Re- Prefix

Préfixe français

Type of prefix: verbal*

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- and its variants

Re-

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

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

Res-

Re- often 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)

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.

réapparaître   to reappear   (added to apparaître – to appear)
réélire   to re-elect   (added to élire – to elect)
rentrer   to return home   (added to entrer – to enter)
rhabiller   to dress again   (added to habiller – to dress)
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 – and 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)

 Pronunciation notes

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

*I’ll address re as a nominal prefix in a separate lesson.

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French prefix
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