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15.3: More About [s] at the End of Words

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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More About [s] at the End of Words

1. The following words all end with a base that itself ends with the sound [s]. In each case [s] is spelled <ss> or it is spelled \begin{align*}<\mathrm{s}>\end{align*}<s> with an insulating final <e>. Words marked \begin{align*}‘n’\end{align*}. are nouns. Sort the words into the matrix:

\begin{align*}& \text{intense} && \text{collapse} && \text{fuss} && \text{impulse} \\ & \text{abyss} && \text{excuse} \ (n.) && \text{reverse} && \text{purchase} \\ & \text{merchandise}\ (n.) && \text{dispense} && \text{caress} && \text{surpass} \\ & \text{false} && \text{release} && \text{abuse}\ (n.) && \text{geese} \\ & \text{dismiss} && \text{possess} && \text{immense} && \text{kiss}\end{align*}

Words that end with [s] spelled...
\begin{align*}<\mathrm{s}>\end{align*} with an insulating <e> <ss>

Words that end with

a base and have a

stressed short vowel

right in front of the

final [s]









Words that end with

a base but do not

have a stressed

short vowel right in

front of the final [s]













2. In bases that end in an [s] sound spelled either <se> or <ss>, if there is a stressed short vowel sound right in front of the final [s], the [s] will be spelled <ss>. Otherwise, the [s] will be spelled \begin{align*}\underline{<s>}\end{align*} with an insulating (silent) (final) <e>.

3. Remember: In English we tend to avoid ending words with a single \begin{align*}<\mathrm{s}>\end{align*} that comes at the end of a base. To keep the single \begin{align*}<\mathrm{s}>\end{align*} from coming at the end, sometimes we double the \begin{align*}<\mathrm{s}>\end{align*} (as in fuss or caress). Sometimes we add a final <e> (as in intense or impulse). In words like intense and impulse the final <e> is not marking a long vowel, or a soft <c> or a soft <g> or a voiced <th>. It is just insulating the \begin{align*}<\mathrm{s}>\end{align*}, keeping it from coming at the end of the base and word.

4. There are four very common bases that end <ss> and that often come at the end of words and free stems. Two of them are free bases: pass, with an original meaning “step, pace”; press, “press, squeeze”. Two of them are bound bases: cess, with an original meaning “go”; miss, with an original meaning “let go, cause to go.”

Each of the following words contains one of these four bases. Analyze the words into their elements as given in the Formula column: \begin{align*}‘\mathrm{P}’\end{align*} means “Prefix,” ‘FB’ means “Free Base,” ‘BB’ means “Bound Base,” \begin{align*}‘ \mathrm{S} ’\end{align*} means “Suffix”:

Word Formula Analysis
impressively P + B + S + S i\begin{align*}\cancel{n}\end{align*} + m + press + ive + ly
submissive P + BB + S sub + miss + ive
accessed P + BB + S a\begin{align*}\cancel{d}\end{align*} + c + cess + ed
surpassing P + FB + S sur + pass + ing
expressive P + FB + S ex + press + ive
processor P + BB + S pro + cess + or
missiles BB + S + S miss + ile + s
passage FB + S pass + age
excessive P + BB + S ex + cess + ive
abscessed P + BB + S abs + cess + ed
underpass P + FB under + pass
trespassing P + FB + S tres + pass + ing

Teaching Notes.

Item 2. In the third blank I would accept as good answers either <e>, final <e>, silent <e>, or silent final <e>.

Item 4. The bound base miss “let go, cause to go” is not related to either the verb and noun miss “fail(ure) to hit” or the noun miss, as in “Miss Jones.”

The prefix tres- in trespassing is the French version of trans- “across, beyond.”

The root meaning of abscess is “a going away, a departure.” The OED shows a related obsolete verb abscede “move away, lose contact.” The connection between the root sense of abscess and our current sense of “a collection of pus” is not clear. The second sense developed in Latin. It may be that the idea was that the pus had moved away from its normal location to gather in one place. There is almost certainly an echo of the ancient theory of the four humors - blood, phlegm, choler, and black bile - fluids that were thought to circulate through the body and, depending on the amounts of each, determine one's psychological makeup and general health.

The bound bases miss and cess are discussed later in this book, in Lesson 21 and Lessons 19-20 respectively.

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Date Created:
Feb 23, 2012
Last Modified:
Jul 07, 2015
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