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ICAO4U – aviation language Use prefixes correctly!

Use prefixes correctly!

  • There were several cases in the history of aviation in which the incorrect usage of grammar prefixes led to catastrophes or dangerous incidents.
  • In the year 1980 the prefixes misunderstanding contributed to the Dan-Air Flight 1008 disaster which ended up in 146 fatalities.
  • At ICAO tests the usage of prefixes and suffixes is assessed under Structure category.

The pilot mistook the word inbound for outbound in the instruction he received flying in the opposite direction he was supposed to.

Boeing 727-46 on the unscheduled international service from Manchester to Tenerife crashed in the forest on Mount La Esperanza on April 25, 1980. The official report stated that the pilots were not aware of the altitude at which the flight was being carried out and took the aircraft to the area of high terrain. The British adendum to the report also added that ambigious directions from air traffic control directly contributed to the disorientation of aircraft commander.

It is necessary to bear in mind that prefixes are added to the root of the word in order to change the meaning.

Thus, they are a very important component of language structure(yes, structure- one of the six ICAO criteria). There are lots of prefixes in the English language and the earlier we start to learn them, the higher the chance that we will master a broad range of meanings the add to the popular words.

Effective strategies to learn prefixes

Due to the very long list of prefixes in English, some students and teachers have developed special strategies to learn them.

Some use word trees which are a great representation of words with one root but various prefixes. Simply write down the root word in the middle of a page and connect several prefixes with lines or arrows. If you prefer digital solutions, modern mapping software is a great tool for that. With it you may actually develop comprehensive grammar source for future consultation.

Other students prefer to take advantage of visual mnemonics creating visual representations for each prefix. It really makes sense and prompts the efficiency of studying. As there is a defined number of prefixes, once we have connected a given prefix (for example in) to some visual representation, it will be easy to recall across all root words which use it.


  • It is true across all structures when you learn a foreign language.
  • Treating mistakes or failures as first steps en route to flawless grammar usage will help you maintain motivation.
  • We need to master the prefixes to the level of having them available on the spur of the moment.
  • However, all language structers should be used with full awareness in each context, in each situation.
  • This will help avoid mistakes. Mistakes which may potentially lead to grave consequences.

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