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Friday, August 14, 2009

ESL Teacher Blog: Verbs That Start With Prefix ‘Re-’: Meaning and Pronunciation

Prefix re- generates a lot of words in English. When attached to verbs it usually means ‘again’ as in: refill, refuel, recharge, reheat, remarry

or ‘back’ as in: refund, recollect, recline, reply, recall*.
It can also mean ‘push away or distance/keep from’ as in: reject, refrain, regress, remove, renounce, restrict.

In some verbs ‘re-’ will fail belonging to either of the groups (at least without prior analyzing their Latin or Roman roots) and can be just seen as the first syllable of a word rather than a prefix, as in: recognize, recommend, refrigerate, refuge, regard, register, regulate.

The pronunciation of ‘re-’ at the beginning of the verbs will vary as well. Three groups can be distiguished:

‘re-’ sounds as /ri/ as in: receive, recess, reduce, refer, reflect, regret, rehearse, relate

‘re-’ sounds as /ri:/ as in: redirect, re-enter, rehabilitate, reinforce, re-open, re-phrase, re-print, re-evaluate

/re/ - recognize, recollect, recommend, reconcile, regulate, renovate, reprimand, represent

There aren’t established rules over the pronunciation patterns, though it seems that repeated actions will make a long sound /i:/ and are often hypenated for clarity especially before a vowel: re-examine, rekindle, re-arrange (or rearrange), re-take (or retake), reunite, reuse.

Students should be aware of the various meanings of the prefix ‘re-’ that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘again’. They also should be discouraged from attaching re- to all existing verbs in English as some of these combinations are impossible (it cannot be attached to the verb ‘sleep’, for example).

* recall - doesn’t mean ‘call again’, but ‘order to return’ (as in: They recalled the toys that contained a high concentration of lead) and is usually confusing for many students (who automatically assume that ‘re-’ means ‘again’)
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 12:48 AM
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