Prefixes: Where Spanish and English Go Hand in Hand (Part 3)

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Welcome to part 3 of my blog dedicated to the most common prefixes in Spanish and English.

This will be the last part dedicated to these affixes, as the next one will focus on the other type of particles that share traits in English and in Spanish: the suffixes.

For now, let’s say goodbye to this list with another five of the most common prefixes and how similar they are in both languages.



It conveys the meaning of something that is similar but altered with respect to another idea, related to it or going beyond it.

Examples: paramilitar, “paramilitary”, something that resemble something formally military; paralímpico/a, “Paralympic”, something that is related to the Olympics but is dedicated to a special kind of athletes; paranormal, “paranormal”, something that goes beyond what one would consider the normal reality.



This one is used to add the idea of plurality or abundance to the word it becomes part of. In some regards, it could be seen as a synonym of “multi-”.

Examples: políglota, “polyglot”, someone capable of speaking multiple languages or something multilingual; polifásico/a, “polyphasic”, something containing multiple phases or stages; polimorfismo, “polymorphism”, when living beings of the same species start differentiating from one another by some physical trait.



With this prefix, you point to the fact that the modified word exists partially or to almost half of what it would normally be. In English, it is common to see it used alongside a hyphen.

Examples: semiárido, “semi-arid”, to describe a place that is not completely arid; semitransparente, “semitransparent”, the same as “translucent”; semifinal, “semifinal”, like a half-final, the stage right before the final competition.



A pretty useful particle to denote that the thing being described is—physically or figuratively— below a normal point.

Examples: Submarino, “submarine”; subsahariano, “Sub-Saharan”, pertaining to the region located south of the Sahara Desert; subcultura, “subculture”, a type of culture that differentiates from the main culture to which it belongs, without separating completely from it.



One of the most well-known prefixes in English as well as in Spanish, this one—and its less-used sibling “supra-”—allows for an intensification of the qualities of the modified word, or even to express that it goes beyond the normal version of the described object.

Examples: supercomputador/a, “supercomputer”, for describing a computer with a higher-than-normal performance; supermodelo, “supermodel”, a model that is renowned worldwide; supervolcán, “supervolcano”, a volcano whose eruptions has been the most powerful in recorded history.


And as always: keep practicing your Spanish and learning more about it, because you will surely be amazed by the commonalities it shares with your native language. Till next time!


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