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!


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. 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 the word's meaning.

In this lesson, you will learn about the prefixes "min-," "non-," "over-," and "im-," and discover how each changes the meaning of different root words.

For example:

  • The original definition of fiction = Literature based on imaginary stories
  • The prefix "non" = "not"
  • The prefix “non-” + “fiction”= Non-fiction
  • The new definition for nonfiction = Literature based on true events or facts

Each of the four prefixes listed at the beginning of the section changes word meanings based on the their individual definitions. Take note of the definition of each prefix:

  1. Min-
    • meaning "small" or "less"
  2. Non-
    • meaning "not" or "without"
  3. Over-
    • meaning "excessive"
  4. Im-
    • meaning "not" or "into"

By learning the meaning of the prefixes, you will be able to define unfamiliar words in your reading by breaking the word into the root and prefix.

Take a look at the word, "nonexistent."

If we take the time to pick it apart, we see the root word is "exist." We know that this word means "to be," or "able to be experienced by at least one of the senses," or "physically present in the world." We also know from the example above that the prefix "non" means "not." If we combine what we know about the root word and the prefix, we know that the word is referring to something that is "fake" or "not real;" something that simply 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 on to the Got It? section for some practice!

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