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pro- /pro/ is a non-native non-cohering prefix, going back to the Latin or Greek preposition, adverb and prefix proin front of, onwards. It is category-neutral except in the case of certain adjectives based on nouns and names. Pro- is found in nouns (protest protest), adjectives (pro-actief pro-activel), and verbs (propageren propagate). The meaning contribution of the prefix is before, predominantly. Most formations with pro- appear to be loans; new forms are rare. A younger, productive set of pro- derivations consists of adjectives on the basis of nouns and names: pro-apartheid, pro-Amsterdam, pro-Obama, denoting in favour of the base.


The prefix pro- has two types of usage:

  • The oldest use is not productive: pro- here essentially means forward. It is found in nouns, verbs and adjectives on bases of foreign origin, often bound forms (profiel profile, progressief progressief (possible a derivation of the noun progressie progression), prolongeren to prolong). Verbs with pro- are usually derived by means of the (non-native) suffix -eer. According to De Haas and Trommelen 1993: (60ff), -eer carries main stress in that type of verbs, whereas the prefix has secondary stress, e.g. profiteren /ˌpro.fi.ˈtɛ.rən/ to profit. Prefixation with pro- (and other prefixes of that class) does not influence the inflectional pattern of the verb (always regular) nor its syntactic properties such as transitivity. In the past/passive participle, the inflectional prefix ge- precedes the foreign derivational prefix pro: geprofiteerd ge.pro.fiteer.d profited etc. Most of these words are loans, either directly from Latin of Greek, or via English, French or German.
  • In a more recent usage, the prefix combines productively with nouns and names. According to De Haas and Trommelen (1993: 59) the resulting formations are adjectives that denote supporters or fans of the individual or the concept denoted by the base, e.g. pro-apartheid, pro-Amsterdam, pro-Obama(Van der Sijs 2010). They also note that in attributive use, these adjective do not get inflectional -e: zijn pro-Obama houding his pro-Obama position. Pro formations of this class typically have antonyms that are formed with anti (anti-apartheid, anti-Amsterdam, anti-Obama).
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    This more recent use is a counterexample to the generalization that non-Germanic prefixes are category-neutral (cf. non-native derivation). An alternative approach would be to analyse this second pro as a preposition, that is, ik ben erg pro-Grieken I am very much in favor of Greeks is parsed analogously to ik ben erg pro de Grieken I am very much in favor of Greeks.

    The prefix in its second sense has developed an independent usage as a predicative adjective, as in ik ben pro I am in favour (of something) and as a noun argument in favour, benefit, as in de pro's en de contra's van dit voorstel the pros and cons of this proposal. Pro professional is a loan from English; the noun prof professional is, however, much more common.

  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Haas, Wim de & Trommelen, Mieke1993Morfologisch handboek van het Nederlands. Een overzicht van de woordvormingSDU Uitgeverij
  • Sijs, Nicoline van der2010Etymologiebank, http://etymologiebank.nl/