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Role of prefix in word-formation

As you know, main ways of word-formation in the Russian language are prefixal, suffixal and prefixal-suffixal. It means that we can make several new words from almost any word, placing different additional parts to them. It is a simple and effective way to convey new meanings if we don't have synonyms in written or oral speech.

There are about eighty prefixes in Russian. Imagine what a variety of word-forms can be made by mean of them. It is important to note that prefixes are mostly derived from pronouns - that's why they convey quite specific and individual meaning to words.

Prefixes are usually divided into three groups:

- prefixes having one form:
в- (во-), взо-, вы-, до-, за-, из- (изо-), к-, на-, над-, не-, недо-, о-, об- (обо-), от- (ото-), па-, пере-, по-, под- (подо-), пра-, пред- (предо-), про-, разо-, с- (со-), су-, у-;

- paired prefixes ending with "-с" and "-з":
без- (бес-), вз- (вс-), воз- (вос-), из- (ис-), низ- (нис-), раз- (рас-), роз- (рос-), через- (черес-).

Attention. In the case with paired prefixes people often make mistakes; be careful, the choice of proper prefix is influenced by grammar rules which we will discuss a little bit later;

- prefixes "-пре" and "-при".

Along with that, in Russian we use many prefixes borrowed from Greek and Latin. They are somewhat international and most often don’t demand explanations. Examples of Greek prefixes: "гипер-", "мета-", "пара-". Examples of Latin prefixes: "ин-", "пост-", "супер-", "ультра-".

So what's the role does prefix play in the process of word-formation? What new meaning does it convey to a word?
Let's look at the adjective "вкусный" [fkusnyy] (tasty). Or even at the word-combination - "вкусный гамбургер" (tasty hamburger).

Let's use the prefix "не-" from the first group and make new adjective – "невкусный" [nifkusnyy] (tasteless).

Have you noticed change in the meaning? It hasn’t changed the connotation but the meaning of the word became polar opposite.
"Вкусный" [fkusnyy] and "невкусный" [nifkusnyy] are antonyms - words which have opposite meanings.

What have we understood?
That the prefix 'не-' changes the meaning of a word making it opposite.
And that tasteless hamburger is a bad choice, it's better to buy salad.

So let's add the prefix "без-" to selected adjective "вкусный". We get the word "безвкусный" [besfkusnyy]. This word means "lacking flavor", "tasteless".
Thus, the prefix "без-" conveys the meaning of absence, lack of something.
To buy "безвкусный" hamburger is, perhaps, not so offensive as to buy "невкусный" but it's also nothing good. Just money to burn.

A meticulous student can ask: why have we taken the prefix "не-" [ne], if we hear "ни-" [ni] in the first case?
And why "без-" [bez], if we hear "бес-" [bes] in the second case?

How to avoid a mistake in writing?

The rule says, we write the prefix "без-" before voiced consonants (б, в, г, д, ж, з, л, м, н, р) and vowels. The prefix "бес-" is used before voiceless consonants (п, ф, к, т, ш, с, ч, щ, ц, х).

In the context of the prefix "ни-" the situation is as follows. The prefix "ни-" is not used with adjectives but only with pronouns and adverbs ("никто" [nikto] – nobody, "никогда" [nikagda] – never)

Then let’s work with the prefixes "пре-" and "при-". There are also clear rules.

Let’s take one of our most favorite verbs of motion, eg. "ходить" [chadit'] (walk).
What word will we get using the prefix: "приходить" [prichadit’] or "преходить" [prechadit']?

So we should think at first what meaning conveys the word "приходить" (come). The word "приходить" denotes not the process of walking but the motion with result. We walk and walk and finally come to some place. Thus, when we mean approach to something (for example, "приходить домой" (come to house) - to be at home as a result of approaching the house), we use the prefix "при-". It has exactly this meaning. Joining. Approaching. Nearness.

By the way, there is no such word in Russian as "преходить". But we can use the prefix "пере-" [pere] adding it to the word "ходить" and get the word "переходить" [perichadit']. But what does it mean? We have analyzed the prefix "при-", so now let’s examine the prefix "пере-". The prefix "пере-" conveys the meaning of overcoming something (obstacles, distances, boundaries). Thus, the word "переходить" most often means to cross something, for example, "переходить дорогу" – to cross over the road. Or if we change our diet, we say: "переходить с мясной пищи на вегетарианскую" – to change meat food to vegetarian meal.

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