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Negative Prefixes and Suffixes in English

Hi dear English learners! In today’s lesson, we’re going to look at negative prefixes and suffixes in English. I’m sure that you’re sometimes confused and can’t tell if somebody is impolite or unpolite, but don’t worry, you’re not the only one. So, let’s get started with the lesson and hope it will help you clear up some things related to this particular subject.

As you may know, there are 13 negative prefixes in English. They are: a-, ab-, an-, anti-, dis-, ig-, il-, im-, in-, ir-, non-, un-, mis-. Let’s look at the words which take these prefixes.

Prefix a- 

We can use the prefix a- to make some words, usually adjectives, negative.

typical – atypical; theist – atheist; political – apolitical; sexual – asexual; social – asocial

Prefix ab

Very few words take the negative prefix ab-.

normal – abnormal; original – aboriginal; use – abuse

Prefix an-

Even fewer words take the prefix -an; they are most commonly used with scientific terms.

hydrous – anhydrous; eruptive – aneruptive; electric – anelectric

Negative prefixes and suffixes in English

Prefix anti-

The prefix anti- originates from Greek and it means ‘opposite’ or ‘against’. In most cases, it requires a hyphen.

clockwise – anti-clockwise; social – anti-social; aging – anti-aging; biotic – antibiotic

Prefix dis­-

The negative prefix dis- means not, so it gives the opposite meaning when added to the word.

like – dislike; trust – distrust; honest – dishonest; comfort – discomfort; appear – disappear; agree -disagree; similar – dissimilar.

Prefix ig-

This prefix is of Latin origin and it means not. We will rarely see this prefix.

noble – ignoble.

Negative prefixes and suffixes in English

Prefix il-

This prefix is used with words starting in l:

logical – illogical; legal – illegal; legible – illegible; literate – illiterate.

Prefix im-

This prefix mormally goes with adjectives beginning in p:

polite – impolite; personal – impersonal; patient – impatient; perfect – imperfect; possible – impossible; mature – immature.

Prefix in-

This negative prefix is normally used with the words starting ac or c:

competent – incompetent; correct – incorrect; visible – invisible; efficient – inefficient; accurate – inaccurate; sane – insane; secure – insecure.

Negative prefixes and suffixes in English

Prefix ir-

Use it with the words tarting in r:

responsible – irresponsible; replaceable – irreplaceable; relevant – irrelevant; regular – irregular.

Prefix mis-

Prefix mis- means false or wrong.

place – misplace; understand – misunderstand; lead – mislead; behave – misbehave; fortune – misfortune, spell – misspell.

Prefix non-

The prefix non- is used with adjectives and nouns, but never with verbs. It is often written with hyphen:

sense – nonsense; smoker – non-smoker; existent – nonexistent; fiction – non-fiction; specific – non-specific; stop – non-stop; essential – non-essential.

Negative prefixes and suffixes in English

Prefix un-

The prefix -un is the most commonly used negative prefix. No wonder most words build their “negative” words with this prefix. If you are in doubt which prefix to use, it’s always best to go for this one:

certain – uncertain; friendly – unfriendly: real – unreal; fit – unfit; helpful – unhelpful; healthy – unhealthy; usual – unusual; able – unable; lucky – unlucky; happy – unhappy; tidy – untidy.

Negative suffixes in English

-less is the most common suffix for negation in English:

hope – hopeless; breath – breathless; help – helpless, home – homeless; harm – harmless; effort -effortless; care – careless.

Negative prefixes and suffixes in English

Example sentences:

  • The house we live in is very atypical for the neighbourhood.
  • There were some rumours of drug and alcohol abuse in our school.
  • Scientists consider anhydrous ammonia toxic and highly flammable.
  • Social networks and some TV programmes encourage anti-social behaviour in young people.
  • Sorry, but I must tell you that the report you sent me disagrees with my report.
  • You must agree that betraying a friend is ignoble.
  • It’s illegal to use your mobile phone when driving.
  • It must be hard to deal with impolite people.
  • Since most of your answers were incorrect you’ll have to repeat the test next month.
  • The judge said that the witness’s statement was irrelevant.
  • We are telling you this for your own good. Please, don’t misunderstand us.
  • He tends to speak a lot of nonsense but people seem to like him.
  • You should smile and talk a bit more if you don’t want people to think you’re unfriendly.

The inhabitants of the flooded village felt totally helpless.

negative prefixes and suffixes in English
Negative prefixes and suffixes in English

Do the quiz to perfect your knowledge:

Download the lesson about negative prefixes and suffixes in English

Negative Prefixes and Suffixes in English
Negative Prefixes and Suffixes in English

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