Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino language. She also speaks Ilocano.
What Is a Suffix in Tagalog?
Affixes play their part in the Filipino language by helping carry out the meaning of the words they are attached to. There are many affixes used in Filipino 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 are called mga panlapi. They can turn a noun into an adjective, indicate the tenses of verbs, and help indicate the sentence's focus. Some affixes show relationships when used with nouns and affixes indicating an action isn't intentional. It sounds complicated, so let's unveil some of the most used Filipino/Tagalog affixes, or mga panlapi, with easy-to-follow examples.
When attached to a noun, ma turns the noun into an adjective. It is also a prefix used in some verbs to create the infinitive and future tense forms.
|Noun||Ma + noun||Adjective|
ma + lakas
ma + ganda
ma + ingay
ma + kulay
ma + dumi
ma + bango
ma + talino
|Root Verb||Infinitive & Imperative Example||Future Tense With Ma-|
Matulog/Matulog ka. (Go to sleep.)
Matutulog siya. (She's going to sleep.)
Maligo/Maligo ka. (Take a bath.)
Maliligo ako. (I'm going to take a bath.)
Most adjectives have the prefix ma-, but some don't have that prefix, such as pogi (handsome) and singkit (having almond eyes).
A prefix used to ask a favor without being in the form of a question, -pa allows you to ask a favor or make a request subtly without sounding bossy or using the imperative form.
|Pa||Pa + Verb||Meaning|
pa + text = patext
letting someone know you want to borrow their phone to send a text message
pa + sakay = pasakay
when asking for a hitch
pa + kain = pakain
when visiting a home and you want to join in a meal or asking for food
Pa is a prefix to some root verbs that 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 two examples.
|Root Verb||Pa + Root Verb||Meaning|
just about to go or leave
just about to ride
just about to go
Pa is also used as a contraction of paki or please.
- Kindly hand me over (item).
- Paabot ng baso. (Kindly hand me over the glass.)
- Please read/Kindly read
- Pabasa ng mensahe. (Please read the message.)
- Please tell/Kindly tell
- Pasabi kay auntie kilala ko si Angel. (Kindly tell auntie I know Angel.)
When not being used as a prefix, pa is used to indicate that the action is still "ongoing" or "currently happening," along with a verb in the present tense.
In addition, it is also the Tagalog equivalent of the English "yet." More about using pa as an untranslatable Tagalog word can be found in the video below.
Na- can mean "now" or "already," but it is also used as a prefix to indicate that an action is unintentional.
|Na + root verb||Meaning/Unintentional Action||Intentional|
na + tapon = natapon
(something) was thrown away and wasn't intentional
na + basa = nabasa
got wet (unintentional)
na + basag = nabasag
na + salo = nasalo
when you (unexpectedly/unintentionally) caught something (a ball, a vase, a glass, a key etc.)
In and An
An -an suffix attached to a root word indicates the purpose of the word or what the word is for. The suffix -in, when attached to root verbs, forms the imperative form or command pertaining to the verb it was attached to. But this is not always the case. The meaning of the word changes depending on which suffix is used.
Also, if a root verb ends in the letter o, the o needs to be changed to the letter u before attaching the suffix. The same goes with nouns—the letter o needs to be changed to the letter u when the following and last letter is a consonant.
|Root Verb||Root Verb + An||Root Verb + In||Example|
kainan (a place specifically for eating)
kainin (to eat)
Kainin mo 'yan. (Eat that.)
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 the present tense of an in verb.
Root verb: kain (eat)
Root verb: sabi (say)
Root verb: gawa (do)
Notice how the 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)
When -an is used as a noun suffix, it creates a word with a new meaning—it often denotes an area or place that specifically relates to the noun it is attached to.
|Noun||Noun + An||Meaning|
closet/a spot or place at home where the clothes are
Mag and Nag
Mag is used with some Tagalog verbs to form the infinitive, its future tense, and the imperative (giving an order); nag is used in forming the present tense.
|Root Verb||Infinitive & Imperative Form||Future Tense Example||Present Tense Example|
Magluto/Magluto ka. (You cook)
Magluluto ako. (I'm going to cook.)
Nagluluto ako. (I'm cooking.)
Maglinis/Maglinis ka. (You clean.)
Maglilinis ako. (I'm going to clean.)
Naglilinis ako. (I'm cleaning.)
Which Can Be Used When?
There are verbs where either the prefix in- or infix um can be used, depending on the focus of the sentence. Some verbs can only use one of the prefixes, such as the infix in but never the prefixes mag- or um-. And there are verbs where mag- and um- can be used but not the in infix.
How do you use the prefix mag- in verb conjugation? More on Tagalog verb formation is explained in the video lesson below.
Prefix Mag + Nouns
The affix mag is also used as a prefix with nouns to show relationships.
|Noun||Meaning||Mag + Noun||Meaning|
mother and daughter/son
For nouns starting with a vowel, such as ina, a hyphen is used between the affix and the noun. (See the last example in the table above.) You can learn more about the affix mag in the video below.
Um is another infix used in forming the present and past tenses of Tagalog verbs. Like mag, the infinitive form and imperative form are the same.
|Root Verb||Infinitive & Imperative||Present Tense||Past Tense|
Kumain/Kumain ka. (You eat.)
Kumakain ako. (I'm eating.)
Kumain ako. (I ate.)
Tumawa/Tumawa ka. (You laugh.)
Tumatawa siya. (He's laughing.)
Tumawa siya. (He laughed.)
Pala- is a prefix that, when attached to a noun, implies that the word it is attached to is frequently done or habitual, also creating an adjective.
|Pala + Noun||Word||Meaning|
pala + ihi (urine)
a person who tends to always use the restroom (urinate)
pala + ngiti (smile)
a person who always smiles
pala + tawa (laugh)
a person who always laughs
pala + kaibigan (friend)
pala + biro (joke)
a joker; a person who always have a joke to tell
pala + utang (debt)
a person who has the habit of asking to be lent money
Using the word 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 surprised by information different from what the speaker is expecting.
Mala- is a prefix used with nouns to make a description. Whatever is being described has the characteristic, likeness, or resemblance of the noun that the prefix is attached to.
|Noun||Mala + Noun||Meaning|
a home large enough to be a palace/a home that is similar to a palace
Pang- is a prefix used with items. Pang- indicates that the use of a specific item is specifically for the noun pang- is attached to.
|Item||Pang + Noun||Meaning|
Soap for the hand/Hand soap.
Soap for taking a bath/Bath soap.
Practice Makes Perfect
As to how to know which affixes to use with Tagalog verbs, there's no clear rule on that. The best course of action is to familiarize yourself with the verbs, starting with the most commonly used ones.
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?