Negative Prefixes

Prefix and Suffix Types

Negative prefixes and suffix forms

We use a prefix at the beginning of the word to change the meaning and a suffix at the end of a word when we often use them to change the type of word.  Understanding when to use prefixes and suffixes correctly are an important part of doing the word formation exercise, which is in the Cambridge First Part 3 Use of English exam.

This post will look at a number of negative prefixes. You can also find links to more prefix and suffix posts on our First Exam Corner page.


Negative prefixes generally come in two groups

  • Prefixes we can use with many words
  • A group of prefixes which are often used with certain words and which can depend on their spelling.

Common Forms

Our first group are the most common prefixes to express negative ideas.

  • un-
  • in-
  • dis-
  • de-

The second group of negative prefixes we use with specific types of words

  • il-  Some words starting with “l”
        il- legal
  • ir-  Some words starting with “r
        ir- responsible
  • im-  Some words starting with “m” or “p”
        im- mature
        im- possible

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Basic Negative Prefixes

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