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Word Form

   Learning English words is very fun because you can divide a word into several parts and you’ll find that you have already been familiar with one or two parts. So a long word shouldn’t be difficult to remember. “Intimidate” is such an example. It originally comes from “timid”. The word you have known since high school particularly if you are interested in reading simplified English novels or short stories. You’ll read “timid” several times in novels of adventure. We know that Tom Sawyer was certainly not a timid boy since he was such a curious and courageous boy loving to explore and take adventure. Although “in” in most cases carries negative meaning like insecure (缺乏安全感的), insensible (無知覺的), inseparable (不可分離的); however, “in” also implies “to intensify” (加強; 強調) like integrate,  intense, intensive, interact, etc. When “ate” is placed at the very end of a word, you know the word is used as a verb like accommodate (提供), articulate (說話清楚), liberate (解放), originate(起源於). To put the three parts in-timid-ate together, you know immediately it means “to make someone very very timid” (威嚇;欺負). You see, you don’t look up dictionary at all. But it offers you good chance to review words you’ve already familiar with.  Normally, the root of a word or its prefix and suffix contains special meaning. For instance, the root “dict” means “to say”, “tell”, or “speak”. So dictate means say aloud so that someone can write or type it 聽寫or order someone to do something 命令; 指示 and a dictator is a ruler who has absolute authority to order people to do things 獨裁者; diction means choice and use of words 措辭; dictionary thus becomes a book listing and explaining words. Contradict means say opposite things反駁; predict means say in advance something will happen 預言and verdict means words said at court that someone is guilty or not guilty 判決. Moreover, if a root is followed by a prefix or suffix, the new word becomes much easier for you to remember and use. Predict is such an example. The word is made by “pre” means “before” and “dict” means “say”. Saying something before it happens is exactly “predict” means. Another example for prefix is “over”.  “Over” means “too much”. Therefore, overcook means being cooked too much 煮爛oversleep means sleeping too much 睡過頭; overhear means hear more than you should know 偷聽到, 無意中聽到overdue means something is due for long time超過截止期限, etc. On the other hand, “under” means “too little” or “beneath”. For instance, understaffed means not enough staff 人手不夠; underground and underwear are the other such examples. Suffix is the part followed at the end of a word. You must know it in your high school grammar which calls it 詞類變化 like act as verb, action as noun, active as adjective; they all refer to the same idea of “doing”. However, some suffixes have special meanings. For instance,  “log”, or “logy” means science, or a study of knowledge like archaeology 考古學, astrology占星學theology神學 cardiology心臟學; “ant” means “some thing” like chemical formula deodorant 除臭劑or antiperspirant 排汗劑. Interestingly, you may find that deodorant is made by three parts: de-odor-ant; de(prefix) means without, odor (root) means bad smell, and ant chemical formula. Putting three together, it shouldn’t difficult for you to remember and use the word. Likewise, antiperspirant is made by anti (against反抗), perspire(sweat)and ant.
   To conclude, it won’t be necessary for you memorize the meanings of prefix, root, or suffix. The tip is to analyze the structure of words each time when you are encountering complicated words in your reading. Meanwhile, don’t remember words by alphabets, namely, treating the alphabets individually and unable to recognize relationships of parts in the word. At the beginning, you may seek help from some specialized dictionary to consult the meaning. However, after you use this skill frequently, their meanings will become familiar to you. After all, there are not many meanings of prefixes, roots or suffixes compared with meanings of words. However, there are dictionaries like Dictionary of English Roots英文字根辭典. They are useful reference tools for beginners. The following word parts are frequently used in your readings. Bear them in mind can make your reading more joyful.
Prefix Meaning Examples
over too much overcook, overhear, oversleep
un too little, beneath

underground, underwear    

ex out

exotic, exit, exterior

en to put into or to cover

endangered species, enclose, engrave

em to put into or to cover but followed by b or p

embrace, embark, embed

uni one or single

unique, uniform

bi two

bilingual, bicycly

tri three

trinity, triplets

in inside, into

install, influence, inherit, inform, intimate, imitate

in intensify

inflame, intimidate,

in not

inflexible, invalid

il not illegal, illogical, illiterate
im not

immature, impatient,

ir not

irresponsible, irrational, irregular

ante in front of, before

antecedent, anticipate

pro, pre before, forward

prologue 序言; proceed, prophecy, prognosis 癌症篩檢, prenatal產前

post after

postpone, postnatal 產後

de without deprive, deduct, depart, descend, deodorize
dis not

disorder, disgrace, discharge, disapprove

Root Meaning


Dic/dict say, words dictact, dictator, diction, dictionary, contradict, indicate, predict, verdict
spec observe, watch inspect, introspective, expect, suspect
scop observe, look at

telescope, microscope, horoscope, stethoscope

pater/patri father

patriarch, paternity, patronize, patriotic

mater/matri mother

matriarch, maternity, maternal

juv young juvenile, rejuvenate 
ven/vent traditional, usual, to come               

conventional傳統的, prevent, intervene, revenue, inventory, convention會議

fic/fice        to do, to make

sufficient, beneficial, deficit, proficient, specification

vers/vert to turn

controversy, introvert, extrovert, versus

Suffix Meaning


ent/ant someone or something

resident, restaurant, accountant, vacant

ship  a particular position or talent citizenship, ownership, membership,  readership, fellowship, scholarship
ist  person

scientist, pianist, racist, novelist   





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