Expand your vocabulary with prefixes
Whether you’ve just started out on your language learning journey or are preparing to take your IELTS or Cambridge exam, using and understanding prefixes is a great way of expanding your vocabulary. Not sure where to start? We’re here to help!
So, what is a prefix?
It really is as simple as a group of letters that we add to the beginning of a word to change the meaning. For example, adding un-, in- or dis- to the beginning of a word makes it negative.
agree -> disagree
usual -> unusual
direct -> indirect
What do they mean?
Luckily, each prefix has a fixed meaning so once you’ve learnt what they mean, you just have to learn which words you can use them with. Let’s see what you already know. Below is a list of prefixes with an example – do you know their meaning?
|ANTI||Antifreeze||Against / Opposite|
|SELF||Self-care||Relating to yourself|
Top spelling tips!
We know how difficult English spelling can be, so here are some tips to help you get it right.
When adding a prefix to a word, DON’T change the spelling of the original word.
mis + spelt = misspelt
dis + appear = disappear
We often use assimilation when adding a negative prefix
Use im- for words beginning with p/b
(possible – impossible)
Use il- for words beginning with l (legal – illegal)
Use ir- for words beginning with r (relevant – irrelevant)
Always use a hyphen (-) after the prefixes self- and ex-.
As always, there are exceptions to these spelling rules – see if you can think of any.
Feeling confident? Test yourself with this Cambridge exam style task
Her handwriting was so messy it was completely _______ (LEGIBLE).
Her handwriting was so messy it was completely ILLEGIBLE
You’ll need to _______ (HEAT) your dinner if it has gone cold.
You’ll need to REHEAT your dinner if it has gone cold
It’s easy to ________ (UNDERSTAND) what people say when you’re learning a language.
It’s easy to MISUNDERSTAND what people say when you’re learning a language
She loved the shoes, but they were so _________ (PRACTICAL) for walking in.
She loved the shoes, but they were so IMPRACTICAL for walking in.
He was _______ (CONFIDENT) and very sure of himself.
He was SELF-CONFIDENT / OVERCONFIDENT and very sure of himself.
It’s important to use _________ (BACTERIAL) soap when washing your hands to fight against germs.
It’s important to use ANTIBACTERIAL soap when washing your hands to fight against germs.
Prefixes are added to the beginnings of words in order to change the form of a word (for example, from a verb to a noun), or added to convey a meaning. Learn some academic prefixes and practise using them in a sentence.
We've got a trick that could help you learn your vocabulary faster (and more successfully). Find out more about how a simple memory technique can help you creatively learn, memorise and easily recall new vocabulary.
In IELTS it is important to use a variety of words in both the speaking and writing parts of the test as this will help you to get a higher score. We recommend using suffixes to help you expand your vocabulary and avoid word repetition.