Word Families: The 37 Most Common Word Families for Beginners

Word families are groups of words that go together. They have similar or common features or patterns. They can occur in the prefix, the suffix, or in the root word itself. They are sometimes referred to as groups or chunks. Word families all have the same combinations of letters somewhere in the word. They frequently appear in poems and rhymes (especially nursery rhymes). For example:

“Jack and Jill
Went up the hill,
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down,
And broke his crown.
And Jill came tumbling after.”

Word Families

Word families can be an important tool when teaching people to read or speak a language. New readers are able to recognize the word patterns, and teachers help them to understand the combinations and sounds.

The National Council of Teachers of English has identified 37 different word families. They are listed below with examples of words that are included in the family.

Ack Ain Ake Ale
Attack Brain Awake Ale
Back Chain Bake Bale
Knack Complain Cake Dale
Lack Explain Lake Female
Quack Gain Make Gale
Rack Pain Quake Male
Sack Plain Rake Pale
Snack Strain Sake Sale
Tack Train Snake Tale
Whack Vain Take Whale
All Ame An Ank
Ball Blame Ban Bank
Call Came Bran Blank
Fall Dame Can Crank
Hall Fame Fan Drank
Mall Game Japan Flank
Small Lame Pan Rank
Squall Name Pecan Shrank
Stall Same Scan Spank
Tall Shame Tan Tank
Wall Tame Van Thank
Ap Ash At Ate
Cap Cash At Abate
Clap Clash Brat Ate
Flap Crash Cat Debate
Lap Dash Chat Fat
Map Hash Fat Grate
Scrap Lash Mat Late
Slap Mash Rat Mate
Tap Rash Slat Plate
Trop Splash That Skate
Wrap Stash Vat State
Aw Ay Eat Ell
Claw Away Beat Bell
Draw Clay Bleat Cell
Flaw Day Cheat Dell
Jaw Display Cleat Dwell
Law Gay Heat Farewell
Paw Pray Meat Fell
Raw Ray Neat Hell
Saw Stay Seat Sell
Straw Today Treat Tell
Thaw Tray Wheat Yell
Est Ice Ine Ide
Best Dice Brine Bride
Chest Ice Decline Decide
Crest Lice Define Guide
Jest Mice Dine Hide
Nest Price Fine Ride
Pest Rice Mine Side
Rest Spice Pine Slide
Test Splice Shrine Stride
Unrest Twice Whine Tide
West Vice Wine Wide
Ick In Ight Ill (ill)
Brick Bin Bright Bill
Flick Chin Delight Chill
Kick Grin Fight Dill
Lick In Flight Fill
Nick Kin Light Kill
Pick Shin Might Shrill
Sick Skin Night Still
Stick Twin Sight Swill
Thick Win Tight Thrill
Trick Within Tonight Will
Wick
Ing Ink Ip It
Bring Blink Dip Admit
King Drink Grip Bit
Ping Fink Hip Fit
Ring Link Lip Flit
Sing Mink Ship Grit
Spring Pink Sip Knit
Sting Rink Snip Lit
String Sink Strip Pit
Thing Stink Trip Quit
Wing Wink Whip Split
Ock Oke Op Ore
Block Awoke Cop Chore
Clock Bloke Drop Core
Dock Choke Flop Fore
Frock Joke Hop Gore
Lock Poke Mop More
Mock Smoke Plop Ore
Rock Spoke Pop Sore
Shock Stroke Shop Store
Sock Woke Strop Tore
Stock Yoke Top Wore
Ot Uck Ug Ump Unk
Clot Buck Bug Bump Bunk
Cot Chuck Dug Clump Clunk
Dot Duck Hug Hump Dunk
Forgot Luck Jug Jump Funk
Hot Muck Lug Lump Hunk
Lot Pluck Mug Plump Junk
Not Struck Rug Rump Punk
Plot Stuck Shrug Stump Skunk
Pot Truck Smug Thump Sunk
Spot Tuck Thug Trump Trunk

Other Word Families

There are many other word families beyond the most common 37. Below are some others that occur on a regular basis.

Ad Ail Am Ar
Ad Ail Clam Afar
Bad Fail Dam Bar
Cad Hail Exam Car
Clad Jail Gram Far
Dad Mail Jam Par
Glad Pail Ram Pillar
Had Rail Slam Scar
Lad Sail Spam Spar
Mad Snail Tram Star
Sad Tail Wham Tar
Eet En Ent Eel
Feet Amen Bent Cartwheel
Fleet Children Dent Eel
Greet Den Event Feel
Meet Even Gent Genteel
Parakeet Hen Innocent Heel
Sheet Men Lent Keel
Street Omen Scent Peel
Sweet Pen Sent Reel
Tweet Ten Tent Steel
When Went Wheel
Eep Ile Oat Og
Asleep Bile Boat Blog
Beep File Coat Catalog
Creep Juvenile Float Clog
Deep Mile Gloat Defog
Jeep Pile Goat Dog
Seep Smile Moat Frog
Sheep Tile Oat Hog
Sleep Vile Sloat Hotdog
Steep Volatile Sugarcoat Jog
Weep While Throat Smog
Oil Ool Oom Oon
Boil Cool Bathroom Baboon
Broil Drool Bloom Balloon
Charbroil Fool Boom Goon
Coil Pool Classroom Maroon
Foil School Doom Moon
Oil Spool Groom Noon
Recoil Stool Loom Soon
Soil Tool Room Spoon
Spoil Uncool Storeroom Toon
Toil Wool Zoom Tycoon
Topsoil
Oop Ow Ought
Coop Blow Afterthought
Droop Bow Bought
Goop Crow Brought
Hoop Flow Forethought
Loop Grow Fought
Scoop Mow Ought
Snoop Row Overthought
Stoop Show Overwrought
Swoop Snow Thought
Troop Tow Wrought

Placement in Words

There are many other word families, and they can occur anywhere in a word. Some examples are:

A
meaning “on
Act
meaning “do
Dis
meaning “un
Adrift, Actor Disagree
Aside Action Dishonest
Ashore Activate Disavow
Ject
meaning “to throw
Gen
meaning “to produce
Poly
meaning “many
Eject General Polygamy
Interject Generate Monopoly
Subject Pathogen Polyester

Risk of Focusing on Word Families

There is one pitfall that new readers can encounter when learning word families. Because they focus so much attention on the second part of the word, they can skip over the first part. They then have to go back to the start of the word.

This results in jerky eye movement. Instead of a steady progression across the page from left to right, the reader jumps around. This could actually reinforce dyslexic tendencies.

Conclusion:

Word families help students to learn to read and pronounce English. Because they learn to recognize the “chunks” of words that are in each family, they can make connections to other words. This helps new readers correctly predict how other words will sound.

New readers are able to take single-syllable words and break them down. There will often be a consonant at the start of the word and a word family group at the end. By breaking down even short words, the new reader is able to improve their spelling, understand new words (by comparing them to old), and improve their reading fluency.

By using the 37 common word families, new readers will be able to learn an estimated 500 words. If other word families are included, the number of new words can grow dramatically.

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