UN, IN, IM, IL , DIS, MIS, AND ALL
The Business of English
by Guy Perring
SUFFIXES and prefixes are used in English for word formation.
Suffixes go after a root word and prefixes go before. Let’s first
take a look at prefixes. For example, take the root word
. By adding the
, you create a
new word disinvest
means taking money away
Prefixes cannot exist by themselves, but rather change the meaning
of the root word. Many prefixes such as un
essentially mean not and create a
Take a look at the words below and see if you can provide the
correct prefix to make the meaning the opposite:
There are no real rules here and it is best to learn and absorb the
meanings and sounds. The prefix sub
refers to something that is under,
so sub + marine
to the sea) is a vessel that can travel underwater, submarine
The prefix pre
before, e.g. Paul McCartney’s
failure to sign a pre-nuptial agreement has led to a potentially
expensive divorce settlement.
is a formal
word referring to a marriage and a pre-nuptial agreement
is a financial
agreement which decides on the split of wealth if a separation
between the husband and the wife occurs. Note that “pre-nuptial” is
hyphenated which is often the case with relatively newly formed
words. The prefix mis
wrong or badly:
The board was misinformed about
the extent of losses of its American subsidiary.
In the example above, incorrect information was given to the board.
Note here that as well as misinformation
, you can also have
designed to mislead. “Information” is a word which can therefore
have more than one prefix. Spelling usually stays the same,
although the prefix all
drops the second ‘l’. So we have the words altogether
. Look at the list below of some
of the more common prefixes and try and guess the root word from
the definition in brackets afterwards.
- Anti_____________ (hates the company of other people)
- Trans____________ (extending across both North and South Poles)
- Under_____________ (less than normal)
- Super_______________ (part of the building above the foundation)
- Over________________ (too heavy)
- Re___________________ (to commit money again into shares rather than spending
- Inter_________________ (in the middle position)
- Post___________________ (a review of a finished event)
- Ante___________________ (a large entrance or reception
I hope you can see that knowledge of the more common prefixes and
their meanings automatically widens your vocabulary considerably.
And because they are easy to break down into their original parts,
they are relatively easy to remember. In the next column we will
take a look at suffixes.
Perring is Director, Professional Development Unit (PDU), at the
British Council Malaysia. The PDU offers a wide range of learning
opportunities from management and communication skills training to
developing English skills. Visit us at www.britishcouncil. org.my or
e-mail guy.perring@british council. org.my.