Types of Morpheme

Types of Morphemes | Definition and Examples

What is Morpheme?

A morpheme is the smallest meaningful and syntactical or grammatical unit of a language that cannot be divided without changing its actual meaning. For instance, the word ‘love’ is a morpheme; but if you eliminate any character such as ‘e’ then it will be meaningless or lose the actual meaning of love.

Now we can say a morpheme is the smallest grammatical unit of a language by which meaningful words are formed. However, this is how we may define ‘what a morpheme’ in linguistics.

Types of Morphemes

Now let’s move on to the types of Morphemes in linguistics. The morphemes are of two main types. They are:

  1. Free Morphemes
  2. Bound Morphemes

1. Free Morphemes

A morpheme that has a particular meaning and can be formed independently is called a free morpheme. For example, free, get, human, song, love, happy, sad, may, much, but, or, some, above, when, etc.

All of the words have individual meanings and are free morphemes. Free morphemes can be categorized into two sub-types. They are:

  • Lexical morphemes
  • Grammatical and functional morphemes

Lexical Morphemes

The lexical morphemes are those morphemes that are large in number and independently meaningful. The lexical morphemes include nouns, adjectives, and verbs.

These free morphemes are called lexical morphemes—for example, dog, good, honest, boy, girl, woman, excellent, etc.

Grammatical or Functional Morphemes

The grammatical or functional morphemes are those morphemes that consist of functional words in a language, such as prepositions, conjunctions determiners, and pronouns. For example, and, but, or, above, on, into, after, that, the, etc.

2. Bound Morphemes

A morpheme that doesn’t have any independent meaning and can be formed with the help of free morphemes is called a bound morpheme.

For example; less, ness, pre, un, en, ceive, ment. Bound morphemes can be categorized into two sub-classes. They are:

  • Bound roots
  • Affixes

Bound Roots

Bound roots are those Bound morphemes that have lexical meaning when they are included in other bound morphemes to form the content words. For example, -ceive, -tain, perceive, deceive, retain, contain, etc.


Affixes are those bound morphemes that naturally attach different types of words and are used to change the meaning or function of those words.

For example,  -ment in payment, enjoyment, entertainment en- in enlighten, enhance, enlarge, ‘s in Joseph’s, Lora’s -ing reading, sleeping, singing, etc.

Affixes can be categorized into five sub-classes according to their position in the word and function in a phrase or sentence. They are:

  • Prefixes
  • Infixes
  • Suffixes
  • Derivational
  • Inflectional


Prefixes are bound morphemes included at the beginning of different types of words—for example, in-, un-, sub- incomplete, injustice, unable, uneducated, subway, etc.


Infixes are those bound morphemes included within the words. There are no infixes that exist in the English language.


Suffixes are those bound morphemes included at the end of different types of words. For example; -able, -less, -ness, -en, available, careless, happiness, shortening, etc.

Derivational Affixes

Derivational morphemes make new words by changing their meaning or different grammatical categories. In other words, derivational morphemes form new words with a meaning and category distinct through the addition of affixes.

Thus, the derivational morphemes ‘-ness’ changes the adjective of ‘kindness’, the noun ‘care’ becomes the adjective careless.

This is how derivational morphemes make new words by changing their meaning or grammatical category. Derivational morphemes can be categorized into two sub-classes. They are:

  1. Class-maintaining derivational morphemes
  2. Class-changing derivational morphemes

1. Class-Maintaining Derivational Morphemes

Class-maintaining derivational morphemes are usually produced in a derived form of the same class as the root, and they don’t change the course of the parts of speech. For example; -ship -hood, relationship, leadership, livelihood, manhood, etc.

2. Class-Changing Derivational Morphemes

In contrast to Class-maintaining derivational morphemes, Class-changing derivational morphemes usually produce a derived form of the other class from the root—for example, -er, -ish, -al, teacher, boyish, national, etc.

Inflectional Affixes

Inflectional morphemes are not used to produce new words; instead, they indicate the aspects of the grammar function of the word.

For instance, inflectional morphemes indicate whether a word is singular or plural, past tense or not, and comparative or possessive forms. English has eight Inflectional morphemes, all of which are suffixes.

English Inflectional morphemes affix:


  • Plural (-s): The courses.
  • Possessive: Jack‘s courses.


3rd person singular number non-past (-s):

  • Jack teaches English well.
  • He reaches the place on time.

Possessive (-ing):

  • He is writing.
  • She is singing.

Past participle (-en/ed):

  • He has written the book.
  • He worked


  • Comparative: (-er): John is happier than before.
  • Superlative: (-est): He is the tallest person in the class.

After learning all the definitions, types, and examples, you have clearly seen morphemes and, more specifically, a morpheme in linguistics. After all, this is how we can define morphemes.

Morpheme Quiz

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Zaharaddeen Mustapha
Zaharaddeen Mustapha
3 years ago

Thanks a lot

3 years ago

Thank you so much for providing glaring notes of morphemes in very easy way

ziad khan
ziad khan
3 years ago

thanks alot

Arrfah Sharmeen
Arrfah Sharmeen
3 years ago

thank you so much for such clear notes

Saba Anosh
Saba Anosh
3 years ago

Thankyouu so very much for your help. 🙂

Jamal Ud Din
Jamal Ud Din
2 years ago

Thanks for providing such a glorious information of Morphemes. Thanks a lot.

Joynal Abedin
Joynal Abedin
2 years ago

Thank you so much.

2 years ago

all about informative

2 years ago

Love the way morphemes are explained. Its easy to understand.

Mujtaba Haider Gardezi
Mujtaba Haider Gardezi
3 months ago

God bless you.
What a sophisticated way of elaboration 💜

Last edited 3 months ago by Mujtaba Haider Gardezi
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