9 Common Negative Prefixes (200 examples, Free PDF, Video)

Understanding prefixes and suffixes is a great way to quickly increase your English vocabulary. I have been teaching prefixes for a long time and I thought that a list of negative prefixes with definitions and examples would be helpful. I wrote this post for ESL students and teachers just like you.

Nine Common Negative Prefixes

a- = not; without 
anti- ​= opposed to; against; ​the opposite of 
dis- = not; the opposite of 
il- = not; the opposite of 
im- = not; the opposite of 
in- = not; the opposite of 
ir- =  not; the opposite of 
non- = not 
un- = not; the opposite of 

Read this post and know how and when to use these negative prefixes with real example sentences. You will find negative prefix words from every word category – nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. Start using these negative prefixes words like a native speaker.

What does it mean to call a Prefix Negative

In this post, a negative prefix is a prefix whose meaning is the opposite of the root word or against the root word.

KIND is the root word of UNKIND.
KIND and UNKIND are direct opposites.

How to use these Prefixes

All nine of these prefixes can be used to make adjectives and nouns that mean the negative or opposite of the root word.

The prefixes a- dis- il- im- in- ir- non- and un- can be used in adverbs.
(Grammar POINT: Adverbs can be used to modify verbs and adjectives.)

The prefixes dis- and un- can be used in verbs

Spelling

The negative prefix a- will always be used before a word that starts with a consonant. 

Negative prefixes that start with the letter i will follow these patterns.
– Use il- before words that start with the letter l
– Use im- before words that start with the letters m or p
– Use ir- before words that start with the letter r
– Use in- before words that start with any letter except i, l, m, p, r, or u

Over 225 Prefix Example sentences

Every vocabulary word in this list has a link to its meaning. 

Over 95% of the links will take you to Oxford Learners Dictionaries.com which contains an audio link so that you can hear the correct pronunciation.

A natural example sentence follows each word so you can see how these words are used in English.

The Prefix A-

OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com Prefix a-

The negative prefix a- will always be used before a word that starts with a consonant. 

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

atheist
– The number of atheists is growing in America.

ADJECTIVES

amoral
– Will seems rather amoral. He just acts without thinking about the consequences of the effects on other people. I don’t trust him. 

apolitical
– I wish there was a news program that was apolitical. One that only presented facts with no extra political message.

asexual
– Brenda announced to everyone at the office that she is asexual and not interested in dating or romance.

atypical
My results were atypical so the doctor would like to do some further testing. 

ADVERBS

asexuallyin a way that does not involve sex
– Did you know that scorpions can reproduce asexually

The Prefix Anti-

OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com Prefix anti-

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

anti-hero
– The Incredible Hulk is very powerful but hard to control. Many people think of him as more of an anti-hero

antimatter
– Scientists believe that most of the universe is made up of antimatter.

antiparticle 
– Antimatter is made up of antiparticles.

antitoxin/antivenom 
– After Patrick was bitten by the cobra, he was taken to the hospital immediately and given antivenom

anti-war
– People are getting frustrated with all the fighting in the antiwar movement is gaining in popularity. 

ADJECTIVES

anti-aircraft/anti-tank
– The government spent millions of dollars on anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons to use in this war. 

anticancer 
– New anticancer drugs are being developed all the time. 

anticlimactic 
– I thought the movie was pretty good but the ending was very anti-climactic. I felt disappointed when it was over. 

antifungal 
– I went to the drugstore to buy some antifungal cream for my itchy and cracked feet. 

anti-lock 
– All new cars have anti-lock brakes to help prevent accidents when stopping suddenly. 

antivirus 
– I just bought some new antivirus software for my computer. 

anti-vax
– The anti-vax movement has been in the news a lot this week. 

The Prefix Dis- 

OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com Prefix dis-

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

disagreement 
– After a long conversation, we worked through our disagreements. Now everything is fine. 

disapproval  
– The president’s disapproval rating has gone through the roof. 

disbelief 
– The TV news programs showed all the damage caused by the hurricane. I watched in disbelief

disease 
– Modern medicine cannot treat more diseases than ever before. 

disinformation 
– There’s a lot of disinformation on the internet these days. 

disillusion 
– There’s a growing disillusion with various news outlets. It’s hard to know who you can trust.

disinterest 
– With online shopping becoming more and more popular there’s a growing disinterest in actually going to a store. Why go out when you can get everything you need delivered to your house?

dislike 
– The new job seemed nice but Nancy took an instant dislike to one of her co-workers. 

disorder 
– Randy suffers from a rare blood disorder. He needs to take three kinds of medicine every day. 

disqualification 
– If an athlete is found with drugs in their system this leads to immediate disqualification

disrespect 
– The boss wasn’t happy with the disrespect being shown to him by the staff. 

ADJECTIVES

disagreeable 
– Nancy found the attitude of her co-worker to be very disagreeable.

discomfort 
– Bruce was suffering from some discomfort in his back. He bought a new chair for his office with more support. 

discontent 
– It was a widespread feeling of discontent with the new strict policies at the office. 

distasteful 
– I didn’t like his art at all. I found his paintings to be unattractive and distasteful

VERBS

disable 
– The burglar was able to disable the alarm and get inside the warehouse. 

disagree 
– I understand what you’re saying but I’m afraid I disagree with your plan of action. 

disapprove 
– Her parents disapproved of her boyfriend but she didn’t care, she was in love. 

disarm 
– A mugger with a knife tried to take my money last night. I surprised him, disarmed him, and I held him down until the police came. 

disassemble 
– The mechanics had to disassemble my entire engine to fix the problem. This repair job is going to be expensive. 

disband 
– After the third album, the group disbanded so they can each pursue solo projects. 

discolor 
– After being outside in my backyard for 3 years all my patio furniture has discolored.

disconnect 
– Before I install a new range on my stove I need to disconnect the gas. 

discontinue 
– I heard the company is going to discontinue this product. I should buy as much as I can well they still make them.

discredit 
– The lawyer worked hard to discredit the witness for the other side. 

disillusion
– I want to prepare my children for the real world when they move out on their own. I may have to disillusion them but it is necessary.  

disinfect 
– You should always disinfect the kitchen counter after you have been preparing any kind of raw meat. 

dislike 
– Amanda has a kind heart, she doesn’t dislike anyone.

dismount 
– After the race, the jockey dismounted and accepted the trophy the first place. 

disobey 
– Children shouldn’t disobey their teachers at school. 

disorient 
– Climbing to high altitudes can disorient you. The air becomes very thin. 

disown 
– His parents disowned him after his third trip to jail. 

disprove 
– Science is a very strict discipline. Scientists are always trying to disprove their own theories. 

disqualify 
– Having drugs in your system will disqualify you from the competition. 

disregard 
– Toby disregarded the message and went to the meeting anyway.

disrespect
– He disrespected his boss by showing up to the meeting after he was told not to. 

distrust 
– I distrust most politicians. 

*Note
Some verbs can be used with different negative prefixes with a slight difference in meaning.

Unable means not able.
Disable means to make something stop working. (Stop its ability to work.)


Uncover means to reveal or learn something that was hidden.
Discover means to find something new.

The Prefixes Il/In-/Im-/Ir-

OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com Prefix il-OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com Prefix in-/im-
OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com Prefix ir-

Use il- before words that start with the letter l

il- EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

illiteracy
– The education policies will help lower the illiteracy rate in the community. 

ADJECTIVES

illegal 
– It’s illegal for politicians to take money from private companies in exchange for favors. 

illegible 
– My doctor’s handwriting is completely illegible

illiterate 
– The number of illiterate adults in the population is declining. People have better access to education than ever before. 

illogical
– I don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish here. Your plan seems completely illogical.

Illogical Video Clip

ADVERBS

illegally
– That blue car has been illegally parked for the last 2 weeks. I should call the city and get it moved. 

Use im- before words that start with the letters or p

im- EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

imbalance 
– Your depression may be the cause of a hormone imbalance in your body. It is common in people your age. 

impatience 
– There’s a growing impatience with the government’s inaction. People expect more from their politicians. 

impermanence 
– The impermanence of the beautiful cherry blossoms in Spring makes us appreciate it even more. 

imperfection 
– The museum curator noticed a small imperfection in the statue. 

impossibility 
– Once I accepted the impossibility of a perfect life I’ve been much happier. No matter how good or bad a thing seems, I find something to appreciate about it.

ADJECTIVES

immature 
– The new hire was kind, but a little bit immature.

immeasurable 
– The damage caused by the earthquake and the following tsunami was immeasurable

immobile 
– I had to wear a cast for 3 weeks to keep my arm immobile while the bone healed. 

immodest 
– Renee wasn’t shy, her immodest dress was a clear sign. 

immoral 
– I think what happened in that country was immoral

immoveable 
– He was an old expression that asks: “What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?”

impatient 
– I like my boss, I think he’s clever. His only downside is he’s often impatient. This can be frustrating for me when I’m working on a task for him. 

imperfect 
– Things don’t always go the way you hope but we live in an imperfect world. We can only do our best. 

impolite 
– I’m curious to know how old Reiko is but it’s impolite to ask. 

impossible 
– I have a lot to do this weekend it seems impossible that I will get everything done. I’ll do my best and do as much as I can.

ADVERBS

immorally 
– The court ruled the company had acted immorally and was responsible to pay damages to the plaintiffs. 

impatiently
– She waited impatiently by the door for the package to arrive.

imperfectly 
– I think the company’s message is imperfectly understood by our customers. We can communicate our message more clearly.

in- EXAMPLE SENTENCES

Use in- before words that start with any letter except i, l, m, p, r, or u

NOUNS

inability
– Carlos’s inability to take action left him being fired by the company. 

inaction 
– There’s a growing impatience with the government’s inaction. People expect more from their politicians. 

inactivity 
Inactivity is not good for you, you need to move and stretch your body every day. 

inaccuracy
– There were many inaccuracies in the report and it has to be redone. 

indigestion 
– After dinner, John was suffering from indigestion. He ate too much. 

inequity 
Inequity in the justice system is a real problem. 

immorality
– The immorality of war always makes me feel uneasy. 

insensitivity 
– Leon’s insensitivity makes it hard for him to connect with other people. 

intolerance 
– My sister has lactose intolerance. This means that her body can’t handle the sugar that naturally occurs in milk. 

invalid 
– He became an invalid in his old age and needed constant care.

ADJECTIVES

inaccurate 
– I’m sorry to say but many of your findings are inaccurate

inadmissible 
– This evidence is inadmissible. It was collected without going through the proper legal channels. 

insanity 
– The defendant claimed insanity at his trial. 

incapable 
– He felt that with all the news coverage of his arrest he was incapable of having a fair trial in the city. 

inadequate 
– The bank loan was helpful but he still had inadequate funds to continue operating his
business. 

inadvisable 
– Filing for bankruptcy is inadvisable. Having a bankruptcy filing on your record will make many things harder for you in the future. 

inanimate 
– I know that the statue is inanimate but its position seems different today. Could it have moved by itself? 

inappropriate 
– I got in trouble at work today for telling an inappropriate joke in the break room to my coworkers. 

inarticulate 
– It’s hard for me to share my feelings, I feel I’m inarticulate when talking from the heart. 

incapable 
– I swear that child is incapable I’m doing anything without being asked. 

incomplete 
– The report is going well but it’s still incomplete. I’ll need a few more days to finish it up. 

inconceivable 
– The idea of time travel is completely inconceivable.

inconclusive 
– After two weeks of investigation, the result was still inconclusive.

inconsiderate
– You bought dinner for yourself but not for anyone else? That was very inconsiderate of you. 

inconsistent 
– “The Walking Dead” is a fun TV show but I’ve always felt the abilities of the zombies are inconsistent. Sometimes they run fast and sometimes they don’t, it’s confusing.

incorrect 
– My answer the question 4 was incorrect.

indecisive 
– I don’t think Andy would make a good manager, he’s very indecisive. That’s not a good quality to have in a leader. 

indefinite 
– The band decided to cancel the remaining shows of their tour and go on an indefinite hiatus after their drummer became ill. 

indistinguishable  
– The cafe’s expensive coffee is indistinguishable from the instant coffee that I drink at home. 

ineffective 
– So far all the changes have been ineffective. We have not seen an increase in productivity among the employees. 

inefficient 
– I bought a small space heater to warm up the room in the winter but it’s inefficient.  I shouldn’t have bought such a cheap machine. 

inexpensive 
– Sometimes inexpensive can mean lower quality. I should have bought a better-quality heater for my room. 

infallible 
– The plan is good but no plan is infallible

inhospitable 
– The air, the temperature, and the conditions at high altitudes are very inhospitable

illegitimate 
– His claims to the family fortune are illegitimate. They won’t hold up in court. 

insecure 
– People who are insecure can’t complain a lot.

insensitive 
– I don’t want to be too insensitive but you have to stop feeling sorry for yourself and take responsibility. 

insubordinate 
– His actions were insubordinate caused him to get fired. 

insufficient 
– The check bounced due to insufficient funds.

intolerant 
– Calvin is from an older generation that was less understanding and more intolerant of others. 

intransitive
Intransitive verbs are words that don’t take a direct object. 

invalid
– He was turned away at the border because his passport was invalid.

invariable 
– Rodger could always get by on his good looks and invariable charm.

invisible
– The party was crowded with people dancing and having fun.  I stood in the corner and I felt invisible.

ADVERBS

independently 
– I can work well independently or as part of a team.

invariably
– Increased poverty invariably leads to higher crime rates. 

I found one verb that used the negative prefix in-
invalidate
– Improper research methods may invalidate the study’s conclusion.

Use ir- before words that start with the letter r

ir- EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

irregularity 
– The accountant found some irregularities in the financial records of the company.

irresponsibility 
– This looks like another case of corporate irresponsibility.

ADJECTIVES

irreconcilable 
– The couple claimed irreconcilable differences at the divorce hearing. 

irregular
– During the examination, the doctor discovered that Clovis had an irregular heartbeat and schedule him for more tests. 

irreplaceable 
– This watch has been passed down from my grandfather to my father to me and now to my son. It is irreplaceable

irresponsible 
– Most people are irresponsible when they are teenagers. I know I was!

ADVERBS

irresponsibly
– Clinton acted irresponsibly when he used company funds to throw a party. 

The Prefix Non-

OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com Prefix non-

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

non-smoker
– Jennifer will only date non-smokers. She hates the smell of tobacco. 

ADJECTIVES

non-alcoholic
– Penelope is pregnant so she only had non-alcoholic drinks at the party. 

nondescript
– When I worked as a stunt performer there was a category called ND stunts. ND means non-descript. You are not a stunt double so you didn’t have to look like an actor, you just had to be in the background performing some action. 

non-fiction
– I like to read non-fiction books, especially biographies of famous people.

non-governmental
– NGO means non-governmental organization. This is a private organization that deals with social or political issues. 

non-negotiable
– My hourly rate is non-negotiable.  I don’t change it. 

non-profit
– James likes to volunteer for non-profit organizations. 

non-slip
– I just bought a new non-slip bath mat to use when I come out of the shower. 

non-specific
– Politicians can talk for hours without saying anything important. They are masters at being non-specific in their promises. 

non-smoking
– I’d like a table in the non-smoking section please. 

non-stick
– I just got a set of three new non-stick frying pans. I can’t wait to use them. 

non-stop
– This bus will take you from here right to the shopping mall Non-Stop

non-toxic
– All children’s toys must be non-toxic. Especially for children under the age of 3. They love to eat things! 

non-traditional
– My wife and I had a non-traditional wedding. We just went to City Hall & some papers. 

non-violent
– The protest was large but non-violent. The protesters were very peaceful. 

non-verbal
– Some of the most important parts of our communication are non-verbal. That’s why it’s harder to talk on the telephone in your second language than it is to talk in person.

ADVERBS

nonviolently
– Mahatma Gandhi achieved independence from Britain through peaceful protests. The radical change was achieved nonviolently. There was no war or fighting between the two sides. 

The Prefix Un-

OxfordLearnersDictionaries.com Prefix un-

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

uncertainty
– Many people working from home face uncertainty about if and when they will have to return to the office.

unrest
– Civil unrest has led to violence in the city’s capital. 

unemployment
– Unemployment is on the rise in the country. Job creation is the government’s priority right now.

ADJECTIVES

unable
– My sister-in-law is getting married this weekend so I’m unable to help you move on Saturday. 

unacceptable
– The working conditions here are unacceptable

unaware
– Gregory was unaware that anything had happened until I phoned him. 

uncertain
– These are uncertain times so it’s important that people work together and support each other. 

unemployed
– Oliver has been unemployed for 7 months now.

unchanged
– My old neighborhood remains unchanged after all these years. 

unclear
– It’s unclear whether the company will lay off people in the Spring. Everyone is hoping that they will not. 

uncomfortable
– My desk chair is very uncomfortable. I think it’s time to buy a new one.

uncommon
– It’s not uncommon to see a line of people waiting to get into this restaurant. I’m going to have to try it one day.

unconscious
– The boxer lay unconscious in the middle of the ring for 2 minutes. When he got to his feet and looked okay everyone cheered. 

unexpected
– The rain was unexpected, I didn’t bring my umbrella with me so I got wet on the walk home from the station. 

uneasy
– When I heard the news of the accident I felt very uneasy. I was in the same location 20 minutes earlier. 

unfair
– If you have suffered unfair treatment from your boss or supervisor at work, don’t hesitate to contact to HR and file a complaint. 

unfamiliar
– The city was unfamiliar to me so having Google Maps on my phone was very helpful.

unfortunate
– It’s unfortunate that the game was canceled due to rain. Sometimes life is unfair.

unhappy
– The team was excited to play tonight so everyone was unhappy about the cancellation. 

unknown
– The cause of the plane crash is still unknown.

unlawful
– The officer’s actions were declared unlawful and all charges against the defendant were dropped.

unlikely
– It’s unlikely to rain tomorrow but we will close the stadium roof just to be safe. We don’t want the cancel another game due to bad weather.

unlimited
– At this restaurant, you can get unlimited refills of your drink.

unnecessary
– I hate these Friday afternoon meetings, they’re completely unnecessary

unofficial
– The Prime Minister made an unofficial visit to South Africa last month. 

unpleasant
– It was an unpleasant smell coming from the basement. 

unpopular
– The mayor has become unpopular over the last 3 months.

unrealistic
– The mayor’s plans for cleaning up the downtown area are unrealistic. There isn’t enough money in the budget. 

unreasonable
– My company just started mandatory overtime for all employees.  I think that’s unreasonable.

unrelated
– These two issues are unrelated. Let’s stay focused on the meeting topic. 

unsatisfactory
– The team’s performance was unsatisfactory today. The coach is calling for an extra hour of practice every week for the next 2 months. 

unsuccessful
– His first attempt to climb the mountain was unsuccessful.

unwanted
– His romantic advances were unwanted.

unwilling
– The company is unwilling to make changes. I think this will hurt them in the long run. 

unusual
– It’s cool today, this weather is unusual for August. 

ADVERBS

undoubtedly
– It’s Friday so Keith will undoubtedly be late. Just like every Friday.

unfortunately
Unfortunately, the store was out of Pepsi so I bought a bottle of Coke instead.

unexpectedly
– Stewart showed up at the party unexpectedly. I thought he was out of town.

unusually
– It’s unusually cool today, this temperature is rare for August. 

VERBS

unbutton
– I started to unbutton my shirt and I realized that I hadn’t closed the changeroom door. I was so embarrassed.

undo
– It’s too late to undo the damage. We need to make sure this never happens again.

untie
– My cousin always wears velcro shoes. He hates to tie and untie his laces.

unzip
– Brett unzipped his leather jacket in class while the teacher was talking. It was so loud.

FAQ

Are all prefixes negative?

No. In English, there are many different prefixes with different meanings.
For example –

Sub- = under/below

“Let’s take the subway to save on parking.” (The subway is a train that travels underground.)

Worldenglishblog.com/the-prefix-sub

Re- = again“My boss asked me to redo this report.” (Do the report again.)

Worldenglishblog.com/the-prefix-re

Printable Negative Prefixes PDF E-guide

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9 Negative Prefixes Infographic

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