Independent Verbs Prefix Ber- Posted by on Feb 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

Prefix “ber–” is often called a verbal prefix. This is because most of the words with this prefix are verbs, even though they may be derived from nouns, verbs, adjectives or numbers. “ber–” verbs are intransitive.

 The meaning of the verbs will be based on the group they belong to.

1. Verb
2. Noun
 Prefix “Ber- + …”
3. Adjective
4. Numeral


To do what the base word indicates

Some ber– verbs have verbal bases. It is difficult to assign a meaning to ber- with such bases other than that its presence is necessary to produce a well-formed verb, and to do what the base words indicate.

Jalan – berjalan – to walk

Gerak – bergerak – to move

Kumpul – berkumpul – to assemble

Kunjung – berkunjung – to pay a visit

Kerja* – bekerja – to work

Kelahi – berkelahi – to fight

Main  – bermain – to play

Ajar* – belajar – to study

Lari*** – berlari – to run

Henti – berhenti – to stop

Tanya – bertanya – to ask

Bicara – berbicara – to speak/talk

Cakap – bercakap – to converse

Pikir – berpikir – to think

Temu – bertemu – to meet

Putar – berputar – to turn, spin, rotate

Renang** – berenang – to swim

Ubah – berubah – to change

Runding** – berunding – to negotiate

Nyanyi – bernyanyi – to sing

Dagang – berdagang – to do business

Tiup – bertiup – to blow

* and ** This slightly different form is due to sound assimilation.

*”r” in prefix “ber-” is dropped due to the sound assimilation. In belajar it is replaced by “l”.

***As a reflexive verb, “berlari” cannot be used to say “I run a company”, or “I’ll run you out of town”. It can only mean “to run (oneself)”. This also applies to “berjalan” that can only mean “to walk (oneself)”. It cannot be used to say “I walk the dog”.


To have what the base word indicates

The largest group of ber- verbs with the noun bases has a general meaning of ‘to have or to own’ what the base word indicates. Some of these verbs do not translate well as “have + base “ such as berdebu ‘dusty’ (lit. ‘have dust’) or berguna ‘useful’ (‘have use’); in such cases the appropriate gloss is provided.

Guna – berguna – useful

Isi – berisi – contain

Pendapat – berpendapat – to have an opinion

Umur – berumur – be aged

Anak – beranak – to have children

Bau – berbau – to have smell

Rambut – berambut – to have hair

To wear or to use

This group includes words pertaining to things we wear (items of clothing) or use (including some vehicles, such as cars and bikes).

Baju – berbaju – to wear attire

Kacamata – berkacamata – to wear glasses

Sepatu – bersepatu – to wear shoes

Kuda – berkuda – to ride a horse

Perahu – berperahu – go by boat

Mobil – bermobil – go by car

To produce

Another group of ber- verbs with noun bases mean ‘produce (base)’. Many of these verbs refer to production of the sound indicated by the base.

Keringat – berkeringat – sweat

Telur – bertelur – lay an egg

Anak – beranak – give birth

Buah – berbuah – bear fruits

Kata – berkata – say

Kokok – berkokok – crow

Bunyi – berbunyi – make sound

Cerita – bercerita – to tell story

In a few cases, the noun base attached to the prefix ber- sometimes is a derived word that has affixes in it. For example:

Derived base word
English meaning
Ber + base word
English meaning
pakai to wear pakaian clothes, outfit berpakaian to wear/put on outfit
duduk to sit penduduk residents, population, inhabitant berpenduduk have a population of, inhabited
duduk to sit kedudukan position


berkedudukan to have/hold position, be located
wajib to be required, must, kewajiban obligation berkewajiban have obligation, be obliged/obligated

The word beruang may mean three different things, depending on the base words.

Root word
English meaning
Ber + word
English meaning





bear (animal)

  ber + uang

  be(r) + ruang*


     to have money, be rich

     to have room (for  house, building)

     bear (animal)

 *”r” in prefix ber is dropped due to the sound assimilation.

It is important to know that the first two beruang are grammatically correct but not often or rarely used in daily conversation. So, intead of saying “Dia beruang banyak” (He has a lot of money), people normally say “Dia punya banyak uang” or “Dia kaya (rich)”. Similarly, people will say “Gedung itu ruangnya kecil” or “Gedung itu punya ruang kecil” rather than “Gedung itu beruang kecil”.

The extended function of ber-

The application of ber- to a noun gives an extended meaning, beyond owning, using, wearing or producing. The function of ber is to transform a noun into an intransitive verb. In other words ber is an intransitive verb-maker.

demonstrasi (n.) demonstration

berdemonstrasi to engage in a demonstration (lit.: to have a demonstration)

Kemarin banyak orang berdemonstrasi di lapangan Trafalgar.

Yesterday lots of people demonstrated in Trafalgar square.

usaha (n.) effort

berusaha (v.i.) to try/to attempt (lit. : to have an effort)

Pemerintah sudah berusaha keras, tapi harga-harga tetap naik.

The government has made serious efforts, but prices continue to rise.

hasil (n.) result

berhasil to succed in (lit.: to have a result)

Sebegitu jauh pemerintah belum berhasil.

So far the government hasn’t been successful.

janji (n.) a promise

berjanji (v.i.) to promise

Perdana Menteri berjanji bahwa tahun ini harga-harga akan turun.

The Prime Minister promised that this year prices will go down.


Sedih – bersedih – be sad

Sama – bersama – together

Gembira – bergembira – be glad

Bahagia – berbahagia – be happy

Bahaya – berbahaya – be dangerous

Keras – berkeras – insist, persist

Sabar – bersabar – be patient

Damai – berdamai – make peace, be in peace


When attached to a cardinal numbers this derive numbers refer to a group:

Berdua – both, two together

Bertiga – all three, three together

Berenam – all six, all six together

However, note the following:

Bersatu – to unite, to be one

These forms occur with pronoun but not with nouns.

Kami berdua – both of us

Mereka berempat menghadap atasan mereka.

The four of them appeared before their boss.

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About the Author: asimonoff

I’m an Indonesian language instructor, instructional material developer, reading test developer, and interpreter. I have been teaching Indonesian to adult students for 15 years, and have been teaching students from many backgrounds, such as private, military and diplomatic service employees. I’m Indonesian, but am living in the US now; my exposure to different cultures in my home country and in the US has enriched my knowledge in teaching Indonesian as a second language. I approach the teaching of the Indonesian language by developing students’ critical cultural awareness and competence. This method of teaching has been proven to be a key to the success of my students. Students become conscious of the essential role culture plays in the language.