Sorry! Search is currently unavailable while the database is being updated, it will be back in 5 mins!

S prefix: overview

We've talked about words that change when an "S" prefix is added, but let's take a closer look at this particular way of altering words. The resulting words are called parole alterate in Italian because the word also exists in its unaltered state, or at least it once did. 


While the addition of an S at the beginning of the word often negates it, or gives it an opposite meaning, it's not always the case. Sometimes it adds strength or some other quality, and sometimes it doesn't really change anything but is just a variant. We'll try to cover the common ways the S prefix changes words in this and subsequent lessons, but let's go back to the prefix itself: S.


You might be wondering where this S prefix comes from? An early source is "ex-" in Latin. Another is the Italian prefix dis-. 


Sometimes dis- and s- are both used interchangeably. For instance, some people use the verb disfare and some people say sfare. They both mean "to undo." Fare means "to make" or "to do." This is a case where the S confers a contrasting or negative meaning to the word. 

Era quella che faceva la coperta di giorno e la disfaceva la notte.

She [Penelope] was the one who made the cover during the day and took it apart during the night.

Captions 49-50, Sposami EP 4 - Part 22

 Play Caption


Another word like this is dispiacere. Some people say mi dispiace, but some say mi spiace. See the long list of examples of spiace here.  And here is the list of instances of dispiace in Yabla videos. They mean the same thing. And they are both alterations of the verb piacere (to please).

Mi spiace, sono in ritardo. -Va bene...

I'm sorry, I am late. -All right...

Caption 59, Provaci ancora prof! S2EP2 Una mina vagante - Part 22

 Play Caption


Ti dispiace se parliamo dopo? -No, no, no.

Do you mind if we talk later? -No, no, no.

Caption 34, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep.2 - Part 4

 Play Caption


The verb dispiacere has different nuances of meanings, which we have discussed in other lessons: How to say you're sorry in Italian and To mind or not to mind with dispiacere.


As a negation or the opposite of the root word, there are countless examples. Here is just one:

Certo che Luca è un ragazzo fortunato ad avere un'amica come te!

Luca sure is a lucky guy to have a friend like you!

Caption 23, Il Commissario Manara S1EP7 - Sogni di Vetro - Part 8

 Play Caption


Poverino, proprio sfortunato.

Poor thing, really unlucky.

Caption 11, La Ladra EP. 4 - Una magica bionda - Part 8

 Play Caption


The S prefix is used with verbs, adjectives, and nouns. But let's keep in mind that lots of words start with S naturally, at their root. 


 In the next lesson, we will trace a verb with an S prefix back to its origins to see how it evolved.