Italian For Beginners: How To Use Prefixes

Prefixes are one of my favorite parts of grammar, because understanding them helps in building the web of knowledge that makes learning a language easy and interesting. I've already talked about the super-logical system of Russian prefixes and those super-simple Esperanto prefixes. Now it's time to find out how much we can learn from Italian prefixes.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but it's certainly a good start. Any time we can look at how a language works, it helps to build that system of crutches which support our learning.

Common Prefixes

a-/ab-

: from/out of.
abrogazione (abrogation)

ante-/anti-

: before.
ante- + nascere (to be born) = antenato — ancestor
anti- + pasto (meal) = antipasti — appetizers

bi-/bis-

: twice.
bisnonno (great-grandfather)

con-

: with.
con- (with) + dividere (to divide) = condividere — to share

contra-

: against.
contra- (against) + attaccare (to attack) = contrattacco — counterattack

de-/di-

: from.
de- + viaggare (to go) = deviare — to deviate

e-/ex-

: out.
ex- (out) + = eccetto — except

in-

: as a negative.
in- + esperto (expert) = inesperto — non-expert

in-

: in, into.
in- (into) + fiammare (to burn) = infiammare — to inflame

inter-

: between.
interporre (to interpose)

per-

: through/for/because of.
per- (through) + notte (night) = pernottare — to stay overnight

pos-

: after
posdomani (the day after tomorrow)

pre-

: before.
pre- + avviso (to advice) = preavviso — forewarning

pro-

: forward.
pro- (forward) + porre (to put) = proporre — to suggest

re-/re-

: again.
reazione (reaction)

semi-

: half.
semi- (half) + cerchio (circle) = semicerchio — semicircle

trans-/tras-

: across.
trans- (across) + Transatlantico — transatlantic

Summary

While Italian words are not built on the regularity and logical basis of slavic languages (like Russian) or constructed languages (like Esperanto), they're still built on a sturdy Latin foundation and the understanding of basic prefixes and roots will still go a long way toward helping you to learn, understand, and remember vocabulary.


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