English Word Families and Its Importance
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
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”
E.g. acknowledge, attack, back, blacklist, crack, hackneyed, package, rack, slack, tackle
E.g. chain, contain, entertainment, explain, fainted, pain, restrain, stainless, tainted, train
E.g. awake, bake, fake, intake, lake, make, naked, quake, sake, shake
E.g. azaleas, chorale, dale, dialect, exhale, female, finale, impale, sale, upscale
E.g. allusion, ball, ballad, caller, enthrall, falling, gallery, hallucinate, small, valley
E.g. camellia, dame, fame, flame, game, lame, name, same, shame, untamed
E.g. abandon, another, ant, ban, banner, cancel, clan, fan, random, tan
E.g. ankle, blanket, plank, prankster, rank, sank, spank, tank, thank, yank
E.g. adapt, appear, apple, captain, entrap, flapper, nap, rap, tap, wrap
E.g. ashamed, backlash, crash, dashboard, fashion, flash, gash, mash, sashimi, splash
E.g. attack, attention, batter, carat, catnip, data, hat, rat, splat, what
E.g. abate, date, fated, gate, grate, hated, mate, plate, rate, satiate
E.g. awesome, draw, hawk, law, prawn, saw, scrawl, spawn, straw, thaw
E.g. away, cayman, daylight, delay, essay, fray, gray, play, stay, way
Sounds of “E”
E.g. anteater, beat, cheater, defeat, heat, meat, seat treat, upbeat, wheat
E.g. beep, creep, deep, jeep, peep, sheep, sleep, weep
E.g. beetle, feet, greet, meeting, sheet, street, sweet
E.g. bellow, cell, dell, dwell, embellish, fellow, gazelle, hello, intellect, shell
E.g. accent, cent, dent, event, rent, scent, vent, went
E.g. best, chest, destiny, esteem, festival, forest, harvest, infest, modest, test
Sounds of “I”
E.g. biceps, lice, mice, nice, price, rice, spice, suffice, twice, vice
E.g. bicker, chicken, flicker, gimmick, kick, lick, pick, stick, thick, wicker
E.g. abide, chide, collide, deride, hide, inside, oxide, preside, ride, wide
E.g. bright, flight, fright, height, lighter, might, night, right, sight, tighter
E.g. awhile, bile, file, mile, smile, vile
E.g. brilliance, chill, frill, gorilla, hill, instill, millennial, pillar, quills, silly
E.g. basin, capuchin, clarinet, fin, intense, mint, ruin
E.g. bovine, decline, divine, entwine, feline, fine, line, mine, shrine, spine
E.g. aching, being, bring, calling, decoding, eating, fling, ring, sing, zinger
E.g. blink, drink, link, pink, shrink, sinking, stink, think, twinkle, wrinkle
E.g. blip, catnip, drip, flipper, insipid, ship, slip, sip, trip, whip
E.g. admit, bitter, capital, credit, debit, elicit, exhibit, limit, pit, pity
Sounds of “O”
E.g. bedrock, block, cassock, dock, frock, hammock, lock, locker, rocket, sock
E.g. broker, coke, invoke, joke, poke, revoke, smoke, stroke, woke, yoke
E.g. bishop, crop, dollop, flop, gallop, hop, laptop, stop, topic
E.g. adore, before, chore, encore, forearm, ignore, lore, more, pores, sore
E.g. born, corn, horn, morning, scorn, thorn, worn
E.g. abbot, blot, botany, clot, erotic, got, knot, snot, spot, trot
E.g. about, clout, gout, pout, shout, snout, trout
Sounds of “U”
E.g. bucket, chuck, duck, knuckle, luck, muck, pucker, struck, truck, untuck
E.g. debug, drug, dugout, hug, nugget plug, rugged, shrug, slug, thug
E.g. bump, clump, crumple, dump, frumpy, grumpy, jumping, lump, pumpkin, trump
E.g. bunk, chunk, clunk, drunken, dunk, freaky, hunk, punk, shrunken, spunk
English Word Families Based on Root 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.
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?
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.
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?
Locker, dock, bedrock, and rocket are all part of the word family OCK.
TRUE or FALSE : There are only thirty-seven known word families.
According to the National Council of Teachers of English, there are thirty-seven commonly used word families.
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