7 Types of Indonesian Prefixes – Formula – Examples

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Learning second or third languages means understand the specific systems of those languages and get familiar with it. It demands knowledge as well as practice at the same time. Therefore, tenses in English or grammatical gender in certain European language are the really difficult for non-native speaker. In Bahasa Indonesia, probably the most common difficulty of Indonesian language is affixes, including its variation such as prefix and suffix. This time, let’s learn about 7 types of Indonesian prefixes.

Prefix, as other affixes, is used in Forming Indonesian Words Using Indonesian Affixes. It is a dependent morpheme or a set of letter attached at the beginning of a word. Those set of letter has certain function to change the function or part of speech (such as transform a noun into verb) of the words it attached. In Bahasa Indonesia, at least there are 7 types of Indonesian prefixes, which are me-(N), di-, ber-, ter-, ke-, se-, pe-(N).

1. ‘me-(N)’ prefix

The most common and complex prefix in Bahasa Indonesia is ‘me-(N)’. It is usually used to form active transitive verb (transitive: verb that followed by object).

Furthermore, the (N) symbolized the possible and varied form of prefix me-. It is a very unique prefix, as well as pe-(N), because it took different forms depends on the the word it attached, usually the first letter of. Even though it sounds complex, there are patterns to help you understand it. Here are the formula and examples.









Variation Word starting with Example me-(N) + rootwords
me- l, m, n, ng, ny, r, w ludah (n), rusak (Adj) meludah (v), merusak (v)
mem- b, p, f, v buat (v), pakai (v) membuat (v), memakai (v)
men- d, t, j, c dapat (adv), tari (n) mendapat (v), menari (v)
meng- a, e, i, o, u, g, k, h ambil (v), kutuk (n) mengutuk (v)
meny- s sikat (n), sulap (n) menyikat (v), menyulap (v)
menge- (word with one syllable) cat (n), bom (n), pel (n) mengecat (v), mengebom (v), mengepel (v)

If you look carefully, there are special occasion for words starting with K, T, S, P. The sounds of it merge with the prefix. Therefore, the letter K, T, S, P will vanish when they met those prefixes, except if the letter is part of consonant cluster (tr, sy, pr, kl, so on). Take a look at this table.

Me(N) men [mən] tari [tɑri] menari [mə’nɑri]
transfer [trɑns’fər] mentransfer [mən’trɑns’fər]
mem [məm] pukul [pukul] memukul [mə’mukul]
meng [məŋ] kutuk [kutuk] mengutuk [me’ŋutuk
meny [məñ] sikat [sikɑt] menyikat [mə’ñikɑt]

Here is it: Indonesian me- Prefix

2. ‘di-‘ prefix

The second common Indonesian prefix is ‘di’-. It is the passive form of prefix me-(N), so it is used to form passive transitive verb. It does not have varied form such as prefix me-(N). To understand the difference of me-(N) and di-, take a look at this example.

  • • Ibu membeli boneka (Mom bought a doll)
    • Boneka dibeli ibu (A doll was bought by mom)
    • Ibu dibeli boneka (Mom was bought by a doll)
    • Boneka membeli ibu (A doll bought mom)

The words membeli and dibeli have same root words, which is beli. However, because it was added different prefixes, it became very different. Here is it: Indonesian Prefix di-

3. ‘ber-‘ prefixes

Another prefix in Bahasa Indonesia Prefix Ber-, that used to form active intransitive verb (intransitive: verb that do not need object). In contrast with me-(N), it could not transformed to passive sentence.

In special occasion, ber- could transform into bel- and be-. Take a look at this table

bel- + ajar belajar
be- words with first syllable consist –er- or start with ‘r’ cermin,

kerja, racun

becermin, bekerja, beracun
ber- other words buat, kurang berbuat, berkurang

Here is it: Indonesian Prefix Ber-

4. ‘ter-’ prefixes

Furthermore, the fourth prefix in Bahasa Indonesia is ‘ter-‘, that used to form passive intransitive verb. However, it is also has diverse meaning. Unlike prefix di-, is also implied accidental/unplanned sense. In the other situation, it is also has superlative meaning, which equal with ‘most’ in English. Here are the examples of Indonesian prefix ter-.

Difference with ‘di-‘

  • • Pencuri itu ditangkap polisi (The thief was caught by the police)
    • Pencuri itu tertangkap (The thief was caught)

(You may see that ‘ditangkap’ need an object (polisi), while tertangkap is not. Morevoer, the second sentence implied that the situation might be unplanned)

‘ter-‘ as superlative

  • • Dia mendapat nilai terbaik (He got the best score)
    • Anak itu adalah pelari tercepat (She is the fastest sprinter)

Here is it: Indonesian Prefix ter-

5. ‘ke-‘ prefix

The fifth prefix in Bahasa Indonesia is ke-. In formal Bahasa Indonesia, it is used to form noun or ordinal forms of wordh (in English: first, second, fourth, so on). Here take a look at the examples

  • To form noun
    • ke + tua (old) = ketua (leader)
    • ke + kasih (love) = kekasih (lover)
  • To form ordinal (in Bahasa: numeralia)
    • ke + empat (four) = keempat (fourth)

In addition, prefix ke- is also used as an informal form of prefix ter-. Here are the examples.

  • • tertusuk = ketusuk = stabbed
    • tertawa = ketawa = laughed

6. ‘se-‘ prefix

The sixth prefix in Bahasa Indonesia is Prefix “Se-“ in Indonesian. It is used to form adverb in sentence. There are several functions of it. To help you understand, here take a look of the examples.






ekor (n) seekor (adv) a (for animals)
buah (n) sebuah (adv) a (for things/fruits)
belum (adv) sebelum (adv) before
sudah (adv) sesudah (adv) after
dunia (n) sedunia (adv) whole world
Indonesia (n) se-Indonesia (adv) whole Indonesia
tinggi (Adj) setinggi (adv) as high as
cantik (Adj) secantik (adv) as beautiful as
rupa (n) serupa (adv) look alike

7. ‘pe-(N)’ prefix

Here come the last part of learn 7 types of Indonesian prefixes. Like the me-(N), the prefix pe-(N) also takes many form depends on the words it attached (the formula is same with the me-(N)). It is used to form a noun, specifically for person, profession or tools. Here take a look at the examples.

pe-(N) lukis (paint) = pelukis (painter)
hapus (erase) = penghapus (eraser)
tari (dance) = penari (dancer)
juang (fight) = pejuang (fighter)
maaf (forgive) = pemaaf (forgiving) it is a noun in Bahasa Indonesia
lupa (forget) = pelupa (forgetful)

However, if the pe-(N) is used in a word that refer to athlete or sport-related, the rule of word forming is a little bit change. Here are the examples.




balap (race) pebalap (racer)
tinju (boxing) petinju (boxer)
sepakbola (football) pesepakbola (footballer)
renang (swim) perenang (swimmer)
panah (archery) pemanah (archer) Another special occasion
panjat tebing (wall climbing) pemanjat tebing (wall climber)

In this occasion, practice is the key to master it! After learn about 7 types of Indonesian prefixes, you may take a look of these following articles to improve your Bahasa Indonesia.