Author: British Council | Published on 1 March 2023


Stage 1: Present examples 

Write these groups of sentences on the board.

Ask: “What do you notice about these sentences?”

The teacher told him to look at his previous work.

He asked him to rewrite the story.

My neighbour is unfriendly and impolite.

The shopkeeper is dishonest.

My mother said I was talking nonsense.

To help learners, you could:

Ask: What are the root words in the words preview, rewrite, unfriendly, impolite, dishonest, nonsense?”

Underline the prefixes pre-, re-, un-, im-, dis- and non-

Ask: Which of these prefixes turn the root words into antonyms (opposite meanings)?

Stage 2: Take feedback

Check understanding. Ask learners to give feedback on what they noticed from the examples. Some key points could include:

  • A prefix is a group of letters which is added before a word.
  • The meaning of a word can be changed by adding a prefix before the root word.
  • Prefixes can create new words e.g. The teacher told him to look at his previous work; he asked him to rewrite the story.
  • Pre- means before, and re- means do again.
  • Prefixes can also create opposites (antonyms) e.g. My neighbour is unfriendly and impolite.
  • Un- and im- mean not.
  • Other common prefixes include dis- (not) , non- (not), mis- (bad), anti- (against), sub- (under), super- (more than normal ), semi- (half), post – (after), auto- (self), inter- (between), mid- (middle), de- (take down), co- (together)

Stage 3: Use the grammar

Treasure hunt 

Learners work in small groups.  

Give each group one prefix to look for. They search for their prefix in a text. They make a list of the found words and then discuss what the words mean and how the prefix changed the meaning of the root word. 

Prefix Catch

Write various prefixes on a ball.  The learners stand in a circle and throw the ball to their classmates. Wherever their hand lands, they have to say a word using that prefix. They explain what the word means.

Prefix sliders

Make a slider. Write root words on card, one under the other.  Write a prefix on another piece of card. Cut a window in the prefix card and slip it over the root word card. 

[drawing of something link the image below]

Learners slide the prefix card down the long card, say the new word made and make sentences with the new words.

You will need a different slider for each prefix you want to practise.


root words: A basic word to which affixes (prefixes and suffixes) are added

prefix: a letter or group of letters, for example 'un-' or 'multi-', which is added to the beginning of a word in order to form a different word