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Unit 23: Prefixes

Page 5 of 9

Unit 23: Prefixes: when letters need changing

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Unit 23 - Prefixes

Teaching point If we remove prefixes from a root word, often we are left with a word we recognise:

unlucky rebuild disagree incorrect submerge

This is not always the case:

predict expect interlude refer reject

This can make it trickier to identify the prefix.

If we look at the origin (or the etymology) of words the reasons for this become clearer:

Whole word Prefix:
origin and meaning
Root word:
origin and meaning
predict prae - before (Latin) dicere - say (Latin)
expect ex - out of (Greek) specere - see (Latin)
interlude inter - between (Latin) ludus - play (Latin)
refer re - again, or back (Latin) ferre - bring (Latin)
reject re - again, or back (Latin) jacere - throw (Latin)

For more on this fascinating subject, see Unit 35: The History of the English Language.

Teaching point Some prefixes can be easily confused:
pre and per ante and anti dis and de

Learning Tip for English spelling Knowing what these prefixes mean can be helpful to us when deciding which to use:


means before
precook prepare preview predict

means by or through

perchance percolate
(L. colare - strain)
(L. forare - pierce)
It is easy to pick the right prefix here if you take care to listen to the sound :

Learn the Words:

means opposed to, opposite
anticlockwise anticlimax antidote
(Gk. doton - give)

means before

anteroom antenatal antecedent (L. cedere - go)
These words are sometimes spelled with a hyphen, for example:
anti-clockwise ante-natal

Learn the Words:
These prefixes can be confused when de comes before a root word beginning with s.



The prefix de has more than one meaning:
1. make the opposite of
2. down
3. completely
Some examples:
despair (L. sperare - hope) descend (L. scandere - climb)
describe (L. Scribere - write) destroy (L. struere - build)

Use dis for the meaning not, or the opposite, for example:

disarm disqualify disconnect disobey
If you add the prefix dis to a root word beginning in s, you will have ss:
dissatisfy dissimilar dissect (L. secare - cut)

Learn the Words:

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