Picking Out Prefixes

Contributor: Ryann Maginn. Lesson ID: 12347

Learning new words can seem overwhelming. Breaking them into pieces turns them from nonsense and impossible to important vocabulary words! Learn an easy way to become familiar with unfamiliar words!


Comprehension, Grammar

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What is a prefix?
  • Does that mean to fix something before it's broken?

No, it is a way to change a word's meaning and make it easier to figure out what unfamiliar words mean.

Keep reading to learn more. You won't get overwhelmed with nonsense, just impressive teaching!

Prefixes are the basic elements of creating new words.

They are a letter or small group of letters that, when added to the beginning of a word, completely change its meaning.

In this lesson, learn about the prefixes listed below and discover how each changes the meaning of different root words.

  • min-
  • non-
  • over-
  • im-

Look at an example!

The definition of the word fiction is literature based on imaginary stories. The prefix non- means not.

If you add these together, you get the new word nonfiction.

The definition of the word nonfiction is literature based on true events or facts.

Each of the four prefixes above changes word meanings based on the definition. Take note of the definition of each prefix.

  min-   means small or less
  non-   means not or without
  over-   means excessive
  im-   means not or into


Learning the meaning of these prefixes helps you define unfamiliar words in your reading by breaking the word into the root and prefix.

Take a look at the word nonexistent.

If you take the time to pick it apart, you see the root word is exist. You know that this word means the following.

  • to be
  • able to be experienced by at least one of the senses
  • physically present in the world

You also now know that the prefix non means not.

If you combine what you know about the root word and the prefix, you know that nonexistent refers to something that is fake or not real; something that does not exist in this world.

Now that you know how to pick out prefixes and what some prefixes mean, it's time to start connecting them to some words and using them in sentences!

Continue to the Got It? section for some practice!

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