Pretty in Prefix

Should I write пре or при? Whether you are a beginner Russian learner or a native speaker, dealing with these two prefixes is a handful. Actually, dealing with all the prefixes in Russian can be overwhelming without some of them sounding almost exactly the same. Is it приле́чь or прелечь на дива́н (to lie down on the couch for a bit)? Do I say я хочу́ премерить or приме́рить э́тот сви́тер? (I want to try on this sweater). Can both prefixes be used with the same word and give it different meanings? (You bet!) Интере́сно? Тогда́ чита́йте да́льше. (Sounds interesting? Then keep on reading.)

By the way, it is definitely приме́рить сви́тер, meaning ‘to try on a sweater’ and приле́чь на дива́н, which is ‘to lie down on a couch for a little bit’.

a colorful button Prefix при– is usually used for one of the following:

    verbs that show something getting closer, being added, or connected: прибы́ть (arrive), принести́ (bring), приши́ть (sew on), приписа́ть (add in writing)

Compare the two verbs: ши́ть and приши́ть. You can say:

Я уме́ю ши́ть – I can sew. But as soon as you add the ‘при’ prefix you are giving the verb ши́ть a whole new meaning.

Я пришива́ю пу́говицу – I’m sewing on a button. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

    nouns and adjectives that mark something located nearby: прибре́жный (coastal), придоро́жный (roadside)

Доро́га is a road. Доро́жный is an adjective derived from доро́га, which means ‘of the road’ but as soon as you add при it becomes ‘roadside’. It’s like following a mathematic formula but with morphemes.

    verbs that indicate that the action is not done in full: приоткры́ть (open slightly), прито́птывать (tap one’s foot a little), припева́ть (sing along with the song) verbs that show the action at a particular state of completion: примири́ть (reconcile), приме́рить (try on e.g clothes)

obstacle Prefix пре– adds the following meaning to the words:

    very: предо́брый (very kind), прему́дрый (very wise), преувели́чивать (exaggerate or literally to enlarge too much) prefix пере-, meaning ‘over’: прерва́ть (interrupt), прегради́ть (obstruct)

And yes, before you ask, there are (of course) exceptions that you just need to запо́мнить (remember).

Приро́да (nature), прия́тный (lovely), приключе́ние (adventure), прика́з (order)

Препя́тствие (obstacle), пренебрега́ть (to neglect)

a door left open Now, can you put either the missing letter е or и in the words below? I will post the answers in my next blog

Пр­­_враща́ть, пр_откры́ть, пр_гна́ть, пр_кра́сный, пр_лет, пр_обража́ть, пр_сту́пник, пр_це́п, пр_ши́ть, пр_сече́ние, пр_да́тель, пр_враще́ние, пр_скака́ть

Lastly, I present to you a few Russian words that use both пре and при prefixes, depending on the context.

Прее́мник — приёмник [Preyemnik – priyomnik]

Приёмник — transponder or a radio.

Прее́мник — a successor.

Претвори́ть — притвори́ть. [Pretvorit‘ — pritvorit‘.]

Претвори́ть — to transform, to turn into, to change

For example, you can претвори́ть мечту́ в реа́льность [make one’s dream a reality]

Притвори́ть – to close but not fully

Преда́ть — прида́ть. [Predat‘ — pridat‘.]

Преда́ть — to betray

Прида́ть — to give something, usually used in fixed collocations, e.g. прида́ть смы́сл — to give meaning or прида́ть зна́чимости — to give importance

But remember, prefixes are only half the fun. See this informative blog by Maria on suffixes in Russian place names. 

*Rules and some exceptions about prefixes пре– and при– are referenced from 6th grade Russian language textbook, Part I by Sabitova Z. K. and Beisembayev A. R.


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