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Does Pro Mean For or Against?

It’s a familiar scene: you’re discussing a hot topic with your friends or family, and everyone has a different opinion. Some are for the idea, while others are against it; some talk about the pros and cons, and others say they are pro or against. In the heat of the discussion, you’re left wondering, does “pro” mean for or against?

“Pro” means “for” in most cases. The most common way to use “pro” is as a prefix. This means that you usually put “pro” in front of another word — often a noun — to show that you support the thing or idea the noun expresses. In other cases, you can use “pro” as a noun, adjective, preposition, or adverb. 

Here, we’ll explore the many different ways to use “pro,” and then we’ll dive into more information about prefixes and how to build and modify words with prefixes and suffixes in English. 

Pro as a Prefix

The most common way that you can use “pro” is as a prefix. A prefix is a piece of a word, usually just a few letters long, that comes at the beginning of the word and alters its meaning (source).

There are many prefixes in English, and we can use them with nouns, verbs, and adjectives. We’ll look at some more examples of prefixes later on in the article.

What Does Pro Mean as a Prefix?

When you use “pro” as a prefix, you are most often expressing that you are for or in favor of the thing or idea that comes after “pro.” So, for example, if you are pro-exercise, you are in favor of exercise, or you promote exercise as a good idea.

When you add the prefix “pro” before a noun, the word becomes an adjective. For example, “exercise” is a noun. But when you add that “pro” prefix, the word “pro-exercise” is an adjective.

Less often, the prefix pro- can mean prior to something or standing in the place of something.

What Does Pro Stand for in Debate?

If you see the word “pro” in the context of a debate, it means that the person or team is speaking in favor of the proposed idea or policy (source). It can also loosely mean “yes” if the topic of the debate is a question rather than a statement.

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For instance, if the topic of the debate is “more vegetables in school lunches,” then the person or team labeled “pro” will speak in favor of more veggies in the cafeteria. 

The “pro” speaker will offer evidence that will prove how more vegetables in school lunches is a good idea, and they might also suggest policy changes to make that a reality.

Or, imagine the topic of the debate is “Should students have to take a humanities course in their freshman year?” The “pro” speaker will answer that question with a “yes” and explain all of their reasons for promoting first-year humanities classes at the school. 

What Does It Mean if You’re Pro Something?

If you’re pro-something, this means that you support or you’re in favor of that thing. For example, if you’re pro-government, that means that you support the current government. Adding the prefix “pro” before a noun shows that you support that thing or idea.

However, you should be careful about the spelling and punctuation here. Often, when you’re using the suffix “pro” before a noun to describe “for,” you should use a hyphen. This hyphen shows that the word acts like an adjective showing a state of support for the noun it is modifying.

For more on spelling adjectives that include a hyphen, you can check out our article “Real Time or Real-Time: When to Use a Hyphen (And When to Skip It).”

Pro as a Noun

The word “pro” can also function as a countable noun. People usually use the word “pro” (plural: “pros”) when they’re talking about the advantages of a certain idea, proposal, or solution. The noun “pro” means an advantage or positive contribution that you can expect from a particular course of action.

What Does Pro and Con Stand For?

The pros and cons of an idea or proposal refer to its advantages and disadvantages, respectively (source). Thus, the pros express the potential positive outcomes from an idea, proposal, or solution, and the cons express the potential negative outcomes.

There are a few verbs that often come with “pros and cons,” such as “to weigh,” “to consider,” and “to list.” You’ll usually hear these phrases when it’s time to make a big decision. 

Weighing, considering, and listing the pros and cons of major decisions is a great way to make sure you’re making a choice that will be the most beneficial in the long term.

What Does It Mean to Be a Pro?

When you use the word “pro” as an adjective with a subject and the verb “to be,” you’re explaining that someone is a professional in a given field. This also carries the connotation that the person is an expert in that field.

For example, if you see a person parking their car in a difficult-to-reach spot, you might look impressed and say, “Wow, she’s a parking pro!” Of course, this means that you think she has great parking skills or that she’s a parking expert.

Most of the time, when you say someone is a pro, it means that they’ve invested the time and effort to master a particular skill and that you recognize their outstanding skills in that area. You’ll probably mention their skill in the same sentence, too.

Other Ways to Use “Pro”

We can also use “pro’ as an adjective, preposition, or adverb.

“Pro” as an Adjective

People usually use the adjective “pro” when they’re describing sports or an activity where people receive pay for their performance. In this case, the word “pro” is a short version of “professional” (source).

For example, the NBA is the top league for pro basketball, and the MLB is the top league for pro baseball. The athletes who play in the NBA and the MLB are pro athletes because they get paid to play their respective sports.

When you use “pro” as an adjective, it almost always comes before a role or job description. 

“Pro” as a Preposition

You can also use “pro” as a preposition to mean “for” or “in favor of.” This form of “pro” should always come with a noun, the object of the preposition. 

“Pro” as an Adverb

Finally, you can also use “pro” as an adverb to mean “done in favor of a proposition” (source). For example, you can say, “The journalist has written pro the new bill in Congress.” This means that the journalist wrote in a way that supported the new bill and favored its success.

The Opposite of “Pro”

Depending on the part of speech you’re using and the context in which you’re using it, the opposite of “pro” will be different.

For example, if you’re using the word “pro” as a noun to mean “a professional,” like an expert or a paid participant in an activity, then the opposite would be “amateur.” Or, if you’re using the word “pro” as a noun to mean a positive outcome or advantage, then the opposite, in this case, would be “con.”

When you use “pro” as a prefix to show support for a thing or idea, then its opposite is “anti.” For instance, the word “pro-government” means “in support of the government.” To express its opposite — that is, to express feelings or actions that are opposed to the government — you’ll use the word “anti-government.” 

You’ll notice that the spelling of the opposite here also includes that hyphen between the prefix and the original word. 

An Overview: Prefixes and Suffixes

Prefixes and suffixes are short pieces of words — sometimes only one letter long — that change the word’s meaning when we add them. Even if you don’t realize it, you probably use a prefix or a suffix in nearly every sentence you read or write!

In English, we apply prefixes and suffixes to mark singular and plural nouns, conjugate regular verbs, and express opposites.

While these are among the most common applications for prefixes and suffixes, there are literally hundreds of examples of how we can use prefixes and suffixes to build exactly the right word for every situation.

For more on choosing and spelling the correct suffix, have a look at our article “Zeroes or Zeros: Noun, Verb, Adjective, and Plural Forms.”

How Do We Learn Prefixes and Suffixes?

Learning all of the prefixes and suffixes in English takes a long time; this is true for native speakers of English and non-native speakers or English language learners alike.

Children who grow up speaking English acquire the ability to use prefixes and suffixes correctly over time. There seems to be a standard order in which people learn and acquire these prefixes and suffixes, along with the other grammar rules that govern the language.

The famous American researcher Jean Berko Gleason has been studying this phenomenon since the 1950s. Throughout her studies, she’s found that children are quite good at understanding and applying the prefixes and suffixes that build and add meaning to their language (source).

In addition to seeing how native English speakers grew their ability to apply these prefixes and suffixes, she also found a pattern in the order that children could apply these rules. 

She achieved this by using “The Wug Test,” which is a series of pictures and prompts that encourage children to create their own answers in English (source).

For instance, children were able to consistently and accurately add the -s suffix to create a plural noun around three years old. 

Adding the -ing suffix to a verb to show a continuous action or the -ed suffix to verbs to show that the action happened in the past were also some of the earlier developments in children’s language usage.

This long-term research has shed important light on human language acquisition and cognitive functions as a whole. Consequently, scholars consider this important foundational material in psychology, linguistics, and cognitive and learning sciences.

More English Prefixes and Suffixes

Prefixes are a major part of English vocabulary, and we use them with every part of speech. Here, we’ll take a look at some popular prefixes for nouns, verbs, and adjectives, and we’ll see how using these prefixes modifies the original words that we’re adding to.

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Prefixes and Suffixes for Nouns

Like we mentioned before, the most common suffix that we see for nouns is the regular plural form. Basically, when we want to make a countable noun plural, we add the suffix -s at the end.

Prefixes like “pro” and “anti” that we’ve talked about here are also a popular way to modify nouns and tweak their meaning in the process. For example, other popular prefixes that we see with nouns include co- and pre-. 

When we see co- at the beginning of a noun, we already sense that more than one person is involved. And when we see pre- at the beginning of a noun, we know that this thing comes at the beginning. That’s how we know a prefix goes at the beginning of a word!

Prefixes and Suffixes for Verbs

There are a lot of prefixes and suffixes that we can use with verbs, and most of them we use easily, without even thinking about it. For instance, when we use a regular verb in the present tense, we add the suffix -s when the subject is third-person singular — like he/she/it.

And, when we want to show that an action is, was, or will be continuing for a period of time, we add the -ing suffix at the end of the verb. We also use this same -ing suffix to use the verb as a noun; we call this a gerund, which we create with a suffix.

Prefixes and Suffixes for Adjectives

Popular prefixes for adjectives usually revolve around building the opposite of the root word, such as un-, non-, im-, or dis-. These small additions to the beginning of an adjective change the meaning of the word entirely.

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The most common suffix that you can add to adjectives is -ly, which changes the adjective to the adverb form. When you add the suffix -ly, you can use that adjective to explain how or in what manner someone performed an action.

Final Thoughts

The prefix “pro” almost always has the meaning “for” or “in support of.” You can use “pro” as a prefix before a noun to build an adjective. Or, you can use it as an adjective or noun in its own right, as an abbreviation of “professional.” 

The noun “pro” has two different meanings: it can refer to a person who does something in a professional or paid capacity, or it can mean an expected positive outcome or advantage.