Prefixes in adjectives

In this lesson, students will look at some common prefixes that can be added to adjectives and see how they change meanings.

Goals

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will look at adjectives with distinctive prefixes.

There are many adjectives which don’t have particular recognisable prefixes (e.g. kind, sweet, dry). However, there are many others which do have distinctive prefixes. These typical prefixes can help us to identify them as adjectives.

In Slide 1 in the Activity page in the right hand menu, you will see some groups of adjectives which all have distinctive prefixes. Students should identify what kind of meaning these prefixes carry.

The students' task is to look at these adjectives and do as follows:

You probably worked out that all of these prefixes have a negating (‘not’) meaning. For example, unofficial means ‘not official’ and disloyal means ‘not loyal’. You can see that these prefixes make a very significant change to meaning! They may be short but they have a powerful effect.

In Slide 2, we look at a puzzle using some different adjectives as root words. Which of our negative prefixes (un-, in-, non-, dis-) can we apply to these root words? Display Slide 2 on a smart board or projector. Drag a card to the right or left of another card to join them together. The other card should briefly flash. Double-click a joined card to separate it from the other one. You can ask for one or more clues if you wish, but you will not score points for these items.

Most of these words are 'fussy' about adding the prefixes: they allow just one, or one is much more usual. We don’t find, for example, distolerable or inhealthy

In Slide 3, we look at some variant forms. The negative prefix in- has variant forms. Compare the following (also displayed on Slide 3):

inefficient
illegal
irrelevant
impatient
incapable
immobile
illiberal
irreverent

Students should consider the following questions:

We can work out the following:

Then, in Slide 4, adjectives are displayed which can take a negative prefix. What would be the negative versions of the following words (also displayed on Slide 4)?

polite
regular
literate
reversible
moral
tolerable
responsible
active

You can check your answers by pressing the buttons to see the answers on Slide 5.

So far we have looked at prefixes with negating meanings. However, there are a number of prefixes with other kinds of meanings that can be found in adjectives. Some of these can be seen in the groups of adjectives in Slide 6. Look at them and answer these questions:

You can check your answers about the prefixes and the kinds of meanings they add by pressing the buttons in Slide 7.

Further Discussion

What happens if we add our negative prefixes to the following common adjectives? Try it and see.

good
 
bad
 
big
 
small
 
strong
 
weak

These different prefixes have similar meanings. However, sometimes they create different shades of meaning in examples where more than one can be added to the same base word. For instance, look at these sentences with inhuman and non-human:

Could we swap the words around in these examples? Can you describe the difference in meaning between these two words?

The prefix un- is very commonly used and can be added to new words that come into the language. So sometimes alternative forms with un- may sound fairly acceptable, even if they are less usual. Did you notice any examples like this in the puzzle? One example might be unalcoholic: if someone said this instead of non-alcoholic, we would certainly know what they meant. Some base words do have more than one recognised possibility. An example (not in the puzzle) is advisableinadvisable is the usual form, but unadvisable is sometimes used instead, and is listed in some dictionaries.

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Prefixes in adjectives: Activity

unfortunate
unofficial
unshaven
unlawful
ungracious
indirect
incompetent
indecisive
involuntary
inexperienced
non-refundable
non-renewable
non-discriminatory
non-military
non-computer-literate
disrespectful
disloyal
dishonest
dissatisfied
dissimilar

inefficient
illegal
irrelevant
impatient
incapable
immobile
illiberal
irreverent

polite
regular
literate
reversible
moral
tolerable
responsible
active

polite impolite
regular irregular
literate illiterate
reversible irreversible
moral immoral
tolerable intolerable
responsible irresponsible
active inactive

semi-rural
semi-skimmed
semi-official
semi-urban
semi-automatic
multiracial
multicoloured
multilayered
multicellular
multilateral
antisocial
anti-Catholic
anti-inflationary
anti-democratic
antibacterial

1. semi-: 'partly'
2. multi-: 'many (or several)'
3. anti-: 'opposed to; opposite of; or preventing'

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This is a full preview of this page. You can view one page a day like this without registering. But if you wish to use it in your classroom, please register your details on Englicious (for free) and then log in!