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Writing Prefixes in Spanish: Three Rules to Know

Do you know how to write prefixes in Spanish? In this lesson, we will share three very useful rules that you should always keep in mind when using Spanish prefixes. Let's take a look.

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1. Connect the Prefix to the Word That Follows

A prefix should always be connected to the word that follows. Let's look at an example:

 

¿Han visto algunos actores que tienen la piel supertersa?

Have you seen some actors who have super smooth skin?

Caption 39, María Fernanda Mascarilla de aguacate

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In this example, you can see that the prefix super- is connected to the word tersa (smooth). For that reason, it would be incorrect to write this word with a space (super tersa) or hyphen (super-tersa).

 

This rule also applies when you have several prefixes before a word:

 

antiposmodernism (anti-postmodernism)

 

In this example, you have the word modernismo preceded by two prefixes (anti- and pos-).

 

2. Use a Hyphen When the Word Starts with a Capital Letter

If a prefix goes before a word that starts with a capital letter, a hyphen should be used between the prefix and the word. Let's take a look:

 

y que dentro tiene dos mini-DVDs,

and which inside has two miniDVDs,

Caption 6, Fiesta en Miami This is not a gallery

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Since the word "DVD" starts with a capital letter, a hyphen is necessary. Let's look at some additional examples:

 

anti-NAFTA (anti-NAFTA)

pro-Obama (pro-Obama)

pos-Gorbachov (post-Gorvachov)

 

A hyphen must also be employed if the prefix is followed by a number instead of a word:

 

Campeonato Sudamericano Sub-20 (South American U-20* Championship)

 

* Keep in mind that "under" is the English equivalent of the Spanish prefix sub-.

 

3. Leave a Space Before a Multi-Word Lexical Unit

A multi-word lexical unit is a term made of two or more words. Examples include terms like pena de muerte (death penalty) and derechos humanos (human rights). If a prefix precedes a multi-word lexical unit, there must be a space between the prefix and said unit as follows:

 

anti pena de muerta (anti-death penalty)

pro derechos humanos (pro-human rights)

 

Finally, keep in mind that, sometimes, with the addition of a prefix, a word's accentuation changes. For example, by itself, the word bien (well) doesn't require a graphic accent. However, when the prefix super- is added, it automatically becomes a three-syllable word with the stress on the last syllable. And, since the word ends in "n," you will need to indicate such with a graphic accent (see lesson on palabras agudas).

 

Pues nada, que ha empezado el día superbién,

Well, she's started the day very well,

Caption 6, El Aula Azul Conversación: Un día de mala suerte

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That's all for now. We invite you to keep these three rules in mind when using prefixes in Spanish. And, don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.

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