Reading is fundamental. But before we learn to read and pronounce our English words, we learn about English word families first. So, what is a word family? English word families refer to words that share a common feature, either in pattern or meaning. They are also called phonographs or chunks. Learning about word families is important in building the skill that is needed to become a skilled reader. It helps simplify the very complicated and sometimes inconsistent patterns within most English words.

First of all,  English word families can be based on either phonemes or root words. A phoneme refers to the sound produced, while a root word refers to the most basic unit of a word. According to Richard E. Wylie and Donald D. Durell, members of the National Council of Teachers of English, there are 37 common word families based on phonetics.

 

English Word Families Based on Phonetics

english words

This list takes a look at all thirty-seven-word families and more based on pronunciation. It also includes some example English words that are part of them. Take note, a lot of these words can also be seen as rhymes, but this is not always the case.

Sounds of “A”

ACK
          E.g. acknowledge, attack, back, blacklist, crack, hackneyed, package, rack, slack, tackle

AIN
          E.g. chain, contain, entertainment, explain, fainted, pain, restrain, stainless, tainted, train

AKE
          E.g. awake, bake, fake, intake, lake, make, naked, quake, sake, shake

ALE
          E.g. azaleas, chorale, dale, dialect, exhale, female, finale, impale, sale, upscale

ALL
          E.g.  allusion, ball, ballad, caller, enthrall, falling, gallery, hallucinate, small, valley

AME
          E.g. camellia, dame, fame, flame, game, lame, name, same, shame, untamed

AN
          E.g. abandon, another, ant, ban, banner, cancel, clan, fan, random, tan

ANK
          E.g. ankle, blanket, plank, prankster, rank, sank, spank, tank, thank, yank

AP
          E.g. adapt, appear, apple, captain, entrap, flapper, nap, rap, tap, wrap

ASH
          E.g. ashamed, backlash, crash, dashboard, fashion, flash, gash, mash, sashimi, splash

AT
          E.g. attack, attention, batter, carat, catnip, data, hat, rat, splat, what

ATE
          E.g.  abate, date, fated, gate, grate, hated, mate, plate, rate, satiate

AW
          E.g.  awesome, draw, hawk, law, prawn, saw, scrawl, spawn, straw, thaw

AY
          E.g.  away, cayman, daylight, delay, essay, fray, gray, play, stay, way

Sounds of “E”

EAT
          E.g.  anteater, beat, cheater, defeat, heat, meat, seat treat, upbeat, wheat

EEP
          E.g.  beep, creep, deep, jeep, peep, sheep, sleep, weep

EET
          E.g.  beetle, feet, greet, meeting, sheet, street, sweet

ELL
          E.g.  bellow, cell, dell, dwell, embellish, fellow, gazelle, hello, intellect, shell

ENT
          E.g.  accent, cent, dent, event, rent, scent, vent, went

EST
          E.g.  best, chest, destiny, esteem, festival, forest, harvest, infest, modest, test

Sounds of “I”

ICE
          E.g.  biceps, lice, mice, nice, price, rice, spice, suffice, twice, vice

ICK
          E.g. bicker, chicken, flicker, gimmick, kick, lick, pick, stick, thick, wicker

IDE
          E.g.  abide, chide, collide, deride, hide, inside, oxide, preside, ride, wide

IGHT
          E.g.  bright, flight, fright, height, lighter, might, night, right, sight, tighter

ILE
          E.g.  awhile, bile, file,  mile, smile, vile

ILL
          E.g.  brilliance, chill, frill, gorilla, hill, instill, millennial, pillar, quills, silly

IN
          E.g. basin, capuchin, clarinet, fin, intense, mint, ruin

INE
          E.g. bovine, decline, divine, entwine, feline, fine, line, mine, shrine, spine

ING
          E.g. aching, being, bring, calling, decoding, eating, fling, ring, sing, zinger

INK
          E.g.  blink, drink, link, pink, shrink, sinking, stink, think, twinkle, wrinkle

IP
          E.g. blip, catnip, drip, flipper, insipid, ship, slip, sip, trip, whip

IT
          E.g. admit, bitter, capital, credit, debit, elicit, exhibit, limit, pit, pity

Sounds of “O”

OCK
          E.g.  bedrock, block, cassock, dock, frock, hammock, lock, locker, rocket, sock

OKE
          E.g. broker, coke, invoke, joke, poke, revoke, smoke, stroke, woke, yoke

OP
          E.g. bishop, crop, dollop, flop, gallop, hop, laptop, stop, topic

ORE
          E.g. adore, before, chore, encore, forearm, ignore, lore, more, pores, sore

ORN
          E.g. born, corn, horn, morning, scorn, thorn, worn

OT
          E.g. abbot, blot, botany, clot, erotic, got, knot, snot, spot, trot

OUT
          E.g. about, clout, gout, pout, shout, snout, trout

Sounds of “U”

UCK
          E.g. bucket, chuck, duck, knuckle, luck, muck, pucker, struck, truck, untuck

UG
          E.g. debug, drug, dugout, hug, nugget plug, rugged, shrug, slug, thug

UMP
          E.g. bump, clump, crumple, dump, frumpy, grumpy, jumping, lump, pumpkin, trump

UNK
          E.g. bunk, chunk, clunk, drunken, dunk, freaky, hunk, punk, shrunken, spunk

English Word Families Based on Root Words

english words

 

On the other hand, a lot of word families are derived from root words. Some words are made up of different parts: a beginning, middle, and an end. The first part is known as a prefix, while the end is known as a suffix. Meanwhile, the middle part is often made up of the root word.

Take note, new English words can be formed from root words by the addition of either a prefix or a suffix. A root word can stand on its own. And the addition of either a prefix or a suffix can entirely change the meaning of the root word. Common roots used in forming English words are either Latin or Greek in origin.

Now, in this list we examine some of the most common root words and their meaning.

Common Latin Roots

a – “on

          E.g. afire, adrift, ashore, aside

act – “to do”

          E.g. activity, react

bene – “good”

          E.g. benefactor, beneficial, benevolent

gon – “angle”

          E.g. octagon, decagon, polygon, diagonal

ject – “to throw”

          E.g. projectile, ejection, interject, subject

retro – “backwards”

          E.g. retrospect, retrogade

scend – “to climb”

          E.g. ascend, transcend, condescending

tract – “to pull”

          E.g. attract, retract, detract, extract, traction

vis – “see”

          E.g. visible, television, revise, advise

Common Greek Roots

bio – “life”

          E.g. biology, biography, bioderm

endo – “within”

          E.g. endoscopy, endoderm, endogamy

gen – “to produce”

          E.g. regenerate, general, pathogen, indigenous

graph – “writing”

          E.g. autograph, seismograph, calligraphy, pictograph, graphics

poly – “many”

          E.g. polyglot, monopoly, polygamy

 

English word families are important in building the reading skill, too. In fact, it is recommended that parents teach this to their kids at an early age. This is why most nursery rhymes include English words that are part of the same family. Additionally, knowing word families teaches students about letter combinations, as well as correct pronunciation. As a learner of the English language, you can start your learning by studying one-word family at a time. So, do you think you’re up to the task? Tell us what you think about this lesson in the comments.

So, how well did you understand this lesson? Test your level of comprehension by taking this short quiz below. And again, don’t forget to share your results with us in the comments.

TRUE or FALSE: Phonemes refer to sounds, while roots refer to the basic unit of a word.

Correct! Wrong!

Word families can be based on either phonemes or root words. A phoneme refers to the sound produced, while a root word refers to the most basic unit of a word.

Why is it important to study word families?

Correct! Wrong!

Word families are important in building the reading skill. Additionally, knowing word families teaches students about letter combinations, as well as correct pronunciation.

TRUE or FALSE: A root word cannot stand on its own. It needs either a prefix or suffix to form a meaningful word.

Correct! Wrong!

New English words can be formed from root words by the addition of either a prefix or a suffix. A root word can stand on its own. And the addition of either a prefix or a suffix can entirely change the meaning of the root word.

Which of these groups of words is part of the same word family?

Correct! Wrong!

Locker, dock, bedrock, and rocket are all part of the word family OCK.

TRUE or FALSE : There are only thirty-seven known word families.

Correct! Wrong!

According to the National Council of Teachers of English, there are thirty-seven commonly used word families.