Indonesian/prefix me

A form of Indonesian Conjugation

Awalan me- (Prefix me-) edit

Prefix me- is used to form active verbs. You may combine any nouns, any adjective, numbers, and even verbs themselves to form another verb.

Prefixing any words with me- would require a minor spelling change (inflection) in order to facilitate a smooth transition in pronunciation. The inflection is based solely on the first letter of the original word. This is an example of consonant mutation. See the table below.

First letter Inflection Example
vowels, g, h me-meng- uji → menguji (= to test), garuk → menggaruk (= to scratch), hitung → menghitung (= to count)
b, f, v me-mem- beri → memberi (= to give), fitnah → memfitnah (= to falsely accuse)
c, d, j me-men- cari → mencari (= to search), dapat → mendapat (= to obtain), jangkau → menjangkau (= to reach)
k me-meng-, drops the k kandung → mengandung (= to contain or to be pregnant [if applied to a person])
p me-mem-, drops the p putih → memutih (= to turn white)
s me-meny-, drops the s satu → menyatu (= to become one / to unite)
t me-men-, drops the t tulis → menulis (= to write)


  • Since original Indonesian words have no q, x, and z, the inflection is adapted from the existing ones. The q and x words would follow g rules, z words would follow j words.
  • Other initial letters (l, m, n, r, w, and y) don't have spelling changes.
  • If the word is monosyllabic (only has one syllable), regardless of the first letter of the word, the me- always turns into menge-, then add the word. For example:
  • cat (= paint) → mengecat (= to paint),
  • bor (= boring tool / drill) → mengebor (= to make a hole with drill).

Me- + Kata Kerja (Me- + Verb) edit

Verbs can be combined with me- prefix. The meaning is exactly the same as the infinitive. The semantics may be different depending on the type of verbs. To refresh our mind -- there are two kinds of verbs in Indonesian:

  • Transitive verbs (verbs that can have objects)
  • Intransitive verbs (verbs that cannot have objects, [almost] equivalent to reflexive verbs)

Me- + Kata Kerja Transitif (Me- + Transitive Verbs) edit

Transitive verbs can not be used in a sentence in their infinitive forms, except for a few words (e.g. makan (= to eat), minum (= to drink)). So, in order to use it, you must conjugate it with me- or some other prefixes.


  • Aku memakan roti (= I eat [a slice of] bread)
  • Dia menulis buku (= He/she writes [a] book(s))

Me- + Kata Kerja Intransitif (Me- + Intransitive Verbs) edit

Unlike transitive verbs, only a few of intransitive verbs can be conjugated with me-. Example:

  • Dia menangis (= He/she cries)

Most intransitive verbs must be used in their infinitive forms (e.g. tidur (= to sleep)) or use other affixes.

Note that, the sense of transitivity is not the same with other languages like Spanish. Here the word tari (= to dance) is considered intransitive.

  • Wati menari (= Wati dances)

Me- + Kata Benda (Me- + Noun) edit

When me- prefix is combined with a noun, the new word could mean one of the following:

  • To put the noun on some other noun
    cat (= paint) → mengecat (= to paint)
    e.g. Bapak mengecat tembok (= Father paint the wall).
  • To indicate that the subject turns into the noun (most of the times, figuratively)
    • batu (= stone) → membatu (= to turn to stone)
      e.g. Dia membatu (= He/she turns to stone [figuratively, to indicate that he/she doesn't move for hours])
    • kuping (= ear) → menguping (= to turn to ear [i.e. to eavesdrop])
  • To produce the noun
    sambal (= chili) → menyambal (= to make chili)
    Comment: Indonesian rarely use this notion, but Malay do. Indonesian people usually prefer the phrase "membuat sambal" instead.
  • To do work with the noun
    bajak (= plow) → membajak (= to plow)
    Note: Membajak can also mean to hijack.

Note: The trickiest part of me- is when it is being combined with noun. Not all nouns can be combined with me- and the meaning is highly dependent on the culture.

Me- + Kata Sifat (Me- + Adjective) edit

When combined with adjective, the me- prefix indicates the subject changes more into or to turn to the indicated adjective. For example:

  • Besar (= big) → membesar (= to become bigger)
  • Kecil (= small) → mengecil (= to become smaller)
  • Panas (= hot) → memanas (= to become hotter)
  • Panjang (= long) → memanjang (= to become longer)
  • Putih (= white) → memutih (= to turn white)
  • Kuning (= yellow) → menguning (= to turn yellow)

Note: Adjective that describes emotions cannot be combined with me-.

Me- + Kata Bilangan (Me- + Numbers) edit

The only numbers that can be conjugated with me- are satu (= one) and dua (= two).

  • Satu → menyatu (= to unite)
  • Dua → mendua (= to split into two)
    Perhatiannya mendua (= His attention is split into two [i.e. not focused])
    Hatinya mendua (= His heart is split into two [i.e. not loyal])

Me- + Kata Tempat (Me- + Places) edit

When combined with places, me- would indicate that the subject is going to the said place.

  • Udara (= air) → mengudara (= to go to the air [for radio/tv program or airplane])
  • Laut (= sea) → melaut (= to go to the sea [for ships/sailors])
  • Darat (= ground/land) → mendarat (= to land [for ships/airplane])
  • Seberang (= across) → menyeberang (= to cross [the street, sea, river])

Me- + Kata Seru (Me- + Expletive) edit

Note that the expletives doesn't mean swear words here, but rather the words that mimic sounds. For example: "Moo", "Baa", "Quack", etc.

When expletives are combined with me-, it indicates that the subject produces the indicated sound.

  • Aum (= tiger roar) → mengaum (= to roar like tigers)
  • Lenguh (= moo) → melenguh (= to moo like cows)

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