What is Inflection? Definition, Examples of English Inflection

Inflection definition: Inflection is the grammatical term for letters added to nouns, adjectives, and verbs to show their different grammatical forms.

What is Inflection?

Inflection is the change of form a noun, adjective, verb, etc., undergoes to distinguish its case, gender, mood, number, voice, etc. Inflection occurs when the word is used to express various meanings.

When words are inflected, letters are added to the base form of words.

Example Inflections

  • base word: fox
  • inflection (plural): foxes
  • base word: run
  • inflection (present participle) running

Inflection for Number (Nouns)

Inflected language Nouns are one part of speech that change with inflection.

Nouns change to show number—singular or plural.       

A singular noun includes just one noun. A plural noun includes more than one of that noun.

Sometimes, adding “-s” creates the inflection to make a plural noun.

Examples singular/plural with “-s:”

  • goat/goats
  • table/tables
  • tree/trees
  • girl/girls

Sometimes, adding “-es” creates the inflection to make a plural noun.

Examples singular/plural with “-es:”

  • fox/foxes
  • wish/wishes
  • potato/potatoes
  • bus/buses

Sometimes, the ending is dropped to add “-ies” to make a plural noun. This occurs when the last letter of the base singular form is a “y.”

Examples singular/plural with “-ies”

  • city/cities
  • berry/berries
  • fairy/fairies
  • daisy/daisies

Sometimes, the inflection is irregular to make a plural noun.

Examples for singular/plural irregular plurals:

Inflection for Tense (Verbs)

In verbs, inflection occurs to show changes in verb tense.

Present Tense

List of inflections For the present tense, an “-s” or “-es” is added to the base form of the regular verb in the third-person singular to show inflection.

Example with “to dream:”

  • I dream.
  • You dream. (singular/plural)
  • He/she/it dreams.
  • We dream.
  • They dream.

Example with “to do:”

  • I do.
  • You do. (singular/plural)
  • He/she/it does.
  • We do.
  • They do.

Past Tense

What is an inflection For the past tense, an “-d” or “-ed” is added to the base form of the regular verb in order to show inflection

Example with “to breathe:”

  • I breathed.
  • You breathed. (singular/plural)
  • He/she/it breathed.
  • We breathed.
  • They breathed.

Example with “to jump:”

  • I jumped.
  • You jumped. (singular/plural)
  • He/she/it jumped.
  • We jumped.
  • They jumped.

Future Tense

For future tense, the base form of the verb does not change, but the word will is included.

Example with “to eat:”

  • I will eat.
  • You will eat. (singular/plural)
  • He/she/it will eat.
  • We will eat.
  • They will eat.

Irregular Verbs

Voice inflection Irregular verbs have various changes in tenses for inflection. There is no set pattern. However, here are a couple examples.

With “to go” past tense:

  • I went.
  • You went. (singular/plural)
  • He/She/It went.
  • We went.
  • They went.

With “to be” present tense:

  • I am.
  • You are. (singular/plural)
  • He/She/It is.
  • We are.
  • They are.

Inflection for Comparison (Adjectives)

Inflectional morphemes Adjectives change for inflection to show differences in comparative and superlative forms.

To compare, an “-er” ending is added to adjectives (or the word may change altogether as with “good”).

Comparative examples:

  • Base adjective: good
  • Comparative adjective: better
  • Base adjective: small
  • Comparative adjective: smaller
  • Base adjective: high
  • Comparative adjective: higher

For superlative forms, an “-est” is added to adjectives (or the word may change altogether as with “good”).

Superlative examples:

  • Base adjective: good
  • Superlative adjective: best
  • Base adjective: small
  • Superlative adjective: smallest
  • Base adjective: high
  • Superlative adjective: highest

Summary: What is Inflection in English?

Define inflection: the definition of inflection is the way in which words alter their endings to show case, number, gender, etc.

In summary, an inflection:

  • is a change in the base form of a word
  • affects nouns, adjectives, and verbs

shows different grammatical meaning of words

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