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Use of 'pre-'

13 replies

WMittens · 20/08/2012 22:06

What is the MN Pedants' stance on this?

"Preheat the oven."
"Pre-order festival tickets."
"Pre-chopped vegetables."

A friend of mine maintains that it is impossible to 'preheat' an oven; you can only heat an oven. It is also impossible to 'pre-order' anything; you order it, plain and simple. 'Pre-chopped' vegetables surely means vegetables in their, original, unchopped form.

You may have seen the worst offender of all, somewhere: 'pre-prepare'.

(Just to clarify, I was going to hyphenate all of the words out of consistency, however my (US English) spellchecker happily accepts 'preheat' without the hyphen.)

OP posts:
wasabipeanut · 20/08/2012 22:11

I was editing a document at the weekend and saw the word "pre-existing." I crossed out the pre- but may be overruled by the Anerican author.

Trills · 20/08/2012 22:13

I'd say it signifies a difference of intention.

Preheating the oven is heating it before you put stuff in.

Pre-order makes no sense because there is no way to order something that is not in advance - you can't order it at the time.

EightiesChick · 20/08/2012 22:17

All these are annoying and 'pre-prepared', which I've also seen, is too.

MrsWembley · 20/08/2012 22:28

I would suggest that the use of 'pre' in these situations is a sort of shorthand, particularly used in instructions. So, how about replacing 'pre' with 'already' or 'before' somewhere else in the sentence?

As in 'make sure you heat the oven before you put in the [insert food item here];

or 'order the tickets before you turn up at the gate';

or... no, can't think what to write for the vegetablesConfused.

Vaginald · 20/08/2012 22:48

I thought it was "previously prepared" ie, readily chopped veg.

Pre-order, order first, before general sale.

WMittens · 21/08/2012 08:12

When it is used with a verb, 'pre-' adds absolutely nothing to the meaning.

"I thought it was "previously prepared" ie, readily chopped veg."
'Chopped veg' gives all the necessary information without the use of 'pre-'; if you're looking at the veg and it is chopped, then it must have been chopped before you looked at it, i.e. previously. 'Pre-' adds nothing.

"Pre-order, order first, before general sale."
Then that would be a pre-release order.

'Pre-' before a verb does nothing to that verb, it only puts it in relation to another verb, or becomes an adjective:
"I ordered the CD pre-release."
"There will be pre-dinner drinks."

OP posts:
nickelcognito · 22/08/2012 17:04

pre-order means to order something before it becomes available to buy.

it makes ssense to me.

you order if its available and you can have it as soon as your order is received.
you pre-order if it's going to be available in the future,.

nickelcognito · 22/08/2012 17:05

exactly - your last post - pre-release order.
it's like a slang shorthand.
quicker to say.

WMittens · 22/08/2012 20:52

"you order if its available and you can have it as soon as your order is received.
you pre-order if it's going to be available in the future,."

So if you go into a restaurant, do you give the waiter your order or your pre-order? Your food isn't going to be available in the future.

Or, do you go into McDonalds (or Burger King, whatever's your poison) and they put a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a Coke in front of you, then you tell them you want a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a Coke?

OP posts:
nickelcognito · 23/08/2012 11:46


i was thinking of things with release dates, like new books, records, toys etc. rather than food that obviously has to be made to order.

nickelcognito · 23/08/2012 11:47

WM - i have to applaud you on your pedantry Grin

MrsWembley · 24/08/2012 09:36

Ah, but you pre-order food if you are part of a big group and the restaurant wants to know what you're going to have in advance of the booking!Grin

Again, I don't think it's strictly 'proper' but it is useful shorthand.

MirandaGoshawk · 25/08/2012 21:00

WM - in the McDonald's scenario, that just means they're psychic Grin

To the OP:
"Preheat the oven."
"Pre-order festival tickets."
"Pre-chopped vegetables."

These all sound fine & make sense to me but perhaps I'm not putting enough thought into it

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