Re- Prefix

Le préfixe re– et ses variantes

French prefix re
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The French prefix re- can be added to hundreds of verbs to make new verbs. Depending on the first letter of the verb it’s added to, re- has a few variations as well as some different meanings.

Re-

Generally speaking, re- is added to verbs that begin with a consonant or h aspiré:

remarier to remarry (added to marier – to marry)
rehausser to heighten (added to hausser – to raise)

 The verb recycler is a little different: it was created by adding the prefix re– to the noun cycle to get recycle, which was then verbified.

Variants

While re- is the most common spelling, it can only be added to words that begin with a consonant other than s or h muet. For words that begin with s, h muet, or a vowel , you need a different spelling.

1) res-

Re- generally changes to res- in front of a verb starting with s:

ressembler to resemble (added to sembler – to seem)
ressortir to go out again (added to sortir – to go out)

2) ré- and r-

In front of a vowel or h muet, re- either takes on an accent (especially for Latin-based words) or contracts to r-. For a few verbs, both spellings exist.

rentrer to return home (added to entrer – to enter)
rhabiller to dress again (added to habiller – to dress)
réélire to re-elect (added to élire – to elect)
réutiliser to reuse (added to utiliser – to use)
récrire, réécrire to rewrite (added to écrire – to write)

Meanings of re- (and its variants)

1. To redo, to do again

ressaisir to seize again (added to saisir – to seize)
rouvrir to reopen (added to ouvrir – to open)

2. To return to a previous location, condition, or state of being

réhabituer to reaccustom
(someone to something)
 (added to habituer – to accustom)
revenir to come back (added to venir – to come)

3. To emphasize or reinforce a verb

redoubler to increase, redouble (added to doubler – to double)
remercier to thank (added to mercier [archaic] – to thank)

 À noter

Because the prefix re- has more than one possible meaning, some verbs do too. Sometimes they even have new meanings unrelated to the root verb:

rappeler – to call back, to call again
– to recall, remember
 (added to appeler – to call)
rejoindre – to get back to, rejoin, reunite
– to join (an organization)
 (added to joindre – to link, combine, to join [two things together]; to contact)
renvoyer – to send back, to send again
– to fire, dismiss
 (added to envoyer – to send)

 IPA pronunciation

  • The e in both re- and res- is pronounced [ə] (as a schwa or e muet).
  • Ré- is pronounced [ʀe] (rhymes with )

 Related lessons

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French prefix

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