Prefix, Prefix: Read All About It!

Contributor: Jennifer Blanchard. Lesson ID: 13440

Words are tricky. We can add or take away parts from words and completely change what they are trying to tell us! Knowing more about prefixes can help make this a bit easier on us though!


Grammar, Reading

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Riddle time! Guess the prefix (or part of a word that goes at the beginning of the word)!

  • When you put me in front of a type of book, I turn that book from fiction into something that's real.
  • When you put me in front of the word stop, it means that I keep on going and going.
  • When I match up with the word stick, it means that I will slip and slide all over the place.

Hint: It has three letters!

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  • Want to know more?

Check out this lesson on prefixes!

Before we begin, let's review what we already know:

  • Words have meaning.
  • By changing a word slightly, the meaning of a word can change.

In this lesson, you will learn what prefixes are, some examples of prefixes, and how they can be added to a word to change the meaning of a word.

This will then help you figure out new words and what they mean when you are reading and working with words every day.

Let's start by thinking about a base or root word first. That is the main part of the word.

I think of it as the root or the base of the tree. Just like the tree NEEDS that root to hold it up, a word NEEDS the root or base word. The root or base word holds meaning by itself.

Some examples of base words are: write, do, play, and comfortable. Those words mean something all by themselves.

A prefix is when another part of a word, that has its own meaning, is added to the root or base word. It is added to the beginning of the word.

For the most part, prefixes can't be words by themselves. They must be attached to the root or base word.

I think of a prefix as the leaves on the tree. The leaves don't HAVE to be there, but they can be there; and when they are there, they can only go with the root or base. The prefix doesn't HAVE to be on a word, but it can be there; and when it is there, it can only go with the root or base word.

tree diagram

If You Were a Prefix, by Marcie Aboff, might help explain it in a different way. Watch this If You Were A Prefix read-along from Brooks Mathews:

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Let's look at an example!

We have the word like, which means that you enjoy something or appreciate it. Now, if we add the prefix dis- to it, we get dislike. Dislike now means that you DON'T enjoy or appreciate it.

So, dis- means NOT, and when we add it to words such as agree (disagree), appear (disappear), or qualify (disqualify), we add the meaning NOT to the beginning of the word, which makes the meaning of the word the opposite of what it was before.

Word Meaning Word with Prefix Word Meaning with Prefix
like enjoy something or appreciate it dislike don't enjoy something or appreciate it; NOT like
agree have the same thoughts as someone disagree not having the same thoughts as someone
appear see something disappear not seeing something
qualify count for something disqualify not count for something


Let me show you one more.

We have the prefix pre-. Here are some words that often have the prefix pre- at the beginning of them: preview, preschool, prewrite.

Pre- means before, so I want to think about what each of these words mean before the prefix and with the prefix.

Word Meaning Word with Prefix Word Meaning with Prefix
view to watch something preview

to watch something before

(Think about how you watch a preview, or short clip, before watching an actual movie!)

school when, what, or where you learn preschool when, what, or where you learn before starting actual school
write putting your thoughts down with writing prewrite brainstorming or quickly putting your thoughts down before you actually write


  • Notice how all of the new meanings had the meaning before with them due to the prefix pre-?

That's just one more example of a prefix.

  • Are you feeling ready to move on to the Got It? section, where we can work together to try out some more prefixes?

I think you've got what it takes!

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