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Lessons for topic Prefixes and suffixes

Writing Prefixes in Spanish: Three Rules to Know

Do you know how to write prefixes in Spanish? In this lesson, we will share three very useful rules that you should always keep in mind when using Spanish prefixes. Let's take a look.


1. Connect the Prefix to the Word That Follows

A prefix should always be connected to the word that follows. Let's look at an example:


¿Han visto algunos actores que tienen la piel supertersa?

Have you seen some actors who have super smooth skin?

Caption 39, María Fernanda Mascarilla de aguacate

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In this example, you can see that the prefix super- is connected to the word tersa (smooth). For that reason, it would be incorrect to write this word with a space (super tersa) or hyphen (super-tersa).


This rule also applies when you have several prefixes before a word:


antiposmodernism (anti-postmodernism)


In this example, you have the word modernismo preceded by two prefixes (anti- and pos-).


2. Use a Hyphen When the Word Starts with a Capital Letter

If a prefix goes before a word that starts with a capital letter, a hyphen should be used between the prefix and the word. Let's take a look:


y que dentro tiene dos mini-DVDs,

and which inside has two miniDVDs,

Caption 6, Fiesta en Miami This is not a gallery

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Since the word "DVD" starts with a capital letter, a hyphen is necessary. Let's look at some additional examples:


anti-NAFTA (anti-NAFTA)

pro-Obama (pro-Obama)

pos-Gorbachov (post-Gorvachov)


A hyphen must also be employed if the prefix is followed by a number instead of a word:


Campeonato Sudamericano Sub-20 (South American U-20* Championship)


* Keep in mind that "under" is the English equivalent of the Spanish prefix sub-.


3. Leave a Space Before a Multi-Word Lexical Unit

A multi-word lexical unit is a term made of two or more words. Examples include terms like pena de muerte (death penalty) and derechos humanos (human rights). If a prefix precedes a multi-word lexical unit, there must be a space between the prefix and said unit as follows:


anti pena de muerta (anti-death penalty)

pro derechos humanos (pro-human rights)


Finally, keep in mind that, sometimes, with the addition of a prefix, a word's accentuation changes. For example, by itself, the word bien (well) doesn't require a graphic accent. However, when the prefix super- is added, it automatically becomes a three-syllable word with the stress on the last syllable. And, since the word ends in "n," you will need to indicate such with a graphic accent (see lesson on palabras agudas).


Pues nada, que ha empezado el día superbién,

Well, she's started the day very well,

Caption 6, El Aula Azul Conversación: Un día de mala suerte

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That's all for now. We invite you to keep these three rules in mind when using prefixes in Spanish. And, don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions.

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How to Write and Use the Prefix super in Spanish

Let's start this lesson with a little quiz. Do you know how to write "superhero" in Spanish? Choose one of the following:


a. Super héroe

b. Superhéroe

c. Súper héroe

d. Súperheroe


If you don't know the answer, this lesson will help you to find out which one is the proper spelling.


The meaning of the prefix super in Spanish


When it works as a prefix, the word super has different meanings. Sometimes, it means 'above' like in the word superestructura (superstructure). It can also mean 'excellence' or 'superiority':


¿Con el superagente, Jaime Suárez?

With the super-agent, Jaime Suarez?

Caption 53, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 3 - Part 13

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In some words, the prefix super expresses the 'highest degree' of something: 


Eh... La iglesia es superhermosa.

Um... The church is super beautiful.

Caption 14, Bogotá Una visita a la ciudad

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And finally, the prefix super can also indicate the 'excess' of something:


Ehm... Tenemos la... la... la... la... la superpoblación,

Um... We have (the... the... the... the... the) overpopulation,

Caption 50, Los médicos explican Entrevista con el Doctor Suarez

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The meaning of the word súper (with an accent)


Have you ever seen the word súper with an accent? If you think that súper is the same as super (with no accent), you are wrong. The word súper needs the accent only in the following situations:


1. When it is used as a noun for the short form of the word supermercado (supermarket) or the type of gasoline:


Roberto fue al súper a comprar naranjas.

Roberto went to the supermarket to buy oranges. 


2. When it works as an adjective or adverb to express that someone or something is/was great:


Súper, y ¿qué le dijeron de Gastón Almanza?

Super, and what did they tell you about Gaston Almanza?

Caption 20, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa Capítulo 1 - Part 8

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The simplest thing to remember here is that the prefix super doesn't have a graphic accent.


How to write words that use the prefix super in Spanish


Believe it or not, there are many native Spanish speakers who don't know how to properly write words that are formed with the prefix super. The main rule, however, is quite simple: When writing, the prefix super should be connected to the word that follows. With that simple rule, we can answer the question we posed at the beggining of this lesson:


Y tengo de superhéroe lo que Juanes de vallenato

And I've got from a superhero what Juanes [has] from vallenato

Caption 30, Juanes La Plata

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However, every rule has its exception and this rule has the following one:


Super followed by a hyphen


When the word that follows super starts with a capital letter or when this prefix is followed by a number, you need to add a hyphen:


super-Obama or super-10


Super separated by the word that follows it


You need to leave a space after super when it goes before a series of words that have their own meaning:


Yo siempre me he sentido super a gusto cantando al lado de ese grandísimo músico...

I have always felt pretty at home singing along this great musician...

Caption 50, David Bisbal Haciendo Premonición Live - Part 5

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That's it for today. We invite you to write 10 words with the prefix super. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.

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Spanish Adverbs with -Mente

Let’s talk about adverbs. Adverbs are very important in Spanish grammar and many of them are closely connected to adjectives. In fact, there are a good number of adverbs that can be easily formed if we are familiar with the original adjective. In this lesson, we will see how to use adjectives in order to form Spanish adverbs with the suffix mente.


Some examples of Spanish adverbs with mente

Let’s take a look at these very used adverbs in Spanish.


...pero principalmente cubanos que llegaron a este país hace cuarenta años.

...but mainly Cubans who arrived to this country forty years ago.

Caption 6, La Calle 8 - Un recorrido fascinante

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Además, este año hay una zona dedicada especialmente a la gastronomía.

Additionally, this year there is an area dedicated especially to gastronomy.

Caption 28, Fuengirola - Feria Internacional de los Pueblos

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nos criamos completamente ciegos, sordos, mudos con respecto al dinero

we grew up completely blind, deaf, dumb with respect to money

Caption 70, Cuentas claras - Sobreviviendo enero

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As you can see, the suffix mente corresponds to the English suffix ‘ly’. But how do you form Spanish adverbs with mente? Let’s take a look.


How to form Spanish adverbs with mente

In order to build Spanish adverbs with mente, you just have to follow this very simple formula:


Feminine form of the adjective + mente


For example, if we want to form an adverb with the adjective último (last), we just need to take the feminine form of that adjective (última) and add the suffix mente, like this:


última  + mente = últimamente (lastly).


Let’s look at some more examples:


Claro (clear): clara + mente = claramente (clearly)

Lento (slow): lenta + mente = lentamente (slowly)

Honesto (honest): honesta + mente = honestamente (honestly)


However, if an adjective doesn’t end in ‘o’, it means that it has one form that is used for both masculine and feminine. In that case, you just need to add the suffix mente to the adjective in order to get the adverb. Let’s see some examples:


Alegre (happy):  alegre + mente = alegremente (happily)

Triste (sad): triste + mente = tristemente (sadly)

Frecuente (frequent): frecuente + mente = frecuentemente (frequently)

Normal (normal): normal + mente = normalmente (normally)


It is also important to mention that if you have a sentence with two adverbs in a series, only the last one will have the suffix mente at the end. The first one will keep the feminime form of the adjective:


Él camina rápida y alegremente

He walks quickly and happily


Ellos hablaron clara y concisamente

They spoke clearly and concisely


Finally, something important to keep in mind: If the original adjective has a graphic accent on it (tilde), the adverb will also have that accent. Some examples:


Creo que mi mamá comprendió su equivocación rápidamente.

I think that my mom understood her mistake quickly.

Caption 1, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 2

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Con un poco de práctica, podremos aprender estas reglas muy fácilmente.

With a bit of practice, we will be able to learn these rules very easily.

Caption 54, Carlos explica - Acentuación Cap. 3: La división en sílabas

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That's it for this lesson. Now, here is your homework: Take 10 adjectives and try to form the corresponding adverbs using the suffix mente. Can you write some sentences too? Have fun and don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions.


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Verbs with the prefix a

One of the most common prefixes used in Spanish is a. This prefix is very interesting because when coming from the Latin prefix ab- or abs-, a- denotes separation or privation, but when coming from the Latin prefix ad-, a- denotes approximation or presence. Another interesting and useful aspect of this prefix is that it can be added to certain nouns and adjectives to form verbs.


Let's compare the different uses of the prefix a-. Take the word ausente (absent). This is a perfect example of the use of the prefix a- to indicate separation. We have a full movie titled El Ausente:  

Ya llegó el que andaba ausente y éste no consiente nada...

Now he arrived, the one who was absent and this one does not allow anything...

Captions 9-10, El Ausente - Acto 3 - Part 5

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Strikingly enough, the prefix a- can also mean approximation or presence. A good example is the verb asistir  meaning "to attend":

Siempre hemos de asistir personalmente a la entidad bancaria.

We should always go personally to the banking entity.

Caption 13, Raquel - Abrir una cuenta bancaria

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Much more practically useful is to know that we can add the prefix a- to other words, like nouns and adjectives, to form verbs. Below is an example from a video published this week. The verb acostumbrar (to get used to) is formed with the prefix a and the noun costumbre (custom, use):

Vea, Pepino, hay sitios donde les enseñan a los animales a que se vuelvan a acostumbrar a su hábitat.

Look, Pepino [Cucumber], there are places where they teach animals to become used to their habitat again.

Captions 10-11, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 7

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Now, using the noun tormento (torment) we get the verb atormentar (to torment): 

Eso seguro era algo que podía atormentarlos.

That surely was something that could torment them.

Caption 46, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 10

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There are so many! From susto (fright) you get asustar (to scare):

¡Ay no, Candelario! No me asustes.

Oh no, Candelario! Don't scare me.

Caption 44, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes

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You can also use adjectives. For example, lejos (far) and cerca (close) give us alejar (to put or to go far away), and acercar (to put or to get close):

Después me alejaré

Then I will go away

Caption 22, Reyli - Qué nos pasó

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Ella trataba de acercarse a mí.

She tried to get close to me.

Caption 9, Biografía - Pablo Echarri - Part 3

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Here is a list with more examples. Maybe you can find them in our Spanish catalog.

Tonto (fool) - atontar (to fool or become a fool)
Plano (flat) - aplanar (to flatten) 
Grande (big) - agrandar (to make bigger)
Pasión (passion) - apasionar (to become passionate)
Nido (nest) - anidar (to form a nest)
Morado (purple) - amoratar (to get or give bruises)
Francés (French) - afrancesar (to become French-like)
Grieta (crack) - agrietar (to crack)


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