me- vs nge-

In formal Indonesian transitive verbs in active voice take prefix me- where the first sound of the verb base assimilates with the prefix me- to facilitate a smooth transition in pronunciation.

Colloquial Indonesian has its roots in Betawi Malay. In Betawi Malay, the suffix -in is used a lot instead of suffix ‘kan. The suffix -in is actually originated from Balinese language because during the colonial period most of the maids or servants came from Bali where most of the formal Indonesian verbs are used without the prefix me-.

In Colloquial Indonesian there are four possibilities:

  1. it takes prefix me- as in formal Indonesian(very rare)
  2. the prefix me- is dropped, leaving only the base with nasal replacement
  3. the prefix me- transforms into prefix nge-
  4. no prefix at all

Nasal Replacement

The nasal that assimilates to the first sound of the verb base occurs alone with the base without the prefix me-.

First Letter Verb Base Formal Form Colloquial
k kumpul mengumpul Mereka suka ngumpul tiap hari Minggu.
They like to gather every Sunday.
t tulis menulis Hobi gue nulis puisi.
My hobby is writing poems.
s suruh menyuruh Siapa yang nyuruh dia pulang?
Who told him to go home?
c cuci mencuci Elo mau bantuin gue nyuci mobil?
Do you want to help me wash the car?
p paksa memaksa Dia orangnya suka maksa.
He likes to force what he wants.

The nasal that assimilates to the first sound of the verb base where the first sounds are vowels occurs as Ng-.

First Letter Verb Base Formal Form Colloquial
a ajar mengajar Kakak saya ngajar piano tiap hari.
My older sister/brother teaches piano every day.
i intip mengintip Jangan suka ngintip kerjaan orang lain.
Don’t peep at someone else’s work.

Prefix Transformation

Prefix nge- occurs before all the initial consonants except p, t, s, c, k and vowels. Sometimes the suffix -in needs to be added(transformation from suffix -i).

First Letter Verb Base Formal Form Colloquial
b baca membaca Dia jago ngebaca karakter gue.
He is good in reading my character.
d didik mendidik Cara mereka ngedidik anak berbeda.
The way they educate the children is different.
r rasa merasa Gue nggak ngerasa punya jiwa sosial.
I don’t feel I have a social conscience.
y yakin meyakini Dia gagal ngeyakinin gue.
He fails to convince me.
h harga menghargai Dia selalungehargain orang lain.
She always appreciates other people.

There are exceptions for p, t, s, c, k if the verb base are borrowings from foreign language.

First Letter Foreign Word Indonesian Colloquial Meaning
b
t
p
back-up
trend
pack
none
tren
pak
nge-back-up
ngetren
ngepak
to back-up
become a trend
to pack

Omitted Prefix

Only transitive verbs can occur with the prefix omitted. Sometimes the suffix -in needs to be added(transformation from suffix -i).

Transitive Verb Formal Form Colloquial Meaning
nyanyi menyanyi Hobinya nyanyi di kamar mandi. Her hobby is singing in the bathroom.
tanya menanyakan Gue mau tanya elu nih. I want to ask you this.
baca membaca Gue baca dulu aturannya.
Tolong bacain aturannya.
Let me read the rules first.
Please read the rules.
pegang memegang Dia nggak bisa pegang janji. He can’t keep his promise.

There are a few intransitive verbs which occur without a prefix in formal Indonesian but which can take a nasal in colloquial form without a prefix.

Intransitive Verb Formal Form Colloquial Form
tumbuh Apakah giginya sudah tumbuh semua? Giginya udah numbuh semua?
Have all your teeth come through yet?
iri Dia iri pada kakaknya. Dia ngiri sama kakaknya.
She is jealous at his older brother.

Reference: Colloquial Jakartan Indonesian by James Neil Sneddon, 2006

For more information or articles about colloquial, colloquial Indonesian, colloquial Jakartan Indonesian by Dr. Timothy Hassall from ANU, Canberra, Australia, click here.

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