Kenalkan Kawan kawan! (Pleasure to Meet You My Friends!)

Written by: Tan Le Kai (21-I4)

Designed by: Elizabeth Khoo Yuk Min (21-U1)

Let’s learn Indonesian! 

We have probably all seen super long Indonesian words like ‘mempertanggungjawabkannya’ or ‘mentransmigrasilokalkan’, and have asked ourselves, what could they possibly mean? Are they enchantments of some sort? Are they nonsense words to bring out the unique Indonesian humour? 

Or, perhaps, are they just combinations of different words with the addition of prefixes and suffixes?

If that last description is what you think the words are, you are absolutely right! Prefixes and suffixes play a crucial role in the indonesian language (and in the creation of super long words), so to understand the language better, it is important to understand its prefixes and suffixes.

In this article, I will be going through the main prefixes ‘me-’, ‘ber-’ and ‘pe-’, and the main suffix ‘-an’. Along the way, you will be able to learn some Indonesian words as well!


Contoh (Examples)         

Root word Main (play)Tangkap (catch)Tuju (aim)
Adding prefix ‘me-’Memain (to play)Menangkap ( to catch)Menuju (towards)


What is the similarity between these words? It is ‘me-’, and they are all action words (verbs). However, ‘me-’, unlike ‘ber-’, has to be transitive. Transitive verbs are verbs with object.

How to Remember

In English, ‘I’ do things, but in Indonesian, ‘me-’ do things. 

Memain – me play. 

Menuju – me go towards. 

Menangkap – me catch (fish). 

Kalimat (Sentence)

Indonesian: Saya menangkap ikan.

Direct translation: I       to catch       fish.

Proper sentence: I go fishing.


Contoh (Examples)         

Root wordMain (play)Ajar (teach)Rambut (hair)
Adding prefix ‘ber-’Bermain (to play)Belajar (to study)Berambut ( to have hair…)


Like ‘me-’, ‘ber-’ makes a word a verb. It is the intransitive ‘me-’, which means that it is a verb that can make sense without a noun.  It also sometimes adds meaning to the root word, like how ‘ajar’, which is ‘teach’, becomes ‘belajar’, which is to ‘study’.

How to Remember

Me- is the Mother, and Ber- is the Boy. The boy has characteristics of the mother as they both make root words into verbs, but the boy has other characteristics (such as being intransitive) that the mother does not.

Kalimat (Sentence)

Indonesian: Saya bermain sepak bola. 

Direct translation: I        play        foot    ball.

Proper sentence: I play football. (Note: In this sentence, ‘me-’ and ‘ber-’ are interchangeable)

Indonesian: Saya berambut cokelat.

Direct translation: I       have hair  brown.

Proper sentence: I have brown hair. 


Contoh (Examples) 

Root word Jual (sell)Cinta (love)Hukum (law)
Adding prefix ‘pe-’Penjual (seller)Pencinta (lover)Penghukum (chastiser)

Definition: A person who does the root word. Almost always a noun. 

How to Remember: PErson

Kalimat (Sentence)

Indonesian: Bapakku  Seorang    penghukum.

Direct translation: My father  a person   chastiser.

Proper sentence: My father is a chastiser.


Contoh (Examples) 

Root word Jual (sell)Cinta (love)Hukum (law)
Adding suffix ‘-an’Jualan (sale item)cinta-cintaan (love)hukuman (punishment)

Definition: Object/ noun of root word. 

How to Remember: AN item.

Kalimat (Sentence)

Indonesian: Bapakku   jual            jualan.  

Direct translation: My father sell             items.

Proper sentence: My father sells items.

Okay guys, I hope you like this short lesson. Please write to for any feedback or to show your appreciation. Thank you!

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