Lesson 097

Prefixes in Russian

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Prefixes are syllables that are attached to the beginning of words and usually serve to create new words. Prefixes are commonly used in the Russian language.

There are various prefixes in Russian, some are of Russian origin and others are borrowed from foreign languages. Some prefixes are more common than others.

Today, let’s look at some of the most common Russian prefixes and how they change the meaning of Russian words.

Keep in mind that the connection between the overall meaning of the prefix and the word it creates is not always obvious. While in many cases you will be able to understand the logic, other words just need to be memorized.

Common Russian prefixes

Below we offer you to practice common Russian prefixes with 4 different words. You can listen to the audio and follow:

бежа́ть
to run
брать
to take
чита́ть
to read
расти́
to grow
в- / во- : in
вбежа́ть
to run in
вобра́ть
to take in


вы- : out
вы́бежать
to run out
вы́брать
to choose
вы́читать
to find out reading
вы́расти
to grow up
вc-/вз- : up
взбежа́ть
to run up



с- / со- : down
сбежа́ть
to run down
собра́ть
to collect, to pick up


у- : removal
убежа́ть
to run away
убра́ть
to remove


при- : to, toward
прибежа́ть
to come running
прибра́ть
to tidy up

прирасти́
to grow to
об- : around
оббежа́ть
to run around
обобра́ть
to despoil

обрасти́
to become surrounded by something growing
от- : off, away, aside
отбежа́ть
to run aside
отобра́ть
to take away

отрасти́
to grow long
до- : end of an action
добежа́ть
to reach running
добра́ть
to take additionally
дочита́ть
to finish reading
дорасти́
to grow up to, to reach the age of
пере- : across, redoing, overdoing
перебежа́ть
to run across
перебра́ть
to sort out
перечита́ть
to re-read
перерасти́
to overgrow
про- : through
пробежа́ть
to run through
пробра́ть
to get through
прочита́ть
to read through
прорасти́
to grow through, to sprout
под- / подо- : approach
подбежа́ть
to approach running
подобрать
to pick up, to tuck up

подрасти́
to grow bigger
ис-/из- : origin, escape
избежа́ть
to avoid
избра́ть
to elect


за- : start of an action, in
забежа́ть
to run in
забра́ть
to pick up, to take
зачита́ть
to read out
зарасти́
to become covered by something growing
по- : start of an action that lasts
побежа́ть
to start running

почита́ть
to read for some time

на- : on, cumulation
набежа́ть
to run over
набра́ть
to take a lot, to dial (a number)


Russian Pod 101

Other Russian prefixes

There mare many other prefixes in Russian that did not fit in the previous table due to the fact that they are not used with the words we selected as examples.

  • НЕ- (negative prefix)

    By adding it to a word you get the opposite meaning:

    пого́да – непого́да
    weather – bad weather

    здоро́вый – нездоро́вый
    healthy – unhealthy

  • БЕС- / БЕЗ- (without)

    This prefix does not work with verbs.

    поле́зный – бесполе́зный
    useful – useless

    зву́чный – беззву́чный
    sonorous – soundless

  • ПРЕД- (pre-)

    исто́рия – предысто́рия
    story – pre-story (background)

  • ПРЕ- (excess, trans-)

    восходи́ть – превосходи́ть
    to ascend – to surpass

    Here, there are actually two prefixes added to the word ходить: пре- and вос-.

    дава́ть – предава́ть
    to give – to give up (to betray)

    подава́ть – преподава́ть
    to serve – to teach

    Here, there are two prefixes as well, added to the verb давать: по- and пре-)

  • РАС- / РАЗ- / РАЗО- (spreading, unfolding, etc.)

    раствори́ться
    to dissolve

    разбежа́ться
    to scatter or to take a run

    зли́ться – разозли́ться
    to be angry – to get angry

Foreign prefixes in Russian

There are many prefixes adopted from foreign languages. Those you will be able to recognize yourself:

контра́кт – субконтракт
contract – subcontract

информа́ция – дезинформа́ция
information – misinformation

конституцио́нный – антиконституцио́нный
constitutional – unconstitutional

How to use Russian prefixes

As you noticed, prefixes are not universal: you can’t just add a prefix to a word to get a new meaning. Some combinations simply don’t exist in Russian. And vice versa: some words don’t exist without prefixes (like in the previous examples разбежа́ться and раствори́ться).

But when you understand the meaning of Russian prefixes, making sense of the words you did not know before becomes much easier.

Changing prefixes

You noticed that many prefixes have a few forms and you might be wondering why one from would be used and not the other one. It pretty much depends on ease of pronunciation and the letters following the prefix.

For example, for such prefixes as БЕС-/БЕЗ-, РАС-/РАЗ- and ИС-/ИЗ-:

– If the following letter is voiced, we use БЕЗ-, otherwise we use БЕС- (see the examples above).

– If a word becomes not easy to pronounce, O is added: разозли́ться. However, it is not always the case (беззву́чный).

And this is it for this lesson. Practice the Russian prefixes and words that you learned today with the audio file.

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