Greek and Latin Prefixes: O and P

Another prefix post brought to you by the letters “I” and “M.” (As per Greek and Latin Roots, there aren’t any Greek- or Latin-derived prefixes in English beginning with “N,” so we’re skipping ahead a bit here.)

Prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems. (You can browse that link for previous posts on classically derived word stems.) Generally speaking, prefix changes word meaning, not word function.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
ob* up against, in the way obstruct
para aside, apart paramedic, paranormal
per through, thorough; wrongly permeate, persecute
peri around perimeter
poly many polytheism
post after postpone
pre before precedent
pro forward, ahead, for promotion, provoke

*”Ob” tends to change form arbitrarily. (This is probably not arbitrary; there are probably linguistic or phonological reasons some changes happen or some don’t. But it can seem arbitrary.) “Ob” is still connected to words like “oppose” or “offend.”

Greek and Latin Prefixes: I and M

Another prefix post brought to you by the letters “I” and “M.” (As per Greek and Latin Roots, there aren’t any Greek- or Roman-derived prefixes in English beginning with “K” or “L,” so we’re skipping ahead a bit here.

Prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems to form completely new words. Prefixes in particular tend to change a word’s meaning (rather than a word’s part of speech). If you’d like, you can read more about English root words derived from Greek and Latin. Those are the stems or base words to which these prefixes can (theoretically) be added.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
in, im, il not (negative) inequity, improper, illegal
in, im, il in, on, onto (directional) induct, impose, illuminate
infra beneath infrastructure
inter between, among intervene
mega, megalo big megachurch, megalomaniac
meta* across, change metamorphosis
micro small microcosm
mis wrongly misinterpret, mistake
multi many multivitamin

*”Meta” has also taken on its own meaning of something like “above” or “outside of.” Something that deals with the metaphysical, in everyday language, is almost synonymous with supernatural, or realities that people perceive as being above or beyond our own.** Scholars refer to metatexts and metatextual discourse: texts that are about another text. Stories that refer to the fact that they are stories, and where the person or people writing want to remind you that this is a story, are often casually described as meta. A recent example of a meta movie would be Deadpool, a superhero movie where the lead character constantly takes breaks from the action to directly address the audience and generally exists outside the story as well as within it. And while only fairly intense scholars will throw around words like “metatextual,” even casual audiences will describe a book or movie as “meta.”

**As a student of philosophy, I have to be pedantic and point out that that the word metaphysics was originally used to describe the line of philosophical inquiry that focused the nature of the reality we see here and now, not reincarnation and chakras and auras. The two meanings of “metaphysics”/”metaphysical” are related, but not identical.


A few weeks ago, I was going over a textbook unit on housekeeping and chores with an adult student. She picked up on something that went totally unaddressed in an otherwise pretty solid textbook: the many colloquial variations (American) English has of the verb throw. Within just one lesson the following expressions came up:

  • throw away/throw out
  • throw on [the nightstand, the chair, etc.]
  • throw in [the laundry, the microwave, the sink.]

And there was the opportunity for even more! To throw on some pajamas and relax; to throw together a quick dinner when you come home from work. (It’s arguable whether or not throwing a party belongs in a unit on keeping house.)

When the fellow in the listening exercise mentioned “throwing [his] wallet and keys on the nightstand,” she frowned. “‘Throw’? That’s not good. He should be careful.”

We talked for a couple of minutes about how throw can also mean “put somewhere carelessly.” The Online Etymology Dictionary, oddly, does not provide a history of that particular usage. (Throw up for “vomit” is actually older than I was expecting: first recorded in 1732!)

Anyway, here’s an incomplete collection of different ways we use throw in English as part of a phrasal verb, ranked roughly from most common to least, according to my own arbitrary impressions.

Friendly reminder that throw is a little irregular: today I throw, yesterday I threw, I have thrown.

throw out/throw away:* to put something in the garbage or otherwise get rid of something. Can you throw out the packaging? // Don’t throw away those plastic containers! I recycle them. **

throw up: to vomit. I shouldn’t have eaten at that cheap seafood restaurant. I feel like I’m going to throw up.

throw [something] on: to quickly put on a piece of clothing. We’re running late, so just throw something on and let’s go! **

throw [something] in [something]: ** to carelessly put something in a container. Dinner’s mostly ready, just throw it in the microwave to heat it up. 

throw [something] together: to prepare something quickly, often without trying too hard. Jim threw his presentation together at the last minute, so it didn’t go very well.

throw a party: to have a party. Erica’s throwing a party this weekend. Are you coming?

throw in [something]: ** to provide something extra in a sale. The cable company threw in three free months of service when we signed the contract.

throw in [a remark, a comment]: ** to say something careless or thoughtless in a conversation. Out of nowhere, he threw in a nasty remark about Harry’s cooking.

throw one’s self into [something]: to work hard on a project. Anita really threw herself into studying Japanese. She only read Japanese books and watched Japanese TV.

throw off: to mislead or confuse someone (sometimes used as “throw off someone’s game”); to make something incorrect (usually numbers or a calculation). The burglar threw off police by leaving false evidence behind. // Oh, I forgot to include the figures from June. That really threw off my calculations!

throw off [something]: to get rid of something (used similarly to “shake [something]”). I just can’t throw off this cold. (I just can’t shake this cold.) I’ve been sick for a month now.

throw [something] off/from [a/the something]: to physically throw someone or something from a relatively high place, e.g. a building, a cliff, a train. James Bond threw the spy off the bridge. **

throw from: most often used in the passive (to be thrown from) to describe transportation accidents. While the woman was thrown from her vehicle upon impact, she escaped serious injury.

There are also a few idioms related to throw as well.

throw the book at [someone]: ** to punish someone severely. The murderer showed no remorse, so the judge threw the book at him.

throw [someone] a bone: to help someone out, usually by providing something intangible like an idea or an opportunity; similar to “do [someone] a favor.” Can you throw me a bone and show my resume to your boss? I really need a new job.

throw [someone] for a loop: to confuse someone. The last question on the test really threw me for a loop. I don’t think I got it right.

throw [someone] under the bus: to betray someone, or to blame them for something they didn’t do (or only had a small part in), to reduce your own punishment. After Hank and Susan were caught stealing from the company, Hank threw Sue under the bus by saying it was her idea.

*the two are interchangeable except that throw out of means to forcibly remove an unwilling person from a group or venue, but throw away of is meaningless

**”toss” can be used instead of “throw”

Greek and Latin Prefixes: E and H

Another prefix post! This installment focuses on Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “E” and “H.” (There are none beginning with “F” or “G.”)

Prefixes are morphemes that you can attach to word stems to form completely new words. Prefixes in particular tend to change a word’s meaning (rather than a word’s part of speech). If you’d like, you can read more about English root words derived from Greek and Latin. Those are the stems or base words to which these prefixes can (theoretically) be added.

Here are previous entries in this series on prefixes:

Prefix Meaning Example
e, ef, ex out, out of; very emit, effective, exceed
em, en in, on emblem, encircle
epi upon, to, in addition to epidermis
eu, ev good, well eulogy, evangelist
hypo below, under, up from under hypothermia

Anki Grammar Deck: Participial Adjectives

I’ve created and shared another Anki deck for EFL students. This cloze deck focuses on the grammar concept of participial adjectives (for example, interesting and interested). While these adjectives have an overlap in meaning because they come from the same verb, there is a difference between being bored and being boring! This is a grammar mistake that plagues many beginner and even intermediate English learners, but the good news is that participial adjectives can be mastered with some extra drilling and attention, like the cloze exercises in this deck.

This is not a vocabulary deck; it is for students who already know the vocabulary but have trouble knowing right away which form to use. I used this list from the University of Victoria as a reference: twenty of the most common verbs used as participial adjectives. I used the past and present participle of each verb, so there are 40 cards in all.

To add the deck to your own Anki account:

1. Download the deck to your computer.
2. Open your desktop version of Anki.
3. Select “File -> Import”
4. Browse to the directory where you saved the deck in Step 1.
5. Select the deck.
6. Sync your desktop client to the web. Now the downloaded deck is on your Anki cloud and can be accessed on your desktop client, on the web, or on your phone.

And there you have it! Let me know what you think.

Are there other Anki decks you’d like to see? Don’t have time to make them yourself? Comment or contact me on Twitter (@KobaEnglish) and I’ll see what I can do.

Greek and Latin Prefixes: C and D

Time for the next installment in my series on classically derived prefixes. This week I’ll be looking at Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “C” and “D.”

For more context, here is the entire previous series on English root words derived from Greek and Latin. Those are the stems or base words to which these prefixes can (theoretically) be added. And here is the previous entry on Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “A” and “B.”

Prefix Meaning Example
circu(m) around circuit, circumference
co, con (and assimilated forms) with, together; very cohesion, connect, compose, collection, correct
contra, contro, counter against, opposite contradict, controversy, counterpoint
de down, off of demotion, descent
di, dis, dif apart, in different directions, not divert, dismiss, differ
dia through, across, thorough diameter
dys bad, improper dysfunction

Greek and Latin Prefixes: A and B

Now that I finally finished up my series on English roots from Greek and Latin, it’s time for prefixes! In case you forgot, prefixes are little word bits that can be attached to the beginning of a word to alter its meaning. I’ve discussed prefixes earlier on the blog, mostly about how English prefixes relate to Swedish prefixes. This time I’m going to come at the topic from a slightly different angle: English prefixes derived from classical sources.

If you’re curious about how to use these prefixes, you can peruse the entire previous series on English root words derived from Greek and Latin and play a little mix and match. 🙂

As with my list of bases, the list here largely comes from Greek and Latin Roots: Keys to Building Vocabulary by Timothy Rasinski et al. I will make some small changes throughout, mostly in the choice of sample words. If you’re an English teacher (whether English literature or EFL) or a high-level student, I recommend picking up this book. EFL students may want to jump directly to any number of workbooks focused on Greek- and Latin-based English vocabulary. Or you can follow my series and take notes.

First up: Greek and Latin prefixes beginning with “a” and “b”:

Prefix Meaning Example
a, ab, abs away, from avert, abduct, abstain
a, an not, without atheist, anemia
ad* to, toward, add to addition, aggregate, attract
ambi around, on both sides ambidextrous
ana back, again, apart analyze
ante before antecedent
ant(i) against, opposite antithesis, antonym
auto self automatic
bi two bicycle

Greek and Latin Roots: V and Z

Here it is, the last post in my series on classically derived base words! You can browse the rest of the series at these links:

Next week, I’ll take a look at English prefixes that come to us from Latin and Greek. Stay tuned!

Base Meaning Example
val be strong, be healthy valid
ven(t) come convene, advent
ventr(i) belly ventriloquist
ver true veritable
verb word verbal
vers, vert turn, change adverse, advertise
vest clothing vestments
via way, road viaduct
vid, vis see video, visual
vigil awake vigilant
vit, viv live, life vital, revive
voc, voke, voice voice, call, sound vocal, revoke, invoice
vol wish, will volunteer
volv, volu, volut roll revolve, volume, revolution
vor eat, devour voracious
vulp fox vulpine
zo(o) animal zodiac, zoology

Greek and Latin Roots: T and U Base Words

Next up in this series on classical root words in English: root words beginning with the letter “T” and “U”! You can refer to previous lists below if you’d like a refresher. We’re almost finished! The next installment will be the last one (“V”, “X,” and “Z”).

These are all base words; classical affixes will come in a later series.

Base Meaning Example
tang, ting, tig, tact touch tangent, contingent, contiguous, intact
taph grave, tomb epitaph
taur bull Minotaur
techn art, skill, fine craft technique
tempor time temporary
ten, tin, tent, tain hold tenacious, continent, contents, retain
tend, tens, tenu stretch, thin extend, tensile, tenuous
ter(r) land, ground, earth inter (verb), territory
test witness testify
tetra four tetrahedron
thanas, thanat death euthanasia
theater, theatr theater, watch theatrical
the(o) god atheist, theology
therm heat thermal
thes, thet put, place thesis, synthetic
tom cut anatomy
ton tone monotonous
trac(t), treat pull, draw, drag trace, tractor, retreat
trop turn tropics
trud, trus push, thrust intrude, protrusion
turb shake, agitate turbulence
urs bear (animal) ursine

Thoughts on Clozemaster

One of my friends, perpetual Swedish student Henny, brought Clozemaster to my attention. I’ve been using it for a week now—time to share my thoughts on it!

Clozemaster takes the free library of natural language translations available on Tatoeba and turns them into cloze exercises (“fill-in-the-blank” exercises, if you’re not in the ed biz). You can then go through these exercises on the website or the free smartphone app.

The Clozemaster dashboard before logging in.
The Clozemaster website dashboard before logging in.

It also has a nice 8-bit/16-bit aesthetic going on in both looks and sound effects, for anyone nostalgic for old school video games.

You can see that the variety of languages is pretty astounding, though of course some languages have more content than others. Like Tatoeba, you can create an account for free on Clozemaster, and it has no limits on how many languages you can choose to study.

Note: Clozemaster is not for beginners. You need some familiarity with the target language to benefit from the program. Generally, the developer touts Clozemaster as “the next step after DuoLingo.”

Clozemaster dashboard
Clozemaster dashboard

The data is cool, but for me it’s secondary. The important bits are towards the bottom: the section labeled “Fluency Fast Track” and then “Grouped by: Most Common Words.” That’s where you actually do the studying.

The basic difference is that Fluency Fast Track mixes clozes from easy to difficult (and from most common to least common), while the “Most Common Words” group will focus specifically on the 100, 500, 1000, etc. most common words. I like to keep things focused, so I prefer the latter, but either should be fine.

All of the exercises, in the app as well as most browsers, also include text-to-speech audio. It’s not entirely natural, so I wouldn’t use it for phrasing or intonation, but it’s fine for individual words. Also, the web version links every word in the phrase to Forvo (in addition to Google Translate, Wiktionary, and Tatoeba), where you can hear actual humans pronounce the word in question.

The wrinkle that I really appreciate is that you can play a cloze exercise in two modes: multiple choice or text input. The text input option is really important because it forces you to move a word from your passive vocabulary to your active vocabulary. If you want to challenge yourself with the text input option, I’d recommend setting Clozemaster to show you the L1 translation along with the question (rather than after you answer), so you know if it’s “What’s his name?” or “What’s her name?”.

There is also a smartphone app that, like Anki, connects your browser-based account (and all of its progress) with your smartphone:

Clozemaster app dashboard
Clozemaster app dashboard

If you pay for a Clozemaster Pro account, you have the option of downloading the “Fast Track” lessons directly to your phone; otherwise everything is in the cloud, so the app is useless if you can’t connect to the Internet. There are other little bells and whistles you get in the pro account as well: listening comprehension practice, the ability to focus on specific parts of speech, more data, the ability to export into Anki, etc. At $60, it’s not a bad investment at all.

Do you use Clozemaster? Follow me!