Confusing prefixes: anti -/ ante-

Prefixes tell us a lot about the meaning of a word but there are some pairs that sound the same or similar and look pretty similar too and so they are confusing. In the next few posts I'm going to look at some of these tricky pairs to help with spelling long words.

Anti- and ante-bathroomcabinet

Anti- means against. So we have anticlockwise (but counterclockwise in US English), antivirus, antiperspirant, antidepressant, antiseptic, antibiotic. And we can add can also add anti- to other words to create new words. You may hear people talk about someone being anti-technology or anti-Obama.

What interesting anti-s have you heard or used lately? Leave a comment to tell us.

Ante-, on the other hand, means before, in time or position. So antepenultimate means the third from the end (before the penultimate); antenatal refers to something before a baby is born (when a woman is pregnant); an anteroom is a room where you may be asked to wait before going into another larger room leading off it.

Anti- is much more common that ante- and we don't usually make new words with ante-.

One last thing: when do we use a hyphen ( - ) between these prefixes and the base words? The rules of hyphenation are not very strict (different dictionaries give different answers). I haven't found any ante words with a hyphen. When adding anti, generally if the base word starts with a or i or a capital letter use a hyphen, otherwise don't. So an anti-ageing cream may contain antioxidants. And an antiracist would probably be anti-Nazi. New words that you make up or hear should probably be written with a hyphen if they haven't yet made it to a dictionary.