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Understand Verb Prefixes: De- 2

In this worksheet, students consider further examples of verbs with the prefix de-, including those where the meaning is less obvious.

'Understand Verb Prefixes: De- 2' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 2

Curriculum topic:  English

Curriculum subtopic:  Grammar: Nouns, Verbs & Tenses

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

The prefix de- often has the meaning of removing or lowering something when it is added to a verb. For example:

The train was derailed because the tracks were icy. (de + rail = derail)

The Pound has been devalued against the Euro. (de + value devalue)

Sometimes, however, it is not so easy to work out the meaning of a verb with the prefix de-. To deflate means to take the air out of something, but there is no such verb as to 'flate'. The opposite of deflate is inflate.

 

In this worksheet you will be looking at words where the meanings are not always obvious. You may find a dictionary helpful.

Match the verbs in the list below with their opposites.

Column A

Column B

incline
destruct
increase
detach
construct
decline
ascend
decrease
attach
descend

Sometimes the prefix de- emphasises something, rather than removing it or reducing it. For example, to delimit something means to place strict limits on something, not to take the limits away.

The two countries held talks to delimit their borders.

 

In one of the words below, the prefix de- also has the meaning of emphasising something. Which one?

degrade

defraud

depopulate

Sometimes a word can have more than one meaning. Which word can fill the gap in both sentences?

 

The number of bees in the UK has __________ severely in recent years.

She __________ his invitation to the theatre.

declared

decided

declined

Some words can be used both literally and figuratively. Which word beginning with the prefix de- would complete both these sentences? Write it in the answer box.

 

The bomb disposal experts __________ the bomb before it went off.

Jack and Callum were almost fighting but their teacher talked to them calmly and __________ the situation.

Which word beginning with the prefix de- can complete both these sentences? Again, the same word is used literally and figuratively. Write it in the answer box.

 

The train was __________ because the wind had blown a tree onto the line.

The talks between the government and the unions were __________ when the union leader walked out and refused to come back.

Sometimes the root word in a prefix is no longer in use in the English language. The verb decipher is based on the old-fashioned verb to cipher.

Read the following sentence containing the verb decipher.

 

Kayla managed to decipher the secret message and solve the problem.

 

What do you think the verb 'cipher' used to mean?

to read something

to add something up

to write something in code

Sometimes it is hard to know whether de- or dis- is the correct prefix to use. Both can mean removing something, but if the root word begins with s then de- is usually the correct prefix.

For example, de + segregate = desegregate (not dissegregate).

 

In the list below, one of the words should begin with de- instead of dis-. Write it correctly in the answer box.

 

distrust

dismantle

dissensitise

disregard

discover

Again, one of the words in the list should begin with de- instead of dis-. Write it correctly in the answer box.

 

disobey

disstabilise

disband

dislike

dismiss

Sometimes it is not easy to tell whether to use de- or dis-, and then you may need a dictionary. Which of the following spellings is correct?

describe

discribe

Is de- or dis- correct this time?

dispair

despair

  • Question 1

Match the verbs in the list below with their opposites.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

incline
decline
increase
decrease
construct
destruct
ascend
descend
attach
detach
EDDIE SAYS
Did you notice that although all the words on the right have the prefix de-, their opposites have several different prefixes?
  • Question 2

Sometimes the prefix de- emphasises something, rather than removing it or reducing it. For example, to delimit something means to place strict limits on something, not to take the limits away.

The two countries held talks to delimit their borders.

 

In one of the words below, the prefix de- also has the meaning of emphasising something. Which one?

CORRECT ANSWER
defraud
EDDIE SAYS
To defraud means to deceive or swindle something. It does not mean to take fraud away.
  • Question 3

Sometimes a word can have more than one meaning. Which word can fill the gap in both sentences?

 

The number of bees in the UK has __________ severely in recent years.

She __________ his invitation to the theatre.

CORRECT ANSWER
declined
EDDIE SAYS
To decline can mean to go down, but it can also mean to politely refuse something.
  • Question 4

Some words can be used both literally and figuratively. Which word beginning with the prefix de- would complete both these sentences? Write it in the answer box.

 

The bomb disposal experts __________ the bomb before it went off.

Jack and Callum were almost fighting but their teacher talked to them calmly and __________ the situation.

CORRECT ANSWER
defused
EDDIE SAYS
To defuse literally means to take the fuse out of something, but it can be used figuratively to mean calming down and making a situation less tense.
  • Question 5

Which word beginning with the prefix de- can complete both these sentences? Again, the same word is used literally and figuratively. Write it in the answer box.

 

The train was __________ because the wind had blown a tree onto the line.

The talks between the government and the unions were __________ when the union leader walked out and refused to come back.

CORRECT ANSWER
derailed
EDDIE SAYS
When it is used figuratively, to derail means to stop something from succeeding.
  • Question 6

Sometimes the root word in a prefix is no longer in use in the English language. The verb decipher is based on the old-fashioned verb to cipher.

Read the following sentence containing the verb decipher.

 

Kayla managed to decipher the secret message and solve the problem.

 

What do you think the verb 'cipher' used to mean?

CORRECT ANSWER
to write something in code
EDDIE SAYS
To decipher something is to change it back from code into normal language. The word is sometimes used to mean interpreting something that is not clearly written.
  • Question 7

Sometimes it is hard to know whether de- or dis- is the correct prefix to use. Both can mean removing something, but if the root word begins with s then de- is usually the correct prefix.

For example, de + segregate = desegregate (not dissegregate).

 

In the list below, one of the words should begin with de- instead of dis-. Write it correctly in the answer box.

 

distrust

dismantle

dissensitise

disregard

discover

CORRECT ANSWER
desensitise
EDDIE SAYS
The root word \'sensitise\' starts with s, so the correct spelling is desensitise.
  • Question 8

Again, one of the words in the list should begin with de- instead of dis-. Write it correctly in the answer box.

 

disobey

disstabilise

disband

dislike

dismiss

CORRECT ANSWER
destabilise
EDDIE SAYS
The root word \'stabilise\' begins with s, so the correct spelling is destabilise.
  • Question 9

Sometimes it is not easy to tell whether to use de- or dis-, and then you may need a dictionary. Which of the following spellings is correct?

CORRECT ANSWER
describe
EDDIE SAYS
The root word is \'scribe\', an old-fashioned word for \'to write\', so it is de+scribe, rather than dis+cribe. In this example, the prefix has the meaning of emphasising something rather than removing it.
  • Question 10

Is de- or dis- correct this time?

CORRECT ANSWER
despair
EDDIE SAYS
The word is de+spair rather than dis+pair. The word spair comes from a Latin word meaning to hope, so if you despair you are giving up hope.
---- OR ----

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