Prefixes in the English Language Part Two

Prefixes are commonly used in the English language. If you have read the previous article about prefixes, you will be familiar with a range of them. If you are new to the grammar, prefixes are a group of letters which are placed at the beginning of a word (also known as a root word). When a prefix is added to the root word, the meaning of the original word changes. 

This article will continue exploring the world of prefixes but be warned – they are a whole lot more out there than one (or even two!) blog posts can cover.

THE PRE PREFIX

Example 1

  • The fans saw the film.’
Prefixes in the English Language Part Two - Simply Better English
Prefixes in the English Language Part Two – Simply Better English

This sentence tells us that the fans have watched the film. Now, just by adding a prefix, we can alter the meaning of the sentence.

  • The fans saw a preview of the film.’

This sentence now means that the fans watched a special viewing of the film; this viewing took place before the release date. We can see from this example that the ‘pre’ prefix means before.

Example 2

  • ‘Before I start baking, I need to heat up the oven.’

This sentence is grammatically correct. However, it could also be written in another way, using a prefix, and have the same meaning.

  • ‘Before I start baking, I need to preheat the oven.’

From this example, it is clear that the ‘pre’ prefix is used to show an action that needs to happen before something else can happen e.g. the oven needs to be heated before anything can be baked.

Here are some more words with the ’pre’ prefix.

Original word
Prefix
New Word
New Meaning
arrange pre prearrange arrange before
face pre preface part before the story
fix pre prefix letters before a word
mature pre premature born before the supposed date
medication pre premedication medication before operation
meditate pre premeditate plan before
natal pre prenatal time before birth
pay pre prepay pay before
record pre prerecord recorded before

As we know, there are many words in the English language that begin with the letters ‘pre’. For example, the words ‘precious’ and ‘pretty’ both begin with these letters. But we need to remember that prefixes are attached to root words. For example, the group of letters ‘etty’ in the word ‘pretty’ does not make sense without the ‘pre’.  This means the word ‘pretty’ does not have a prefix.

Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English

Activity 1

Each sentence below has a word missing. Look at the table above and use the words in the ‘New Word’ column to fill in the gaps.

  • I have a … phone contract.
  • The … of the book contained interesting information.
  • The patient took his ….

THE ‘RE’ PREFIX

Let’s look at the ‘re’ prefix. Examine the sentences below and think about how this prefix is mainly used.

Example 3

  • ‘The drink was so refreshing, I had a refill.’
Prefixes in the English Language Part Two - Simply Better English
Prefixes in the English Language Part Two – Simply Better English

As you can see from the examples, the ‘re’ prefix often means to do something again. In the sentence above, we see the individual filled their drink again.  Take a look at the table below for some more examples of the ‘re‘ prefix.

Original word
Prefix
New Word
New Meaning
birth re rebirth born again
call re recall called back/remember again
collect re recollect collect/remember again
colour re recolour colour again
decorate re redecorate decorate again
define re redefine define again
entry re re-entry enter again
fuel re refuel fuel again
group re regroup group again
print re reprint print again

 

Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English

Activity 2

Read the sentences below. Each sentence contains a word that should have a prefix. Can you locate the root word? Rewrite the sentence and include the prefix.

  • The artist tried to define himself.
  • The astronauts prepared the aircraft for entry.
  • Percy decided to colour his dog’s fur.

THE SUB PREFIX

The ‘sub’ prefix is a good example of how the same prefix can have more than one meaning.

Example 4

  • The submarine travelled at a slow pace.’

In this instance, the ‘sub’ prefix means a vehicle that can go under the water.

Example 5

  • ‘The subplot in the book was extremely interesting.’
Prefixes in the English Language Part Two - Simply Better English
Prefixes in the English Language Part Two – Simply Better English

In this instance, the ‘sub’ prefix means secondary.

As we can see from these examples, the ‘sub’ prefix tends to give the root word a meaning like under, lower, secondary and sometimes even inferior.

Here are some more words with the ‘sub’ prefix.

Original word
Prefix
New Word
New Meaning
committee sub subcommittee second part of the committee/team
contract sub subcontract secondary contract
divide sub subdivide secondary divide
let sub sublet leasing to a secondary person
merge sub submerge to go under water
script sub subscript below the line
title sub subtitle secondary title

 

RECAP

There is a huge number of prefixes in the English language, some of which our articles have explored. Here is a recap table to help you reflect on the meaning of each prefix already explored.  As always, there are exceptions to the rules in the English language but if you keep the tables in mind, it will be easier to break down the meaning of bigger words.

Prefix
Meaning
dis not
im not
in not
mis not
pre before
re again
sub under, lower, secondary, inferior.
un not
Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English

Activity 3

Here is an activity to help you put your knowledge from both articles together.

Read the sentence below. Then write out each sentence and fill in the missing word. Each missing word has a prefix. Use the tables provided to help you.

  • George went on holiday and … his apartment.
  • The Formula 1 driver needed to … his car.
  • The angry criminal was ….
  • Eating crisps every day is …
  • It is … when the other team does not follow the rules.

Here are the answers to the activities in the article.  Feel free to write your answers in the comments section.

Activity 1

  • I have a prepay phone contract.
  • The preface of the book contained interesting information.
  • The patient took his premedication.

Activity 2

  • The artist tried to redefine himself.
  • The astronauts prepared the aircraft for re-entry.
  • Percy decided to recolour his dog’s fur.

Activity 3

  • George went on holiday and sublet his apartment.
  • The Formula 1 driver needed to refuel his car.
  • The angry criminal was dishonest.
  • Eating crisps every day is unhealthy.
  • It is unfair when the other team does not follow the rules.

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