How to use prefix ‘me..’ in Malay

Tips on writing Malay : Prefix ‘me’ and its components, prefix ‘ber’ and when to use them

Note :

  • Pronounce ‘me‘ as ‘me’ in ‘maroon’ or ‘murphy’, not ‘me‘ as in ‘meet’ or ‘may
  • Pronounce ‘ber‘ as in ‘burden’, not ‘bare

Why learning these prefixes is important?

Because otherwise when you read a Malay article, you may not understand a word which has been added with a prefix. Also, most Malay dictionaries are printed with the root verbs only, not with prefixes. You may be looking for words with prefixes in the dictionary but may not find it. Therefore you need to know the root verb.

The prefix ‘me and ‘be/ber’

1. Most continuous actions are best described using the word ‘sedang’ and prefix ‘me’ for most verbs, and prefix ‘be’or ‘ber’ for a few verbs. Sentences can still be understood if these prefixes are not used, however they are grammatically wrong!

Eg :

I am writing
Saya sedang menulis (root verb  : tulis) – note change in spelling

I am walking
Saya sedang berjalan (root verb  : jalan)

2.  Prefix ‘me’ is also widely used together with the word ‘untuk’ to describe actions which normally used with ‘to’ in English

Eg :

I come here to see you
Saya datang ke sini untuk berjumpa dengan awak  (root verb : jumpa)

I feel lazy to drive
Saya rasa malas untuk memandu (root verb : pandu) – note change in spelling

3. Prefix ‘me’ is also widely used with past actions terms ‘sudah’ & ‘telah’. Note : telah = sudah, both carry the same meaning. Some verbs are commonly used with sudah, eg Saya sudah makan ( I ate already). It’s very rare for someone to say Saya telah makan though it is not grammatically wrong.

Eg :

I have bought a car
Saya telah membeli sebuah kereta

I have informed him
Saya sudah memberitahu dia

4. There are 5 components of prefix ‘me ie ‘me, men, mem, meng and meny’. When using prefix ‘me’, some changes in spelling from the root verb need to be applied.

5. Basic Guides to spelling change : (note where and when certain letters need to be dropped)

me : verb starting with  l, m, n, r, w eg : lawan (fight) = melawan, minta (ask) = meminta

mem : verb starting with  b, f*, p* eg : fikir (think) = memikir, putar (spin) = memutar

men : verb starting with  c, d, j, t*, z eg : cari (search) = mencari, tulis (write) = menulis

meny : verb starting with  s* eg : sapu (sweep) = menyapu

meng : verb starting with  a, e, g, h, i, k*, o, u eg : ambil (take) = mengambil
kitar (recycle) = mengitar
Exception : kaji (study) = mengkaji. Note : k is not dropped in this case, because mengaji means to recite Quran

* : letters to be dropped when prefix ‘me’ is used

Verbs which are not usually used with prefix ‘me’ :

The following verbs are usually used without any prefix, or sometimes the prefix will change the meaning

ie : tinggal (live), makan (eat), minum (drink), tidur (sleep), bangun (get up

Saya tinggal di sini (I live here), Saya suka makan roti (I like to eat bread)

Note : meninggal = passed away, membangun = to develop

Dia meninggal tahun lepas (He died last year).. literally described as he left this world

Verbs which are always used with ‘ber’

The following verbs are always used with prefix ‘ber’

Eg : berjalan (walk), berjimat (save), bersatu (unite), bererti (mean), bercakap (talk)

Note : menjalani = to go through. Dia menjalani pembedahan = He is going through an operation

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