -> Teacher
  • Bake -> Baker
  • Sing -> Singer
  • Farm -> Farmer
  • Build -> Builder
  • Cook -> Cooker
  • Paint -> Painter
  • Write -> Writer

Form a new word by adding the prefix “un-” to each of these base words:

  • Lock -> Unlock
  • Cover -> Uncover
  • Pack -> Unpack
  • Wind -> Unwind
  • Fold -> Unfold
  • Dress -> Undress
  • Load -> Unload

Frequently questions about base words in English

1. How can I distinguish a base word from other types of words?

  • A base word can be found in a dictionary with meaning, it has meaning on its own and can be used independently.

2. Why is it important to study base words?

  • Knowing base words helps you understand word formation and improves your vocabulary, making it easier to comprehend and learn new words.

3. How can I improve my skills in using base words?

  • Use base words in written and oral exercises, create your own words using affixes, and use them in different contexts for reinforcement.

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