Italian For Beginners: How To Use Prefixes

avatarMille Larsen
3 mins read

Prefixes are one of my favorite parts of grammar, because understanding them helps in building the web of knowledge that makes learning a language easy and interesting. I've already talked about the super-logical system of Russian prefixes and those super-simple Esperanto prefixes. Now it's time to find out how much we can learn from Italian prefixes.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list, but it's certainly a good start. Any time we can look at how a language works, it helps to build that system of crutches which support our learning.

Common Prefixes

a-/ab- - from/out of

  • abrogazione (abrogation)

ante-/anti- - before

  • ante- + nascere (to be born) = antenato — ancestor
  • anti- + pasto (meal) = antipasti — appetizers

bi-/bis- - twice

  • bisnonno (great-grandfather)

con- - with

  • con- (with) + dividere (to divide) = condividere — to share

contra- - against

  • contra- (against) + attaccare (to attack) = contrattacco — counterattack

de-/di- - from

  • de- + viaggare (to go) = deviare — to deviate

e-/ex- - out

  • ex- (out) + = eccetto — except

in- - as a negative

  • in- + esperto (expert) = inesperto — non-expert

in- - in, into

  • in- (into) + fiammare (to burn) = infiammare — to inflame

inter- - between

  • interporre (to interpose)

per- - through/for/because of

  • per- (through) + notte (night) = pernottare — to stay overnight

pos- - after

  • posdomani (the day after tomorrow)

pre- - before

  • pre- + avviso (to advice) = preavviso — forewarning

pro- - forward

  • pro- (forward) + porre (to put) = proporre — to suggest

re-/re- - again

  • reazione (reaction)

semi- - half

  • semi- (half) + cerchio (circle) = semicerchio — semicircle

trans-/tras- - across

  • trans- (across) + Transatlantico — transatlantic


While Italian words are not built on the regularity and logical basis of slavic languages (like Russian) or constructed languages (like Esperanto), they're still built on a sturdy Latin foundation and the understanding of basic prefixes and roots will still go a long way toward helping you to learn, understand, and remember vocabulary.