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Grammar Granny        < Previous        Next >


Prefixes: "En" and "In"


It's embarrassing: an education website from a state department of education, produced in cooperation with the state university, positioning itself as "the" authority on what's best for children's educations from preschool through college, has a bonehead spelling error right on its homepage:


"Invisioning the Future" . . . instead of "Envisioning" it.


Take a look: -- though they may have corrected it by now.


Here's the rule on these two confusing prefixes:

The prefix "en-" means "to cause someone or something to be in" the place, condition or state to which the stem word relates.


The prefix "in-" basically means "inclusion within space," or "part of the whole." Think of "inborn," "include" or "indoor."


Now, the prefer "in-" can also mean a negative force or the absence of something, as in "inaccurate" or "indirect." But it's easy to keep those "in-" words straight from "en-" words.


Going back to our example, when you "envision" something, there's movement - you're taking the image of something from outside of yourself, and moving it within. There's usually the sense of "putting" something somewhere with the prefix "en-." Think of an "envelope" and "enabling" someone.


You wouldn't "invision" anything, because it's not already within you.


See? Can you . . . envision the difference?



By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 019 2006


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