Prefix in Bahasa Indonesia: Confusing?

Just like English, Bahasa Indonesia or commonly recognized simply as Indonesian also recognizes prefix. As the name suggests, it refers to syllable that is affixed to root word. In this post, Englinesian focuses on general explanation of prefixes in Bahasa Indonesia.

In both English and Bahasa Indonesia, the function of prefix is simply to change the meaning of root word. For instance, “achromatic” which is taken from root word “chromatic”, “extraordinary” which is taken from root word “ordinary”, “monolingual” which is from “lingual” and “multilingual” which is also taken from “lingual”. But what is discussed here is not that kind of prefix. Bahasa Indonesia has another type of prefix.

Whatever Indonesian grammar book you learn, discussion about prefix must be confusing. It is not only experienced by foreigners who learn Indonesian but also by native Indonesian. When you experience any confusion, it means that you are learning.

Here are things that make prefix is little bit difficult to learn.


Sometimes we got root word which should contain suffix - such as suffix “_i” - if prefix exists - such as prefix “me_”, sometimes it does not, and sometimes the root word is flexible.

 (duduk - menduduki - diduduki) while sometimes it does not (makan - memakan - dimakan).


Sometimes root word with prefix still means the same or similar with the root word (both makan and memakan mean eat/to eat); meaning that the existence of prefix is little bit useless - except to change the degree of formality.