Prefixes: em and en

Baking a cake is a very tricky process...

It has lots of steps and ingredients, which all come together so we can eat this delicious treat!

But… if we change even one ingredient, the cake could taste completely different!

Words are a lot like cake that way...

It may not seem like it, but many of our words today became this way because of different ingredients and processes...

And changing even one ingredient of the word can change its whole meaning!

Let us see what ingredients we can use to make a word.

A word can have three parts, a prefix, a root, and a suffix.

The root is the part of the word which holds the basic meaning of the word. For example,

A suffix is something we add to the end of the root, which can change the meaning of the root or its grammatical role.

For example, here the suffix is ‘able’, which changes the root ‘comfort’ from a noun to an adjective.

Finally, a prefix is a letter or group of letters which we add to the beginning of a root which can change its meaning.

For example, here ‘un’ is the prefix, which changes the meaning of the root ‘comfort’ to the opposite meaning.

Today, let us understand more about how prefixes change our words, especially the prefixes ‘en’ and ‘em’.

Both the ‘em’ prefix and the ‘en’ prefix mean ‘to cause’ or ‘to put into’.

Let us see what this means when we add the ‘em’ to the root ‘bitter’.

The word becomes ‘embitter’, which means ‘to cause someone feel bitter’.

So the root ‘bitter’ which is an adjective, becomes a verb where the action is ‘to cause something to become bitter’.

Let us look at another example.

The word ‘embolden’ is made up of the root ‘bold’, the prefix ‘em’, and the suffix ‘en’.

Here, the ‘em’ makes the word mean ‘to cause someone to become bold’.

So, we can understand that adding ‘em’ to a word adds the meaning ‘to cause something to become’ to it.

Now, let us try some examples with understand the prefix ‘en’.

If we add the prefix ‘en’ to the root ‘circle’ we get the word ‘encircle’.

‘To encircle’ means ‘to put into a circle’.

So here, the meaning of ‘en’ got added to ‘circle’ to give us a verb which combines the two meanings.

Let us take another example.

The word ‘encode’ is made of the prefix ‘en’ and the root ‘code’.

So ‘to encode’ means ‘to put into code’.

Again we can see that the meaning of the prefix ‘en’ gets added to the root, to give us a word which combines the two meanings.

So, from our little taste of prefixes, we can see that they add their own flavour to words to give us new meanings.

Let us do a quick recap.

The building blocks of a word are the root, the suffix, and the prefix.

We add a prefix to the beginning of a word if we want to change the meaning of the word in some way.

The ‘en’ and ‘em’ prefixes mean ‘to cause to become’ or ‘to put into’.

The meaning of the prefix gets added to the word to give us a new meaning.

Now we can add the flavour of prefixes to our words!