Happy Independence Day!

Today, July 4, marks the day that the United States of America declared their independence from England, forming an independent country in 1776.

To be an 'independent' country, means that a country is no longer 'dependent' on another country. Being 'dependent' means that someone replies on someone else to make decisions for them.

independent = not dependent

...so, 'in-', which is a prefix, must mean 'not'...and it does! ('In' can also can mean 'in'). Actually, 'not' can take the form: im- or ir- too.

We can see this in other words:

im-, in-, ir- = not

---> impossible = not possible

---> insane = not sane

---> irrational = not rational

Do you see? Many times in English, the definition of the word can be known by paying close attention to the type of letters inside!

These groups of letters are called 'roots'. 

A root is a part of a word from one language that is used in another. 

Many English words are made up of old Latin and Greek roots which come from ancient Latin and Greek words.

A prefix is a type of root.

All prefixes are roots, but not all roots are prefixes. Most English words have a main root, but not all have a prefix.

Actually, the word 'prefix' HAS a prefix ---> 'pre-'.

pre- = before

This means that prefixes come before the other letters in a word which means that prefixes come at the beginning of a word. Do you see? The roots inside a word gives meaning to that word. The prefix 'pre-' gives definition to the word 'prefix'. If you didn't know the meaning of 'prefix', but you knew the meaning of 'pre-', then you could guess the meaning of it as being 'before-something'.

A suffix is a type of root that goes at the end of a word (-tion, -er, etc.). I will discuss suffixes and main roots in a future post.

There are many other prefixes in English.

co-, col-, com-, con-, cor- = together, with

coworker = together + work ---> a person you work with


Other prefixes (and roots):

auto- = self

mobile (self + move)

autobiography (self + life + write)
= life
= write, draw

ab-, a-, abs-, au-
= away from

abnormal = away from normal


inter- = between

national = between + nations ---> between countries

Now, let's look at the word 'independence' again.

Did you know that sometimes, English words can have more than one prefix? 

The word 'independence' does!

It has two prefixes and one other main root:

'in-' = not
'de'- = remove (descend, decaffeinated, etc.)

main root:
-pend- = to hang

-ence- = noun

Here, if someone is “hanging”, they are experiencing a challenge, so this means they have a “problem” or a 'difficulty”. So, 'depend' = 'remove + the hanging (difficulty)' or 'remove the problem because someone will help you'.

However, 'independence' = 'not remove the hanging' – so this means that people who are independent must solve their difficulties themselves.

There are many many more roots, prefixes, and suffixes in English. Studying them will help you improve your vocabulary, so...Stay tuned to my blog for more posts on roots and vocabulary!

Happy independence Day!

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Happy English!


Gerry ( ;)