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Whenever I do a Google search about affixes, I find information like 'Prefixes usually do not change the class of the base word, but suffixes usually do change the class of the word' (UEfAP).

As I understand there are some class-changing prefixes in English. However, when I tried to find at least one example, I always fail. Could you give me an example like 'class-changing prefix + its stem'?

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2 Answers 2

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en-:

noun to verb: encourage, endanger, engulf, enthrone, entomb

adjective to verb: endear, enfeeble, enrich, ensure

de-:

noun to verb: debone, defang, de(-)ice

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Yes, there are a few derivational prefixes whose application does change the base word class (part of speech, syntactic category) to a different derived word class.

Prefix Base class Derived class Examples
en‑ noun verb encase, encode, enslave, entomb, enveil, envenon
en‑ adjective verb enable, enfeeble, enlarge, endear, enrich
em‑ noun verb embalm, embattle, embed, empanel, emplace, empower
em‑ adjective verb embitter
e‑ noun verb elapse
a‑ noun adverb abloom, aboard, abreast, across, afield, akin
a‑ adjective adverb afresh, afoul, around, astray, awry
be‑ noun verb befriend, bewitch, bedevil
be‑ adjective verb becalm, belittle
de‑ noun verb debrief, decamp, defraud, delouse, deplane, dethrone
un‑ noun verb uncloak, unhorse, unman, unmask, unseat, unveil
up‑ noun adverb upstage, upstairs, upwind
down‑ noun verb downscale, downsize

The first two, en‑ and em‑, are of course different spellings of the same prefix.

I can't offhand think of any examples for its el‑ or er‑ spellings — at least, not ones which occurred within English.

Consider also: outdate, outlaw, outside; inflame, imperil.

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  • 4
    Probably the most common derivational affix is Zero. It verbs nouns in several different ways. Jul 4 at 15:04
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    In the case of de- and un-, aren't most of the words to which they're affixed already verbs? (You can seat someone, just as you can unseat them; you can be briefed as well as debriefed; and so on.)
    – gidds
    Jul 4 at 22:25
  • Does en- have commonly used el- or er- spellings at all? Although English generally avoids using inl- and inr- in words taken from Latin, the sequences enl- and enr- are not similarly avoided (either in English, or in French, where many en- words come from).
    – herisson
    Jul 5 at 6:58
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    @AndrewRay: The "e-" in "elapse" is a Latin variant of the prepositional prefix ex-. Other words containing it are elicit, elide, elect, elongate, eliminate; eradicate, erect, erode; evacuate, evade, eviscerate, evoke.
    – herisson
    Jul 6 at 0:29
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    Zero means the absence of any affix, so no, it couldn't be considered a prefix or a suffix. But it does the job of an affix; probly this is just one minor stage in the revision of the morphology. Most affixes in English, and all the few inflectional ones, are suffixes. But we've still got a few prefixes, all derivational. Since English POS are so fluid, "changing" them is usually more a matter of use in a different syntactic frame than the addition or subtraction of affixes. English is pretty analytic any more. Jul 6 at 13:11

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