No inflection In Indonesian



Bahasa Indonesia doesnít have inflection, e.g., tenses, conjugation. Thatís why most statements will be very ambiguous without the help of contexts or the adverbs or adverbial phrases of time:


adverbs: now, tomorrow, yesterday

adverbial phrases of time: two days ago, a quarter of an hour later


No tenses:


1.     Dia sakit. sakit ill, sick

He is (was) sick.

2.     Mereka datang ke sini. datang to come; ke sini here

They come (came) here.

3.     Saya tidak tahu. tidak not, no; tahu to know

I do (did) not know.


No conjugation:


datang             to come      (Infinitive)

comes        (simple present)


coming        (Gerund)

came          (Simple Past)

come          (Past Participle)


pergi                to go           (Infinitive)

go               (Simple Present)


going          (Gerund)

went           (Simple Past)

gone           (Past Participle)


mau                 to want        (Infinitive)

want           (Simple Present)


wanting       (Gerund)

wanted        (Simple Past)

wanted        (Past Participle)





1.   Beginning the 16th of August 1972, the Indonesian alphabet has been following that of modern English:


A    a                H    h                O    o                V    v

B    b                I     i                 P    p                W   w

C    c                J    j                 Q    q                X    x

D    d                K    k                R    r                 Y    y

E    e                L    l                 S    s                Z    z

F    f                 M   m               T    t                

G    g                N    n                U    u               


Single vowels:         a, e, i, o, u

Three diphthongs:   ai, au, oi

Single consonants:  voiced: b, d, g, j, l, m, n, q, r, v, x, z

                              voiceless: c, f, h, s, k, p, t

Semi-vowels and semi-consonants: w, y

Double consonants: kh, ng, ny, sy


2.   The sounds of Vowels:


a    In open syllables, it is sounded like English a in father, but slightly shorter, and the mouth is more open, (but sometimes we stop it abruptly):


apa             what                       antara   between

bahasa       language                 ada       to be, to exist

papa              father                      lupa      to forget


      In closed syllables, it is sounded like English u in bucket:


antara         between, among

datang        to come

hafal           to learn by heart


e    In open syllables, when stressed it is sounded like English e in bed, but slightly longer:


daerah        area

ekonomi     economy

kecap         soya-bean sauce

merah         red


When unstressed, it is sounded like English mute e in buffalo:


cerita          story

depan         front

gelap          dark


In closed syllables, it is sounded like English e in bed:


pendek       short

ember         pail, bucket


   In open syllables, when stressed it is sounded like English ee in bee, but slightly shorter, (but sometimes we stop it abruptly):


diskusi        discussion               cari       to look for

ini               this                         dari       from

                                                api        fire


      In closed syllables, it is sounded like English i in did:


ambil          to fetch, to go & get

cantik         beautiful

hakim         judge


o    In open syllables and in most words, it is sounded like English a in ball:


otak            brain

bola            ball

coba           to try


In closed syllables, it is sounded like English o in cobble, but slightly longer:


balon          balloon

konsultan    consultant

pondok       hut; cottage


u    In open syllables, it is sounded like English u in boom, but slightly longer and the lips are rounded, (but sometimes we stop it abruptly):


aku             I                             buku     book

itu               that                         cucu     grandchild

tersipu           shy                         ratu       queen


In closed syllables, it is sounded like English u in butcher, but slightly longer and the lips are rounded:


mabuk        drunk, drunken

puncak       peak

tikus           rat, mouse










A.   Personal pronouns are groups into two classifications:











dia, ia












anda sekalian or anda semua












(excluding the person we talk to)

we (all)

(including all present or taking part)


you (all)







































Note the pronoun ia is usually used in written Indonesian and dia both written as well as spoken Indonesian.


Instead of the pronouns dia and ia, the pronoun beliau is used to talk about our parent, grandparent, teacher, a very important person like the president of a corporation, a country, a government minister; we call it respectful he or she.




aku          I (short form: ku- or -ku), e.g.: namaku= my name

kamu       you  (short form: -mu), e.g.: namamu= your name

engkau    you  (short form: kau- or -kau)

kau sekalian, kamu semua   you all (short form: kalian)

used among close friends, the family, a teacher to a pupil, a parent to a child, among children, on TV or on the radio or on film. Foreign learners are advised to take great care of using them, or just donít use them at all.


B.   Absolute Possessive Pronouns:


mine                    milik saya; punya saya; yang saya; milikku; punyaku; yang aku

yours                   milik anda; punya anda; yang anda; milikmu; punyamu; yang kamu

his; hers; its         miliknya; punyanya (informal: punya dia); yang dia

ours (exclusive)    milik kami; punya kami; yang kami

ours (inclusive)     milik kita; punya kita; yang kita

yours (plural)        milik anda sekalian; punya anda sekalian; yang anda sekalian; milik kalian; punya kalian; yang kalian

theirs                   milik mereka; punya mereka; yang mereka



(i)    The pronouns carrying milik are formal.

(ii)   Those carrying punya are informal.

(iii)  Those carrying yang are informal and can be used only with contexts in order to avoid repetition.

(iv)  Please use the informal ones in everyday speech.

(v)   Model statements:

Itu punya saya.                                  That is mine.

Ini punya dia.                                     This is hers.

Ini punya saya, tetapi itu yang anda.    This is mine, but that is yours.


C.   The Many Indonesian Equivalents of the pronoun you 


The Indonesian equivalent depends upon the person we are talking to:


Where do you live?

1.     Di mana anda tinggal?

to our equal or junior.

2.     Di mana Bapak tinggal?

to our superior, or to a man who is our junior or equal in some respect.

(literal meaning: father)

3.     Di mana Ibu tinggal?

to our superior, or to a woman who is married, our junior or equal with some respect.

(literal meaning: mother)

4.     Di mana Saudara tinggal?

the same as anda, but only to a man.

(literal meaning: brother)

5.     Di mana Saudari tinggal?

the same as anda, but only to a woman, either married or unmarried.

(literal meaning: sister)

6.     Di mana Oom tinggal?

to our uncle or superior, but only to a man.

(literal meaning: uncle, and used among the modern or high level segment of our society)

7.     Di mana Tante tinggal?

the same as Oom, but to a woman who is our superior or own aunt.

8.     Di mana Tuan tinggal?

used by a lower-class worker especially to address his master.

9.     Di mana Nyonya tinggal?

the same as Tuan, but to a woman.

10.  Di mana Nona tinggal?

to an unmarried woman or girl who is our equal or junior. Note some women or girls prefer being addressed Zuz, or Sus sister.

11.  Di mana Paman tinggal?

the same as Oom and used by everyone.

(literal meaning: Uncle)

12.  Di mana Bibi tinggal?

the same as Tante and used by everyone.

13.  Di mana Abang tinggal?

to our own elder brother, or our male superior.

14.  Di mana Adik tinggal?

to our own little brother or sister, or our junior of either sex.

  1. Di mana Kakak tinggal?

to our own elder sister or brother (but more usually elder sister), or our superior (more usually a girl or woman).




For everybodyís convenience, use the word Bapak or Ibu to address an adult, our superior, junior, or even equal. Nona to a girl or unmarried woman, or Zus to either married or unmarried woman. The short forms of Bapak & Ibu are respectively Pak & Bu. Thus, Pak equals Mr., or sir., and Bu equals Mrs., or  Madam/Madame.

D.   Spellings


All person nouns are capitalized when they are used as addresses. Therefore, all the addresses from Nos. 2 to 15 above have been capitalized. However, person nouns mustnot be capitalized when they are used in compounds:


1.   Itu adalah paman saya. itu that; paman uncle

            That is my uncle.

2.   Itu ibu saya. ibu mother

            She is my mother.

3.   Pria itu tinggi. pria man; tinggi tall; high

            The man is tall.

4.   Dia sering telepon saya. sering often

            He often gives me a call.

5.   Dia adalah saudara Peter. saudara brother

            He is Peterís brother.


How we use the pronoun -nya:


1.   Possessive pronoun his, her, or its:


bukunya            his, her or its book

anaknya            his, her or its offspring

negerinya          his, her or its country


For more details about word order, see the word order of compounds on page Ö


2.   Object pronoun him, her or it after the prepositions bersama together, bagi for, dengan with, di dekat near, kepada to (a person), pada in, on, at (before a abstract noun, person, time), oleh by and untuk for:


bersamanya      together with him, her or it

baginya            for him, her or it

di dekatnya       near him, her or it

dengannya        with him, her or it

kepadanya        to him, her or it

padanya           in him, her or it

olehnya             by him, her or it

untuknya           for him, her or it



dekat dia         near him, her or it


3.   Object pronoun him, her or it after transitive me- verbs:


melihat              to see, saw, seen

Kami melihatnya (not: melihat dia)

We saw him, her or it.

mencintai          to love, loved, loved

Saya mencintainya (not: mencintai dia)

I love him, her or it.



kenal (not a me- verb)    to know, knew, known (somebody)

Kami kenal dia. (not: kenalnya)

We know him.


ingat (not a me- verb)    to remember, remembered, remembered

Mereka ingat dia. (not: ingatnya)

They remember him.


lupa (not a me- verb)     to forget, forgot, forgotten

Peter lupa dia. (not: lupanya)

Peter forgot her.


For further details, please see the Plain Verbs.


F.   Reflesive or emphatic pronouns:


myself        (1) sendiri; (2) diri saya









English grammar requires certain helping words, i.e., auxiliary verbs, without any particular meaning to help us construct proper statements or phrases:


1.     be/is/am/are/was/were/been;

2.     the;

3.     a/an;

4.     do/does/did;

5.     have/has/had


A.   be/is/am/are/was/were/been is not translated when it is not used to emphasize a statement:


  1. He is here. here    di sini

Dia di sini.

  1. Mary is in London now.  in   di;   now   sekarang

Mary di London sekarang.

  1. This is a car. car   mobil

Ini mobil.

  1. They are engineers. engineer  insinyur

Mereka insinyur.

  1. Peter is a pilot. pilot   pilot

Peter pilot.


B.   When be/is/am/are/was/were/been is used to emphasize a statement so that it can somewhat mean really, or actually, it is translated into:


  1. ada to denote the existence of someone or something, also called locational be:


1.  He is here.                    Dia ada di sini.

2.  Mary is in London now.  Mary ada di London sekarang.


  1. adalah to give information about someone or something, what someone or something is, also called occupational be:


1.  My name is Robert.         Nama saya adalah Robert.

2.  They are investors.         Mereka adalah investor.

3.  She is a governor.          Dia adalah gubernur.

4.  I am a politician.              Saya adalah politisi.

5.  We are businesspeople.  Kami adalah pengusaha.




When the helping word be, or any of its variants, is, am, are, was, were, been, is used to indicate mental or physical condition, quality, or progressive activity, e.g., speaking, learning, it is not translated at all:


  1. He is smart.                  smart       pintar

Dia pintar.

  1. I am happy.                  happy     senang

Saya senang.

3.                                                     The house is beautiful.  beautiful   (1) indah (of view); (2) cantik (of a woman)

Rumah itu indah.

  1. She is studying Indonesian now. studying sedang belajar

Dia sedang belajar bahasa Indonesia sekarang.

  1. Jakarta is humid.           humid    lembab

Jakarta lembab.


Note in informal Indonesian the word ada also means to have, or to possess. It is used instead of the word mempunyai or punya, both mean to have, or to possess:


  1. Dia ada sebuah rumah di Medan.

He has a house in Medan.

  1. Wanita itu ada banyak sahabat pena.

The woman has a lot of pen-pals.











The word the has two functions:


A.        When it is not a demonstrative word and cannot be replaced by the word that or this such that it does not have an equivalent in Indonesian and, therefore, need not be translated, especially when it is used:


a.     Before a noun, by reason of locality, such that it can represent only one particular thing:


the kitchen (the kitchen of this house)     dapur

the garage (the garage of the house)      garasi

the post office (the local post office)       kantor pos


b.     Before an object or group of objects which is (considered to be) unique:


the sky          langit             the world     dunia

the sun          matahari         the west      barat

the moon       bulan


c.     Before a noun which is made definite by a phrase or clause immediately following:


the office of the president           kantor presiden

the manager of  a hotel              manajer hotel


d.     Before certain proper names:


the Alps                                    (Pegunungan) Alpen

the United States of America      Amerika Serikat

the Netherlands                         Belanda

the Earth                                   Bumi

the Pacific                                Pasifik


B.        When it can be replaced by the demonstrative word or pronoun this ini or that itu, we must translate it into ini or itu:


the book= that book      buku itu      this book    buku ini

the car= that car            mobil itu      this car        mobil ini

the house; that house    rumah itu    this house   rumah ini



PART III: a/an


A.   General or occupational a/an


a/an should not be translated when it represents no particular person or thing, is used to indicate what someone or something is and cannot be replaced by the word one:


  1. He is a captain. captain   kapten

Dia kapten.

  1. I am an American. American      orang Amerika

Saya orang Amerika.

  1. Husni is a professor. professor  profesor

Husni profesor.

  1. The man is a pilot

Pria itu pilot.

  1. The woman is a doctor.

Wanita itu dokter.


B.   Particular a/an


When it represents a particular person or thing and equals the word one, it must be be translated into the prefix se- one + classifier:


seorang     one person                for a person

seekor       one tail               for an animal

sebuah      one piece; fruit    for something which does not  have a specic shape or is difficult to describe, e.g., a house, car, TV

sehelai      one sheet           for something that is thin and wide or like a sheet, e.g., a shirt,  piece of paper,  pair of trousers

sebatang   one stick            for something that looks like a stick, e.g., a tree,  cigarette


(i)    For more details, please refer to Note (8), subsection A of Numerals, the Date and the Time.

(ii)   Just memorize the first three meanings above, because the rest are not as common.

(iii)  Model statements:


1.     A policeman, i.e., one policeman, is here.

      Seorang polisi (ada) di sini.

  1. An accountant, i.e., one accountant, came.

      Seorang akuntan datang.

  1. He bought a Jaguar, i.e., one Jaguar.

      Dia membeli sebuah Jaguar.

  1. I want a camera, one camera.

      Saya mau sebuah kamera.

  1. Peter had a meeting, i.e., one meeting.

      Peter ada sebuah rapat.


More examples:

2 teachers               2 orang guru

3 houses                 3 buah rumah

4 appointments       4 buah janji

5 meetings              5 buah rapat

6 friends                 6 orang teman



1.   The examples above show that the classifiers orang, ekor, helai, batang etc. are used to count the number of persons or things only. Therefore, no classifiers may be used below:


the book           buku itu

the movie          film itu

the movies        film-film itu

her car              mobilnya

her cars            mobil-mobilnya


2.   In informal Indonesian classifiers are usually not used:


2 teachers               2 guru

3 houses                 3 rumah

4 appointments       4 janji

5 meetings              5 rapat

6 friends                 6 teman


However, classifiers must be used in formal Indonesian and in writing, especially formal correspondence, notes.






PART IV: do/does/did



A.    No Indonesian translation


do/does/did is not translated when it just helps us make proper English questions, negative statements and negative questions. As a result, the Indonesian translations of the English questions and statements below are very simple:


A.1 Yes-No Questions:


A.1.1    Do you like Coca-Cola?   to like  suka

            Anda suka Coca-Cola?

A.1.2    Does he live in Surabaya?  to live  tinggal

            Dia tinggal di Surabaya?

A.1.3    Did he go to Europe?    to go  pergi

            Dia pergi ke Eropa?


A.2 Negative Statements:


A.2.1    He does not work here.

            Dia tidak bekerja di sini.

A.2.2    They do not live in Surabaya.

            Mereka tidak tinggal di Surabaya.

A.2.3    He did not go to Europe.

            Dia tidak pergi ke Eropa.

A.2.4    Saya tidak tahu.

                I donít know.


A.3 Negative Questions


There are two versions:

A.3.1    Normal

An Indonesian negative question can be made a question by putting a question-mark in writing and raising raising the voice in speech:


A.3.1.1  - Dia tidak bekerja di sini.

            ? Dia tidak bekerja di sini?

(broken English) - He does not work here?