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ESL Student Blog
Language points (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciaton) that are worth noticing for ESL students around the world.

Monday, October 24, 2011

ESL Student Blog: The Atypical Nature of Prefix ‘A-’

Just as all other prefixes, prefix a- can change the meaning of a word:
 
moral-amoral
symmetric-asymmetric
 
In the examples above prefix a- means ‘not’ or ‘without’. Some other words with the same meaning of ‘a-’ are analgesic (no pain), atheistic (without religion), anesthesia (without feeling), anonymous (without a name), amnesty (no more offense), apostrophe (without a letter).
 
What makes prefix a- different from the other prefixes is that along with changing the meaning, it can also change part of speech:
 
Here are some verbs that become adjectives when prefix a- is added:
 
wake-awake
sleep-asleep
blaze-ablaze
drift-adrift
glow-aglow
live-alive
 
These are often called A-adjectives in which prefix a- means ‘in the state or process of’. They are primarily predicate adjectives (they come after a linking verb). Alternatively, they can come after a noun:
 
The Christmas tree was aglow with lights.
She fell asleep in the car.

Someone set the house ablaze.
 
These adjectives however can never precede a noun (not *ablaze house). They also don’t make degrees of comparison. (not *more/the most alive)
 
In addition to adjectives, A-words can be adverbs:
 
shore-ashore (meaning ‘to/towards’)
far-afar (implying direction)
part-apart (meaning ‘away from’)
loud-aloud (shows a particular manner)
 
or a preposition:
 
cross-across
long-along
 
Some other common a-words are about, among, alone, afraid, ahead, atop, abroad, aware where prefix a- is used as an intensifier of the root of the word.
POSTED BY Olga Galperin AT 11:24 AM   0 Comments  Add Comment



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