Thursday, July 21, 2011

ESL Teaching Tip: Common Prefixes

A prefix is a letter or group of letters that you add to the beginning of a word. It gives a different meaning to the word. If you see a word that you don’t know, but you do know the prefix and the base word, you can guess the meaning.

Just 20 prefixes account for 97 percent of all words with prefixes, and nine of those 20 account for 75
percent. Students may come across other prefixes while reading, but knowing at least these most common prefixes will be helpful.

Following are the 20 most common prefixes.

Rank                Prefix                          % of All Prefixed Words
1                      un- (opposite)                         26
2                      re- (again)                              14
3                      in-, im-, il-, ir- (not)               11
4                      dis- (not)                                 7
5                      en-, em- (put into)                   4
6                      non- (not)                                4
7                      in-, im- (in)                              3
8                      over- (excessive)                      3
9                      mis- (bad or incorrect)             3
10                    sub- (below)                             3
11                    pre- (before)                            3
12                    inter- (between)                       3
13                    fore- (earlier)                          3
14                    de- (reverse)                            2
15                    trans- (across)                          2
16                    super- (above)                          1
17                    semi- (half)                              1
18                    anti- (opposite)                        1
19                    mid- (middle)                           1
20                    under- (too little)                     1
All Others                                                        4

Prefix                       Example Words:

un- (not)                       unable, uncover, undo, unequal, unfair, unhappy, unkind, unlock, unwrap, unbutton, uncertain

re- (again)                   reappear, rearrange, recount, redo, refill, refresh, reheat, replay, retell

in-, im-, il-, ir- (not)      impatient, imperfect, impolite, impossible, impure, inactive, incomplete, immovable, independent, invisible, illiterate, illogical, irregular, irreverent, irreplaceable

dis- (not)                       disagree, disappear, disconnect, dishonest, dislike, disobey, disorder, disown, distrust

en-, em- (put into)      enjoy, endure, enrage

non- (not)                    nonverbal, nonsense, nonstop

in-, im- (in)                  incorporate, influx, import

over- (excessive)         overdue, overboard, overburden, overact, overcrowd, overlook, overpass

mis- (bad)                    misbehave, misinform, misjudge, mislead, misplace, misfit

sub- (below)                subconscious, subway, subzero, submarine

pre- (before)               predict, predate, predetermine, preoccupy

inter- (between)          interact, interchange, interstate

fore- (earlier)              forefather, foreknowledge, foresight

de- (reverse)               deform, defrost

trans- (across)             transform, transportation, transact

super- (above)             supernatural, supermarket, superman

semi- (half)                 semicircle, semiannual, semiprivate, semicolon, semiconductor

anti- (opposite)           antibiotic, antibody, antifreeze, anticlimax

mid- (middle)             midday, midnight, midsummer, midway, midwinter

under- (too little)        underdeveloped, underage, underestimate

For additional ESL teaching tips:
Click here to read about the pronunciation of -ed.
Click here to read about pronouncing plurals.
Click here to read about voiced and voiceless sounds.
Click here to read about rising and falling intonation in questions.
Click here to read about syllable stress and the schwa.
Click here to read about adding the suffixes -ing, -ed, -er, and -est.
Click here to read about teaching common suffixes. 

Click here to read about spelling words that end in S, F, and Z.
Click here to read about other sounds for c and g.

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