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A prefix is an affix which is placed before the stem of a word. Particularly in the study of languages, a prefix is also called a preformative, because it alters the form of the words to which it is affixed. Prefixes, like other affixes, can be either inflectional, changing the syntactic category, or derivational, changing either the lexical category or the semantic meaning. In English, there are no inflectional prefixes. Prefixes, like all other affixes, are bound morphemes.
Prefixes (easy to read)
Prefixes are short words, often made up of two letters, that add on to the beginning of the word in order to change the meaning. An example of this is 'un' and 'happy', making the word 'unhappy'.
Example of English derivational prefixes
- unhappy: un is a negative or antonymic prefix.
- prefix, preview: pre is a prefix, with the sense of before
- redo, review: re is a prefix meaning again.
- dishonest, disobey: dis is also a negative prefix, but it isn't an antonymic prefix.
- impolite, immature: im has the meaning of dis.
- inadequate, incomplete: in has the meaning of dis and im.
- atheist, anarchy : a and an have the meaning of dis, im, and in (not) and without.
In other languages
- The one, old, fat farmer goes.
ò-mú-límí ò-mú-néné ò-mú-kâddé ò-mú à-∅-gênda ag-1-farmer ag-1-fat ag-1-old ag. one he-Pres-go
- Bad child! (scolding)
ma.rimʃo al NEG.nice child 
As a part of the formation of nouns, prefixes are less common in Russian than suffixes, but alter the meaning of a word.
в- and ложение 'position' becomes вложение 'investment' пре and образование 'formation (verb)' becomes преобразование 'transformation'
In German, derivatives formed with prefixes may be classified in two categories: those used with substantives and adjectives, and those used with verbs. For derivative substantives and adjectives, only two prefixes are still in use as of 1970: un-, which expresses negation (as in Ungesund from Gesund), and ur-, which means "original, primitive" in substantives, and has an emphatic function in adjectives. ge- expresses union or togetherness.
On the other hand, verbal prefixes are still much in use: be-, er-, ent-, ge-, ver-, zer-, and miß-. be- expresses strengthening or generalization. ent- expresses negation. ge- indicates the completion of an action, and that's why its most common use has become the forming of the past participle of verbs; ver- has an emphatic function, or it's used to turn a substantive or an adjective into a verb. In some cases, the prefix particle ent- (negation) can be considered the opposite of particle be-, while er- can be considered the opposite of ver-.
The prefix er- usually indicates the successful completion of an action, and sometimes the conclusion means death. With fewer verbs, it indicates the beginning of and action. The prefix er- is also used to form verbs from adjectives (e.g. erkalten is equivalent to kalt werden which means to get cold).
- Vedrana Mihalicek ed. (2011). Language Files, 11th Edition. Ohio State University. pp. 152–153.
- Beard, Robert (1998). "Derivation". The Handbook of Morphology. Blackwell. pp. 44–45.
- Wikibooks - Japanese/Grammar/Honorific prefixes
- Nurse & Philippson (2003). The Bantu Languages. Routledge. pp. 103–110.
- Young & Morgan (1980). The Navajo Language: A Grammar and Colloquial Dictionary. University of New Mexico Press. p. 99.
- Borchers, D. (2008). A Grammar of Sunwar: Descriptive Grammar, Paradigms, Texts and Glossary. Brill Academic Publishers. p. 169.
- Wade, T. (2000). A Comprehensive Russian Grammar. Blackwell Publishers. pp. 32, 33.
- Chambers, W. Walker and Wilkie, John R. (1970) A Short History of the German Language, London: Methuen & Com- pany, Ltd., p. 63
- Daniel Boileau (1820) The Nature and Genius of the German Language pp. 203, 211
- Maylor, B. Roger (2002) Lexical template morphology: change of state and the verbal prefixes in German p. 12
- Schmidt, Karla (1974) Easy ways to enlarge your German vocabulary p. 86