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10.23: The Prefixes Under-, Over-, and Counter-

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12

The Prefixes Under -, Over -, and Counter -

1. Think about what these pairs of words mean:

& \text{underpass} && \text{overpass} \\& \text{underripe} && \text{overripe} \\& \text{underexposed} && \text{overexposed} \\& \text{underestimate} && \text{overestimate} \\& \text{underweight} && \text{overweight}

It isn't hard to see what the prefixes under - and over - mean. Under - means “under, beneath, too little.” Over - means “over, above, too much.”

2. The meaning of the prefix counter - is almost as easy to figure out. Compare these pairs of words:

& \text{attack} && \text{counterattack} \\& \text{clockwise} && \text{counterclockwise} \\& \text{rotation} && \text{counterrotation}

Which of these meanings does counter - seem to add to the three words in the right column, “under,” “not,” or “opposite”? “opposite”

3. Analyze the following words into prefix and stem, and be ready to talk about what meaning the prefix adds to each stem:

Word = Prefix + Stem
undergrowth = under + growth
overgrowth = over + growth
overworked = over + worked
undercoat = under + coat
overalls = over + alls
underclothes = under + clothes
counterflow = counter + flow
counterweight = counter + weight
overcoat = over + coat
overflow = over + flow
underground = under + ground
overdose = over + dose

4. Add one of the prefixes under -, over- or counter - to each of the words below so that you add the meaning given in the left column:

Meaning of Prefix + Stem = Word
“Beneath” + clothes = underclothes
“Opposite” + effective = countereffective
“Too much” + acting = overacting
“Too little” + statement = understatement
“Opposite” + sign = countersign
“Too much” + stated = overstated
“Opposite” + balance = counterbalance
“Too much” + react = overreact
“Too little” + achiever = underachiever
“Too much” + corrected = overcorrected
“Too much” + achiever = overachiever
“Too little” + exposure = underexposure

Teaching Notes.

As with non-, you will find that some publishers use hyphens with some of these prefixes — especially if the stem starts with an <r>, as in over-react. But hyphens are rare, and it is practically never necessary to put one in. The editing rule applies here: “When in doubt, leave it out.”

Item 3. The <\mathrm{s}> on overalls is the plural suffix: over + all + s. It appears in related words like pants, slacks, trousers, etc.

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