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Top Four Prefixes

Updated: Mar 12, 2023

Prefixes are morphemes that are added to the beginning of words that add or alter the meaning of the word.


For today's post I wanted to jump right into the top four prefixes according to how often they occur in the English language! These four prefixes make up 97% of the prefixes used in printed school English (Honig, B., Diamond, L., and Gutlohn, L, 2000). Wow!


1. re-

The prefix 're-' is added to the beginning of words and means again. This prefix is typically introduced in the primary grades (1-3). 'Re-' is an open syllable, so if students have learned about open syllables, they will also know how to decode this morpheme.

Example: reread, rewrite, return

Latin


2. un-

The prefix 'un-' is added to the beginning of words and means not. This prefix is typically introduced in the primary grades (1-3).

Examples: unfriendly, unlock, unsafe

Origin: Anglo-Saxon


3. dis-

The prefix 'dis-' is added to the beginning of words and means not or opposite. This prefix is typically introduced in the primary grades (1-3).

Examples: disagree, dislike, distrust

Origin: Latin


4. in, im, il, ir

This prefix has a few variations but when added to the beginning of a word it means not. This prefix is a bit more complex so it commonly introduced between grade 3 and grade 6.

Examples: injustice, impossible, inactive, insane, inexpensive

Origin: Latin


One nice thing about teaching prefixes, is there minimal spelling rules. It is rare that we have to double a letter or change a letter in order to add it.


That said when we teach prefixes we are supporting students on their journey to become a skilled reader. If we see a morpheme at the beginning of a word it gives us a clue about the word meaning and if we can decode that morpheme quickly it enhances our reading fluency.


Honig, B., Diamond, L., and Gutlohn, L (2000). Teaching Reading Sourcebook: For Kindergarten Through Eighth Grade.


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