Words with the Prefix ‘Ter-‘: terbaik, terlalu, tertambah, & terjadi

Although the Indonesian language is said to be easy to learn due to uncomplicated conjugation, it does, in fact, have rules for modifying verbs, nouns, and adjectives that can be confusing to learn. Today, I stumbled on a very powerful tool called Cooljugator: The Smart Conjugator in Indonesian. It allows you to enter a root word and search a database of conjugations. It’s definitely going onto my Bahasa Indonesian favorites list. Check it out!

Today, I’d like to focus on the prefix “ter-.” Many websites (like this one and this one) have already gone into great depth into this very common verb modifier. For a simple explanation, I like the one found at mylanguages.org.

Use 1: as a superlative indicating ‘the most,’ sometimes equivalent to the English suffix ‘-est.’
Use 2: an indicator of passive voice, similar but not equivalent to the English suffix ‘-ed.’

Let’s take a look at two examples for each of these uses for today’s blog post.

Terbaik /ter·ba·ik/ adj. From the root adjective baik meaning ‘good,’ terbaik means ‘best.’ It’s the extreme form of baik (not just ‘very good,’ but the absolute “good-est”).

Terlalu /ter·la·lu/ adv. “Too” as in ‘too many’ (terlalu banyak) or ‘too cold’ (terlalu dingin). I’ve picked this word on purpose because it’s root lalu, meaning ‘then,’ ‘last’ or ‘afterwards’ doesn’t clearly indicate the meaning of terlalu. However, terlalu is a very good example of the prefix ter- indicating an extreme form of another word.

Tertambah /ter·tam·bah/ v. Increased, or added to. Tambah is the root word ‘add’ or ‘plus’ to indicate when something has increased. In this case, the prefix ter- gives the passive form. Realistas tertambah is ‘Augmented Reality,’ the kinds of apps and technology that superimposes computer-generated information on the real world.

Terjadi /ter·ja·di/ v. Already happened, occurred, came to pass, already in effect, or consists of. This is an essential word if you’re listening to or reading Indonesian news. It’s used in almost every report due to its story-telling value. It comes from the root jadi, meaning something similar to ‘therefore,’ but it’s various meanings can take context clues and practice to understand.

apa hendak dikata, semua telah terjadi : what do you want to say, all has happened [a saying encouraging moving on and the futility of dwelling on the past]

panitia terjadi dari dua orang wakil pengusaha dan dua orang wakil buruh : the committee consists of two representatives of employers and two representatives of workers.

Gunung Merapi, gunung api teraktif di Jawa, Mount Merapi, the most active volcano in Java. CC0 image from Pixabay.