Learn it right: The use of re- and again

You have heard or you will hear some people say that English was born in the United Kingdom, brought up in the United States, fell ill in Africa and died in Asia.

That is generally to say; English speakers in Africa and Asia are not as accurate as those in the UK or USA.

It is not necessarily about pronunciation but the arrangement and choice of words to make a complete sentence, or sense.

This article is not to encourage you to speak like the British or the Americans; after all, pronunciation solely depends on the shape of lips and the influence of one’s first language (mother tongue).

However, the arrangement and choice of words to use in speech or written language is more important to any speaker if they want to be effective communicators.

Look at the sentence here:

‘The audience asked the speaker to repeat the word again’.

Some of us would not notice something wrong with the statement but it is there. If you are keen there is a nuisance of repetition in the sentence.

The re- in English language means ‘again’. This means when you use ‘repeat’ in a statement, you do not have to bring the word again in the same statement because they mean the same and it automatically becomes a repetition.

At this step, you can notice that the example we have seen: ‘The audience asked the speaker to repeat the word again’ has a repetition as saying ‘the audience asked the speaker to say again the word again’.

One should instead just say: “the audience asked the speaker to repeat the word”.

In English grammar examinations for learners especially in East Africa, you will find the section ‘re-write as instructed in the brackets’.

‘Re- write’ is telling one to ‘write again’ NOT to ‘re-write again’.

If the authorities visited a project and sometime later revisited, avoid reporting it as ‘the authorities revisited again’.

However, not all words that begin with re- carry the sense of ‘again’. For example you can say ‘they are ready to report again to the authorities’ or ‘to re-report’.

English, similarly to other languages, is all about practice. Read widely and speak often such that you automatically grasp the correctness of the language.

The writer is a professional English Language instructor


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