Most Commonly Used Word Families Activity Ideas for Beginners | How to Identify Word Families?

There are so many ways a word can be related to another. Understanding these relations between words will help you build your vocabulary. Word families are one such way to explore how words relate to one another. So what is the word family? A group of words that have a common root word with different prefixes and suffixes is known as a word family.

Word families refer to groups of words that follow a certain set of letter patterns with the root word fixed for all words within the same group. This implies that the words belonging to the same group have common characteristics. Word families are also known as chunks, times, or groups.

Have a look at the following words:

  • Helper
  • Helped
  • Unhelpful
  • Helping
  • Helpful

All these words come under a single word family. So what do you think they have in common? These words have the common root word ‘help’. This in turn means that all these words are members of the ‘help’ word family. Suffixes or prefixes are added to the root word to form derivatives of a root word.

Word families most often occur in rhymes and poems. For example:

  • Hickory, dickory, dock.
    The mouse ran up the clock.
    The clock struck one,
    The mouse ran down,
    Hickory, dickory, dock.

The following word families are used in the above rhyme:

  • ock- dock, clock
  • ive- five, hive;
  • ine- nine, fine.

You can even try out our other articles on How to Improve Your Vocabulary as well to expand your knowledge base.

Most Common Word Families for Beginners

There are thirty seven common word families according to the National Council of Teachers of English. Given below is a list of the various word families with examples for each family. So get ready to explore!

  • ack: back, crack, hack, sack
  • ain: gain, grain, main, complain
  • ake: sake, make, cake, fake
  • ale: pale, male, sale, scale
  • all: all, ball, mall, call
  • ame: game, came, lame, same
  • an: an, ban, can, pan
  • ank: prank, rank, sank, thank
  • ap: cap, map, slap, trap
  • ash: ash, dash, rash, stash
  • at: gnat,cat, fat,pat
  • ate: hate, gate, late, mate
  • aw: slaw, raw, paw, saw
  • ay: lay, gay, may, pay
  • eat: peat, neat, heat, seat
  • ell: hell, shell, tell, smell
  • est: best, chest, vest, quest
  • ice: thrice, price, nice, rice
  • ick: nick, stick, pick, trick
  • ide: bride,glide, side, guide
  • ight: tight, fight, tonight, night
  • ill: chill, drill, still
  • in: inn,tin,kin
  • ine: vine, mine, nine, pine
  • ing: spring,string,sting
  • ink: pink, ink,drink
  • ip: lip, ship, skip,dip
  • it: sit, hit,quit
  • ock: clock, stock, rock,shock
  • op: cop, hop, mop, top
  • ore: bore, more, sore, tore
  • ot: got, hot, not, rot
  • uck: buck, duck luck, tuck
  • ug: bug, hug, mug, rug
  • ump: bump, dump, jump, pump
  • unk: chunk, punk, sunk

Few other word families that occur regularly:

  • ad- sad, mad, bad
  • ar-bar, car, star
  • en-men, pen,ten
  • ent- tent, went, sent
  • oil- oil, coil, soil
  • oom-doom, groom, loom

Why Focus on Word Families?

Getting yourself familiar with word families has its advantages. An understanding of different word families will help you learn to read. Building your vocabulary will also be simple with the help of word families. Being able to identify common features and patterns among words is a foundation for developing your speaking skills.

Scholars also suggest that children generally connect what they have already discovered to what they are currently learning. This happens through the process of observing word similarities. Hence knowing the concept of root words and their derivatives will help you infer the meaning of other words in the word family. Familiarity with word families will also increase your pace of reading. You will learn to analyze language and infer common grammar rules.

Let’s take the example of the word family ‘all’. This word family will help you to learn simple spelling words like, ‘call’, ‘hall’, ‘mall’ etc. Later this understanding can be built upon, when you realize how many more words can be framed from the root word ‘all’. From simple words like ‘call’, you move into tougher words like ‘install’, ‘enthrall’ etc.

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How to Study Word Families?

You can make use of the following key points to learn about word families:

  • Begin with one-syllable words.
  • Develop a word family chart at home.
  • Make it a point to learn one-word family each week.
  • Create new words by adding suffixes and prefixes to the root word.
  • Engage in reading activities to memorize root words.
  • Familiarise yourself with rhymes and poems that make use of word families.
  • Engage in games and activities that deal with word families.

FAQs on Word Families

1. Is it important to know about word families?

Knowledge of word families will help you build vocabulary. Instead of simply memorizing words, you will learn to spot patterns and root words. This will in turn increase your reading fluency.

2. How are word families formed?

A word family consists of a group of words that have a single root word with different prefixes and suffixes. The addition of suffixes or prefixes results in the creation of new words(derivatives) that belong to the same word family.

3. What is the order in which word families should be studied?

There is no particular order in which word families should be covered. However the easiest starting point would be the short ‘a’ word family that includes: at, am, an, ab, ag, ap, etc.

4. How many word families are there in English?

There are thirty seven word families in English, according to the National Council of Teachers of English. These word families are ack, ain, ake, ale, all, ame, an, ank, ap, ash, at, ate, aw, ay, eat, ell, est, ice, ick, ide, ight, ill, in, ine, ing, ink, ip, it, ock, oke, op, ore, ot, uck ,ug, ump, unk.


Word families are certainly a productive way to attain a stronger vocabulary. Exposing yourself to various word families, will in turn increase your understanding of language patterns. Reinforcing the information with rhyming games and activities will accelerate your vocabulary acquisition by increasing the number of words you have at your command.

Using the thirty seven common word families, you will be able to learn about five hundred words. If other word families are included, the number of new words you learn can grow dramatically. So make sure that you have a stronghold on the different word families. You can also check out our article on Word Classes to get a grip on the concept.

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