Is there any rule when to use "i" and when "un" as negative prefixes?

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rosevelvet

Member
spanish (Spain)
I always mess up and do not know when to use one or the other. For example for "resistible" I would say "unresistible" but not it is "irresistible".
The same with "comprehensible", is not "uncomprehensible" but "incomprehensible".
Should I know which prefix goes with every word by heart or is there any rule that could help me remembering it?
Thanks in advance
 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Should I know learn which prefix goes with every word by heart.
    Yes, but do not simply sit down and learn a long list - learn them by reading, listening and speaking.
    or is there any rule that could help me remembering it?
    No: There are no rules in English, only guidance. Some guidance looks like a rule; it probably isn't.
     

    entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    As your native language is Spanish, you can probably use this 'rule of thumb': if a similar word exists in Spanish, it has an in-, i- prefix, so it also has that in English, because we borrowed those words from Latin (possibly via French). Un- is used with native words, that is ones that are not borrowed from Latin/French: unhappy, unbreakable, unwanted. Of course this is not universal; I can immediately think of 'unsuitable' as from a French root. But for the examples you give, and many others, it works.
     

    rosevelvet

    Member
    spanish (Spain)
    As your native language is Spanish, you can probably use this 'rule of thumb': if a similar word exists in Spanish, it has an in-, i- prefix, so it also has that in English, because we borrowed those words from Latin (possibly via French). Un- is used with native words, that is ones that are not borrowed from Latin/French: unhappy, unbreakable, unwanted. Of course this is not universal; I can immediately think of 'unsuitable' as from a French root. But for the examples you give, and many others, it works.
    I was looking for something like that, thank you very much
     
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