Forming Indonesian Words & Using Indonesian Affixes

Hi! How’s your progress in learning Bahasa? What do you think of Indonesian grammar? Indonesian grammar is quite simple, make sure you learn Indonesian grammar structures for beginners and check out basic student’s guide for Indonesian grammar!

In Indonesian language, many words are formed from a combination of root words and affixes. Affixes are a set of letters attached at the beginning (called prefix) or ending (called suffix) of a root word, making it a new word. Affixes cannot stand on its own, they must be combined with root words. As you progress more in learning Bahasa, you’ll find that most Indonesian words aren’t just root words, but root words that already have affixes attached to them.

Let’s take a look at some examples to forming Indonesian words & using Indonesian affixes!

1. “me-“ prefix

This prefix is used for active verb forms.

  • Examples: melihat {me+lihat} = to see; to look at
  • menjadi {men+jadi} = to become
  • mengerti {meng+erti} = to understand
  • mengelap {menge+lap} = to dust with a cloth
  • menyapu {meny+(s)apu} = to sweep with a broom
  • membuat {mem+buat} = to make; to build

2. “di-“ prefix

This prefix is used for passive verb forms.

  • Examples: dilarang {di+larang} = prohibited
  • diparkir {di+parkir} = parked
  • diterima {di+terima} = accepted
  • dimakan {di+makan} = eaten
  • dicuci {di+cuci} = washed
  • diambil {di+ambil} = taken

3. “pe-“ prefix

This prefix is used for a profession/a person who does a certain action. Sometimes it does not always applies to a person, but an object with a certain role.

  • examples: penyanyi {pe+nyanyi} = a singer
  • pembantu {pem+bantu} = a maid or assistant
  • pencopet {pen+copet} = a thief
  • pengurus {peng+urus} = a manager or director
  • pengebor {penge+bor} = a drill or driller
  • penyair {peny+(s)air} = a poet
  • pemuda {pe+muda} = a young person
  • pembuka {pem+buka} = an opener
  • penutup {pen+(t)utup} = a cover or lid
  • penghapus {peng+hapus} = an eraser
  • penyakit {peny+(s)akit} = illness

4. “an-“ suffix

The suffix is used to change a verb word to a noun word.

  • examples: makanan {makan+an} = food
  • bantuan {bantu+an} = assistance
  • bilangan {bilang+an} = a number or sum 

5. “kan-“ suffix

This suffix is usually used for an instruction or a command.

  • examples: campurkan {campur+kan} = to mix or combine
  • matikan {mati+kan} = to deaden; to extinguish
  • belikan {beli+kan} = to buy or purchase something

6. “kah-“ suffix

This suffix is usually used for a question word.

  • examples: siapakah {siapa+kah} = who?
  • bolehkah {boleh+kah} = may I?

Aside from these affixes, another widely used affix is “ber-“, learn about Indonesian “ber-” prefix with examples here. You can also check out Indonesian prefix table. There is also another type of affix which is infix, learn Indonesian infixes here. Meanwhile, hope you learn well about forming Indonesian words & using Indonesian affixes here.