Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"
Jessica Beck
"Director of IELTS Training"

Did you know that even suffixes can be high level?

Today we’ll discuss the informal and formal usages of:

  • -ish
  • -wise

This is band 9 vocabulary!

It is very native and natural to add -ish or -wise to a word.

Today we’ll tell you how to do it to boost your IELTS Speaking Vocabulary score.

Today’s question

One of our 3 Keys IELTS students posted some very interesting and clever questions in the exclusive 3 Keys Facebook group.

I’ve a question regarding the correct way of using “ish” and “wise” at the end of words.

Is it correct to say 5 ish pm?

How about childish? Is it the correct spelling or would it be child ish, or child-ish?

Could I say/write a reddish fish, for example?

What about using “wise”, would it be moneywise, money wise or money-wise?

Also, is it okay to use both expressions on all parts of Speaking and Writing as well?

These are all great questions, and we answer them all in today’s episode.

#1: Slang use of -ish

There are 2 ways to use this suffix.

The first way is slang.

We have adopted it as its own word as slang.

  • Do you enjoy cooking?

Your response can be just, “Ish.” We often use a hand gesture meaning “sort of.”

This means kind of.

You could then add, “If I have time, I don’t mind it, but I don’t love it!”

Use this for Part 1 questions instead of “kind of” or “sort of.”

  • Do you like where you live?

“My apartment is comfortable-ish.”

  • What was the last book you read in English?

“The protagonist is likeable-ish.”

#2 Standard use of the suffix -ish.

Many words have -ish as a suffix.

This student mentioned “childish” and “reddish” in her question.

For most of them, adding the suffix -ish adds the meaning “kind of.”

You can add it to any color to mean it’s sort of that color

  • reddish
  • blueish
  • greenish

Something that’s reddish might be red/orange.

Another high level word with this suffix is “peckish.”

  • peckish: kind of hungry

“I’m not starving, but I’m a bit peckish. I could use a snack.”

We often follow this with, “I could eat.”

“I’m a bit peckish. I could eat.”

The word “childish” does mean “sort of like a child,” but it has more implication.

It refers to an adult that is acting like a child.

This definitely has a negative connotation.

You can use it to describe a person with childish behavior.

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More examples of words ending in -ish.

  • outlandish: bizarre, strange or unfamiliar

He was wearing brightly-colored, outlandish clothes, and everyone else wore a dark suit.

  • babyish: characteristic of a baby

She frowned with a babyish pout.

I want to update my room because it’s babyish.

  • sluggish: tired, having low energy

I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so I feel quite sluggish.

  • sheepish: embarrassed or lacking self-confidence

I felt sheepish when I tripped on my shoelace in front of everyone.

  • foolish: unwise; lacking good sense

It is foolish to think you don’t need to study for IELTS!

Foolish is the only one of these words that students use fairly commonly.

The rest are all band 7 or higher!

#3: Regular use of -wise

A few words have this suffix, but not a lot.

  • clockwise
  • lengthwise

These suffixes mean “regarding” or “in terms of.”

#4: Slang use of -wise

We also add this suffix to words as slang.

Reserve this for Speaking Parts 1 and 2.

It is also synonymous with “regarding” or “in terms of.”

Those are ideal for Part 3, and are too formal for Part 1!

  • Part 1: Do you like your job?

Coworkers-wise, for sure. Salary-wise, not so much.

  • Part 3: What characteristics does a good news reporter need?

Grammar-wise and clarity-wise, they need to be extremely proficient!

Their job shouldn’t be so focused appearance-wise.

Not so much!

Instead of saying “not really” or “not 100%,” natives often say, “not so much.

Listen to our intonation.

We draw out “not.”

This is a very native expression!

Use it on Speaking Part 1 or Part 2!


Adding the suffixes -ish and -wise to words is band 9 slang!

This is because students don’t do it often!

It will be very impressive to an Examiner.

Practice using these when answering Speaking Part 1 and Part 2 questions.

This will boost your Vocabulary score!

For all the Speaking strategies you need to score 7 or higher, sign up for 3 Keys IELTS today!

What questions do you have from today’s episode?

Please leave a comment below.

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