Learn to use 9 Negative prefixes (Over 225 real examples)

Learning prefixes and suffixes is a great way to increase your English vocabulary quickly. I have been teaching prefixes for a long time, and I thought that a collection of negative prefixes would be helpful. So I wrote this post for ESL students and teachers 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 

You will find lots more in this post. Learn how and when to use these prefixes with real example sentences from every word category.
Nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. Start using these prefixes and these 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-

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

NOUNS

atheist 
The number of atheists is growing in America. 

ADJECTIVES

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

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.

ADVERBS

asexually
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 drug store 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 live shopping today. 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, I was able to disarm 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 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-

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. 

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

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 men 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 you 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 
Cues 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.

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.

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