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A New Word: Stem

1. When we take prefixes or suffixes away from a word, the part that is left over is called the stem. So if we took the prefix re- away from the word repaying, we would have the word paying left over – and we call that leftover part the stem. If we took the suffix -ing away from the word repaying , the stem would be repay.

We also use the word stem to refer to a word to which we are going to add prefixes or suffixes. If we added the prefix re- to the word pay, we would say that pay was the stem of the new word, repay.

So the word stem can be used in two different ways: It can be used to refer to what is left over after prefixes or suffixes are taken away from a word, and it can be used to refer to a word to which we are going to add prefixes or suffixes.

2. Fill in the blanks as we have done with the first three:

Word minus a prefix or suffix = Stem
repayments – prefix re- = payments
repayments – suffix -s = repayment
repayment – prefix re- = payment
repayment – suffix -ment = repay
payment – suffix -ment = pay
repay – prefix re- = pay

3. Here are some words with both prefixes and suffixes. Take away the prefix or suffix given for each word to reveal a stem. Watch for cases of twinning and final <e> deletion:

Word minus a prefix or suffix = Stem
researched – re- = searched
researched – -ed = research
untruthful – -ful = untruth
untruths – -s = untruth
untruthful – un- = truthful
dismounted – -ed = dismount
remounting – -ing = remount
worried – -ed = worry
reacting – re- = acting
unchallenging – un- = challenging
dishonest – dis- = honest
untapped – un- = tapped
resettlement – re- = settlement
befriended – -ed = befriend

4. In the following table you start with a stem to which you add a prefix or a suffix to create a new word:

Stem + prefix or suffix = New Word
noticed + un- = unnoticed
disservic\cancel{\mathrm{e}} + -es = disservices
quiz + z + -ed = quizzed
serviceable + un- = unserviceable
digested + un- = undigested
repack + -ing = repacking
licensed + un- = unlicensed
charged + dis- = discharged
disbar + r + -ed = disbarred
original + un- = unoriginal
waxed + re- = rewaxed
announce + -ment = announcement
obliged + un- = unobliged

4. The word stem is a handy one to know. Remember that the same word can make different stems because stems are whatever is left when we take away prefixes or suffixes. And remember, too, that we also use the word stem to refer to a word to which we are going to add prefixes or suffixes.

Some stems do not have prefixes or suffixes. They contain just one or more bases. But although a stem does not have to have a prefix or suffix, every stem must have at least one base.

We call bases that can stand free as words free bases, like the base paint in the word repainted. We also call stems that can stand free as words free stems, like the stems repaint and painted in the word repainted.

Teaching Notes.

Item 1. The definition of stem can be tricky for students. The fact that some words can have more than one stem, the fact that a stem can be what is left over or what you start with — these can be difficult notions for the youngsters. But the word stem will be useful enough in their future work with words that it is worth the difficulty encountered in this lesson. The word stem is useful because it can be used to refer to many different things: a base plus a suffix, a prefix plus a base, a base plus two suffixes . . . .

Item 4. It is important that the students understand why we call both repaint and painted free stems of the word repainted. Which stem we get depends on what we remove from the original word.

Notice that a free stem may consist of only a free base. Such an element can actually be called by three different names: free base, free stem, or word.

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Feb 23, 2012

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Apr 29, 2014
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