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Lessons for topic Prefixes and suffixes

What's up with Italian nicknames?

These days, even in Italy, you name your child however you choose. But at one time, in this historically Roman Catholic country, the names of saints were among the most popular ones. As a result, many children had the same name. By far the most popular names were Giuseppe (Joseph), Giovanni (John), Pietro, Piero (Peter), Paolo (Paul), Filiippo (Phillip), Marco (Mark), Matteo (Matthew), Domenico (Dominick), Antonio (Anthony), Leonardo (Leonard), Francesco (Francis), Maria (Mary), Giovanna (Jean, Joan), Paola (Paula), Anna (Anne), Elisabetta (Elisabeth), Simona (Simona), among others.

 

Note: You will find some little quiz questions throughout the lesson. Although each question refers to the video example preceding it, you might need information from further on in the lesson to answer it properly. So it would be wise read the entire lesson before trying to answer the quiz questions.

 

Abbreviating a name

We have seen in many Yabla videos that family and friends will use just the first syllable or two of the name, to make it easier and quicker to say, primarily when speaking directly to the person. The person's name is actually Martino. These are not nicknames, they're abbreviations.

Che stai facendo, Marti'?

What are you doing, Marti'?

Caption 50, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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1) If, instead of abbreviating your friend's name, you wanted to give it an affectionate touch, what could you call Martino and what would you say?

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The nickname can be longer than the given name

Nicknames are a bit different, and can be longer than the given name, so it's not just an expedient. It's common to use nicknames, partly to distinguish one Giovanni from another, but also to distinguish the size and stature of the person or some other characteristic. For these, suffixes are commonly used. 

If a boy or man named Paolo is a hefty guy, we might call him Paolone, using the accrescitivo (augmentative suffix). If he is kind of short or thin, or young, he might be called Paolino using the diminutivo ino/ina.

Invece la perfezione, caro Paolino, non esiste.

But perfection, dear Paolino, doesn't exist.

Caption 45, La Tempesta film - Part 17

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2) Maybe I don't know this guy very well, so I am not about to use a nickname. What would I say?

 

There is even a street called via San Paolino in the historical city of Lucca, so nicknaming this way is a pretty old tradition!

Poi arrivi fino a Piazza San Michele, continua con Via San Paolino e finisce in Piazzale Verdi. Quindi è una via unica che ovviamente cambia nome.

Then you get to Piazza San Michele, it continues with Via San Paolino, and it ends in Piazzale Verdi. So it's one street, which obviously changes its name.

Captions 50-52, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 2

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Sometimes a nickname sticks and becomes the name someone goes by for their entire life. Simonetta is a common nickname for Simona, but it might also be a person's given name. Whoever gave her the name or nickname used the diminutivo (diminutive) suffix etto/etta to name her.

E comunque mi chiamo Simonetta. -Grazie, Simonetta. Sei proprio un'artista.

And anyway, my name is Simonetta. -Thank you, Simonetta. You really are an artist.

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 11

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3) Let's assume Simonetta is the name this woman has gone by her whole life, but I want to emphasize the fact that she is young and slender. We also need to assume I am on familiar terms with her. How could I thank her? 

 

How Italians introduce themselves

It's interesting to note that in Italian, people generally use the formula mi chiamo __________ (literally, "I call myself __________"), in conversation and introductions, rather than il mio nome è __________ (my name is __________). This gives them room to provide you with their nickname, not necessarily the name on their birth certificate.

 

In the following example from the story of Puccini's La Bohème, the main character introduces herself by using the nickname other people have given her, but she goes on to explain her real name.

Mi chiamano Mimì, ma il mio nome è Lucia.

They call me Mimi, but my name is Lucia.

Captions 1-2, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 1

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4) Let's say Mimì is saying that she calls herself Mimì, not that others call her that. What could she say?

5) How could we talk about her name, using a common formula?

 

Vezzeggiativi (affectionate terms)

And of course, in the mix of nicknames are what we call i nomi vezzeggiativi  — affectionate names for people. These affectionate names can also involve words that aren't strictly names (such as tesoruccia), but we'll get to these in another lesson.

In Un medico in famiglia, we have the little girl, Annuccia. Her real or given name will undoubtedly be Anna. Sometimes lengthening a name gives it prominence, makes it more audible, or warms it up. In Annuccia's case, her family uses the vezzeggiativo or affectionate suffix uccio/uccia to form her nickname. Since everyone calls her Annuccia, there's a fine line between calling a name a nickname or just someone's name. It's only going to matter on her carta d'identità (ID card) or other official documents.

E questa è Annuccia, la mia sorellina più piccola.

And this is Annuccia, my littlest little sister

Caption 34, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 1

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In the popular Yabla series, Provaci Ancora Prof!, Camilla's young daughter, Livietta, was surely named Livia, but Livietta stuck. Who knows if they will keep calling her that when she grows up. 

Pronto? -Mamma? Senti, non è che potresti andare a prendere Livietta alla lezione di danza?

Hello. -Mom? Listen, you couldn't go to pick up Livietta from her dance lesson, could you?

Captions 1-2, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 17

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Nicknames can change according to region

The name Giuseppe, a favorite, is interesting because, depending on the region, the nickname will be different. In Tuscany, the nickname for Giuseppe is Beppe

Beppe! Guardami. Me.

Beppe [nickname for Giuseppe]! Look at me. Me.

Caption 35, Telecom Italia Mobile Quando mamma chiama...Garibaldi risponde!

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We can take that nickname one step further and say Beppino, especially if the Beppe in question is not too tall.

 

Beppino is typical in Tuscany, but further south, Peppe or Peppino would be used. In this case the diminutive probably has nothing to do with the size of the guy. In the following example, Peppino's nickname is used, but is then abbreviated by his friend, who's calling him.

Peppino? Peppi'! Ao [Ehi]! Me [forza], muoviti. Scendi, Peppi'. Ti devo dire una cosa importante. Scendi.

Peppino? Peppi'! Hey! Come on, get moving. Come down, Peppi'. I have to tell you something important. Come down.

Captions 40-43, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 7

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Here is yet another nickname for Giuseppe, this time using an affectionate suffix on top of a nickname. In contrast to the above-mentioned Annuncia, the only name we have heard for the little girl in Medico in Famiglia, Peppuccio is probably a temporary (affectionate) nickname.

Ma'! -Peppuccio! Ho saputo che vai in Brasile, ma che ci vai a fare, la rivoluzione?

Mom! -Peppuccio [nickname of endearment for Giuseppe]! I heard that you're going to Brazil, but what are you going to do there, start a revolution?

Captions 4-5, Telecom Italia Mobile Quando mamma chiama...Garibaldi risponde!

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Especially in the south, the nickname for Giuseppe can take a more roundabout route. We take Giuseppe and make it a diminutive: Giuseppino. Then we just use the end of it and call someone Pino.

Pino Daniele, the famous singer-songwriter has always gone by the name Pino

Tu dimmi quando quando

You tell me when, when

Caption 9, Pino Daniele Quando

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We do the same for the feminine version, so a woman named Pina was almost surely christened as Giuseppina

Fun fact: Although the feminine version of Giuseppe does technically exist, and it would be Giuseppa, most of the time the feminine version is already a diminutive: Giuseppina.

Come si chiama questa nonna? -E allora... Come si chiama? -Giuseppina. Nonna Giuseppina. -Detta Pina. Detta Pina. -Sì.

What's this grandmother's name? -And so... What's her name? -Giuseppina. Grandma Giuseppina. -Nicknamed Pina. Nicknamed Pina. -Yes.

Captions 34-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 3 - Part 15

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Another version of this, including the abbreviated one:

Pinu', be'? Ti sei ricordato? No. Pinuccio, stammi a sentire.

Pinu', well? Do you remember? No. Pinuccio, listen to me.

Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 16

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We started out with Giuseppe, which can become Beppe, Beppino, PeppePeppino, or Pino.

 

6) If we wanted to use an affectionate form for Giuseppina, detta Pina, what could we call her?

 

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How do we refer to a nickname?

Un soprannome in Italian is often a common noun turned into a name (which we'll discuss in another lesson). The nicknames we have been discussing here can be considered to be in the category of diminutives, augmentatives, or, as we mentioned, affectionate versions of names. But we can also use the formula as in the previous example. For example, we can say Giuseppe, detto Peppino (Giuseppe, called Peppino). 

 

Here are some common Italian names with their common nicknames. The list is partial as there are countless others.

 

Luigi (Louis) commonly becomes Gigi.

Filippo (Phlllip) can become Pippo.

Lorenzo (Lawrence) becomes Renzo or Enzo.

Mi chiamo Enzo, ho bisogno di lavorare.

My name is Enzo. I need a job.

Caption 52, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 10

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Vincenzo (Vincent) might also become Enzo.

Leonardo (Leonard) might become Leo or Dino.

Francesco (Francis) could become Franco or Ciccio.

Alessandro (Alexander) becomes Sandro.

Domenico (Dominick) can become Mimmo.

Giovanni can become Gianni.

 

7) How do we get from Leonardo to Dino?

 

Feast Day Names

Sometimes babies are named because they are born on a saint's day, or another special feast day. 

 

Annunziata might become Nunzia.

Natale might become Natalino.

Pasquale might become Pasqualino.

 

Here are some answers to the quiz questions above. There may be additional answers. If you have doubts, write to us!

 

1) Che stai facendo, Martinuccio?

2) Invece la perfezione, caro Paolo, non esiste.

3) Grazie, Simonettina. Sei proprio un'artista.

4) Mi chiamo Mimì, ma il mio vero nome è Lucia.

5) Si chiama Lucia, detta Mimì.

6) Pinuccia.

7) First we apply the diminutive suffix: Leonardino, then we take the last part and turn it into Dino.

 

 

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How to Turn a Noun into a Verb (and back) in Italian

 

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? The verb or the noun? Does it matter? No, it doesn't really matter in speaking Italian, but knowing the verb a noun comes from, or the noun a verb comes from can sometimes help us figure out a word we don't know. Or, it can help us remember a new word. In the case of the words discussed in this lesson, we start with a noun.

 

The noun il poggio:

Il poggio the noun is likely less well-known than the verbs that stem from it. A little research on the etymology tells us that poggio comes from the Latin noun "podium" — a raised platform. Hey! We know the word "podium" in English! Poggio is synonymous with colle or collina (hill), but often refers to a rather small, rounded hill — perhaps a podium-shaped hill, like a bluff...

Sorge isolata su di un poggio la chiesa di Santa Maria a Mevale, costruita nell'undicesimo secolo in stile romanico, in cui spicca un portale rinascimentale e il portico a cinque arcate.

Emerging on a bluff is the remote church of Santa Maria in Mevale built in the eleventh century in the Romanesque style, in which a Renaissance portal and a five-arch portico stand out.

Captions 1-3, Itinerari Della Bellezza Umbria - Part 6

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Fun Expression:

An expression Tuscans like to use is: poggio e buca fan pari (hill and hole come out even).

Fan is short for fanno (they make).

poggio=salita (hill = climb)

buca=discesa (hole = descent) 

salita + discesa = pianura (uphill + downhill = flatland)

 

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Places:

There are places that take their name from the noun poggio. They are usually on a hill.

A very famous town (with a famous villa) near Florence is called Poggio a Caiano and one of our Yabla videos takes place in a town called Poggiofiorito (flowering hills):

Scusami, ma c'ho avuto il trasloco da Poggiofiorito e ho fatto male i calcoli.

I'm sorry, but I've moved to Poggiofiorito and didn't gauge it well.

Caption 27, Un medico in famiglia s.1 e.1 - Casa nuova - Part 5

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You can go a long time in Italy without hearing the noun poggio, but the verbs that come from this noun are much more common. Sometimes verbs are made from nouns by simply adding a verb ending such as  -are, -ire, or -ere

 

Poggiare:

Poggiare certainly exists as a verb. It means "to place." 

Marika uses this verb when describing how she stays safe as she looks out from her balcony.

 

Per affacciarmi al balcone, io poggio le mani sulla ringhiera.

To look out from the balcony, I place my hands on the railing.

Caption 13, Marika spiega Il balcone

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Appoggiare:

But appoggiare also exists. In this case the prefix a has been added, with the conventional doubling of the first consonant in the original noun. Appoggiare is a more complex verb and has several literal and figurative meanings. Appoggiare is more about support, about leaning, propping. Think of a ladder you prop against a wall. In the following example, Manara uses it reflexively.

E le impronte sul furgone come le spieghi? Mi ci sono appoggiato così, per caso. È reato?

And the fingerprints on the truck, how can you explain them? I leaned on it, just like that, by chance. Is that a crime?

Captions 57-59, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 14

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And here, Anna, who is talking about her new baby, uses the verb appoggiare three times in the same sentence! 

Un altro regalo molto utile che ho avuto dal papà è questo. È il cuscino da allattamento, ed è utile perché lo utilizzi sia quando allatti, te lo appoggi qui e non fai fatica con le braccia mentre allatti, che per appoggiare il bambino, che si appoggia qui come un principino e sta molto comodo.

Another very useful gift that I had from dad [the baby's dad], is this. It's a nursing cushion. And it's useful because you use it both when you nurse, you rest it here, and your arms don't get tired while you nurse, and for laying the baby on, who leans back here like a little prince and is very comfortable.

Captions 42-47, Anna presenta La gravidanza - Part 1

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Rather than using the more general mettere (to put) appoggiare is used to mean "to put down" or "to set down." We could also say "lay something down," implying a certain gentleness.

 

Posso entrare? Sì, ecco, ecco. Uè, Ada... grazie. Appoggialo pure là, va. -Luca!

May I come in? Yes, here we go, here we go. Hey Ada... thanks. Go ahead and set it down over there, go ahead. -Luca!

Captions 4-6, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 1

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L'appoggiatura:

If you play music, you might have heard of the term "appoggiatura": a note of embellishment preceding another note and taking a portion of its time. Now you know where it comes from!

 

L'appoggio:

And now we come back to a noun that comes from the verb that comes from the noun. Just like in English, "support" is both a noun and a verb.

In the following example, it's used in a physical way.

Mezzo passo avanti, sbilanci l'avversario e via la gamba d'appoggio.

A half a step forward, get the opponent off balance, and away with the supporting leg.

Captions 24-25, L'oro di Scampia film - Part 9

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But it can also be figurative. 

Proprio perché uomini di sinistra, noi stiamo facendo una battaglia in Parlamento, abbiamo anche avuto l'appoggio del ministro Brambilla,

Precisely because men of the left, we're waging battle in Parliament, we've even had the support of minister Brambilla,

Captions 48-49, Animalisti Italiani Walter Caporale - Part 2

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We've gone from the Latin noun "podium" to the ups and downs of Tuscan hills, to propping up a baby, setting down a tray, to playing music, to judo, and to politics. Whew!

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More on Mettere (to Put)

Marika explains all about the verb mettere (to put) in this video lesson.

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As you will see, there are dozens of different ways to use mettere. But what can sometimes be tricky is that in English we don’t generally use “put” without some sort of preposition or adverb. We always think of “put in,” “put on,” or “put up,” but in Italian, at least in casual speech, we might hear:

Metti un po’ di sale.
Put [in] a bit of salt.

 

In a recent episode of Stai lontana da me, there is a discussion between two guys in a couple. One is criticizing the cooking methods of the other:  

No, allora cuciniamo per terra come nel Medioevo. -Ma che c'entra? Metti meno olio, no, scusami. -Sì, nella Preistoria.

No, so let's cook on the floor like in the Middle Ages. -But what does that have to do with it? Put in less oil, right? Excuse me. -Yes, in prehistoric times.

Captions 88-90, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 11

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The grammatically correct way to say this would be by attaching an indirect pronoun at the end of the verb to mean “in it”:

Mettici meno olio, no?
Put in less oil, can’t you?

 

If we look carefully, however, we see that earlier in the discussion, they actually do say things the right way:

Chi cucina? Ah, sì, con tutto l'olio che ci metti me l'incrosti da matti, guarda, ogni volta.

Who cooks? Ah, yes, with all that oil that you put in, you cake them up like crazy, look, every time.

Captions 86-87, Stai lontana da me - Rai Cinema - Part 11

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In the previous example ci stands for “into them,” where it represents the baking pans. For more on metterci, see this lesson. The lesson also talks about using mettere to say how long something takes—how much time you “put into something” (Marika will talk about this in part 2 of her lesson on mettere).

 

Here’s another thing to remember with mettere. In an episode of Commissario Manara, there's a dicey situation, and Luca lifts Lara up to help her. She exclaims: 

Aiutami. Ah, ah, ah... mettimi giù!

Help me. Ah, ah, ah... put me down!

Captions 40-41, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 10

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In the example above, a single word is formed from the verb and object pronoun together. In this case Lara is using the informal imperative and she’s using herself as the direct object.

 

In the following example, however, mettimi looks identical, but means something different. This time mi at the end of mettimi is an indirect object and means in this case, “for me.” The direct object is questo (this). 

No, mettimi questo sulla scrivania per favore, io vado con la Rubino.

No, put this on the desk for me please. I'm going with Rubino.

Caption 42, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP8 - Morte di un buttero - Part 6

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And just to add a little something more to the pot, we have the word smettere. An “s” attached to a verb often shifts its meaning to the opposite.

Mi metto al lavoro alle dieci e smetto alle tre di pomeriggio.
I start working at ten and I quit at three in the afternoon.

 

So a way to ask someone to stop doing something is smettila (stop it)!
In fact, in a recent episode of La Tempesta, Paolo’s neighbor is telling him off. 

Terzo, la devi smettere di parcheggiare la Porsche davanti al pettine delle bici.

Third, you have to stop it with parking the Porsche in front of the bike rack.

Captions 72-73, La Tempesta - film - Part 1

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Learn more:
Direct object pronouns 
Particelle (little words like mi, ci, ti...)

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Parole Alterate - Modifying Words to Create New Ones

This week Marika talks about parole alterate (modified words). Modifying existing words by adding suffixes or prefixes is a very Italian way of creating new words.

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Marika describes the different categories of altered nouns and what suffixes and prefixes go with them, and she gives you some tips on how they work. Instead of using a modifier in the form of an adjective, the noun itself gets changed. Here are some examples.

Pane (bread) in the form of a roll, with the addition of -ino, turns into un panino (a little bread). Panino has also become the word for sandwich, commonly made with a roll. 

Un piatto (a plate), when full to the brim with pasta, with the addition of the suffix -one, turns into un bel piattone di pasta (a nice big plate of pasta).

Una giornata normale (a normal day) turns into una giornataccia (a bad day), by using the pejorative suffix: -accio/-accia:

 

Ieri ho avuto davvero una giornataccia.

Yesterday I had a really terrible day.

Caption 45, Marika spiega - Le parole alterate

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There are also altered nouns or adjectives called vezzeggiativi, from vezzo (caress), which are used as terms of endearment. The most common suffixes are: -uccio and -otto. Adding this suffix bestows something special, tender, and possibly intimate to a word. A teddy-bear, for example, is called un orsacchiotto, from orso (bear). A term of endearment for a person you care about might be tesoruccio, from tesoro (treasure).

In this week's segment of the popular Commissioner Manara series, Lara is back from the hospital after risking her life to save a dog from a burning building. Luca is so concerned that he lets his guard down.

When Lara comes into the office, Luca looks at her and sees that she's pale. But he doesn't just use pallida (pale) to describe her, he adds a suffix of endearment. It's quite subtle, but it's clear he cares.

 

Però sei un po' palliduccia, ah.

However, you're a bit on the pale side, huh.

Caption 35, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP6 - Reazione a Catena

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Speaking of suffixes and prefixes, let's have a quick look at a word used in another of this week's new videos. Massimo Montanari is talking about the art of cooking. He takes the verb padellare (to fry up something after it's already been cooked), from the noun padella (frying pan), then uses the prefix s to turn it into spadellare. It's a colloquial way of saying someone is managing the pots and pans on the stove.

 

La cucina, intesa non semplicemente come l'atto di spadellare, ma come... il percorso complessivo che trasforma una ri' [sic]... una risorsa naturale.

Cooking, understood not simply as an act of working at the stove, but as... an overall process that transforms a re'... a natural resource.

Captions 36-37, L'arte della cucina - La Prima Identitá - Part 5

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Learn more about suffixes and prefixes in these Yabla videos:

Marika spiega: La formazione dei nomi - Part 1 
Marika spiega: La formazione dei nomi - Part 2 

Keep an eye out for the suffixes and prefixes in Yabla videos. Once you know the root word, you can expand your vocabulary in many cases, without having to learn new words, but by merely altering them!

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