Home Language Learning 20 French Prefixes That Can Increase Your Phrase Information Quick

20 French Prefixes That Can Increase Your Phrase Information Quick

20 French Prefixes That Can Increase Your Phrase Information Quick


Who doesn’t love a language studying shortcut? Cognates are a favourite amongst newbie learners. As phrases that look alike and have the identical which means in each French and English, they make studying simpler and mean you can broaden your vocabulary shortly. 

Right here’s one other not-so-secret shortcut: French prefixes supply the identical benefits as cognates. You’lll discover a lot of them to be comparable (if not similar) to English prefixes! Plus, they mean you can infer which means from phrases you don’t know. 

The similarities stem from their shared lexical legacy. Though French and English belong to totally different language households, their shut proximity and mutual Latin historical past hyperlinks again to the Romans, and leaves a superb quantity of overlap. As your French abilities develop, you’ll discover the shared etymology of French and English root phrases in every single place—from a phrase like ambidextre (ambi- which means “two” or “each”) to prévisible (pré which means “earlier than”). 

Whereas some French prefixes are acquainted to English audio system, others could take extra time to get the grasp of. That will help you grasp the trickier French prefixes—and retain what with out tedious vocabulary lists—Rosetta Stone’s immersive, bite-sized classes are right here for you. With TruAccent, you possibly can nail your pronunciation of each prefix as you construct real-world dialog abilities. Preview the newbie’s listing of prefixes under, or bounce straight to your first lesson

Why French prefixes are so essential

Prefixes in French—and in English—aren’t only for present. They’ve a direct affect on a phrase’s which means. 

This tidbit goes out to the grammar nerds: Although not phrases themselves, prefixes operate as “morphemes.” Morphemes are what linguists name the smallest models of which means in a language. The prefix anti– for instance, which means “towards”, cannot be damaged down additional.  Neither an- nor ti- imply something by themselves. It’s solely with the complete prefix anti– that any which means is communicated.

Anti- can’t fairly stand by itself although. It wants extra description to speak a whole thought—therefore why we use anti– together with different nouns and adjectives corresponding to delinquent or anti-allergène (anti-allergen).

Tacking a prefix to the start of a phrase makes speaking simpler and extra succinct. For instance, when making an attempt to explain the sensation of indecision, one may specific it in varied methods:

Je ne sais pas quoi faire, j’ai du mal à faire un choix entre les deux

I don’t know what to do, I’m conflicted about making a alternative between the 2.

Or we may simplify this thought by describing this battle between two selections as ambivalent. Our trimmed-up sentence would appear like the next:

Je suis ambivalent concernant les deux choix. = I’m ambivalent regarding the two selections.

You possibly can see how wonderful prefixes are! Exact and environment friendly, they offer us the flexibility to pack a sentence value of which means right into a single phrase. Plus, they cut back repetition. 

Prefixes just like the r– in racheter (to purchase once more), for instance, assist us talk the redundancy of a sure motion. And if we have to redo one thing we are able to simply discover the phrase to speak this by combining r– with the verb faire (to do/make) to say:

On a fait trop de fautes. Donc, il faut refaire le projet.


We made too many errors. Subsequently, now we have to redo the mission.

In brief, prefixes take the wordiness out of on a regular basis speech. They will particularly assist newbie and intermediate learners converse naturally, with no need to over clarify your ideas.

Be aware that, as in lots of components of French, there’s a restrict to the flexibility to translate phrases immediately from English. French utilization obeys its personal conventions, which we’ll break down within the subsequent part. 

How do English and French prefixes examine?

Although a lot of the prefixes on this article are extremely recognizable and simply understood by English audio system, some are much less acquainted. French has its personal means of creating sure prefixes operate that differ from English. 

For instance, the “un-”  in “limitless” turns into an il in illimité. Others are used equally, however with totally different phrases to characterize them, such because the sous in sous-marin (submarine). Right here, sous successfully interprets to the English “sub-”. 

As all the time, we need to keep aware of French grammar guidelines, particularly regarding numbers and gender. The recognizable superstitieux (superstitious), for instance, turns into superstitieuse when describing female nouns and superstitieuses when describing plural female nouns. 

Check out the next examples of phrases expressed within the female—every of which features a frequent French prefix. We’ve underlined the female and female plural endings for simple comparability! 

  • Elle est la bienfaitrice de la propriété. = She is the benefactor of the property.
  • C’est une organisation très bienveillante. = It’s a really charitable group.
  • La télévision était déconnectée. = The tv was disconnected.
  • Elle n’aime pas sa poésie parce qu’elle la trouve trop irrévérencieuse. = She doesn’t like his poetry as a result of she finds it too irreverent
  • Concernant les chats noirs, ma copine est très superstitieuse. = In terms of black cats, my girlfriend could be very superstitious.
  • Ils ont toujours de mauvaises idées! = They all the time have unhealthy concepts!

>>Wish to get again to the fundamentals? Try our listing of 100+ fundamental French phrases! 

Should-know French prefixes

The next is a listing of 20 frequent French prefixes with examples. For every instance, we’ve positioned the female endings in parentheses (apart from supersticieux, the place the female kind is spelled out utterly).

1. Ambi-

That means: “two” or “each”

Ambi- refers to 2 of one thing, significantly with regard two sides, or two issues coexisting on the similar time. 

  • ambidextre = ambidextrous 
  • ambigu(ë) = ambiguous 
  • ambivalent(e) = ambivalent 

2. A-/an

That means: missing, not

A-/An- is used to negate a phrase’s definition and switch it into an antonym. They don’t seem to be to be confused with anti- which implies “towards.” 

  • amoral = not ethical (“amoral”) 
  • anaérobique = anaerobic
  • analphabète = illiterate

3. Anti-

That means: towards, against

Anti– refers to one thing being “towards” or “against” one thing else. That is used a lot the identical means as it’s in English.

  • antiallergène = anti-allergic
  • antibactérien= antibacterial
  • antigel= antifreeze

4. Auto-

That means: self, similar

Auto– by or pertaining to oneself. Like English, it refers to one thing that’s for, about, or by oneself. A lot of the phrases that use it are simply recognizable! 

  • l’autographe = autobiography (biography written by oneself)
  • automatique = automated, self-operating
  • car = car, a “self transferring” automobile or system

5. Bene-

That means: properly, good

Bene– refers to one thing that’s both good or promotes wellness. Has a spread of software from the bodily all the best way to the elegant and metaphysical high quality of phrases like bénédiction (blessing).

  • bénédiction = benediction/blessing
  • bénéfices = advantages
  • Un/une bénévole = volunteer

6. Bien- properly, good.

That means: synonymous with bene

Bien– additionally refers to one thing that’s good or promotes goodness, wellness, well-being, and so forth. Can be utilized by itself to imply one thing that may be a “good,” like a business good or shopper good. In French, you possibly can say ils ont contrôlé leurs biens à la frontière. = They inspected their items on the border.

  • bienfaiteur/bienfaitrice = benefactor
  • bienveillant(e) = benevolent, type, charitable
  • bientôt = quickly

7. Bi- double

That means: double

Bi– signifies one thing that’s characterised by two or being doubled. Watch out to not confuse bi- with ambi-, which refers to “two” within the sense of sides or opposites. Bi capabilities as designating two issues that coexist on the similar time, with no explicit “aspect” or opposition concerned.

  • bilateral = bilateral
  • bilingue =bilingual
  • bipedal = bipedal (two toes)

8. Contre/contra-

That means: towards

Contre/contra– signifies one thing that’s towards or against one thing else.

  • une contradiction = a contradiction
  • un distinction = a distinction
  • un contretemps = a setback. Actually “towards time”

9. Dé/dés 

That means: not, separate from

Dé/dés– signifies a separation, interruption, or reversal of one thing. In English it usually interprets as “dis-” or “un-”. It’s generally utilized in verb or adjective kind.

  • déconnecter = to disconnect
  • défaire = to undo
  • désabonner = to unsubscribe

10. Demi

That means: half

Demi interprets to its English equal of “demi”, “half”, or “semi”. An English speaker may perceive a sentence like Il a commandé un demi-pint  (he ordered a half-pint),
though “demi-” would by no means be used on this phrase in English. One would merely say “half-pint”, simply as one says “half-circle” and “semi-final”.

  • un demi-cercle = a half-circle
  • la demi-finale = the semi-final
  • une demi-pinte = a half-pint

11. Dys

That means: in poor health or unhealthy

Dys- communicates an in poor health or unhealthy state of one thing. It normally interprets on to English as the identical prefix “dys-”.  

  • un dysfonctionnement = dysfunction
  • la dyslexie = dyslexia
  • la dystopie = dystopia

12. É/ex

That means: exterior of

É/Ex- signifies one thing that’s exterior of one thing else. Additionally it is used to convey an motion that seeks to go exterior of one thing.

  • élargir = to broaden 
  • exclure = to exclude
  • l’extérieur (m.) = the outside 

13. En/em- 

That means: within

En/Em- signifies one thing within one thing else, or the act being contained or introduced into a bigger entire. The phrase enregistrer , although translated to English as “file”, actually means to “in-register” one thing, as in “to doc its presence in a single’s data.”

  • emballer = to wrap 
  • enregistrer = to file
  • entrer = to enter

14. Unwell/im/in/irr

That means: reverse

Unwell/im/in/irr- refers back to the reverse of no matter follows it within the phrase. On this means, it interprets to its English equal of “il” as in “ilauthorized”. Nevertheless, it additionally interprets to “un-” in sure English phrases.

  • illimité(e) = limitless
  • impatient(e) = impatient
  • inacceptable =unacceptable
  • Irrévérencieux/irrévérencieuseirreverent

15. Mal/mau/mé/més

That means: unhealthy

Mal/mau/mé/més- refers to a nasty state of being. As with bene-, its software is broad. It might embody one thing that’s simply merely “unhealthy”—a mistake or a misstep—or it will possibly suggest a lot darker sentiments, as in one thing that “evil” or “cursed”. We suggest counting on context clues whenever you encounter these prefixes to substantiate how severe the state of affairs is!

  • une malédiction = a curse
  • mauvais(e)= unhealthy
  • une méprise =a mistake
  • une mésaventurea misadventure

16. Pré-

That means: earlier than

Pré- indicating one thing that comes earlier than one thing else, as within the phrase “prefix” itself. Interprets on to the English “pre-”.

  • préalable = preliminary
  • une précommande = a sophisticated order
  • prévisible = predictable

17. R/re/ré/res-

That means: once more

R/re/ré/resall designate an motion that’s repeated. Usually, you possibly can add it immediately earlier than the phrase, as we do with recommencer (to begin once more). Nevertheless, there are exceptions the place the foundation phrase isn’t capable of stand by itself (like –pétér, the foundation of répéter).

  • raccompagner = to stroll again (with somebody) / to take somebody again
  • racheter = to purchase again
  • redémarrer = to restart (a automotive or equipment)
  • répéter = to repeat
  • ressembler to appear like (actually “re-semble” or to “re” seem to be)

18. Sou/sous-

That means: beneath, “sub” in English

Sous/soucharacterised by being beneath or going/coming from beneath one thing else.

  • soulever = to lift
  • un sous-marin = a submarine
  • souterrain = underground

19. Tremendous/sur

That means: over/on prime of

Sur/super- communicates the thought of going over or “surpassing” a sure threshold; being “past” one thing else. Phrases like “shock” in French and English are each derived from this similar which means! Surprendre in French actually means “to overhaul”, as we’re “overtaken” by one thing that surprises us. Right here’s a typical phrase you’ll hear that options this French prefix: 

Quelle grande shock! = What a pleasant shock!

  • surpayer = to over pay
  • une superstition = a superstition
  • surprendre = to shock 

20. Trans

That means: a “change” or “to cross”

Trans- signifies the act of adjusting, or crossing from one level or one state to a different. This may confer with bodily, emotional, or figurative factors. 

  • une transaction = a transaction
  • transférer = to switch
  • rework= to remodel

Develop your French vocabulary with Rosetta Stone

Like cognates, prefixes supply learners a simple bridge from English to French, as a lot of the prefixes now we have seen on this submit operate in a lot the identical means as their English equivalents. Be mindful those which are extra frequent in French corresponding to mal/mau/mé/més, and the way French prefixes like il- can be utilized like “un-” in English. 

With that, this listing ought to offer you a simple increase for studying multitudes of recent phrases, or at the least aid you describe one thing the following time you’re in a bind! 

To take your French to the following stage, step away from textbooks and memorization. Rosetta Stone may help you make progress quicker with bite-sized classes, studying instruments, and extra. With every lesson, you’ll decide up language intuitively, the identical means you discovered your first language! 

Plus, TruAccent helps you hone your pronunciation out of your very first lesson.

With 25 languages to select from, you possibly can be taught French—or Mandarin, Arabic, and Gaelic—on the tempo that works for you. 

Written by Micah McCauley

Micah McCauley is a present freelance contributor to Rosetta Stone with years of expertise instructing French to non-native audio system. His profession spans the U.S., France, and China. He’s at the moment a scholar and affiliate teacher of French and Francophone Research. He enjoys composing music, touring, and studying Spanish in his free time.



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