The suffixes ‘-ant’ and ‘-ent’ are added to words to form a noun to indicate a ‘person who’ or ‘thing that’ (e.g., an ‘assistant’ is a person who assists, a ‘president’ is a person who presides). They are also added to words to form adjectives describing a state or quality (e.g., stagnate – stagnant, persist – persistent).
The difficulty is knowing which suffix to add to words because in everyday speech they both sound the same because the vowel is not clearly pronounced. However, with some knowledge you can significantly improve the likelihood that you will choose the correct suffix. Just be aware, that like many English words, there are exceptions to these ‘rules’ and these exception words just need to be learned.
Rules for words ending in ‘-ant’
Use ‘-ant’ with words ending in
- ‘e’, but not ‘ge’, ‘ce’ or ‘ere’ (celebrate-celebration, confide-confidant, observe-observant).
Key exceptions: confide-confident, preside-president, reside-resident.
- ‘y’ – just remember the rule that when adding suffixes to words ending in ‘y’, you first need to change the ‘y’ to an ‘i’ (comply-compliant, rely-reliant).
Key exception: study-student.
- ‘ct’ or ‘lt’ (disinfect-disinfectant, expect-expectant, consult-consultant).
- ‘our/or’ (odour-deodorant).
Note: Words in which there is a ‘g’ pronounced as /g/ like in goat or a ‘c’ pronounced as /k/ like in cat are usually followed by ‘ant’ (arrogant, applicant). This is also usually true with the ‘gn’ and ‘gr’ combination (indignant, migrant).
Rules for words ending in ‘-ent’
Use ‘-ent’ with words ending in
- ‘ce’ or ‘ge’ (urge-urgent, reminisce-reminiscent).
Key exceptions: pageant, sergeant.
- ‘er’ or ‘ere’ (defer-deferent, revere-reverent).
Note: Words in which there is an ‘id’ are usually followed by ‘ent’ (accident, evident, incident). ‘Ent’ is also usually used after ‘u’ (fluent, subsequent, delinquent).
Words that use both ‘-ant’ and ‘-ent
There are a few words that are spelled with both ‘ant’ and ‘ent’ depending on the meaning of the word (dependant-noun vs dependent-adjective, descendant-noun vs decendent-adjective).
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of words which don’t fit into any of these patterns and you just need to learn them (absorbent, excellent, defendant, informant – just to name a few)!