Inflected Endings: Everything You Need to Know

Inflected endings (or inflectional endings) refer to the end of words strategically placed after base words, e.g., -s, -ed, -ing. Inflectional endings are added to the end of a noun, verb, or adjective to add meaning.

In terms of verbs, inflectional endings help to determine if an event is occurring in the present (for example, the man is traveling) or it occurred in the past (the man traveled).

In terms of nouns, inflectional endings help to identify the singular or plural form of something. A -s, -es, or –ies (when the last letter of the singular form is a “y”) is added to make a plural noun. Some examples can be tree/trees (-s), wish/wishes (-es), and city/cities (-ies).

When it comes to adjectives, inflectional endings help to demonstrate differences in comparative and superlative forms. For comparative forms, usually an –er ending is added to the base adjective (small/smaller). For superlative forms, an –est is added to the base adjective (small/smallest).

It’s important to understand that inflectional endings and suffixes aren’t always the same thing. While both are added to the end of a root (a base form) or word, they’ve got differences between them. In English, suffixes are divided into two primary types: derivational suffixes and inflectional suffixes. A derivational suffix alters the meaning of the word it’s attached to and alters the grammatical category of the item it’s attached to. For example, the addition of –ly to an adjective to represent an adverb (polite/politely), where –ly changes the word’s grammatical category. An inflectional suffix tells something about the grammatical behavior of a word.

Children can learn inflectional endings at different times, depending on their curriculum. While most children learn inflectional endings at the beginning of second grade or at the end of first grade, some kids start to learn them in kindergarten.

Struggling readers usually have the most difficult time when learning inflectional endings. Therefore, teachers need to ensure teaching inflectional endings systematically and explicitly. The majority of single-syllable phonics sounds should be taught before starting inflectional endings instruction. Students should get through consonant blends, r-sounds, short vowels, and long vowels before learning inflectional endings.

Children with substantial reading struggles are usually held back on the same phonic sound because they fail to master inflectional endings. This may keep them on low-level decodable texts for too long. However, by teaching most phonics first, teachers can help struggling readers learn inflectional endings at a faster rate.

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