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Guide to Using Commonly Used Prefixes, Infixes and Suffixes in Tagalog

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Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino language. She also speaks Ilocano.

Affixes play their part in the Filipino language as they help carry out meaning of words they are attached to. There are many affixes used in the Filipino language attached either at the beginning - a prefix or at the end of a word - a suffix. And of course an affix squeezing itself in the middle of the word is an infix.

Affixes in Filipino/Tagalog is called mga panlapi. They can make a noun into an adjective, indicate tenses of verbs, and help in indicating the focus of the sentence. There are also some affixes that shows relationship when used with nouns, and affixes indicating an action isn't intentional. It sounds somehow complicated so let's unveil some of the most used Filipino affixes or mga panlapi as I explain them the easy way with examples.

Tagalog affixes mostly used.

Tagalog affixes mostly used.

Ma

When attached to a noun, it makes a noun into an adjective. It is also a prefix that is used in some verbs to create the infinitive and future tense form.

Noun Ma + noun Adjective

lakas (strength)

ma + lakas

malakas (strong)

ganda (beauty)

ma + ganda

maganda (beautiful)

ingay (noise)

ma + ingay

maingay (noisy)

kulay (color)

ma + kulay

makulay (colorful)

dumi (dirt)

ma + dumi

madumi (dirty)

bango (fragrance)

ma + bango

mabango (fragrant)

talino (wit/intelligence)

ma + talino

matalino (intelligent)

Ma As Prefix Forming Infinitive & Imperative As Well As Future Tense

Root VerbInfinitive & Imperative ExampleFuture Tense With Ma-

Tulog (Sleep)

Matulog/Matulog ka. (Go to sleep)

Matutulog siya. (She's going to sleep)

Ligo (Bath)

Maligo/Maligo ka. (Take a bath)

Maliligo ako. (I'm going to take a bath)

 

 

 

Most adjectives have the prefix ma, but there are also those that don't have the prefix such as pogi (handsome) and singkit (having chinky eyes).

Pa

A prefix used in a way to ask a favor without being in a form of a question such as starting it with "Can you/I"? Let's say it allows you to ask a favor or request in a subtle way, not sounding bossy or being in an imperative form or command.

Pa Pa + VerbMeaning

pa

pa + text = patext

letting someone know you want to borrow their phone to send a text message

pa

pa + sakay = pasakay

when asking for a hitch

pa

pa + kain = pakain

when visiting a home and you want to join in a meal or asking for food

Pa when used as a prefix to some root verbs indicates that the action is about to be done, or the actor is just about to do the action. It also gives direction on how to specifically do a certain action - patagilid (sideways) and patayo (in a standing position) are just two examples.

Root VerbPa + Root VerbMeaning

Alis (leave)

Paalis

Just about to go or leave

Sakay (Ride)

Pasakay

Just about to ride

Punta (Go)

Papunta

Just about to go

Pa is also used as a contraction of "paki" or please.

Paabot/Pakiabot

Kindly hand me over (whatever item).

Paabot ng baso. (Kindly hand me over the glass)

Pabasa/Pakibasa

Please read/Kindly read.

Pabasa ng mensahe. (Please read the message)

Pasabi/Pakisabi

Please tell/Kindly tell

Pasabi kay auntie kilala ko si Angel. (Kindly tell auntie I know Angel)

More About Using Pa

Pa

When not being used as a prefix, pa is used to indicate that the action is still "on going" or "currently happening" along with a verb in a present tense.

In addition, it is also the Tagalog equivalent of the English "yet." More about using pa as an untranslatable Tagalog word tackled on the video.


Na

Na can mean now or already, but it is also used as a prefix to state that an action is unintentional.

Na + root verbMeaning/Unintentional ActionIntentional

na + tapon = natapon

(something) was thrown away and wasn't intentional

itinapon

na + basa = nabasa

got wet (unintentional)

binasa

na + basag = nabasag

broke (unintentional)

binasag

na + salo = nasalo

when you (unexpectedly/unintentionally) caught something (a ball, a vase, a glass, a key etc.)

sinalo

In and An

Suffixes attached to root verbs where -an indicates the purpose of the word created or what the word is for. While suffix -in when attached to root verbs forms imperative form or command pertaining to the verb it was attached to. But it isn't always the case. The meaning of the word also changes depending which suffix is used.

Also root verbs ending in letter o need to be changed to letter u before attaching the suffix. Same goes with nouns - letter o needs to be changed to letter u when the next and last letter is a consonant.

Root VerbRoot Verb + AnRoot Verb + InExample

Kain (Eat)

Kainan (a place specifically for eating)

Kainin (To eat)

Kainin mo 'yan. (Eat that)

Luto (Cook)

Lutuan (a place or appliance specifically for cooking)

Lutuin (To cook)

Gusto kong lutuin mo ito. (I want you to cook this)

 

 

 

In is also used as an infix to form present tense of an IN verb.

Root verb: kain (eat)

Kinakain (eating)

Root verb: sabi (say)

Sinasabi (saying)

Root verb: gawa (do)

Ginagawa (doing)

Notice how infix in squeezes itself between the first consonant and the vowel. If the root verb starts in a vowel, infix in becomes a prefix.

Root verb: isip (think)

Iniisip (thinking)

Related Read - Filipino Verbs

When -an is used as a noun suffix, it creates a word with a new meaning - often denotes that an area or place is specifically for that noun it is attached to.

NounNoun + An Meaning

palay (rice)

palayan

rice field

mais (corn)

maisan

corn field

saging (banana)

sagingan

banana farm

gulay (vegetable)

gulayan

vegetable garden/farm

manok (chicken)

manukan

chicken/poultry farm

niyog (coconut)

niyugan

coconut farm

damit (clothes)

damitan

closet/a spot or place at home where the clothes are

Mag and Nag

Mag is used in some Tagalog verbs in forming the infinitive form, its future tense and the imperative form (giving an order) as well while nag is used in forming the present tense.

Root VerbInfinitive & Imperative FormFuture Tense ExamplePresent Tense Example

Luto (cook)

Magluto/Magluto ka. (You cook)

Magluluto ako. (I'm going to cook)

Nagluluto ako. (I'm cooking)

Linis (clean)

Maglinis/Maglinis ka. (You clean)

Maglilinis ako. (I'm going to clean)

Naglilinis ako. (I'm cleaning)

 

 

 

There are verbs where either prefix in or infix um can be used depending on the focus of the sentence. There are verbs as well which can only use one of the prefixes such as the infix in but never the prefix mag or um. And there are verbs where mag and um can be used but not in infix.

How to use the prefix mag on verb conjugation? More on Tagalog verb formation explained on the video lesson.

Prefix Mag + Nouns

Affix mag is also used as a prefix with nouns to show relationship.

NounMeaningMag + NounMeaning

kapitbahay

neighbor

magkapitbahay

neighbors

pinsan

cousin

magpinsan

cousins

kaibigan

friend

magkaibigan

friends

ina

mother

mag-ina

mother and daughter/son

For nouns starting in a vowel such as ina, a hyphen is used between the affix and the noun. (See last example above on the table) More about the affix mag on the video lesson.

Using Tagalog Affix Mag

Um

Another infix used in forming present and past tenses of Tagalog verbs. Like mag, the infinitive form and imperative form is the same.

Root VerbInfinitive & ImperativePresent TensePast Tense

Kain (Eat)

Kumain/Kumain ka. (You eat)

Kumakain ako. (I'm eating)

Kumain ako. (I ate)

Tawa (Laugh)

Tumawa/Tumawa ka. (You laugh)

Tumatawa siya. (He's laughing)

Tumawa siya. (He laughed)

 

 

 

Pala

A prefix that when attached to a noun, implies that the word pala is attached to is frequently done or habitual, also creating an adjective this way.

Pala + NounWordMeaning

Pala + ihi (urine)

Palaihi

A person who tends to always use the restroom (urinate).

Pala + ngiti (smile)

Palangiti

A person who always smile

Pala + tawa (laugh)

Palatawa

A person who always laugh

Pala + kaibigan (friend)

Palakaibigan

Friendly

Pala + biro (joke)

Palabiro

A joker, a person who always have a joke to say

Pala + utang (debt)

Palautang

A person who has the habit of asking to be lent money

Using the word just by itself and not being used as an affix can mean pala - shovel. Intonation matters as it can mean something else as well.

Pala is also used to express being surprise of a found information different than what the speaker is expecting.

Mala

A prefix that is used with nouns to make a description. Whatever is being describe has the characteristic, likeness or resemblance of the noun where the prefix is attached to.

NounMala + NounMeaning

Anghel (Angel)

Malaanghel

Angelic-like

Palasyo (Palace)

Malapalasyo

A home big enough like a palace/has similarity to a palace

Hayop (Animal)

Malahayop

Animal-like

Ibon (Bird)

Malaibon

Bird-like

Pang

A prefix used with items. Pang indicates that the use of a specific item is specifically for the noun pang is attached to.

ItemPang + NounMeaning

sabon (soap)

pangkamay

Soap for the hand/Hand soap.

sabon (soap)

pangligo

Soap for taking a bath/Bath soap.

 

 

Of course there are some more affixes to tackle but let's save them for later shall we? As to how to know what affixes to use with Tagalog verbs, there's no clear rule on that. Best thing is to familiarize the verbs starting with the most commonly used ones.

Comments

Kweli Nzito on June 30, 2020:

The most comprehensive and clear treatment of Tagalog affixes. Ms. Anza seems to enjoy every lesson with the same enthusiasm. By the way, does the word pang-uri meaning adjective fall in the same category for the other examples using the affix pang? Maraming salamat po.

DHanz888 on July 13, 2019:

Great question by Morty.

I have used a site at called seasite which gives a good list of verbs with the tenses, but still not complete, but very helpful.

Precy, do you have a more complete list of verbs and the different affixes and when to use which affix as Morty mentioned.

From what I understand, we need to decide first what is the subject, is it, a noun or an object or a person receiving an action (correct me Precy if I got it wrong..

Thanks again Precy for this and do hope we can see more of your work soon.

All the best, Dee

morty on July 10, 2019:

Can we use any affix on any root word?

How can we know what type of affix to use for a root word?