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Understanding Tagalog Affixes: How and When to Use Maka, Makaka, Nakaka and Naka

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

Hot to use these affixes?

Hot to use these affixes?

Filipino affixes are very much used in verb formation, indicating verb tenses. This may not be an indulging topic as some of these affixes can get a little confusing on how and when to use but learning their proper usage means you have taken another great step in learning a foreign language. And with that comes the reward of being able to use them correctly.

As I have mentioned in my previous article of Filipino affixes, there are affixes used to indicate an unintentional action. One affix in particular lets you know what an item is used for while another one is particularly used to create descriptions. While some affixes are easier to explain and easy to use, there are some with varying forms used depending on the tense of verb used. Let's tackle one of these affixes that never fails to drive one searching online for explanations on how it is used. We will cover the following affixes that denotes abilitative and causative when attached to words:


• Makaka

• Nakaka

• Naka


All four affixes mean able to, unable to, couldn't and can but each indicates different tenses together with root verbs. Let's start first with maka.

Maka is the basic form and is used along with commands or imperatives. You can see it used as well when reasoning.

To give you an example of how maka is used, one good example is being told to prepare the table so you all can eat. Let's have the root word for eat which is kain. With maka as prefix, as this affix is placed before the root verb, we will have the word makakain.

Linisin nyo ang table para makakain na tayo. Clean the table so we can eat now.

It's an imperative and is giving out a reason as well why the table needs to be prepared — para makakain na tayo.

Let's have the root verb punta which means go for our second example. Makapunta.

Magbihis ka na para makapunta tayo sa party. Get dressed now so we can go to the party.

"Magbihis ka na," is another imperative. Someone was told to get dressed. Why? So they can go to the party — para makapunta sa party.

Maka As Prefix Forming Abilitative

Maka is also used to form abilitative together with verbs. Study the examples below to help you distinguish it with other prefixes when forming verb tenses. Let's use the root verb kanta or sing with maka.

Gusto kong makakanta. I want to be able to sing.

With the above example, you can either imagine someone who isn't blessed with a singing voice but would love to be able to sing or someone that for some reason lost the capability to sing. Take a look at the next example below which I thought of adding to help the usage of maka more distinguishable compared to other affixes that may cause confusion.

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Gusto kong kumanta. I want to sing.

"Gusto kong makasali sa contest," is another example. The sentence means "I want to be able to join the contest." But if the example says, "Gusto kong sumali sa contest," it means "I want to join the contest."

More Uses of Maka

Maka is also used with nouns particularly to indicate a person is more attached to a certain member of the family. A daddy's girl for example, for a girl who's particularly close to her dad than her mother is makatatay. Tatay is a Filipino word for dad. The opposite is makananay if in case the child is particularly close to her mom. Nanay means mom.

NounsMaka + The NounMeaning



A child particularly close to his/her mother



daddy's girl



A grandchild who's paticularly attached to his/her grandfather



A grandkid particularly attached to her/his grandmother

To add to the examples above, maka is also used in the same way but with food. Are you someone who's more into veggies than meat? Makagulay. Gulay means vegetables. I for one, loves veggies so expect me to get a bowl of veggies and just some meat when served with soup dishes. Do you know someone who eats a lot of rice? Makakanin. Kanin means rice.


Makaka is in the future tense. A little trick to remember the use of this Tagalog affix is, use it when you're stating a wishful thought or a dream of achieving something. You'll understand later once we get to the examples. Makaka is used as a prefix with verbs. Let's have examples below with a little help of our imagination.

Imagine spending an afternoon with a friend watching YouTube vloggers traveling to different countries learning different cultures and tasting different foods. Wanting to achieve that too or having a wishful thought of traveling one day like these vloggers, he said, "I will be able to go there too one day."

Notice our key word able used in the above example — Not I will. But I will be able to. It didn't happen yet, but hopefully in the future. Let's translate that now using makaka. The root verb which means come or go is punta.

Makakapunta rin ako dyan balang araw. I will be able to go there one day.

Let's have another example. Have you ever wanted to buy something expensive either for yourself or as a gift? But it's not within your budget so you told yourself "I will be able to buy that too." Makakabili rin ako niyan.

Makaka + Root Verbs

Examples of makaka used as prefix together with verbs and the appropriate English counterpart.

Root VerbsMakaka + Root VerbsMeaning

punta (come/go to places)


will be able to go

kain (eat)


will be able to eat

takbo (run)


will be able to run

lakad (walk)


will be able to walk

kanta (sing)


will be able to sing

tawa (laugh)


will be able to laugh


Nakaka is currently happening or on going. It's in the 'now' or in the present. Nakaka is used as a prefix with verbs. Use it with something you had wish to be able to do or achieve before that you are now able to do or can do. With that said, let's have an example, a continuation about your friend who's hoping to one day travel the world.

Imagine now that it has been few years since and you haven't heard from this friend until today. He said he is now doing well financially and he added, "I can now travel the world." He also added that he can sing now.

Nakakakanta na ako. I can sing now.

Nakakapunta na ako sa ibat-ibang mga bansa. I can now travel the world.

The prefix nakaka has many other uses. But before I discuss that next, below is a table of root verbs together with our featured affix. Think of something you or someone you know had dreamed or planned to achieve before that you or that person is now able to do using the table below.

Nakaka + Root Verbs

Examples of the same root verbs from the previous table, but this time using nakaka instead of makaka.

Root VerbsNakaka + Root VerbMeaning

nakaka + punta


able to go to

nakaka + kain


able to eat

nakaka + alis


able to leave

nakaka + takbo


able to run

nakaka + lakad


able to walk

nakaka + kanta


able to sing

nakaka + akyat


able to climb

Nakaka - Causative

In Filipino/Tagalog, nakaka is used to indicate results or possible effects of something or someone's action/s. If something can cause let's say rashes, allergy, pain or someone can make you laugh, cry, mad, or feel bored, nakaka is the go-to prefix for this. Let's have a very easy to understand example as our first, with a noun.

Nakakaallergy ang pollens. Pollens can cause allergy.

To form the possible result or effect of pollen/s, nakaka is used. Nakakaallergy.

Another good example is nakakaiyak, with the root word iyak which means cry. Currently watching a movie that is making you cry? Nakakaiyak. It's making me cry. For those who enjoys comedy. Nakakatawa. It's making me laugh. Tawa means laugh.

A friend achieved something she's been working so hard these previous months. Isn't it inspiring? Nakaka-inspire and nakakaproud.

RootNakaka + The Root VerbMeaning

antok (sleep)


It's making me feel sleepy.

gutom (gunger)


It's making me hungry.

iyak (cry)


It's making me cry.

tawa (laugh)


It's making me laugh/You're funny.

takot (fear)


It's scary.

tamad (lazy)


It's making me feel lazy.

Is it still a little confusing? It can be too much to learn all at once so I decided to include these Tagalog-English or TagLish as these might be easier to start with.

Examples of using nakaka often with these English words.


It's stressing


It's relaxing


It's motivating


It's depressing

The following are examples of the same verbs on the previous table above with nakaka + root verbs. But these as goals or wishes you were able to achieve or do, which means these are now in the past tense form.

The woman who needs assistance to be able to walk, managed to walk by herself. Nakalakad. A rare fruit that you were able to eat is the talk on the news. Want to say to a friend that you've tried it already? Nakakain.

Naka + Root Verbs




naka + punta


was able to go

naka + kain


was able to eat

naka + takbo


was able to run

naka + lakad


was able to walk

naka + kanta


was able to sing


Naka indicates an action that was done accidentally or unintentionally. Fell asleep? You didn't mean to or you didn't plan to so the word is nakatulog. The root verb tulog means sleep. Have you ever stepped on something accidentally? Nakaapak. Few more examples are nakakain and nakabasag. Kain means eat and basag means break.

If you already know verbs and some of the affixes in Tagalog, nakatulog and natulog may be confusing. So let's tackle these two. Natulog means you intended to sleep. Nakatulog means you didn't intend to sleep. For example, you went to your room to finish reading a book but you fell asleep.

Let's see that again with the root verb kain. Kumain means ate. Nakakain is unintentional, like the whole peppercorns on your bowl of soup.

Naka is also used to indicate current positions, and is used to describe appearance when attached to nouns. Refer to the table below for examples.

Nouns Naka + Noun Meaning



(He/She) is wearing a shirt.

sapatos (shoes)


(He/She) is wearing shoes.

korona (crown)


(She) is wearing a crown.

Naka - Indicates Current Position

Naka is used as well to indicate current positions as mentioned above. Let's have the root words upo which means sit, and tayo for stand. I will also add tihaya which means lying on the back and tagilid or lying on the side.

Now to form or describe a person's current position, naka is attached in front of the word. Nakaupo means sitting, nakatayo is standing, nakatihaya means being on supine position or lying on the back and lying on the side is nakatihaya.

Nakatayo si Rex sa silya habang nakaupo naman si Precy sa playground. Rex is standing on the chair while Precy is sitting on the playground.

Another word for an example is pila. It means line. Don't you hate standing in line waiting for your turn?

Nakapila ako. I am standing in line.

Need More Help?

There are more Tagalog words with these affixes. If you know some or encountered one you didn't see here, comment it below.

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Skip Dean on April 01, 2020:

Thanks for this.

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