This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Skip to main contentAccess keys helpA-Z index

You are in: Learning English > The Flatmates
Learning English - The Flatmates
The Flatmates
Language Point
Navigation spacerNavigation spacer  
Archive Language Point 105

Language Point logo

Prefixes 2

Alice in the park

You can change the meaning of some words by adding prefixes (extra letters at the beginning of words). For example, you can change the meaning of 'excited' to mean 'too excited' by adding 'over' to the beginning of it to make 'overexcited'. When Alice said 'I overreacted' she meant that she had acted or responded too strongly to the situation.

Here are some common prefixes and their meanings:

Too much, very, extreme

over - too much
protective - overprotective (adj): wanting to protect someone too much, especially a child
spend - overspend (v): spend more money than you should
due - overdue (adj): very late or not done when it was expected

hyper - very, extremely
active- hyperactive (adj): very excitable, or having more energy than is usual
sensitive - hypersensitive (adj): very sensitive, easily upset by things people say or do to you
market - hypermarket (n): very large supermarket

ultra - extreme, beyond
conservative - ultra-conservative (adj): extremely conventional or old-fashioned
modern - ultra-modern (adj): very modern or contemporary
trendy - ultra-trendy (adj): extremely fashionable

One, two, three, four:

mono - one
monolingual (adj): speak or write in only one language
monotone (n): a way of speaking that is very boring because your voice doesn't go up or down or get louder or quieter but just stays at the same pitch and volume all the time
monopoly (n): business that has complete control of a product or service because it is the only company that provides that product or service

bi - two
bilingual (adj): able to speak two languages
bicentenary (n): the day two hundred years after an important event
bisexual (n, adj): someone who is sexually attracted to both men and women

tri - three
triangle (n): three-sided shape
triathlon (n): race with three sporting aspects - running, swimming and biking
tricolour (n): flag with three colours
triplet (n): one of three babies born at the same time to the same mother

quad - four
quadrilateral (n): four-sided shape
quadruple (v): become four times as big, or to multiply a number or amount by four
quadruplet (n): one of four babies born at the same time to the same mother

Using hyphens:

Most words which are created with prefixes don't use hyphens. However, some do, for example, co (co-operate), pro (pro-government) and non (non-starter).

Some words with prefixes are hyphenated and other words with the same prefix aren't. For example, co-star and coexist or multilayered and multi-purpose. There's no hard and fast rule why this is the case. Use a good English-English dictionary to help you.


I flew off the handle
I got very angry

responded with too much, unnecessary or inappropriate emotion

badly shaken
very upset about or affected by something


Most Recent

Last 3 episodes


Last 3 language points


Last 3 quizzes


What's next?

What's next logoThe quiz

Go back

Go back logoThe episode