Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the suffixes -er and -ee? They can be very confusing when you’re learning English, so Bespeaking is here to help you learn the difference! These suffixes turn up (are found) pretty often in English, so this is definitely something that will come in handy (be useful) if your aim is to become fluent in English — or even just want to understand more about the language.

Ready to beef up (add to, improve) your English knowledge? Then let’s explore the suffixes -er and -ee!

What is a suffix?

Before we get too far, it’s helpful to know what exactly a suffix is. A suffix is a few letters (such as -er or -ee) that are added to the end of a word to change the meaning or grammatical function (purpose) of the word. Suffixes can be added to nouns, verbs, or adjectives, although not all suffixes can be used for all three parts of speech. There are many different suffixes in English, and they all mean different things. Here are some of the most common suffixes that can be found in English:

  • -ly (for adjectives, meaning “in a certain way”) i.e. quickly
  • -al (for adjectives, meaning “pertaining to”) i.e. regional
  • -ious, -ous (for adjectives, meaning “characterized by”) i.e. religious
  • -less (for adjectives, meaning “without”) i.e. shameless
  • -ment (for nouns, meaning “a condition of”) i.e. argument
  • -ship (for nouns, meaning “position held”) i.e. friendship
  • -ate (for verbs, meaning “to become a certain way”) i.e. regulate
  • -ize (in American English) and -ise (in British English) (for verbs, meaning “to become”) i.e. civilize

This is just a small sampling of the many different suffixes we have in English. But what are the suffixes -er and -ee for?

Suffixes -er and -ee

The suffixes -er and -ee are used for nouns and in particular are used to describe people and the positions they have. The words that use the suffixes -er and -ee are usually two sides of the same coin — meaning that these words are related and describe two jobs that people do. The suffix -er is used to describe a person or thing that does or provides an action. The suffix -ee describes the person or thing that receives the action.

Here’s an example:

  • employer
  • employee

Do you know what the difference is? Here’s the quick answer: an employee is someone who does a job, and an employer is someone who provides (gives) the job. For example, I am an employee of Bespeaking, and Crystal is my employer. Crystal provides the job, and I do the job. People are employees of companies or organizations, and do the jobs necessary to run them. The companies or organizations are the employers, and are the ones who have the jobs that need to be done.

Here are some other examples of the suffixes -er and -ee:

  • trainer – someone who trains
  • trainee – someone who is trained
  • adviser – someone who gives advice
  • advisee – someone who receives advice
  • slayer – someone who kills (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer!)
  • slayee – someone who is killed (like the vampires)

You may find the suffix -ee more often in the wild (in real life), such as attendee (someone who attends something), returnee (someone who returns), or escapee (someone who escapes). The words attender, returner, and escaper are not used often in English and are not used as the “giver” (or opposite) of the words with -ee endings.

Words ending with -er and -ee in English are very common, and knowing about suffixes is an important part of learning English. They’re a great way to expand (make bigger) your vocabulary!

Can you think of any other examples of words ending in -er or -ee? Have you encountered them before in everyday life? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Internet Vocabulary You Should KnowBar Vocabulary in English5 Podcasts to Listen to If You Want to Improve Your English, or this Pregnancy Vocabulary in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, and yoga instructor who always strives to be an excellent employee.

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