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Did you play any sports in college? Well, if you didn’t play on the school’s football or basketball team, you might have played intramural sports—or is it intermural? These two English prefixes are tricky because they sound pretty close to each other, but they actually have very different meanings.
When to Use Inter-
What does inter mean? Inter- is a prefix used to form words that mean between or among groups. We see examples of this prefix in use in many places.
The sports federation that governs sports development across all states of India is called the Inter-State Sports Development Federation. This group consists of delegates from all the states of India.
In today’s day and age, however, the most common and widespread use of prefix inter- is used when referring to the Internet, the very technology that makes it possibly to read this article! The Internet is a global network of computers that are connected and talking between one another.
When to Use Intra-
What does intra mean? Intra- is a prefix used to form words that mean on the inside, within. Contrast this with inter- and you immediately see the difference. While inter-deals with open systems among groups, intra- deals with closed systems between a single group. Let’s reconsider some of our above examples.
The system of an interpretation of law that is only within the border of a single state would be called an intrastate issue. For example,
- The water supply to districts of Karnataka is an intrastate issue
If you played sports in college, you might have played intramural sports. These are athletic competitions between groups of a single school. Intramural sports are not interuniversity activities, i.e., between different schools; they are limited to one single, closed group.
And before the technology existed to create a fully functioning Internet, many companies had (and still do) Intranet communications. An Intranet is just as it sounds, a privately maintained computer network that can be accessed only by authorized users. So while the Internet is open and enables communications between any groups connected, an Intranet is a restricted network used to communicate within an organization.
When to Hyphenate
Different style guides have different opinions on when and what to hyphenate, but both of these prefixes, in general, should not be hyphenated. Some more examples,
Remember the Difference
Whenever you are in doubt about which of these two to use remember these two tricks.
An internetwork is a network that is open. Inter and open both have the letter “E” in them.
An intranetwork is a network that is contained. Intra and Contained both have the letter “A” in them.
These are both prefixes, but intra vs. inter have near opposite meanings. Therefore, it’s important we use them correctly to avoid any confusion in our writing.
Inter- means between or among groups.
Intra- means on the inside or within.
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