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Negation in Indonesian: Learn How to Say No!

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If you’ve decided to learn a foreign language, whether for work or just for fun, it’s essential to stay positive and motivated. This will make all the difference as you progress toward your language learning goals. 

As you aim for positivity and a smooth language learning journey, I’m sure you would love to always be able to say yes!

However, as you may imagine, you’ll also need to learn how to form negative sentences in Indonesian before you master the language. Don’t worry though. We only mean “negative” from a grammatical point of view…so keep the positive vibe!

In this article, you’ll learn all about negation in Indonesian: how to answer a closed-ended question correctly and politely, how to transform positive sentences into negative ones, and how to use other common negative expressions. 

We perfectly understand that saying no is never easy, especially for us people-pleasers. But we assure you it will become a less daunting task (at least from a language-learning perspective) by the time you finish this complete guide to Indonesian negatives.

So, let’s start looking at how to say no and form negative sentences in Bahasa Indonesia.

A Woman Holding Cards that Say Yes and No
Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Negative Sentences
  2. How to Give a Negative Answer to a Question
  3. Other Negating Words
  4. Want to Dig Even Deeper?

1. Negative Sentences

First of all, how do we define and recognize a negative sentence?

In English, negative sentences usually have the word “not” or “no.” To negate a verb, for example, we place “not” after an auxiliary verb (do, have, be, etc.).

  • Maria is not happy. 
  • We did not go to the supermarket today. 

In short, a negative sentence is usually one that states that something is false.

Negations play a very important role in any language. If you didn’t know how to transform a positive sentence into a negative one, how to use negative expressions, or how to say “no” in general, everyday life would probably get pretty interesting (and not in a good way!).

As such, forming negatives correctly in Bahasa Indonesia is an essential part of your language learning journey. It’s just as important as expanding your vocabulary and practicing your listening, speaking, and writing skills.

The good news? Learning how to do it is actually quite easy! Indonesian grammar and syntax are very simple, and there are just a few things you’ll have to remember in order to form negatives correctly. 

An Indonesian Girl Holding the Indonesian Flag Triumphantly

Perfect Indonesian negation is waiting for you!

Indonesian Negation

There are two main words in Indonesian for negative phrases and sentences: tidak and bukan. These two words of negation are often confusing for learners and non-native speakers and, sometimes, even for Indonesians themselves. 

Some people say that one word is formal and the other informal, but this is not exactly true. Let’s see the difference between tidak and bukan, so that you’ll never have doubts about this again!

Tidak

The most commonly used word for forming negative sentences in Indonesian is tidak. This word can be seen as an equivalent of the English word “not,” but it’s also the same word used for “no.”

Tidak is used to negate verbs and adjectives, which means it’s employed in sentences that describe actions and/or qualities. Have a look at the examples below to get a better understanding:

  • Saya tidak minum kopi. (I don’t drink coffee.)
  • Kopi itu tidak panas. (The coffee is not hot.)

In the first sentence, we are negating the verb minum (to drink), which describes an action. In the second sentence, we are negating the adjective panas (hot), which describes a quality of the coffee. 

To use tidak, simply place it after the subject; nothing else in the sentence needs to change at all. Pretty easy, right? Here are some more examples:

  • Saya tidak suka apel. (I do not like apples.)
  • Dia tidak malas. (He is not lazy.)

Again, in the first sentence we negate the verb suka (to like), while in the second we negate an adjective that describes a quality: malas (lazy).

A Man Multitasking

He is not lazy.

Bukan 

Another word that we use to form negative sentences in Indonesian is bukan, which can also be translated as “not.”

Bukan is used the same way as tidak: We simply place it after the subject of the sentence to make the sentence negative. 

The difference between these two words lies in the fact that, while we use tidak for negating verbs and adjectives (actions and qualities), we use bukan to negate nouns (things, objects, and people) and personal pronouns (I, you, he/she/it, we, you, they …or… me, him, them, etc.). 

  • Ini bukan pensil, ini buku. (It’s not a pencil, it is a book.)
  • Saya bukan Superman. (I am not Superman.)

In the first sentence, we negate an object (the noun pensil or “pencil”), while in the second, we negate the noun “Superman.”

Here are some more examples:

  • Ini bukan buku. (This is not a book.)
  • Saya bukan dia. (I am not him/her.)

Again, here we negate the noun buku (book) and the personal pronoun dia (he/him/she/her). 

Another interesting thing about the word bukan is that it can be used in questions as an equivalent to the English phrase “isn’t it?” and its variations. 

To do this, you simply have to attach bukan to the end of the sentence to turn it into a question. 

  • Kamu  mahasiswa, bukan? (You are a student, aren’t you?)
  • Pesawat berangkat jam lima, bukan? (The plane leaves at five, doesn’t it?)

This construction can be used when you’re unsure or doubtful about the truth of the statement and are seeking confirmation from the person you’re talking to. It’s a good expression to learn how to use and recognize! 

Once you know the difference between these two words, it will be much easier for you to choose the right one during a conversation, and native speakers will surely be impressed by your knowledge!

2. How to Give a Negative Answer to a Question

In general, all questions can be divided into two groups: open-ended and closed-ended questions. A closed-ended question is usually one that can be answered with “yes” or “no,” without needing to give any further explanation.

A Woman Trying to Find Money in Her Money Purse

No, I don’t have any change, sorry.

In English, for example, we say: “Yes, I do.” / “No, I don’t.” As we know, after saying that, we are free to give an explanation if we want to.

Logically, to respond to a yes-or-no question in Bahasa Indonesia, we’ll also start with a yes (ya) or a no (tidak). 

It’s actually not considered impolite to leave it there! If you want, you can repeat the sentence you were asked, but this might sound unnatural. For an extra touch of politeness, just add terima kasih (thank you).

3. Other Negating Words

Sure, knowing how to use tidak and bukan in all types of sentences is a great start, but there’s a lot more to learn about negatives. If you want to sound like a native, it’s essential to know how to use other common negative expressions. 

Let’s see a few more words you’ll need for negation in Indonesian:

  • nothing = tidak ada / bukan apa-apa
  • never = tidak pernah
  • nowhere = tidak ke mana-mana
  • neither = tidak dua-duanya
  • not / un- = tak 

4. Want to Dig Even Deeper?

If you’ve decided you want to learn more Indonesian grammar rules and vocab, check out all the great content available on IndonesianPod101.com. On our website and through our app, you’ll have access to all the content you need to make your language-learning experience as interesting and pleasant as possible.

You can also listen to our podcasts and audio lessons to improve your listening skills, gradually build your Indonesian vocabulary with word lists and our free dictionary, and get to discover great strategies from our top language experts on how to best approach the study of Bahasa Indonesia.

A Woman Studying Early in the Morning with Textbooks and Her Phone

If you’re learning Indonesian because you’re planning a trip to Southeast Asia, we highly recommend our travel Survival Course

Being able to understand and communicate with the locals in their native language will not only help you remain safe during your stay, but it will also provide amazing and unique opportunities to connect with Indonesian people and make sure your adventures are truly unforgettable. 

Sure, we hope that you’ll be able to be positive and answer yes to all the invitations and opportunities that come up. But at least now you know how to build negative sentences correctly in Indonesian, just in case. Or, like with curse words, you might not want to use Indonesian negation yourself—but at least you’ll know when someone else does.

And, if you’re learning Bahasa Indonesia to enhance your professional life, make the commitment and start practicing and studying with all of the incredible resources on IndonesianPod101.com. 

With a little commitment, you’ll start seeing improvement before you know it. 

Our content will help you stay motivated to learn so that you can reach your Indonesian language goals as fast as possible!

Before you go, try writing out a few negative sentences in Indonesian in the comments. We’ll get back to you with feedback and corrections. Good luck!

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