7+ Common Prefixes that Dominate Academic Vocabulary  

These common prefixes are the keys to hundreds of English words. (Check com-, con-, or re- in any good English dictionary.) Add the negative prefixes in-, un-, de-, and dis- (see Negative Prefix List and Practice Negative Prefixes), and you will have a huge head start in understanding academic vocabulary.

This page has three sections: Prefixes of Location (examples of academic vocabulary using ex-, in/im-, sub-, and trans-), Prefixes Showing Relationships (examples of words using com/con-, sym/syn-, anti-, contra-, and ob/op-), and Gap-fill Practices using those words. The prefix ‘re-‘ gets its own page, with examples and a matching practice.

Common Prefixes of Location

Some Examples of Ex- (out of) + Roots with Meanings:

• explicit- unfolded, (opened out)

• export- to carry out of the country

• expose- to put out into the open

• external/exterior-- outside 

• extract- to draw or pull out

Examples of In-/Im- (when it means in, into, or on) 

(see also Negative Prefix List for its more common meaning, ‘not’)

• import -- to carry into one’s country

• inclination-- a leaning into or preference

• incorporated-- made into one body (or organization)

• instruct-- to build on or teach

• internal/interior -- inside 

• invoke-- to call on

Examples of Sub- (under) 

• submit (to)-- to put or bow one’s will under the will of another

• subsequent-- following under (after)

• substitute-- to put into the place of another

• subvert-- to work from beneath to overturn a government or a plan

• succession-- the order in which subordinates take the place of a leader who dies

• support-- to carry or hold up from underneath

Examples of Trans- (across, beyond) 

• transfer-- to bring across

• transformation-- a complete change of form

• transition-- going across, passing over (to something new)

• translate-- to carry across from one place or language to another

• transmission-- sending across

• transportation-- means of carrying things across distances

Common Prefixes Showing Relationships

Silhouette of an older couple, man with a cane and a woman supporting him, with a discussion of the meanings of compassion and sympathy-- feeling with another.

Com- (Con-, Co-) or Sym- (Syn-): ‘with’

• community-- a group (town or neighborhood) that lives together

• conclude-- to finish something or finish putting thoughts together-- reach a conclusion.

• conference-- a group that is brought together to consider an issue

• contemporary-- living at the same time or happening during the same period

• symmetry-- literally a ‘common measure’: two objects with similar, well-balanced proportions

• sympathetic-- interested and sharing someone’s feelings; feeling sympathy

• synchronize- to time together; happening at the same time

• synonym-- a word with a similar meaning (literally “named with”)

• synthesize- to put two ideas or substances together with each other to make something new

Anti-, Contra-, and sometimes Ob- (Op-): ‘against’

anti- is often used with a hyphen to show opposition: anti-American, anti-bacterial, anti-communist

Other words for opposition:

• antagonist-- a competitor or opponent

• antipathy-- very strong dislike or hatred

• antithesis-- the opposite of an idea

• antitoxin-- a medicine that reduces the effect of poisons 

• contradict-- to ‘speak against.’ Contradictory ideas are ideas that cannot both be true.

• controversy-- opposition: a turning of one group against the ideas of another

• counteract-- to act against something and prevent it from working

• opponent-- someone who is against something (opposes it.)

(A person in favor of something is a called a proponent, and they may ‘propose’ or suggest an idea. We also talk about the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of an idea or choice-- the points in favor of and against it.)

Practice Common Prefixes

Choose and type the best word for each gap from the list above each paragraph. If you need a clue, click on the question mark for the first letter. (It will show up below the box saying "Check." This will subtract points from your score, however.) You can probably guess even words you aren’t sure of by their endings, since only one part of speech (a noun, verb, OR adjective) will fit in most of the gaps, and there are other limits on which words are possible.

Practice Location Prefixes:

Choose and type the best word for each blank from:
explicit, expose, external, impose, submit, subvert, successor, support, transfer, transform

When the great leader died, his invoked the leader’s hope for a smooth of power. He told his people, “Our leader gave clear, instructions that you should me as you did him. He warned us that enemies might try to our government to make their own countries stronger than we are so they can their will on us. We will never to them! We need to their evil purposes and unite to our country into the great nation of our leader’s dream.

Practice Relationship Prefixes:

Choose the best word to fill in the blanks:
community, concluded, conference, contemporaries, synchronize, synthesize

A of chemists organized an international of their to discuss ways to new compounds that would improve electronic transmissions. It was difficult to the schedules of so many busy scientists. They finally that they would need to plan two events on different days and then coordinate the results afterward.

Choose the best word from:
antagonistic, antitoxin, contradicted, controversy, counteracting, opponents

A foreign politician‘s became more and more as the between them became angrier. They him whenever they could. Finally a few of them decided to poison him so his sympathizers would get discouraged and give up. However, his friends were able to get him to the hospital in time. The doctors gave him an that was effective in the poison.

Most of this page (and The Prefix 'Re-') is also available in pdf worksheet form (for classroom practice offline) in the prefix packet and root and affix packet and bundles on the Root, Prefix, and Suffix Worksheet page.

See The Prefix ‘Re-’ for more examples and matching practice, or Negative Prefix List and Practice Negative Prefixes for other very common prefixes.

Home> Roots, Prefixes and Suffixes> Study and Practice Common Prefixes.

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