Prefixes: Where Spanish and English Go Hand in Hand (Part 1)

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If there is an aspect where Spanish and English truly match, it is the fact that both languages make extensive use of affixes to change the meaning of established words in a logical way.

Specifically in the case of prefixes, the long-standing influence of Latin and Greek has left a notable mark in our modern languages, so much so that—with a few exceptions and small spelling differences—Spanish and English would essentially be using the same set of prefixes in pretty much the same way.

In this new series of blogs, I will be compiling those extremely useful particles for you to check and learn.

 

A-

Used to create another word bearing the opposite meaning. It becomes “an” when before a vowel, a feature in both languages.

Examples: asimétrico, English “asymmetric”; anaeróbico, “anaerobic”.

 

Anti-

Used to describe something that works against the idea expressed by the original word. The only difference in usage could be summarized in that fact that there is generally a hyphen added in English.

Examples: anticorrupción, English “anti-corruption”; antiaéreo, “anti-aircraft”.

 

Auto-

Used to indicate the fact that an object or living being does something by itself. As with “anti-”, it may be used alongside a hyphen

Examples: automóvil, English “automobile”; autógrafo, “autograph”; autoimmune, “autoimmune”

 

Dis-/Des-

Used to show a setback, a negation or a difference with respect to the modified word. There are many cases where there is alternation between dis- and des-, but in any case, there are no uses of this prefix followed by a hyphen In English.

Examples: discordancia, English “discord”; desaparecer, “disappear”; desacuerdo, “disagreement”; discapacidad, “disability”

 

Extra-

Used to add the idea of “beyond” what the modified word describes. Not to be confused with the adjective “extra”, which in both languages means “additional” or “exceedingly, intensely” as an adjective or an adverb (extra innings, extra fast…).

Examples: extraordinario/a, English “extraordinary”, as in “beyond ordinary”; extraterrestre, “extraterrestrial”; extrajudicial, “extrajudicial”; extracelular, “extracellular”

 

Hiper-

Used to express the idea of “beyond measure, exceedingly” to the modified word, be it a noun or an adjective.

Examples: hiperactivo, “hyperactive”; hipertensión, “hypertension”; hiperbólico/a, “hyperbolic”

 

Inter-

Used to add the idea of being “between, among many” of the same modified word—understood as a plural.

Examples: internacional, “international”, that is, among many nations; intergubernamental, “intergovernmental”; intercultural, “intercultural”

 

Multi-

Used to express the idea of “many” of the same set of things, generally a countable noun.

Examples: multinacional, “multinational”—pertaining to more than two nations; multicolor, “multicolored”; multiétnico, “multiethnic”

 

Next time, I will bring you many more prefixes that are prominently used in the same way by Spanish speakers and English speakers.

 

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