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English Prefixes: Elevate your English with prefixes (B2+)

Updated: May 20

What are prefixes and how can you use them to upgrade your English and sound more natural?

Prefixes are a letter or groups of letters that are attached to the beginning of a word to form another word and change its meaning. For example, when the prefix re (which means again) is added to the word do, it makes the word redo; which means to do something again.

Why is it good to know about prefixes?

The main reason you should be aware of prefixes and their meanings is because you can expand your vocabulary and understand words that you may not have seen before, on the spot.

For example:

You know and understand the word play.

"Please play that song, I love it!"


"Please replay that song, I love it!

If you know that means again, then you will know that replay means to play it again.

Here are some common prefixes, their meaning, and examples.






redo, restart, reboot



unhappy, unkind, unfinished


wrong, bad

misunderstand, misbehave


lower, less, not enough

undercooked, underwater, underage, underweight



preview, prevent, predetermine, precook, prefix


too much

oversleep, overcooked, overspend, overconfident


more than usual or normal

hypermarket, hyperactive, hypersensitive

Now that you are familiar with the idea of how prefixes work, let's look at some examples in context for a better understanding of how you can use them to make yourself more clear when you speak.


More Examples in Use

When someone does too much of something or you want to describe that something is too much, try some of these words that use the prefix over-!



example sentence

overweight (adj.)

to weigh too much

I'm overweight and need to exercise more for my health! (= I weigh too much....)

overcooked (adj.)

cooked too much

I can't stand when my steaks are overcooked. (=I can't stand when my steaks are cooked too much.)

oversleep (v.)

sleep too much

My colleague overslept and was late for our presentation. (=My colleague slept too much and was late for our presentation).

overspend (v.)

to spend too much money

We overspent on our holiday and now have no money for our bills! (=We spent too much money while on holiday and now we don't have money for our bills.)

Do you know these other over- words?

overbooked | overpay | overfeed | overextend | overgrown | overindulge | overqualified


Words that start with the prefix pre- emphasize the element of 'before.' Look at these examples and think about how you can use them.



example sentence

preview (v.)

to see before

It's important to preview the materials before class. (=It's important to see the materials before class.)

prevent (v.)

to stop something before it happens

The best way to prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands! (=The best way to stop the spread of germs is to wash your hands!)

predict (v.)

to say or know before

Satellites allow us to predict the weather regularly. (= Satellites allow us to say or know the weather before it happens.)

prejudice (n.)

to judge before knowing

Many people have prejudices about other people from different cultures. (=Many people have opinions that aren't based on any experience with people from different cultures.)

Do you know these other pre- words?

preheat | predetermine | prehistoric | preregister | prearrange


Something wrong? Or not good? Did you pronounce something incorrectly? Are the children behaving badly? Check out the examples of the mis- words below to quickly and concisely describe these things.



example sentence

misbehave (v.)

to behave in a bad way

Children usually misbehave when they are bored. (=Children usually misbehave when they are bored.)

misunderstand (v.)

to understand the wrong thing, or incorrectly

Since my French isn't good, I often misunderstand people when they speak French. (=Since my French isn't good, I often don't understand things correctly or understand the wrong thing.)

misdirect (v.)

to direct to the wrong place or in the wrong direction

The tourism agency misdirected us and we went to the museum instead of the theatre! (=The tourism agency gave us the wrong information and we went to the museum instead of the theatre.)

mispronounce (v.)

to pronounce or say something in the wrong way

Learning a new language can be challenging in the beginning because you mispronounce things often! (=Learning a new language can be challenging in the beginning because you pronounce words incorrectly often!)

Do you know these other mis- words?

misjudge | misheard | mismanage | mistake | misheard | misinterpret


Something is NOT the case? Or is something not clear, not finished? Use these common un- words to express your ideas and elevate your English!



sentence example

unclear (adj.)

not clear, not obvious, not easy to see or understand

The reason why the criminals committed the crime was unclear. (=It was not easy to understand why the criminals committed the crime.)

undecided (adj.)

to not have made a decision, or to not be certain

We are still undecided about our holiday plans this summer (= We still haven't decided about our holiday plans this summer.)

unable (adj.)

lacking the skills or opportunity to do something

I was unable to call you because my phone battery died. (= I couldn't call you because my phone battery died.)

unfriendly (adj.)

not friendly

She looked at me in an unfriendly way. (=She looked at me in a way that was not friendly.)

unfinished (adj.)

not finished or incomplete

As of 2021, George R.R. Martin's last novel is unfinished. (=As of 2021, George R.R. Martin's last novel is unfinished.)

Do you know these other un- words?

unfortunate | unacceptable | unusual | unjust | unemployed | unlimited

Are you ready to start using some of these prefixes when you speak English!? Take some time to actually learn a handful of these prefix and test yourself with this learning activity.

Or perhaps you are interested in practicing your speaking skills more with a native speaker? Sign up for conversation classes with us and build your confidence and abilities!


Words in this post

concisely (adv.) in a way that is brief but comprehensive.

form (v.) to make or create

perhaps (adv.) maybe or possibly

on the spot (phrase) without delay, immediately

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