Reviewing Prefixes in Protest Stories

16 May 2024

In last week's Everyday Grammar, we looked at prefixes in reports of student protests against the war between Israel and Hamas.

Then, we asked our readers to use prefixes from that story to write about their experiences with protests in their own countries.

Our reader Kaori from Japan wrote to us about her father's experiences with student protests. She begins:

"My father experienced anti-war demonstration against Japanese military re-establishment after World War Ⅱ when he was a university student."

Use an article before a singular noun

First, let us consider some small grammatical corrections. The phrase, "anti-war demonstration," needs an indefinite article as in "an anti-war demonstration," or it needs to be plural, as in "anti-war demonstrations." This is because it is the first time the demonstrations are being described. Remember this rule:

Definite or indefinite article + Singular noun

(Definite article) + Plural noun

Using the definite article can be optional in some cases.

Another correction is to the phrase, "Japanese military." This is a singular noun phrase, and it should have a definite article before it, as in "the Japanese military."

The phrase, "the Japanese military re-establishment" might be unclear to a reader who does not know a lot about the history of Japan.

We can change this statement to make it a little easier to understand. Rather than "the Japanese military re-establishment," we suggest using a prepositional phrase, "the re-establishment of the Japanese military." This kind of possessive structure can help clarify that the process of "establishing the military again" is being described.

Among the prefixes Kaori uses in the statement, we find "anti-," which means "against" and "re-," which means "do again."

Kaori might re-write her statement:

"My father experienced an anti-war demonstration against the re-establishment of the Japanese military after World War II when he was a university student."

Looking back from age 80

Kaori continued, "Now, he is over 80 years old and says that it was some stupid memory because he didn't have any anti-war policy and reforming unstable society after war." Here we have the prefix "un-," which means "the opposite of."

A formal way to say how your father sees this experience is "he looks back on it with some embarrassment." You say, "He didn't have any anti-war policy" but usually we talk about a government or organization having a policy.

Speaking of an individual, Kaori may re-write this statement:

"He looks back on the protests with some embarrassment because he did not hold strong anti-war opinions."

The next phrase, "reforming unstable society after war," is a little unclear. It might mean that Kaori's father did not understand the need to reform Japan's society, which was unstable after the war. A clearer way to say this uses the noun form, "instability," where the prefix "un" changes to "in-."

Then we can use the conjunction "nor" to connect two negative statements:

"He looks back on the protests with some embarrassment because he did not hold strong anti-war opinions, nor did he understand the instability of Japan's society after the war."

Youthful energy

Kaori's next statement is, "Young power and enthusiastic mood at that time let him to march with his friends near U.S. navy camp in Yokosuka."

Let us correct one word choice first. The verb "let" does not fit well in this statement because it means to permit someone to do something. "Led" works better because it means to cause someone to do something. Note that we can express "young power and enthusiastic mood" with the shorter phrase, "youthful energy." And remember our rule about the definite article. We need "the" before "U.S."

To describe a large group of military structures, we usually use "base" rather than "camp." We should use the adjective form, "naval" instead of the verb form, "navy." Putting these changes together, we can say, "His youthful energy led him to march with his friends near the U.S. naval base in Yokosuka."

Thank you for writing to us, Kaori. It was good for you to talk with your father about his youthful experience with anti-war protests. And we are grateful to you for sharing it with us.

And that's Everyday Grammar!

I'm Jill Robbins.

Jill Robbins wrote this lesson for VOA Learning English.


Words in This Story

phrasen. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence

mentionn. an act of saying something about a topic

optional – adj. available as a choice but not required

stableadj. in a good state or condition that is not easily changed or likely to change

embarrassmentn. the state of feeling foolish in front of others