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Archive for the 'Indonesian Phrases' Category

Watch Out for These Common Mistakes in Indonesian


There’s a certain face that people make when they can’t understand what you’re saying.

For many people, it’s a screwed-up grimace of concentration. For Indonesians, it’s more of a quiet smile and a slow drift of attention.

Indonesians are polite folks, to be sure. They’re not going to tell you very much about your mistakes in Indonesian when you’re speaking with them.

That’s up to you.

If you want to hold up your end of the Indonesian conversation, you’ve got to make sure you’re speaking Indonesian that’s beyond just “comprehensible.” It must be pleasant to listen to, and with as few mistakes as possible.

But what types of mistakes tend to be the worst for Indonesian-learners, and how can you get around them?

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Tricky Pronunciation
  2. Confusing Words
  3. Is Indonesian Grammar Really That Easy?
  4. The Shape of Words
  5. Watch Your Pronoun Attitude
  6. The Biggest Mistake
  7. Conclusion

1. Tricky Pronunciation

View of Skyscrapers in Jakarta

Indonesian, by and large, is an easy language to pronounce. You could show a phrasebook to someone who’d never even heard of Jakarta, and they could make themselves understood in a couple of minutes, tops.

But there are definitely a couple of things that totally give away foreigners speaking Indonesian.

Chief among these is probably the vowels. Indonesian has six “pure” vowels: 

  • /a/ as in “talk” 
  • /e/ sort of like in “day”
  • /i/ as in “see” 
  • /o/ kind of like “go”
  • /u/ as in “you”
  • /ǝ/, the unstressed vowel in “duh” 

It also has the short “i” and “o” sounds in “bit” and “lock,” but those only appear right at the end of words before a consonant.

The common mistake in Indonesian comes when English-speakers in particular start morphing those vowel sounds into diphthongs. They’re pure vowels, and Indonesian doesn’t actually have a lot of diphthongs!

Another mistake that tends to be made more by Europeans and Mandarin Chinese speakers has to do with the “p,” “t,” and “k” sounds at the end of words. You’re not supposed to fully pronounce them.

In fact, to make these sounds, one should cut off the airflow very briefly but never release—which, coincidentally, happens a lot in English, but not in most European languages. Mandarin speakers have the opposite problem, where they find it unnatural to end words with those sounds at all!

2. Confusing Words

Little Girl Trying to Decide Between Red and Green Apple

Indonesian vocabulary can be super-easy to pick up (browse through a list of nonfiction Indonesian titles and count all the English loan words), but there are times when it can be devilishly tricky.

This isn’t helped by the fact that there are a bunch of words that sound really close to one another, but are actually false friends! For example:

  • kelapa – “coconut”
    kepala – a person’s head
  • semangat – an exclamation like “Go!” or “Hooray!”
    semangka – “watermelon”
  • mangkuk – “bowl”
    mangga – “mango”
  • handuk – “towel”
    hantu – “ghost”

If you happen to know some Spanish, you might be tripped up by the fact that dia is an extremely common word in Indonesian. However, it means “he/she/it,” not “day”! That’s hari, but since they both have similar vowels, it may take some effort to get these two words separated in your mind.

Of course, not all of these words are going to pose problems for everybody. Order susu kelapa (“coconut milk”) enough times, and you won’t even think about how close the word is to kepala.

The best way to remember confusing words is to focus on just one at a time. Studying them close to one another is a great way to strengthen the links between them in your mind and make it harder and harder to untangle the two words!

3. Is Indonesian Grammar Really That Easy?

Man Taking a Nap in the Grass

Well, yes, more or less.

You can’t make any mistakes in Indonesian relating to word genders or adjective endings. However, people do tend to get confused at times with the word order.

After all, in a language without conjugation or declension, the word order is what ends up really carrying the meaning of each sentence. In Indonesian, you can often translate sentences word-for-word into English, which makes other, more variant sentence patterns more challenging to remember.

A typical sticking point for new learners is forming questions the right way. Let’s say you want to express “Whose car is this?” The only problem is that Indonesian doesn’t have a word for “whose”!

  • Mobil siapa ini?
    “Whose car is this?”

As you can see, we just put the word siapa (“who”) after the noun, and this word order is the key that communicates possession. 

Although Indonesian doesn’t have tenses in the form of verbs changing their appearance, there are particles that signify completed, in-progress, and future actions. These include sudah, sedang, and akan. These have got to go right in front of the verb—no exceptions.

  • Mika sedang mencuci mobil.
    “Mika is washing the car (right now).”

If you know Vietnamese, then this is easy. But if you know Mandarin, you’ll have to switch things around, since the “completed action” particle comes after the verb in Mandarin. 

4. The Shape of Words

A Couple Riding Their Bikes Down a Hill

One fascinating thing about Indonesian grammar is the ability to make subtle variations on verbs by adding prefixes, suffixes, and circumfixes.

If you’re new to the language, you might not have fully registered the rules for the most common prefix, meN-. Now, that capital letter isn’t really written that way. What’s going on?

The letter is here to stand for any nasal sound, such as “m,” “n,” “ny,” or “ng.” To know which one to use, look at the first sound of the root and where it’s pronounced in the mouth, then choose the ending closest to that.

So the root word baca can never be mengbaca because ng is pronounced all the way in the back of the mouth, and b is pronounced with the lips. Instead, it’s membaca!

Another pretty noticeable feature of Indonesian words is reduplication, where you simply repeat the word to mark the plural. And this leads to more common mistakes in Indonesian.

Something a lot of learners will do is reduplicate words every time they want to express the plural form, even though, in real Indonesian, the context is used more often than reduplication.

Remember: The reduplication is only really used for emphasis or when it’s not clear (but important to your sentence) that the thing you’re talking about is plural.

5. Watch Your Pronoun Attitude

A Beach in Bali During Summer

Up until this point, we haven’t touched on much that’s really specific to the Indonesian language. As much as we’d rather not, it’s easy to make word order and pronunciation mistakes in any language!

One thing that’s rather interesting about Indonesian is that there are a lot of different pronouns used for different situations. Other languages spoken in Southeast Asia kind of have this as well, but it’s not something European language-speakers tend to be familiar with.

For instance, if you’re a middle-aged man, most people are going to address you as pak or Bapak instead of using the second person pronoun kamu (“you”). Middle-aged women get bu or Ibu.

Younger people often get mas or mbak, though these are actually Javanese and not used quite as much in Sumatra, Bali, or other parts of the country.

The mistake here would be assuming that you can use the same pronouns with the same people all over Indonesia. In Yogyakarta, for instance, the informal pronouns are aku and kamu for first and second person, respectively.

In Jakarta, though, people tend to use gue and lu for the same meaning, whereas aku and kamu are reserved for lovers!

To stay on the safe side, you should stick with neutral and polite pronouns, even if others address you in a more familiar way (that is, saya and Anda for first and second person, respectively). This is something that confuses native speakers too when they move to other cities, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

6. The Biggest Mistake

Imagine you’re enjoying a tasty bowl of mi goreng at a tiny restaurant, and the owner asks you a question you don’t quite understand.

Do you say: Maaf, sekali lagi? (“Sorry, one more time?”)

Or do you nervously bolt down the rest of your noodles and leave, embarrassed and silent?

That’s the mistake too many language-learners make around the world—getting too wrapped up in their own mistakes.

And yes, lots of Indonesians can speak English very well. Some of them may become frustrated and switch to English on you at times. But there are tons more who either aren’t that comfortable with English or would love the opportunity to chat with you, no matter how many Rs you forget to roll.

7. Conclusion

There’s no way for you to be a perfect Indonesian-speaker without first being an imperfect one.

However, if you push yourself to speak a lot before you feel very comfortable, you do risk ingraining some of your mistakes and making them harder to fix later on. 

And as you reach a more advanced level and try to express more complicated ideas, you might find that smaller mistakes tend to build up on themselves and make it progressively harder to get your message across.

That’s why it’s important to always listen to and read Indonesian as much as possible. This way, you can always have good examples of real Indonesian for your subconscious to internalize. That’s what you get right here with IndonesianPod101!

What Indonesian mistakes do you make the most often? If you’ve managed to overcome a mistake, do you have any advice for your fellow Indonesian-learners? We look forward to hearing from you in the comments!

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Your Playbook of Perfect Indonesian Questions and Answers


Would you describe yourself as a curious person?

If you’re learning Indonesian, we imagine that you probably do! 

You can make that curiosity work for your Indonesian skills, too! When you talk to people, they’ll be interested in who you are and what’s driven you to learn their language. And the bread and butter of that is questions.

Statistically, questions make up a big part of conversation in any language. By preparing yourself with the most common Indonesian questions and answers, you’ll become familiar and comfortable with these conversational keystones and come off as a skilled conversationalist.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Your Name
  2. Your Origin Story
  3. Language Matters
  4. Traveling Around
  5. A Personal Question
  6. A Taste of Indonesia
  7. Work-day Life
  8. What’s up?
  9. The Price is Right
  10. Conclusion

1. Your Name

First Encounter

In Indonesian, you’re going to be confused at first with the pronouns. There are a lot of different ways that people can address you, so in this article, we’ll stick to the tried-and-true saya/kamu mix.

But let’s break that rule right away, because if someone’s asking your name, they’re going to be polite with you. Don’t worry: only the pronoun changes in this Indonesian question.

  • Siapa nama Anda?
    “What’s your name?”

The word nama is a cognate of the English word “name,” but it actually comes from Sanskrit instead of a more modern European language as you might assume. 

To answer the question, switch the words around and say:

  • Nama saya Denis.
    “My name is Denis.”

2. Your Origin Story

People you tend to meet and chat with in Indonesia are even more likely to ask this question than the last. It can be so quick and to the point that you might miss it if you don’t pay attention!

As you can see, it’s not that necessary to include the pronouns. At a restaurant or cafe, you might hear Dari mana, kak? where kak is the basic form of address for young people who are older than you.

To answer, you’ll be using the dari, or “from,” preposition again.

  • Saya dari Melbourne.
    “I’m from Melbourne.”

Something you’ll pick up pretty quickly when it comes to the pragmatics, or conversation rules, of Indonesian is the way people repeat back new information. So in this short scenario above, person A would ask, person B would respond, then person A would repeat dari Melbourne back in a knowing tone of voice.

They’re not correcting your pronunciation—they’re just holding up their end of the conversation!

3. Language Matters

Introducing Yourself

The Indonesian questions here are those you’re very likely to hear while in the country, and they’re about the language itself.

  • Apakah kamu bisa berbahasa Indonesia?
    “Do you speak Indonesian?”

You certainly do! Also, as Indonesia’s influence in Southeast Asia grows, more and more people are picking up the language all around the region. You shouldn’t shy away from trying out this phrase in other countries!

The answer is probably not tidak, or “no,” for obvious reasons. Instead, if you’re not comfortable speaking Indonesian just yet, you can say:

  • Maaf, tidak begitu lancar.
    “Sorry, not very fluently.”

If you manage to answer like that, you’ll get a great reaction, something like Sudah bagus! meaning “It’s already great!” And perhaps this follow-up:

  • Sudah berapa lama belajar bahasa Indonesia?
    “How long have you been studying Indonesian?”

To answer, we’ll use the word sudah again to note that it’s already been a certain amount of time, then simply add the relevant unit and amount of time.

  • Sudah enam bulan.
    “Six months already.”

4. Traveling Around

If you happen to meet an Indonesian abroad and speak Indonesian with them, you’ll invariably get this question:

That translation is pretty broad, because what’s literally happening here is: “Already to Indonesia?” To answer, you don’t even have to change the word order.

  • Iya, sudah ke Jakarta (dua kali).
    “Yeah, I’ve already been to Jakarta (twice).”

Don’t get thrown off by this separate but similar question: Sudah lama di Indonesia? or “Have you been living in Indonesia for a long time?” In that case, you could reply with the same time-related words as before. 

5. A Personal Question

In Indonesian culture, questions can get pretty personal. It’s common for people to get married in their twenties, so someone aged twenty to thirty-five or so is liable to get some variation of these questions:

  • Sudah menikah belum?
    “Are you married yet?”
  • Sudah beristri?
    “Do you have a wife?”
  • Sudah bersuami?
    “Do you have a husband?”

Culturally, you don’t answer “no” to this question. In Indonesian, it’s much better to say belum, meaning “not yet.” And if the answer is yes, it’s still a one-word deal: Sudah! (You’ve got to say it enthusiastically, especially if your spouse is there with you.)

6. A Taste of Indonesia

Mutton Gulai Curry Indonesian Dish

You can find just about any type of food you want in Indonesian cities, particularly if your tastes skew East Asian. Home-grown Indonesian food can’t be beat, however, and you’re sure to have people asking about your opinions.

  • Apakah kamu suka makanan Indonesia?
    “Do you like Indonesian food?”

The apakah bit is kind of optional. Since the question is being asked to you, it doesn’t need that explicit marker.

In your answer, the best way to keep the conversation going is to name a specific type of Indonesian food that keeps you coming back.

  • Iya, suka! Makanan kesukaanku adalah nasi goreng.
    “Yes, I love it! My favorite food is nasi goreng.”

Let’s briefly examine the word kesukaanku, which means “my favorite.” It’s made up of four individual parts.

First, the root is suka, meaning “to like,” which we just saw in the question. Adding the prefix ke– and the suffix -an turns it into a noun: “favorite.” 

Finally, the suffix -ku is a possessive meaning “mine.” So you could have:

  • mi kesukaanku – “my favorite noodles”
  • ayam goreng kesukaanku – “my favorite fried chicken”
  • minuman kesukaanku – “my favorite drink”

7. Work-day Life

A Nurse and Doctor Looking at Papers on a Clipboard

Many people in Indonesia will assume that you’re traveling there, like most foreigners. However, sometimes something in your body language will indicate to them that you’ve been there a while. They may ask:

  • Kamu bekerja apa?
    “What do you do?”
  • Apa pekerjaanmu?
    “What’s your work?”

These questions are interchangeable, but they illustrate two ways to use the root word kerja, or “work,” in a sentence. 

First, there’s pekerjaan, with the pe-an circumfix making it a concrete noun: “employment.” Then there’s bekerja, a verb meaning “to have a job.” 

To answer, you could either replace the -mu, or “your,” possessive suffix with the -ku, or “my,” one we saw earlier: 

  • Pekerjaanku doktor.
    “I am a doctor.”

Or you could avoid dealing with extra suffixes and simply say: 

  • Saya bekerja sebagai doktor.
    “I work as a doctor.”

The word sebagai is optional here, but you’ll find it used more often than not.

8. What’s up?

Not every conversation happens with the same opening and closing lines. However, in Indonesian, you could be forgiven for thinking they do!

This phrase is a standard friendly greeting for Indonesians all over the place. You can kind of think of it as mapping to an idiomatic English equivalent.

  • Apa kabar?
    “What’s up?”

Literally, though, you’re saying “What news?” Now this is unusual, because the answer is always baik, meaning “good.”

In some textbooks, you’ll probably see the phrase bagaimana kabarmu as a more formal equivalent, but nobody really talks like that.

In a formal situation with one person speaking to a group of people, they’ll often say this standard greeting:

  • Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.
    “May peace be upon us all.”

You can also say:

  • Assalamualaikum.
    “Peace upon us.”

This one does have a set response: 

  • Waalaikum salam.
    “And upon you.”

As this is a loanword (or loan phrase) from Classical Arabic, it shows up written and pronounced in slightly different ways from person to person. If you, as a foreigner, manage to pull it off in the correct context, people will immediately perk up and pay attention.

9. The Price is Right

An Indonesian Rupiah

Rounding off here, this is one of the questions you’ll probably end up using the most day-to-day in Indonesia.

  • Berapa harganya?
    “How much is it?”

The root word harga means “price,” and the -nya makes it refer to a specific price. Namely, the price of the thing you’re pointing at in the restaurant or in the shop.

Mostly, people will just reply with the number:

  • Tiga puluh ribu.
    “Thirty thousand.”

As you can see, it’s not necessary here—or in many other phrases—to reply with a complete sentence! The context takes care of filling in any grammatical gaps.

10. Conclusion

To be honest, as long as you master the questions about your name, where you’re from, and how much things cost, you’ll be miles ahead of other learners. And all of that can be picked up in a couple of hours!

The next step is adding detail.

Where are you going in Indonesia? How much does two of these things cost?

You can come up with follow-up questions in English and then look for them in Indonesian while listening to and reading Indonesian content.

Speaking of which, is the logical next step to take when you’re expanding your conversation horizons. With our guided lessons, flashcards, and reading material, you’ll never be lost for words.

Have a look right now at some of the podcast dialogues, and see for yourself what kind of questions can be asked and answered!

Before you go, why not practice some of these Indonesian questions and answers straight away? Try answering one or more of the questions from this article in Indonesian, and leave your answers in the comments section. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Jumpstart Your Learning with Ten Basic Indonesian Sentences


You may be surprised at how fast you can start speaking Indonesian.

Once you get a good stock of vocabulary, all you need to memorize is a handful of customizable Indonesian sentences. Then, you can easily make people think you’re good at the language.

In Indonesian, there are some fascinating grammatical aspects concerning verbs, but for communication purposes, you can leave them out entirely—plenty of Indonesians do this, too! 

So picking up Indonesian through patterns is pretty easy. In this article, we’ll outline ten different sentence patterns ready for your plug-and-play use. By the time you get to the end, you’ll probably start noticing these patterns (and more) all over the place in your studies!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Simple Noun Equivalencies
  2. Using Adjectives in Indonesian Sentences
  3. Expressing Your Desires
  4. What Do You Need?
  5. Quick Review: Questions
  6. Simple Requests
  7. Asking Where Things Are
  8. Using “Because” in Indonesian
  9. Describing Things That Happened
  10. If This, Then That
  11. Conclusion

1. Simple Noun Equivalencies

An Expensive Watch Surrounded by Jewelry

The Indonesian word for connecting two nouns is adalah. It means something like “is,” but you’ll note in the next section that it’s used only for nouns, not adjectives. Let’s see this Indonesian sentence structure in action:

  • Hary adalah rektor.
    “Hary is the rector.”
  • Dia seorang supir.
    “She is a driver.”
  • Jam ini adalah hadiah dari istriku.
    “This watch is a present from my wife.”
  • Restoran ini adalah restoran Tiongkok.
    “This restaurant is a Chinese restaurant.”
  • Motor merah adalah motor sang presiden.
    “The red motorcycle is the president’s motorcycle.”

2. Using Adjectives in Indonesian Sentences

Maroon Motorcycle against White Background

In Indonesian sentences, adjectives always follow nouns. And for a simple noun-is-adjective kind of sentence, you only need two words!

  • Langit biru.
    “The sky is blue.”
  • Suara anjing itu besar.
    “The dog’s voice (bark) is loud.”
  • Motor merah itu bukan motor teman sekelasku.
    “The red motorcycle isn’t the motorcycle of my classmate.”
  • Mereka suka menonton film-film Korea.
    “They like watching Korean movies.”
  • Susu yang dijual di pasar malam tidak begitu segar.
    “The milk sold at the night market isn’t that fresh.”

3. Expressing Your Desires

A Tiger Laying on a Large Rock

There are a number of different verbs for “want” in Indonesian. The first and most common is mau, pronounced ma-oo with a clear distinction between the vowels.

  • Saya mau es teh.
    “I want iced tea.”
  • Anak itu mau pergi.
    “The child wants to leave.”

The next word, used just as commonly, is ingin (literally “to wish”). In informal Indonesian spoken on Java, it’s pronounced more like engin, but the meaning is the same. It’s usually followed by verbs.

  • Kelas itu membosankan dan para mahasiswa ingin pergi ke pantai.
    “The class is boring and the student wants to go to the beach.”
  • Ibu ingin menjual buah-buahan.
    “Mother wants to sell fruits.”

Lastly, the verb hendak is the most common way to say “to want” in the related Malay language, but in Indonesian, it’s something formal you’d only hear in speeches or read in books.

  • Harimau hendak makan orang di desa.
    “The tiger wants to eat the people in the village.”

4. What Do You Need? 

Sentence Patterns

Every learner should know basic Indonesian sentences for expressing needs. In English, we typically use the words “must” and “need” for this, and we can do the same thing in Indonesian. Harus is the Indonesian word for “must” and perlu is “need.”

Here are a few examples of how to use them in Indonesian phrases:

  • Kamu harus pergi sekarang.
    “You must go now.”
  • Aku perlu motor baru.
    “I need a new motorcycle.”
  • Aku harus membeli motor baru.
    “I must buy a new motorcycle.”
  • Kamu harus mengingat apa yang saya bilang ini.
    “You must remember what I’m saying.”

5. Quick Review: Questions

Two Glasses of Iced Tea with Lemon Wedges

So far, these sentences have been really simple and easy! Let’s practice the necessary verbs again, this time by adding the question word apakah, or the question suffix -kah.

  • Perlukah Anda motor baru?
    “Do you need a new motorcycle?”
  • Apakah kamu mau es teh?
    “Do you want iced tea?”
  • Apakah langit biru?
    “Is the sky blue?”

The word apa (“what”) is indispensable in both questions and answers in Indonesian. We already saw apa yang saya sedang bilang (“what I am saying to you”) in a statement format, so here’s the question version.

  • Film apa ini?
    “What film is this?”
  • Apa itu “bebek?”
    “What is a ‘duck’?”

6. Simple Requests

Sentence Components

There are two very commonly used words in Indonesian for asking people to do things for you, and of course, several more words besides. Tolong has a general sense that you really need that thing done, while mohon is simply a polite request word.

  • Mohon duduk dulu.
    “Please sit first.”
  • Tolong bawakan aku kamus Arab.
    “Please bring me the Arabic dictionary.”
  • Mohon untuk tidak makan babi di restoran ini.
    “Please don’t eat pork in this restaurant.”

You can use minta in much the same way as you use mohon, with the added ability to use it to order food.

  • Minta segelas jus stroberi.
    “One glass of strawberry juice, please.”
  • Minta cepat, ya.
    “Please hurry it up.”

That last sentence is of great use as is whenever you’re at a restaurant and particularly hungry! 

7. Asking Where Things Are

A Wallet Left on the Ground Somewhere

Indonesian uses a “locative particle,” di, instead of the typical set of prepositions we know from other languages. You can think of di as being similar to “at,” and then whatever word follows di can indicate the location more precisely.

  • Aku di kamar.
    “I’m in the room.”
  • Dompet di dalam tas.
    “The wallet is in the bag.”
  • Jangan duduk di atas meja.
    “Don’t sit on top of the table.”

By using another question word, mana (“which”), you can start asking questions.

  • Di mana dompetku?
    “Where is my wallet?”
  • Kamu berada di kamar mana?
    “Which room are you in now?”

8. Using “Because” in Indonesian

Now let’s go a little bit more advanced and use the conjunction karena, meaning “because.” Don’t worry, though; it works in Indonesian language sentences just like you’d expect it to in English! 

We had some very basic noun and adjective sentences right at the beginning of the article, so let’s replicate that pattern and see how we can connect cause and effect.

  • Dia sakit karena air kotor.
    “He is sick because the water is dirty.”
  • Orang-orang takut karena harimau lapar.
    “The people are scared because the tiger is hungry.”

Naturally, you can add verbs after karena. The only difference from English is a bonus for learners: You don’t need to repeat the subject or a pronoun. The subject is remembered from the first half of the sentence.

  • Filmnya keren karena ceritanya bagus.
    “The film was cool because it had a good story.”
  • Aku perlu motor baru karena motor saya rusak.
    “I need a new motorcycle because my motorcycle is broken.”
  • Fifi dihukum karena menyetir terlalu cepat.
    “Fifi was punished because she drove too fast.”

9. Describing Things That Happened

A Woman Eating Breakfast and Drinking Tea at a Table

Past tense in Indonesian is often taken care of through context alone. If you’re already having a conversation about something that happened, there’s usually no grammatical marking in the sentence to refer to the past tense again and again.

The particle sudah means “already,” and it’s your best bet when you want to explicitly introduce the past tense.

  • Dia sudah sarapan.
    “He (already) ate breakfast.”
  • Apakah presentasi sudah selesai?
    “Has the presentation already finished?”
  • Aku sudah membaca buku baru itu.
    “I have read that new book.”

When you ask a question about things that might have already happened, you should try to end it with the word belum (“not yet”). It’s totally fine if you say something like the presentation example above, but using belum can often sound a little more idiomatic.

  • Kamu sudah makan belum?
    “Have you already eaten yet?”
  • Dia sudah lulus belum?
    “Has she already graduated yet?”

10. If This, Then That

Like “because,” you might worry that conditional statements in Indonesian are above your level. Fear not, because it really does work in quite a familiar way! Things that might take a couple of semesters to figure out in European languages are open to you right now before the end of this article. 

The word for “if” is kalau. Here’s how it’s used in an Indonesian sentence:

  • Kalau tidak tidur, ngantuk.
    “If [you] don’t sleep, [you will be] sleepy.”
  • Aku tidak akan ikut kalau ada PR.
    “I’m not going to come if I have homework.”
  • Kalau presiden tetap berbohong, orang-orang tidak akan memilih dia lagi.
    “If the president keeps lying, people won’t vote for him again.”
  • Kalau kamu belajar bahasa Indonesia, kamu harus membaca buku Indonesia.
    “If you study Indonesian, you need to read Indonesian books.”

The other use for kalau is as a marker of a changed topic, something like “as for” in English.

  • Kalau Jakarta, terlalu macet.
    “If [we’re discussing] Jakarta, it’s too congested.”
  • Kalau di Bali, kamu harus pergi ke Ubud!
    “As for Bali, you’ve got to go to Ubud!”

11. Conclusion

We didn’t point it out explicitly, but you probably noticed the Indonesian way to express ownership, too: If teman is “friend,” teman saya is “friend I” or “my friend.”

If you go through some of the Indonesian lessons and resources here on, who knows what other patterns you’ll find? Your brain is absolutely wired to pick up on connections like this.

The only problem is, you might learn too fast and start speaking more than you can understand! Always balance your spoken or written Indonesian with lots of listening and reading.

Good thing IndonesianPod101 has everything you need in that regard, too—vocabulary lists, grammar and pronunciation guides, and even smart flashcards!

Check out the Indonesian learning materials right here and enjoy effortless Indonesian in practically no time at all!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if we’ve answered your questions today! How many of these Indonesian sentences are new to you? We look forward to hearing from you!

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The 100 Most Commonly Used Indonesian Verbs


Indonesian verbs are both very different from English verbs and very easy to learn.

How can that be? Well, it turns out that Indonesian syntax is pretty close to English syntax, and the verb complications simply add extra shades of meaning—we’re not dealing with huge differences here.

Since verbs are indisputably important to everything you want to say in Indonesian, here’s a list of the most common Indonesian verbs, divided into categories based on both grammatical function and meaning.

We’re not even going to explain very much here about the grammar. By the time you get to the end, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve picked up!

Ready to learn Indonesian verbs? Let’s get to it.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Useful Verbs in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Warmup: Common No-Prefix Verbs
  2. Part 1: Ber- Verbs
  3. Part 2: Me- Verbs
  4. Part 3: Ter- Verbs
  5. Conclusion

1. Warmup: Common No-Prefix Verbs

Top Verbs

The majority of Indonesian verbs have prefixes that sort of guide the meaning. You’ll see more details on Indonesian verb prefixes soon, but here are some very common and important verbs that simply don’t come with prefixes at all.

1. duduk – to sit

Jangan duduk di kursiku.
“Don’t sit on my chair.”

2. ingat – to remember

Ingatlah apa yang saya akan laporkan.

“Remember what I’m going to report.”

3. masuk  – to enter

Mari, masuk!
“Welcome, enter!”

4. lupa  – to forget

Kok aku lupa membawa air.
“Oh gosh, I forgot to bring water.”

5. mulai  – to begin

Acaranya tidak akan mulai hari ini.
“The event won’t begin today.”

6. tahu  – to know

Dia tidak tahu apa pun.
“He doesn’t know anything.”

7. minum – to drink

Anda harus minum lebih banyak teh.
“You have to drink more tea.”

8. selesai – to finish

Rere belum selesai tugasnya.
“Rere hasn’t finished her work yet.”

9. tidur – to sleep

Aku akan tidur di luar.

“I’m going to sleep outside.”

10. kembali – to return

Fitri sudah lama belum kembali dari Cina.
“Fitri hasn’t come back from China for a long time.”

2. Part 1: Ber- Verbs

Woman Wearing Scarf

Verbs in Indonesian beginning with the prefix ber- are always intransitive.

Let’s start out this section on Indonesian intransitive verbs with some of the easiest to grasp. If you add ber- to concrete nouns, such as an article of clothing or a mode of transportation, it simply means “to wear or use that thing.”

11. bertopi – to wear a hat

Dia laki-laki yang bertopi.
“He’s a man with a hat.”

12. bersepeda – to go by bike

Kalau bersepeda, jam berapa kita akan sampai?
“If we go by bike, what time will we arrive?”

13. berkapal – to travel by boat (not common)

14. berkuda – to ride a horse

Saya bisa melihat tiga orang berkuda.
“I can see three people on horses.”

15. berkacamata – to wear glasses

Bapakku tidak berkacamata di rumah.
“My father doesn’t wear glasses at home.”

16. berjas – to wear a jacket

Harus berjas di restoran itu?
“Do you have to wear a jacket in that restaurant?”

17. bertubuh kurus/gemuk – to be thin/fat (literally to have a thin or fat body)

Tidak sehat bertubuh terlalu kurus.
“It’s not healthy to be too skinny.”

18. bercelana pendek – to wear shorts

Banyak orang di California bercelana pendek pada musim dingin.
“Many people in California wear shorts in the winter.”

Other ber- verbs are based on more abstract roots. There’s no good reason for why some roots can stand alone, like those in the last section, while other verbs require ber- to sound acceptable. You simply have to memorize these:

19. berubah – to change; to alter oneself

Cinta tidak berubah.
“Love does not change.”

20. berdiri – to stand

Berdiri! Jangan duduk!
“Stand up! Don’t sit!”

21. belajar – to study

Di mana Anda belajar bahasa Inggris?
“Where did you study English?”

22. berjalan – to walk

Aku lebih suka berjalan daripada naik motor.
“I like walking rather than riding a motorbike.”

23. berenang – to swim

Ibuku berenang di laut setiap hari.
“My mother swims in the ocean every morning.”

24. bekerja – to work

Orang muda tidak suka bekerja di sawah.
“Young people don’t like working in rice fields.”

25. berpikir – to think

Aku berpikir kamu tidak tahu jawabannya.
“I think you don’t know the answer.”

26. bertemu – to meet with somebody

Saya sangat senang bertemu dengan Anda.
“I’m very happy to meet with you.”

27. berbicara – to speak a language

Apakah kamu bisa berbicara bahasa Arab?
Can you speak Arabic?”

28. berlari – to run

Saya tidak bisa berlari secepat kamu.
“I can’t run as fast as you do.”

29. berarti – to mean

Kata “pisau” berarti “alat masak yang digunakan untuk memotong.”
The word ‘knife’ means ‘kitchen implement used for cutting.’”

30. bernyanyi – to sing

Apakah kamu suka bernyanyi di kamar mandi?
“Do you like to sing in the shower?”

31. berjudi – to gamble

Anak perempuan saya suka berjudi setiap akhir minggu.
“My daughter likes to gamble every weekend.”

3. Part 2: Me- Verbs

Newlyweds in Field of Flowers

Virtually all of the Indonesian language verbs in this section are transitive, but there are a few very common ones that aren’t necessarily transitive. Let’s get those out of the way first.

32. menikah – to marry

Mungkin dia tidak akan menikah.
“Maybe he won’t get married.”

33. menginap – to stay overnight

Apakah kalian sedang menginap di kota?
“Are you all staying in the city?”

34. menangis – to cry

Bayi itu mulai menangis.
“The baby started to cry.”

35. mendidih – to boil

Kalau airnya sudah mendidih, masukkan mi ke dalam panci.
“If the water is boiling, put the noodles in the pot.”

36. mendaftar – to register

Di mana gedung untuk mendaftar?

“Where is the building to register?”

As me- otherwise indicates transitivity, there are a lot of verbs we can choose from here. Let’s break it up into a few helpful topics.

By the way, in colloquial Indonesian speech, you’ll often hear these words with the m sound omitted, beginning instead with the ng– sound or without the prefix at all.

Moving Things Around

Here are some Indonesian verbs about actions in physical space. You’ll see these on signs all around Indonesia, like “push,” “pull,” and so on.

Club Sandwich

37. membuat  – to make

Saya tidak tahu bagaimana membuat sandwich.
“I don’t know how to make a sandwich.”

38. membangun – to build

Mereka sedang membangun hotel baru di pusat kota.
“They’re building a new hotel in the city center.”

39. membuka – to open

Dia membuka kotak dan melihat di dalam.
“He opened the box and looked inside.”

40. menutup – to close

Apa kamu yakin kamu sudah menutup pintu gudang baik-baik?
“Are you sure you closed the storage room door properly?”

41. mendorong – to push

Anak itu dimarahi karena mendorong temannya pada waktu pelajaran olahraga.
“That kid was scolded for pushing his friend during P.E.”

42. menarik – to pull

Di jalan ada sebuah kuda yang sedang menarik kereta.
“There’s a horse pulling a cart in the street.”

43. melemparkan – to throw

Apakah kamu bisa melemparkan bola basket?
“Can you throw a basketball?”

44. menjatuhkan – to drop

Adik menjatuhkan telur sampai pecah lagi.
“Little brother dropped and broke the eggs again.”

45. menghentikan – to stop

Apakah kamu bisa menghentikan suara itu?
“Can you stop that sound?”

46. menggeser – to slide

Kamu harus menggeser pintunya karena itu pintu geser.
“You have to slide the door because it is a sliding door.”

47. memotong – to cut

Saya kurang hati-hati dan memotong jariku.
“I wasn’t careful and I cut my finger.”

48. menyetir – to drive

Aku tidak suka menyetir mobil kecil.
“I don’t like driving small cars.”

Interacting with People and Things

More essential Verbs

Now for some slightly more abstract transitive verbs. A few of these appear mostly in respectful addresses, but in a society like Indonesia’s, there’s a lot of respectful addresses flying around.

49. menjaga – to watch

Apakah kamu mau menjaga anjingku?
“Do you want to watch my dog?”

50. mengenal – to know somebody

Mereka pasti tidak mengenal kamu.
“They definitely don’t know you.”

51. menolong – to help

Denny menolong anaknya dengan pekerjaan rumah.
“Denny helps his child with homework.”

52. mengajar – to teach

Guru mengajar anak-anak kalkulus.

The teacher teaches children calculus.”

53. memberi – to give

Rudi memberi botol air yang terakhir kepada Rina.
“Rudi gave the last bottled water to Rina.”

54. meminjam – to lend; to borrow

Setiap hari Sabtu saya meminjam sebuah buku dari perpustakaan.
“Every Saturday, I borrow a book from the library.”

55. menghormati – to honor

Hari raya itu untuk menghormati pahlawan Indonesia.
“The holiday is for honoring Indonesia’s heroes.”

56. menghargai – to appreciate; to respect

Aku menghargai persahabatan kita.
“I value our friendship.”

57. mengobrol – to chat

Mereka sedang mengobrol dan tidak bekerja.
“They’re chatting and not working.”

58. mengerti – to understand

Maaf, saya tidak mengerti.
“Sorry, I don’t understand.”

59. melaporkan – to report

Dia akan melaporkan berita secara langsung.

“She’s going to report the news live.”

60. menjelaskan – to explain

Mungkin Anda bisa menjelaskan hal ini?

“Maybe you can explain this situation?”

Spare-Time Activities

You’ve learned before how to talk about your hobbies in Indonesian. But did you discuss all of the activities on this Indonesian verbs list?

Man Writing with Typewriter

61. menulis – to write

Bapakku masih sedang menulis bukunya.
“My father is still writing his book.”

62. mengetik – to type

Seberapa cepat Anda bisa mengetik?

“How fast can you type?”

63. menonton – to watch

Apakah Anda mau menonton film baru?
“Do you want to watch the new film?”

64. mendengarkan – to listen to

Dia suka mendengarkan lagu romantis.
“He likes listening to romantic songs.”

65. mencuci – to wash

Aku harus mencuci sepatu.
“I have to wash my shoes.”

66. menggambar – to draw

Saya bisa menggambar apa saja.
“I can draw anything at all.”

67. membaca – to read

Aku belum membaca buku bapakku karena dia belum selesai menulisnya.

“I haven’t yet read my father’s book because he hasn’t finished it yet.”

68. memainkan – to play

Aku tidak bisa memainkan Fortnite malam ini.

“I can’t play Fortnite tonight.”

69. membeli – to buy

Di mana Anda membeli tas ini?
“Where did you buy this bag?”

70. menjual – to sell

Di sana ada toko yang menjual helm motor.

“There’s a shop that sells motorcycle helmets.”

71. memasak – to cook

Apakah kamu tahu bagaimana memasak mi goreng?
“Do you know how to cook fried noodles?”

72. mencium – to kiss

Aku melihat dia mencium pacarnya.
“I saw them kissing their partner.”

73. membayar – to pay

Ada diskon 50% kalau Anda membayar dengan kartu kredit.
“There is a 50% discount if you pay with credit card.”

74. mencetak – to print

Di mana saya bisa mencetak skripsi?

“Where can I print my thesis?”

75. mengecat – to paint

Kamu masih belum mengecat gedung itu, benar?
“You still haven’t painted the building, right?”

Changing Something

The –i and -kan suffixes have many meanings. Among them is a sense of changing something’s state, such as making something “clean” or “dark.”

76. mengotori – to make dirty

Kalau kamu pakai sepatu di dalam rumah, kamu akan mengotori lantai.
“If you wear shoes indoors, you’ll make the floor dirty.”

77. membersihkan – to clean up

Kapan kamu akan membersihkan kantormu?
“When are you going to clean your office?”

78. menerangi – to illuminate

Lampu menerangi jalan pada sore hari.
“The lamps light up the street in the evening.”

79. mengisi – to fill

Ibu itu mengisi kaleng bekas minyak goreng dengan tepung.
“That woman filled an empty cooking oil tin with flour.”

80. membasahi – to dampen

Hujan akan membasahi Bumi.
“The rain will wet the earth.”

81. mengeringkan – to dry

Aku akan mengeringkan pakaian dengan hairdryer.

“I’m going to dry my clothes with a hair dryer.”

82. memanaskan – to heat

Ovennya memanaskan rumah.

“The oven is heating the room.”

83. melengkapi – to complete

Rina melengkapi penampilannya dengan seulas lipstik merah.
“Rina completed her look with a stroke of red lipstick.”

84. memperbaiki – to fix; to repair

Siapa di sini bisa memperbaiki pesawat?

“Who here can fix a plane?”

If you’re interested in why some of these have an -i ending and others have a -kan ending, well, that’s a subtle distinction beyond the scope of this article. You can find many more grammar explanations on our website! Also be sure to keep on the lookout for our upcoming article on Indonesian verb conjugation!

4. Part 3: Ter- Verbs

Ter- verbs usually describe a state or an accidental action. They can also describe “having an ability,” but those verbs aren’t particularly common, so you don’t have to learn about them yet.

States of Being

Checking in at a Nice Hotel

85. terletak – to be located

Hotel Matahari terletak di pusat kota Jakarta.
“The Matahari Hotel is located in the center of Jakarta.”

86. terbuat – to be made of

Pintu terbuat dari kaca.

“The door is made of glass.”

87. terbatas – to be limited

Waktu untuk mendaftar terbatas.
“The time for registration is limited.”

88. terbuka – to be open

Pintu terbuka dan kucing keluar.
“The door opened and the cat went out.”

89. tersedia – to be available

Sarapan Barat tersedia setiap hari.
“A Western breakfast is available everyday.”

90. tersebut – to be mentioned

Hukum tersebut tidak adil.

“The aforementioned law is not fair.”

91. terhormat – to be honored

Wakil yang terhormat, mohon untuk duduk.
“Honored representative, please sit.”

92. terkenal – to be known

Dia terkenal di negara Asia Tenggara.
“He is well-known in Southeast Asian countries.”

93. tertarik – to be interested

Aku tidak tertarik dengan sejarah.
“I’m not interested in history.”

Oops, accident!

Negative Verbs

In English, passive verbs are used for both accidental and intentional actions. In Indonesian, they work differently. 

You can take any one of the hundreds of men- verbs and change the affix to di– to indicate the passive voice. But if you change it to ter– instead, it usually picks up the meaning of “doing something unintentionally.” Let’s have a look.

94. tertidur – to doze off

Mengapa kamu selalu tertidur dalam kelas?

“Why do you always fall asleep in class?”

95. terkejut – to be startled

Aku terkejut waktu aku melihat laba-laba itu.
“I was startled when I saw the spider.”

96. terjadi – to happen

Apa yang akan terjadi kalau dia tidak datang?
“What will happen if she doesn’t arrive?”

97. tertabrak – to crash

Motor tertabrak dengan truk.
“A motorcycle crashed into a truck.”

98. terjatuh – to fall

Gelas terjatuh dari meja.
“The glass fell from the table.”

99. tersenyum – to smile

Dia tersenyum pelan-pelan.
“She smiled slowly.”

100. tertawa – to laugh

Mereka semua tertawa.
“They all laughed.”

5. Conclusion 

What a list! Congratulations, you’re one hundred verbs richer! And beyond that, if you read through the whole list, you’ve also read the equivalent of several pages of Indonesian text from the example sentences alone.

If you’re comfortable with Indonesian pronunciation, you could go back and read some of your favorite ones aloud. That would stick them in your mind much better than just passively absorbing them through text would!

No matter how long our lists of verbs are, though, it’s not the same as experiencing the full language. For that, you’ll need an audio or video program like IndonesianPod101, where you can get your hands on tons of fascinating, instructive Indonesian content.

You’ll probably even find verbs that aren’t on this list!

Before you go, feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns you have in the comments section. Are there any verbs you still want to know? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Your Complete Guide to the World of Indonesian Pronouns


Is Indonesian easy or hard?


It’s hard because the structure and organization of the language is quite different from that of English or other European languages.

But it’s easy because you don’t have to remember a lot of complicated rules—you can pick up most of the differences just by looking at examples.

Take Indonesian pronouns for example. You can actually get further in Indonesian without pronouns than you might imagine. When people talk to you, though, this is something you’ve really got to know.

And Indonsian language pronouns are different from those in English, by a wide margin.

 Is that going to be hard? Only one way to find out.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. The Standard Indonesian Personal Pronouns
  2. Using Ordinary Words as Personal Pronouns
  3. Using Pronouns as Affixes
  4. This, That, and the Other
  5. Question Words
  6. Yours and Mine
  7. Conclusion

1. The Standard Indonesian Personal Pronouns

Introducing Yourself

All right, Indonesian personal pronouns is the trickiest part, and we’re going to jump right in. There are a lot of pronouns in Indonesian. Not quite as many as, say, Vietnamese or Korean, but it’s a whole different ball game compared to English.

The first personal pronoun that everybody learns is saya. Now, Indonesian pronouns don’t change according to the case, so there’s no difference between “I” and “me.” Saya does the trick every time.

  • Saya dari Melbourne.

“I’m from Melbourne.”

  • Mau pergi dengan saya?

“Want to go with me?”

Saya is slightly formal, but really quite neutral in tone. It would definitely sound weird for Indonesian kids or close friends to say it when talking to one another, but you’ll very often hear it on TV shows or in real-life situations when the conversation partners have some distance between them.

The informal version of saya is aku. You’ll hear this all the time in media as well, and if you become friends with Indonesians, you’ll be able to beraku, or “use aku in speech” with them pretty soon.

  • Aku tidak tahu.

“I don’t know.”

The formal second-person pronoun is Anda. This is actually the only one that’s always capitalized.

  • Apakah Anda punya mobil?

Do you have a car?”

Silver Car

The informal version is kamu. Many times, it will be truncated to kau in writing and speech. This is also the short form of engkau, a literary or poetic form not often used in speech.

  • Masa itu, kau belum tahu aku sudah tinggal di Jakarta.

“At that time, you didn’t yet know that I was living in Jakarta.”

Some learning resources will pair saya and Anda, and aku and kamu, but others will mix saya and kamu. Go with what you’re hearing other people use in real life, and be prepared to be flexible!

 The third-person pronoun is relatively simple: in most cases, it’s dia for people of all genders.

  • Dia sudah makan belum?

“Has he/she eaten yet?”

Only in particularly formal contexts would you use beliau as a third-person pronoun. It’s used for talking about people whom you respect greatly, like a public figure.

  • Saat itu, beliau belum menjadi presiden.

“At that time, he/she had not yet become the president.”

In writing, you’ll also see the form ia. This is actually quite an old word, and it can only be used as the subject of a sentence, never the object. Dia used to be the object form, but nowadays it’s used as both subject and object.

 We’re nearly through! Now we have the plural pronouns to think about.

For first-person pronouns, Indonesian distinguishes between inclusive plural (you and me) and exclusive plural (me and somebody else but not you). Kita is the inclusive word, and kami is the exclusive. Since English doesn’t make this distinction, be careful to understand the nuances when you see a translation!

  • Ayo kita pulang sekarang.

“Let’s (including you) go home now.”

  • Kita ada acara hari ini.

“We (including you) have an event tonight.”

  • Kami akan bertemu denganmu besok.

“We’ll meet with you tomorrow.”

  • Kami akan berangkat dulu.

“We’ll (not you) head out first.”

The second-person plural form is kalian, and the third-person is mereka. No extra levels of formality here!

  • Kalian mau makan apa hari ini?

“What do you all want to eat today?”

  • Mereka lahir di Surabaya.

“They were born in Surabaya.”

Although many people still disapprove, mereka is being used more and more to refer to animals. Before, the tradition when referring to animals was to omit pronouns entirely or simply use the actual noun.

2. Using Ordinary Words as Personal Pronouns

Don’t worry, it’s not like every word in Indonesian is going to turn into a pronoun on you. Only a few of them!

The words ibu, or “mother,” and bapak, or “father,” are usually shortened to bu and pak. Then they get used as the second-person (and sometimes the first-person) pronoun when you’re speaking to someone who’s older than you and/or in a higher position. For example, this could be an immigration officer, an administrator, or a friend’s parents.

  • Apakah sudah melihat emailnya, Pak?

“Have you seen the email already, sir?”

This, then, is the most common way for people to speak formally, instead of using saya and Anda with everybody.

When young people talk with people their own age in a polite context, with restaurant employees for example, they’ll use a different set. Here, mas refers to men and mbak refers to women.

  • Permisi Aas, minta air putih.

“Excuse me sir, some water please.”

Calling Waiter’s Attention

You’ll note that mb at the start of a word is a pretty unusual sound combination. These words are actually borrowed from the Javanese language.

Although people might not use them in some of Indonesia’s more far-flung islands, they’ll be understood everywhere. Kakak is a gender-neutral version, seen most everywhere shortened to kak.

  • Permisi Kak, sudah selesai?

“Excuse me, are you already finished?”

And did you know that Indonesians even borrow pronouns from other languages?

In Jakarta slang (which is very popular on TV), the most informal pronouns are gue for “I” and lu for “you.” These actually come from Hokkien, a Chinese language spoken by the first Chinese immigrants to Indonesia and Malaysia. Since they’re so informal and unstandardized, you’ll also see them written as gua/wa and lo/lue.

 Also borrowed from Chinese are koko and cici, the equivalents of mas and mbak in Jakarta. These meant “older brother” and “older sister” in Hokkien, and so the feelings of societal standing continue into Indonesian.

  • Maaf ya Cici, gua nggak lihat lu.

“Sorry miss, I didn’t see you there.”

The English translations of these phrases can sound a little stilted. That’s because in Indonesian, the pronoun is used far more than in English. This creates a feeling of respect and politeness, and if you don’t use the pronoun as much, you might be seen as a little bit rude.

Indonesian has no special forms for object or possessive pronouns. As for reflexive pronouns, there’s just one: sendiri.

You can add sendiri after any pronoun to include the specific meaning “that person and nobody else,” or to add emphasis like we do in English.

  • Dia sendiri membuat kuenya.

“She herself made the cake.”

3. Using Pronouns as Affixes

Fitting Puzzle Pieces Together

An affix can show up in Indonesian as either a prefix (before a word), suffix (after a word), or circumfix (both before and after a word).

In informal Indonesian, you can attach aku to tons of words as the suffix -ku, and kamu as the suffix –mu.

  • Mau pergi denganku?

“Want to go with me?”

  • Jangan berbicara dengan anakku.

“Don’t talk to my child.”

  • Apakah itu tasmu?

“Is that your bag?”

  • Ayo kita naik mobilmu.

“Let’s go in your car.”

You can also attach ku as a prefix to various verbs. This usage is a little tricky—you won’t see it in every novel, but it does appear in some poetic or old-fashioned writing

However, it’s certainly not formal enough to show up in speech. As a foreigner, you’re unlikely to hear it in conversation unless you’re already used to shooting the breeze with Indonesian friends.

  • Dia masih belum kutemukan.

“He still hasn’t found me.”

  • Nanti kujelaskan.

“Later on I’ll explain.”

How about kamu? As a prefix, it takes the form kau-. This is used less commonly these days, as most people tend to simply use the independent form instead of the prefix.

  • Beritahu aku apa yang kaulihat.

“Tell me what you see.”

4. This, That, and the Other

Just like English, Indonesian distinguishes object pronouns by distance from the speaker. Ini corresponds to “this” and itu corresponds to “that.”

  • Itu desa tempat bapakku lahir.

“That’s the village where my father was born.”

  • Apakah ini rusak?

“Is this broken?”

You might think that these words would get reduced in fast speech, but actually that almost never happens. They stay ini and itu instead of being shortened to ni and tu.

We just talked about attaching pronouns to words, and we can sort of do the same thing with ini and itu. However, the form changes drastically.

  • Di meja ada mangkuk hitam. Mangkuk itu milik kakek saya.

“There’s a black bowl on the table. The bowl belongs to my grandfather.”

This particular usage of the -nya suffix and the pronouns ini/itu are the closest thing Indonesian has to definite articles. They point out references to exact things in the world so that we know which bowl we’re talking about.

5. Question Words

Basic Questions

Indonesian has the same question words as English does. Check it out:

apa – what

  • Apa yang sedang kamu lakukan?

“What are you doing?”

di mana – where

This literally means “at which.” Di is one of the most commonly used prepositions, and in fact, it combines with many more words to form the other prepositions. As a set phrase, though, it takes on the meaning of “where.”

  • Di mana orang tuamu?

“Where are your parents?”


  • Siapa yang sedang mengobrol di luar?

“Who’s chatting outside?”

So why have we introduced question words here in this article about pronouns? Because in English, we use them as relative pronouns: “That’s the place where I was born.” “I don’t like what he’s doing.” “She’s the person who is most important here.”

In Indonesian, though, we have to use the relative marker yang for some of these. It’s complicated to actually explain how yang works, but with a few examples you’ll pick it right up, guaranteed.

  • Itu tempat  saya dilahirkan.

“That’s the place where I was born.”

  • Aku tidak suka dengan apa yang dia sedang lakukan.

“I don’t like what he’s doing.”

  • Dia adalah orang yang paling penting di sini.

“She’s the person who’s most important here.”  

Let’s look at a few more examples that are often translated with the English relative pronoun “that.”

  • Ini kotak yang saya perlu.

“This is the box that I need.”

  • Ayo makan di resto yang baru dibuka.

“Let’s go eat at the restaurant that was just opened.”

6. Yours and Mine

Kids Eating Ice Cream

Talking about possession in Indonesian can be easy or hard, based on how you look at it. On the one hand, it’s easy because you don’t have to change many words. On the other hand, it’s hard because you often have to rely on the context to tell you the relationship between things and their owners.

To cut a long explanation short, there are no Indonesian possessive pronouns like “yours” or “mine.” Here’s how we express that concept anyway.

We can say the noun again:

  • Motor keren itu motor saya.

“The cool motorbike is mine.”

Or we can use the words kepunyaan (belonging to) and milik (property):

  • Kamera yang paling besar kepunyaan jurnalis yang paling penting.

“The biggest camera belongs to the most important journalist.”

  • Dompetnya milik dia.

“The wallet belongs to him.” (Literally: “Wallet [is] property he.”)

7. Conclusion

Improve Listening

In a grammar-heavy article like this one, you can easily get confused.

That’s why Indonesian in particular is a great language to read lots of examples about. Don’t rack your brains trying to get your mind around which pronouns can be used when; read the example sentences and intuit it yourself.

That natural acquisition process ends up working really well. If, at the end of this article, you’re feeling like you’re ready to take the next step, check out the lessons right here on IndonesianPod101. They’re full of clear explanations with real Indonesians providing examples.

It won’t be long at all before this stuff comes totally naturally to you!

Happy Indonesian learning! 🙂

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Relax Into Easy-Peasy Indonesian Word Order


There’s a sort of balance between the different languages of the world.

Some have extremely complex systems of verb changes and noun changes, requiring you to think about every last little detail of who does what in the sentence so that you can get all the endings right.

Others say to themselves, “You know, all those extra grammatical endings aren’t for me.” So they simply put their words in a line and never change them.

The tradeoff is that these “simpler” languages have very inflexible word order. So what does this look like in Indonesian word order? 

Well, if you switch the position of a few words in a sentence in, say, Russian, the grammatical endings will keep you informed about what you need to know. If you do the same in Indonesian, it starts getting hard to understand very quickly.

So Indonesian grammar is simple in some ways, but rigid in others. Fortunately for you, it never really gets that difficult!

With the examples in this guide, you’ll soon feel perfectly confident when you create your own Indonesian sentences. 

Let’s get started with our lesson on Indonesian word order, and more essential grammatical points!

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Overview of Indonesian Word Order
  2. Adjectives and Adverbs in Indonesian
  3. Prepositions and Their Phrases
  4. Verbs That Absorb Other Words
  5. Word Order in Indonesian Questions
  6. Conclusion

1. Overview of Indonesian Word Order

Improve Pronunciation

Indonesian belongs to the Austronesian language family, sharing roots with languages as diverse as Tagalog (in the Philippines), Malagasy (in Madagascar), Amis (in Taiwan), and Hawaiian. 

Austronesian languages in general have very complex grammar and tenses, with lots of different particles attaching to the front, middle, and end of verbs to express very specific ideas.

Lucky for you, Indonesian is radically different from most other Austronesian languages, and in fact, it’s quite similar to European languages (at least on the surface)!

It belongs to the SVO group of languages, meaning that the order of the subject, the verb, and the object in the sentence is exactly that. First the subject, then the verb, and finally the object.

Let’s try a very simple sentence with all three elements.

A Woman Writing on a Typewriter
  • Cici menulis buku.

“Cici writes a book.”

It’s clear from the word order that the book is absolutely not writing Cici. In Indonesian as well as English, there are plenty of sentences that don’t require objects.

  • Cici berlari.

“Cici runs.”

  • Gloria berdiri.

“Gloria stands up.”

Verbs that start with me– usually, but not always, have an object; verbs that start with ber- never have an object.

Indonesian was actually designed to be quite regular in this regard, but over the decades (Standard Indonesian dates back to Indonesian independence in 1945), many people have gotten used to dropping the me- prefix. Crucially, the word order remains constant!

Like other Asian languages, Indonesian uses classifiers for its nouns. It’s just like saying “a pair of scissors” in English. You can’t just say “scissors” without the classifier “pair,” and in Indonesian, saying any noun without its classifier sounds equally weird.

Classifiers always appear before the noun, like they do in English (but opposite of how it’s done in some other Southeast Asian languages like Lao). There’s one general classifier that you can use for most things: buah. Whenever you say “one of something,” you add se- to the beginning of the classifier.

  • Saya punya sebuah ponsel.

“I have a phone.”

2. Adjectives and Adverbs in Indonesian

The Adjective

In Indonesian, there’s not really a distinction between adjectives and adverbs. For one, both usually go after what they modify.

  • Aku punya buku baru.

“I have a new book.”

  • Aku membaca buku bahasa Inggris.

“I read English books.”

Suppose you have two adjectives you want to line up in a sentence? It’s imperative then to use the word dan, meaning “and,” to connect them. You’ll see at the end of the article what it means if we just say one adjective after the other.

  • Buku ini murah dan berat.

“This book is cheap and heavy.”

Since Indonesian verbs can’t conjugate, we can’t use verb endings to show tense. Instead, that happens through time-marking adverbs, which, it just so happens, come before the verb.

  • Aku akan membaca buku bahasa Jerman.

“I’m going to read German books.”

  • Dia sedang membaca buku baru.

“She’s reading a new book.”

  • Saya sudah membaca buku bahasa Inggris.

“I already read the English book.”

As you can see, the word “the” is implied from the context. These are artificial sentences, but when you’re actually speaking Indonesian with others, you’ll generally know if you should interpret buku as “the book” or “books.”

Another very common type of Indonesian adverb is dengan, meaning “with,” plus an adjective. It’s a little bit like saying that someone does something “with style” in English.

  • Kamu menulis dengan indah.

“You write with beauty.” (“You write beautifully.”)

3. Prepositions and Their Phrases

A Man Chopping Vegetables in the Kitchen

The prepositional phrases in Indonesian are made with the locative particle di. This is combined with location words to create proper prepositional phrases.

In Indonesian language word order, all the prepositional phrases are placed after the main verb in the sentence.

  • Aku memasak di dapur.

“I cook in the kitchen.”

Here, di gets translated to “in” because that’s the best way to describe the concept in English. It’s only implied in Indonesian, since without a location word, di doesn’t specify whether it’s “in,” “at,” or another preposition.

  • Gloria berdiri di depan pintu.

“Gloria is standing in front of the door.”

  • Pohon itu terletak di belakang rumah.

“The tree is located behind the house.”

This is a good time to introduce the word yang. You’re lucky that you can understand English, because yang is a perfect equivalent of the English words “that,” “which,” and “who.” Some languages don’t have a word for this concept, and their Indonesian textbooks have got to be a lot thicker!

  • Pohon yang terletak di belakang rumah adalah pohon pinus.

“The tree that is located behind the house is a pine tree.”

Look carefully at the words in this last example and the one that came right before. You can see that the insertion of yang functioned syntactically just like “that” in English, giving us the opportunity to describe the tree in greater detail.

4. Verbs That Absorb Other Words

A Man Getting Punched in the Face

One very interesting thing about the Indonesian language is that verbs can absorb pronouns. If you know any Arabic, you’ll be nodding your head in agreement. And if you don’t (learning Arabic is not a prerequisite for learning Indonesian!), stay with us. It’s not that bad.

The pronouns in Indonesian are numerous and rather complex to explain here. In any case, just three of them can attach to verbs: aku, kamu, and dia. These are the informal versions of “I” and “you” respectively, and the neutral version of “he/she/they/it.”

  • Dia memukul aku.

“He hit me.”

Here, the word order is just as we’ve been seeing in previous examples, with the subject first, then the verb, then the object. But let’s collapse that verb and object together:

  • Dia memukulku.

“He hit me.”

It still has the exact same meaning! It can feel a little artificial sometimes to spell out or say the full pronoun, so most people tend to just use these pronouns as endings. Here are some more examples.

  • Aku tidak melihatmu.

“I don’t see you.”

  • Aku sedang memakannya.

“I’m eating it.”

5. Word Order in Indonesian Questions

A Woman Holding a Mug of Tea

If everything else has seemed pretty approachable, you’re now on the home stretch of easy street.

Simple yes-no questions in Indonesian are formed just like they are in English!

In English, we use “do” or “does” as a “dummy subject” for questions. The word apakah fills the same function in Indonesian, down to a T.

  • Saya suka teh. Apakah kamu suka teh?

“I like tea. Do you like tea?”

It’s a word-for-word translation of the English, and it’s natural in both languages.

On top of that, there’s an alternate way to ask questions in Indonesian, this time using a suffix. See that  -kah at the end of apakah? You can actually add that to a whole mess of verbs and adverbs.

  • Sudahkah proyek selesai?

“Has the project finished already?”

Sudah is the adverb of time showing that something has “already” happened, and so you can add -kah to ask about the completeness of a particular action.

Again, these question words move to the front.

Indonesian also has the standard question words that you’ll remember from English, such as “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” and “why.”

  • Mengapa kamu suka sepeda besar?

“Why do you like big bicycles?”

  • Karena sepeda besar nyaman.

“Because big bicycles are comfortable.”

Look at that last sentence. Literally, you’re saying “because bike big comfortable.”

This is what we were talking about earlier. You’re not saying “because bikes are big and comfortable” because there’s no dan, or “and,” connector. Because of this word order, it absolutely has to be “because big bicycles are comfortable.”

6. Conclusion

Improve Listening

Lots of people find that Indonesian word order is something that ends up just coming naturally to them. How about you? 

By first reading and listening to a lot of natural Indonesian and following along with the English translation, you can see how Indonesian sentences really get formed.

Be patient with yourself, and don’t try to speak before you’re ready.

It just so happens that the easiest place to do this is right here on There’s nothing standing in your way, stopping you from picking up real, natural Indonesian without even thinking about it.Listen, read, and speak when you’re ready. That’s the core principle, and that’s how you end up a master of Indonesian!

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Don’t Waste Another Minute in Indonesian: Talk about Time


*ring ring*

That’s your alarm clock. It’s time to learn Indonesian!

Hey, do you know how to say that phrase—or, really, any phrases about time in Indonesian? You should!

If you’re learning Indonesian for travel, you’re definitely going to want to know how to ask about time. Good luck getting on buses or trains at the right time if you don’t know how to ask when they leave!

And if you’re planning on a longer stay there, well, that’s even more of a reason to learn how to tell time in Indonesian. Imagine making a restaurant reservation or calling to ask when a store closes if you don’t know how to talk about time.

Pretty tricky, right? This article is definitely for you.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Time Phrases in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Asking for the Time
  2. Talking about Hours
  3. Talking about Minutes and Seconds
  4. How Long Does it Take?
  5. When Did it Happen?
  6. Time Zones in Indonesia
  7. Adverbs and Phrases about Time
  8. Conclusion

1. Asking for the Time

Man Checking His Watch

There’s just one phrase for telling the time in Indonesian that you need to know.

  • Jam berapa?

“What time is it?”

Interestingly, this sentence doesn’t really correspond to its translation word-for-word. Literally, what you’re saying is “Hour how many?” Yes, that’s the same berapa that we covered before when we talked about buying and selling things in Indonesian.

If you wish, you can add the word sekarang to make this sentence:

  • Jam berapa sekarang?

“What time is it now?”

The exact same phrase works for asking when a certain thing will happen. Just take a look at the syntax.

  • Acara ini mulai jam berapa?

“What time does this event begin?”

We can also use the word akan to explicitly mark future tense.

  • Jam berapa kamu akan sarapan besok?

“What time are you going to eat breakfast tomorrow?”

However, since the event hasn’t happened yet, it’s always going to be the future! So that means akan isn’t necessary.

As I mentioned, jam berapa is used for asking specifically about the time. It’s also good to mention here, though, that there is a general word for “when” in Indonesian: kapan.

  • A: Kapan dia mulai membersihkan kamar? 

A: “When did she start cleaning the room?”

B: Jam dua.

B: “Two o’clock.”

In just a little bit, we’ll talk about some alternatives to kapan. For now, though, let’s focus more on clock time.

2. Talking about Hours


As you’ve just learned, the word for “hour” in Indonesian is jam. And since there’s no plural marking for hours, we can say dua jam or “two hours,” empat jam or “four hours,” and so on.

But when we’re specifically talking about the time displayed on a clock, we have to switch the word order.

  • Sekarang jam dua.

“It’s two o’clock.”

Indonesians always use the twenty-four-hour clock when posting signs or writing timetables. In speech, though, it’s a little cumbersome to say something like jam dua puluh satu, meaning “21:00 (9 PM).”

So we simply divide the day up into pagi meaning “morning” or before twelve, and sore meaning “afternoon” or after twelve.

  • Mari bertemu jam enam sore.

“Let’s meet at six o’clock in the evening.”

While to express the hour in English, you use the preposition “at,” in Indonesian, just mentioning the time is adequate.

  • Saya akan berangkat jam lima sore.

“I’m going to arrive at five PM.”

3. Talking about Minutes and Seconds

Times for Flights

So we’re prepared to talk about time in Indonesia, but only for things that happen on the hour. Fortunately, learning the rest is a breeze. Indonesian is very much like English in this case!

  • Sekarang jam enam tiga puluh empat menit.

“It’s six thirty-four.”

Did you see the difference? Although the word order is the same, you have to specify jam, or “hour,” and menit, or “minute.” And jam goes before the number, while menit goes after! Let’s practice a little more.

  • Kereta api tiba di stasiun jam tiga sebelas menit.

“The train arrives at the station at three eleven (3:11).”

  • Dia terlihat masuk toko buku jam empat lewat tiga puluh satu menit.

“He was seen entering the book shop at four thirty-one (4:31).”

There’s an optional word here: lewat. It doesn’t change the meaning at all—it’s simply like saying “one twenty” compared to “twenty minutes past one.” It’s considered a little more proper and correct to say lewat.

It’s possible that you may hear something like these phrases for fractions of an hour:

  • Aku beli alpukat  jam sembilan kurang seperempat.

“I bought avocados at fifteen minutes to nine (eight forty-five).”

  • Sekarang jam setengah lima.

“Now it’s half five (half past four).”

Kurang literally means “missing” or “short of,” so you can think of “eight forty-five” as meaning “nine short of fifteen minutes.” And note too that setengah is sometimes pronounced without the first e, so it comes out more like stengah.

4. How Long Does it Take?

Improve Listening

The most common way to say that something “takes time” is to literally say that it “eats” time: memakan waktu. A little more formal and less idiomatic is membutuhkan waktu, which simply translates to “need time.”

Let’s look at some examples. Note that in questions, the passive form (dibutuhkan) is more often used, while in statements, the active form (membutuhkan) is more common.

  • Berapa lama waktu yang dibutuhkan untuk fasih bahasa Korea?

“How much time is necessary to be fluent in Korean?”

This phrase, berapa lama waktu yang dibutuhkan untuk… is a little bit hard to roll off the tongue, but you see it a lot in written materials. Using it is a surefire way to communicate your message accurately.

  • Berapa lama saya harus belajar agar saya bisa menyetir bus?

“How long do I have to study until I can drive a bus?”

Much more simple is berapa lama… agar…?, which translates to “how long… until…?”

  • Sinar matahari membutuhkan delapan menit sepuluh detik untuk masuk ke bumi.

“The sun’s rays need eight minutes and ten seconds to travel to the earth.”

Here we can see the active verb form membutuhkan in action. We could replace this with memakan, or “to eat,” and it would have the same meaning.

5. When Did it Happen?

Penciling Something on Calendar

At the beginning of the article, we saw that kapan is the question word “when.” How about expressing other ideas, like “when” as an adverb of time? We need new words for that.

First, let’s use an old word in a new way: waktu, or “time,” can act as an adverb.

  • Waktu saya melihat ke dia, dia berhenti berbicara.

“When I looked at him, he stopped talking.”

We can use a new word, ketika, in almost exactly the same way. In this next example, both ketika and waktu are fine.

  • Ketika saya di Indonesia, saya banyak makan mi goreng.

“When I was in Indonesia, I ate a lot of fried noodles.”

The difference comes when talking about the future. When we talk about something that’s definitely going to happen, we use waktu; when we’re speaking hypothetically or generally, we say ketika.

  • Waktu saya menyelesaikan tugas ini, saya akan menonton televisi.

“When I finish this assignment, I’m going to watch TV.”

  • Ketika kamu sakit, jangan mandi dengan air dingin.

“When you’re sick, don’t bathe with cold water.” 

6. Time Zones in Indonesia

Although most people might have a hazy view in their mind’s eye of Indonesia as a handful of sandy beaches, as a language-learner, you should know that it’s actually quite a large country, spanning three “time zones” or zona waktu.

So just as the U.S. has words like “Mountain Time,” “Pacific Time,” and so on, Indonesia has words for its time zones that you’ll see on news reports or other nationwide announcements.

  • Waktu Indonesia Timur or “Eastern Indonesian Time” is used mostly on the island of Papua, and also in the relatively sparse Maluku province. It’s abbreviated as WIT.
  • Waktu Indonesia Tengah or “Central Indonesian Time” covers Sulawesi, much of Kalimantan, and Bali. Since WIT was taken, they call it WITA.
  • Finally, Waktu Indonesia Barat or “Western Indonesian Time” covers all of Sumatra, Java, and the western part of Kalimantan. 

This is the one you’ll probably see the most, as it covers the largest proportion of Indonesia’s population. Most news reports out of Jakarta come with WIB on the date line, and now you know what it stands for!

Besides, on Indonesian religious TV channels, some channels like to schedule their shows based on Mecca Time/Arabian Standard Time, which technically follows Saudi Arabia’s time zone.

7. Adverbs and Phrases about Time


All right, you can tell the time in Indonesian. But to really take your Indonesian to the next level, you’ll also need to have a good stock of phrases related to time.

In English, a lot of people have their own set phrases for “in a little while.” That’s the one I use, but many people might say “in a moment” or “in a few minutes.” It all means about the same thing, right?

In Indonesian, most people tend to say sebentar, occasionally shortened to bentar.

  • Aku datang sebentar lagi.

“I’ll be there in a moment.”

  • Maaf, tunggu sebentar.

“Sorry, please wait a minute.” 

Indonesia is a patient country, though you might not be. If you ask again about something which you’ve already been told sebentar, you may hear sebentar lagi, which means “a little longer.”

In English, we have a ton of different expressions with prepositions to talk about time. If you’re a native speaker, you probably never noticed; if you’re an English learner, you might be getting flashbacks to long worksheets right about now!

In time, on time, time’s up, time out…it’s a lot to wrap your head around. Fortunately, we’ve got a good list of example sentences right here that should cover a lot of the time expressions you’d want to use in Indonesian. 

Here are some idioms to talk about how time goes by. The first one literally means “Time walks fast.”

  • Waktu berjalan cepat.

Time flies.

  • Dia tidak mau membuang waktu dengannya.

“She didn’t want to waste time with him.”

  • Aku harus menghabiskan banyak waktu dalam perpustakaan.

“I have to spend a lot of time in the library.”

Habis literally means “finished,” so you can think of menghabiskan waktu as kind of like “make your time finished.”

  • Mereka tiba di waktu yang tepat.

“They arrived at the correct time.”

  • Saya kehabisan waktu.

“I was out of time.

  • Seiring berjalannya waktu, Indonesia menjadi lebih berkembang.

“As time goes by, Indonesia becomes more developed.”

  • Aku tidak dengar nama itu sejak waktu yang lama.

“I haven’t heard that name in a long time.”

8. Conclusion

Basic Questions

Telling time in Indonesian is simply a skill you can’t live without. And as you can see, it’s both flexible and very similar to how it’s done in the English language!

You can take the example sentences you’ve seen in this article and switch out all kinds of things to make your own time expressions.

The great thing about a concept like time is that it’s woven so deeply into the language that you’ll get words and phrases reinforced naturally, just so long as you’re regularly reading and listening to Indonesian.

That’s why our main focus here at IndonesianPod101 is our fantastic podcasts and lessons that let you absorb the details of the language naturally. Before too long, you’ll be a master of time words in Indonesian! 

Now that you have a better idea of how to talk about time, you may find the following pages useful as well:

How do you feel about telling time in Indonesian now? Feel free to let us know in the comments if you have any questions or concerns!

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Master the Compass and Directions in Indonesian


Did you get lost again?

In the sweltering heat of an Indonesian dry season, it’s no fun to not know where you’re going. (The rainy season is arguably worse!)

Going to Indonesia and learning some of the language to help you prepare is an excellent step you can take for a great trip. But did you remember to learn about directions in Indonesian too?

Suppose your motorcycle taxi driver has heard of your guesthouse, but never actually been. Or suppose your class is starting in ten minutes and you’re still wandering around the same university streets.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Around Town in Indonesian Table of Contents
  1. Basic Cultural Notes and Phrases
  2. Pull Out Your Map and Learn the Compass Points
  3. City Vocabulary and Reference Points
  4. Phrases for Directions in Indonesian, Part 1: Asking Others
  5. Phrases for Directions, Part 2: Giving Directions
  6. Travel Time
  7. How to Use Directions as Language Practice
  8. Conclusion

1. Basic Cultural Notes and Phrases

group of friends in semicircle

Indonesian people are extremely friendly when foreigners ask them for help. Many of them speak English quite well, especially if they live near a university. However, since Indonesian is a second language for most people in the country, they’re also aware that it’s not incredibly complicated to pick up.

Therefore, if you can speak Indonesian at a basic conversational level, many people will be happy to continue the conversation without switching to English. In fact, they may end up speaking too fast for you!

When you want to get someone’s attention, you can say:

  • Permisi!

“Excuse me!”

Or maybe:

  • Maaf, bisa bantu?

“Sorry, could you help me?”

These two phrases will help you lead into actually asking them for directions.

Indonesian cities change a lot, with new buildings going up and shops changing owners left and right. Furthermore, street signs aren’t often marked very well, particularly the small gangs or “alleyways” that make up the majority of the residential areas.

That means that you should really only expect locals in the immediate area to be familiar with the layout of the small streets. Even taxi drivers ask locals for directions sometimes, so you’ll probably hear these phrases a lot!

First, though, let’s have a look at the big picture.

2. Pull Out Your Map and Learn the Compass Points

west and east

The word for “compass rose” in Indonesian is actually not the (fairly common) word kompas. That word does mean “compass,” but it’s far more common that you’ll see it used in reference to the nationwide newspaper and media chain of the same name.

Instead, it’s a name that I think is quite beautiful: mata angin, or “eye of the wind.”And the “directions,” or arah, on that eye of the wind are as follows:

“northwest”barat laut
“northeast”timur laut
“southwest”barat daya

Using the compass directions in Indonesian, you can divide a city into various parts like this:

  • Saya tinggal di bagian barat kota.

“I live in the western part of the city.”

  • Dia tinggal di bagian utara pulau.

“She lives in the northern part of the island.”

In addition to these absolute directions, you’ll also need to know four very useful relative directions for talking to drivers, and really just describing things in general.


In Indonesia, there’s one cheesy dance song that everybody loves. The lyrics are simple, and the chorus is catchy. Why am I mentioning it in this article?

Because here’s how the lyrics go:

  • Ke kiri! Ke kiri! Ke kiri! Ke kanan! Ke kanan! Ke kanan!

“To the left! To the left! To the left! To the right! To the right! To the right!”

You can find and listen to the song online, but be warned that you’ll never forget these directions afterward!

3. City Vocabulary and Reference Points

Basic questions

There are a lot of little words about cities, particularly parts of cities, that might slip through the cracks during your vocabulary review. When it’s time to give or get directions, it might be hard to express yourself clearly without these words.

pusat kota — “city center”

  • Bus mana yang ke pusat kota?

“Which bus goes to the city center?”

kawasan bisnis — “business district”

  • Tidak ada apartemen murah dekat kawasan bisnis.

“There are no cheap apartments near the business district.”

pinggir kota — “the edge of town”

  • Sebelumnya, tidak ada stasiun kereta api di pinggir kota.

“A while ago, there was no train station on the edge of town.”

pusat belanja — “shopping center

  • Kita harus pergi ke pusat belanja yang baru atau yang lama?

“Should we go to the new shopping center or the old one?”

Once you have those nice and memorized, it’s good to make sure you can also make sentences using more fundamental words, such as landmarks and streets.

patung — “statue”

  • Letakkan tas di depan patung.

“Put the bag in front of the statue.”

alun-alun — “square” (particularly one with grass and fountains)

  • Apakah alun-alun bisa dilihat dari kantor?

“Can the square be seen from the office?”

jalan — “street”

  • Maaf, jalan ini jalan apa?

“Sorry, what street is this?”

lampu merah — “traffic light” (literally a red light signaling stop)

  • Belok kanan di lampu lalu lintas kedua.

“Turn right at the second traffic light.”

kantor pos — “post office

  • Mohon parkir mobil di samping kantor pos.

“Please park your car next to the post office.”

bank (pronounced bang) — “bank”

  • Di mana bank terdekat?

“Where is the nearest bank?”

kost — “guesthouse” / “boarding house”

  • Ada kost putra di pojok.

“There’s a men’s boarding house on the corner.”

4. Phrases for Directions in Indonesian, Part 1: Asking Others

Asking directions

All you need to know here is two simple words: di mana. This literally means “is located where,” and is the best way to ask people where things are.

Simply say the thing or place you want to go to, and add di mana after it to ask for directions.

  • Universitas di mana?

“Where’s the university?”

  • Gramedia di mana?

“Where is the Gramedia bookstore?”

Now, that’s very useful, but you should know that it does assume that you’re certain there is a university or Gramedia nearby. If you’re not even sure about that, you’d better ask like this:

  • Apakah ada hotel dekat sini?

“Is there a hotel near here?”

  • Apakah ada warung makan dekat sini?

“Is there a small restaurant near here?”

The last way that you can ask is by describing what you’d like to accomplish, and then seeing if anywhere nearby fits that bill.

  • Di mana bisa cetak dokumen?

“Where can I print documents?”

As for me personally, whenever I read a phrasebook or guidebook, I always find that they use very formal language. And the very first time I tried one of these phrases out, a very nice security guard laughed at me!

If you’d like to try them out for yourself, though, here are some phrases that you can use to sound extremely polite. Use them correctly, and you may even impress others and make new friends!

  • Permisi, Pak, bolehkah Anda membantu saya mencari…

“Excuse me, sir, could you please help me find…”

  • Maaf, Bu, apakah Anda tahu di mana…

“Excuse me, ma’am, do you know where…”

5. Phrases for Directions, Part 2: Giving Directions


It’s a truly wonderful situation to be in a foreign country and use the local language to give directions to a local. The longer you spend there, the more your body language will show that you’re comfortable, and the more confident locals will feel that you know your way around.

Taking a “taxi,” or ojek, is another way you can show off. Let’s look at a couple of phrases you can use to guide somebody to their destination. 

Remember, be clear and concise with your language. Now is not the time to show off how good your Indonesian is, or to worry about getting each verb ending perfectly flawless.

You can set the stage by saying:

  • Sudah dekat.

“It’s close by.”


  • Masih jauh. / Cukup jauh.

“It’s still far away.” / “It’s pretty far away.”

This will at least give them a ballpark of what to expect. Here are some more phrases you can use:

  • Bukan jalan ini.

“It’s not on this street.”

  • Harus pergi ke Jalan Malioboro, lalu belok kanan.

“You have to go to Jalan Malioboro, and then turn right.”

  • Belok kiri di sana.

“Turn left there.”

  • Putar balik di lampu merah.

“Make a U-turn at the traffic light.”

Within hours of walking around streets in Indonesia, you’ll hear a traffic guard guide somebody backing up by saying Terus! Terus! This literally means “Keep going!” or “Forward!” even though the car in question is probably moving backward. (If you happen to be driving the car, by the way, give them a small tip. They work for free.)

You can use this word terus in two very useful ways. The first is to tell your driver to continue onward without turning, like so:

  • Belum, Pak… terus aja…

“Not quite there, sir, just keep going…”

And the other is to say “and then.” In our example above, we translated this as lalu, and that’s correct, but it’s also very common to use terus to introduce the next step in a set of directions.

  • Sampai di Jalan Affandi, terus belok kiri ke Gang Guru.

“Arrive at Jalan Affandi, and then turn left to Gang Guru.”

6. Travel Time 

man stressed about commute time

Let’s briefly discuss travel time. These aren’t specifically directions, but many people include them in their directions and it would be a good thing to understand when they do! 

Indonesians also aren’t used to walking or bicycling, which is how many foreigners get around. If somebody says that it’ll be a long time, they may be thinking in terms of motorbike traffic—which means it could be a really long time for you!

  • Berapa jauh kira-kira?

“How far is it, about?”

  • Rute ini akan memakan waktu dua jam.

“This route is going to take two hours.”

  • Naik motor akan memakan waktu satu jam setengah.

“Going by motorbike is going to take one and a half hours.”

7. How to Use Directions as Language Practice

Did you know that talking about directions can actually start a whole conversation?

Or failing that, some language practice opportunities that you might not have thought about.

When living in a foreign country, a lot of people find it hard to get out of the bubble of their native language. Even if you don’t have expat or English-speaking friends, it can seem like it’s hard to actually go out and speak Indonesian sometimes!

Asking for directions to a place you already know is a great low-pressure way to practice your Indonesian. It’s such a simple question that nobody will switch to English in their response, and by listening to several people give the same answer, you can practice your listening skills.

I also like talking to taxi or ojek drivers about how the city used to be in the past. You can practice the same words about streets and buildings by asking questions like this:

  • Apakah jalan ini selalu sama?

“Has this area always been the same?”

  • Kapan gedung-gedung ini dibangun?

“When were these buildings built?”

  • Di sini ada apa sebelum mal ini?

“What was here before this mall?”

Chances are, in some parts of Indonesia, things haven’t changed much. And in others, the city is practically unrecognizable after a few years!

8. Conclusion

peaceful landscape

Clearly, there are a lot of ways you can make asking for directions work for you.

I’ll tell you a secret—this stuff takes a long time to learn naturally, and if you’re studying or working in Indonesia, it could be months before you can tell north from south!

What’s not a secret, though, is that reading an article once isn’t going to help you much beyond reminding you how much work you have to do. Fortunately, it’s not that hard.

All you have to do is check out the other lesson materials on, and the very fact that you’ve read through this article will help you retain that information a whole lot better.

Then, when you’re wandering the streets of Indonesia, you’ll know exactly how to get wherever you need to go, and will be confident that you can ask others for help if need be.

You might even get to guide the locals! 

Are there any positions and directions in Indonesian you’re struggling to remember? Any we left out? Let us know in the comments!

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Waduh! Come Up with the Perfect Indonesian Compliments


Indonesia is a beautiful place filled with wonderful people.

If you’ve ever been, you’ve probably felt the same way. But have you told them so?

Foreigners aren’t expected to make any effort to learn Indonesian, particularly not in international hotspots like Jakarta and Bali. However, learning just enough of the language to complete everyday interactions and compliment your hosts is a very doable goal that will make your time in Indonesia much more special.

Further than that, though, you also need to learn about the culture of Indonesian compliments. How do things work? What might be considered going too far, and what might be expected of you in various interactions?

Learning this information and using it well will not only grease the wheels of your social interactions—motorcycle rental prices will go down, extra fried bananas will appear on your plate, and so on—but it will also make you fit in more during longer stays, so much so that people will feel comfortable with you and treat you as a social equal, not an “other.”

If that sounds like a good goal to you, follow along!

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Table of Contents

  1. Complimenting Looks
  2. Complimenting in the Office
  3. Complimenting Achievements
  4. Complimenting Skills
  5. Sincere Compliments and Responses
  6. Conclusion

1. Complimenting Looks

Positive Feelings

The first thing you probably think of complimenting is a person’s looks. In the United States, people compliment each other’s looks all the time.

One huge cultural difference is that men complimenting women, or vice-versa, can actually be seen in Indonesia as far more forward than it is in the United States.

Men and women who want to avoid flirting accidentally should keep their Indonesian compliments simple and away from appearance.

  • Mantap bro!
    “Keep it up, man!”

The word bro has fully entered the Indonesian language. People know it’s slangy and English, but where it may bring to mind frat boys on college campuses for English speakers, it simply means “man” in Indonesian.

But let’s say you do want to be forward. Something as crude as catcalling is strongly frowned upon in Indonesia, but outright flirting, of course, still happens among younger people.

  • Kamu kelihatan bugar!
    “Looking fit!”

In Indonesia, men and women don’t normally wear tight-fitting clothes or show off their bodies. If you say this to someone, it means that you’re paying attention to what’s normally kept hidden.

  • Cantik sekali!
    “Beautiful!” (to a woman)
  • Kamu lucu! (or just Lucu!)
    “You’re cute!”

Note that this one is rather ambiguous and it’s quite possible for it to simply mean “funny.” “Cute” in English has a bit of a flirty connotation, but around most of Asia, that connotation isn’t always attached.

  • Aku merasa aman ketika bersamamu.
    “I feel safe when I’m with you.” (to a man)

Men in Indonesia are expected to be providers for and protectors of women, and so when a woman says that she feels safe, it means he’s doing the right thing.

2. Complimenting in the Office

Office Workers

Not too many Indonesian companies hire foreign staff, but it might very well transpire that your company from overseas opens up an office or a partnership with an office in Indonesia.

Lots of Indonesians in international companies speak English relatively well, at least in Jakarta. But whether you have another shared language or not, complimenting the work of your Indonesian coworkers in Indonesian will be a very welcome surprise.

When it comes to the workplace, you could start by simply saying that you’re pleased with the results of the work.

  • Semuanya berhasil dengan sempurna.
    “Everything worked out perfectly.”
  • Proyek ini sudah baik sekali.
    “This project is already very good.”

However, another aspect of Indonesian culture is the desire, at least professionally, to never rest on one’s laurels. Therefore, it’s a good idea to show that you’re satisfied with the work by encouraging new work of the same standard in the future.

  • Tetaplah membuat kemajuan!
    “Keep making progress!”
  • Kerja bagus, maju terus dengan kliennya!
    “Good job, keep making progress with the client!”
  • Luar biasa, semangat terus!
    “Outstanding, keep the pace strong!”

Some of these Indonesian compliments are easier than others to break down! The root maju means “progress.” In the first phrase, it came with the affixes ke…an to specifically mean the noun form. In the second one, the root was left bare.

That’s a very typical colloquial shortening, and you can seem more down-to-earth with colleagues in the same organizational level if you leave off some affixes like that.

The word terus is also very useful, as it means “straight ahead” or “continue.” As you can imagine, it’s also quite useful when giving directions in Indonesian.

3. Complimenting Achievements

Smiling Woman Holding Plaque and Trophy

Much like the last section, the overall sentiment for achievements is “Keep it up!”

You can also use the word semoga (“hope for” ) to outline a specific outcome, fitting for the situation. Suppose someone had a good job interview?

  • Luar biasa! Semoga kamu mendapatkan pekerjaannya.
    “Outstanding! I hope you get the job.”

Congratulations may also be in order if we’re talking about a major life event.

  • Selamat atas pernikahanmu.
    “Congratulations on your wedding.”

Here’s another chance to bust out specific vocabulary so that you can say what, in particular, you liked about something.

  • Bunga-bunganya indah sekali!
    “The flowers were gorgeous!”

And finally, in order to compliment someone who’s working very hard at school, you can return to the word semangat.

  • Kamu pintar banget! Semangat!
    “You’re super smart! Keep it up!”

Semangat is hard to translate in a Western context, but it makes perfect sense to people from Eastern cultures. It’s an all-purpose “Let’s go!” “Keep it up!” “Yeah!” kind of encouraging word, meant to give energy and spirit to whoever’s on the receiving end.

4. Complimenting Skills

Man Playing Guitar

If you ever walk around a university town or near a university campus in Indonesia in the evening, you might notice that lots of people are singing or playing music out in public with their friends. This seems to happen more in Indonesia than it does in the West.

Your high-quality Indonesian skills will almost certainly land you in a music circle at some point, though of course, there will be no pressure to play. Here’s the perfect place for a well-timed compliment about the music.

  • Saya mau bermain gitar dengan sebaik kamu.
    “I want to play the guitar as well as you.”

Is someone a good conversationalist over dinner? Compliment their knowledge.

  • Kamu tahu banyak tentang ….
    “You know a lot about…”

Let’s now say that you’ve stopped into a warung and gotten a plate of nasi goreng telur (“fried rice with egg” ) that was so good you want to write home about it. Compliments to the chef are unexpected yet very warmly appreciated in Indonesia. Here’s a phrase you can use to offer the chef a compliment in Indonesian.

  • Wah, ini enak banget!
    “Wow, this is super-tasty!”

Here, we’re using wah as a way to say “wow,” but the waduh in the title of this article works just as well. These little nuances are very important for coming across as authentic!

The word banget here is another intensifier just like sangat or sekali. It’s rather informal, though, so using this phrase in a fancy restaurant to impress the waiter might make them stifle a chuckle. Save it for the warung.

5. Sincere Compliments and Responses

Indonesian Oxtail Soup

One thing that we can’t stress enough here is to be genuine when you give compliments to others. This is true for every culture, but particularly so for Indonesian.

Indonesian communication relies a great deal on what’s unsaid. Failing to give expected compliments is one thing, but when the situation doesn’t match what you’re saying, a compliment can fall flat.

Imagine you’re back in that host family’s house and you’re trying to choke down something bony and gristly. Obviously, they’ll be able to tell you don’t like it, and you’re not expected to immediately love every bit of Indonesian cuisine.

If you say something like…

  • Makanan ini terbaik di Indonesia, Bu.
    “This meal is the best in all of Indonesia.”

…then it’s painfully obvious that you’re lying.

All you need to do is be honest and say “I’m not quite used to it yet.”

  • Saya belum terbiasa dengan makanan Indonesia.
    “I’m not yet used to Indonesian food.”

Direct and clear, shifting the responsibility on yourself and making yourself humble in front of your guests. Perfect!


6. Conclusion

How great would it feel to get complimented in Indonesian by native speakers?

To be honest, you’ll probably hear one last compliment all the time:

  • Bahasa Indonesiamu sudah lancar!
    “Your Indonesian is already fluent!”

Some people can start hearing beautiful words like that after just a couple of months. Others give up and never get there.

You’re probably already aware of how easy it can be to learn Indonesian through lots of examples. Did you know that with, you can get lessons in Indonesian with transcripts in both Indonesian and English?

By listening to the lesson, studying the transcript, and listening again a few more times, you’ll build that base of vocabulary and grammar that you need to be a comfortable, confident speaker of Indonesian.

A free basic lifetime account is waiting for you. Sign up today and feel your Indonesian rise to dazzling heights in no time!

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Celebrating Pancasila Day in Indonesia


Everyone has certain values, ideologies, or principles which guide them and help them be the best person they can be. Whether this is a certain religious code, a philosophy, or just a general mindset, these values are an important part of being human.

Well, countries are founded on values and principles, too!

In Indonesia, this is the Five Principles of Pancasila, which we’ll discuss in this article. You’ll also learn about Pancasila Day in Indonesia, how Indonesians observe this holiday, and some useful vocabulary.

Let’s get started.

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1. What is Pancasila Day?

The Five Principles of Pancasila Emblem

Pancasila Day, though not a public holiday, is a day of peringatan (“commemoration” ) for the Lima Asas Pancasila (“Five Principles of Pancasila” ). These principles are the cornerstone of Indonesian government and society, and they are:

1. Belief in the One True God
2. A just and civilized humanity
3. The unity of all Indonesians
4. Democracy under the wisdom of a popular collective of representatives
5. Social justice for all Indonesian people

These are the principles that were laid down by Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno, in 1945, right before the country gained its freedom and independence. This ideologi (“ideology” ) was a way of ensuring kerukunan (“harmony” ) amongst the diverse groups of people all throughout Indonesia.

The thread of monotheism that runs through the Five Principles of Pancasila helped maintain greater peace amongst Christians and Muslims, and the other four principles promised equal rights and representation for all Indonesians.

On Pancasila Day, Indonesians are encouraged to commemorate and reflect on their dasar negara (“national principle” ).

2. When is Pancasila Day?

A Man Thinking with His Hand to His Chin

Every year, Indonesians celebrate Pancasila Day on June 1. This is the date on which Sukarno gave his speech in 1945.

3. Indonesian Pancasila Day Traditions

Flower Wreaths at a cemetery

In Indonesia, Pancasila Day is not a public holiday, so many people still need to work on this day. But this doesn’t mean that Indonesians forego celebrations altogether!

There are usually flag-raising ceremonies in honor of the negara (“country” ) and its founding principles. During these ceremonies, there may be speeches or demonstrations concerning the role of the Pancasila in modern-day Indonesia. Some cities in Indonesia may hold special Pancasila parades, such as the one Ende held in 2017.

Due to the unifying nature of the Pancasila, Indonesians often utilize this holiday to remind their fellow citizens of how important it is to be civil with each other. This can take the form of a vigil or prayer night with members of various religions joining together, or perhaps a poetry reading (like the one held in 2019 in Semarang).

4. The Garuda Pancasila

Do you know what Indonesia’s national emblem is?

It’s called the Garuda Pancasila. This emblem features a shield that depicts the Five Principles of Pancasila, protecting the body of a Javan hawk-eagle (called a garuda). The garuda is holding a strip of paper that reads: Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“Unity in Diversity” from Javanese). These words are the national motto of Indonesia.

5. Must-Know Vocabulary for Pancasila Day

Indonesia Highlighted on a Map

Let’s review some of the vocabulary words from this article!

  • Kebangsaan — “Nationality” [n.]
  • Negara — “Country” [n.]
  • Ideologi — “Ideology” [n.]
  • Sarasehan — “Gathering” [n.]
  • Lima Asas Pancasila — “Five Principles of Pancasila”
  • Pedoman — “Guidance” [n.]
  • Peringatan — “Commemoration” [n.]
  • Kerukunan — “Harmony” [n.]
  • Berjuang — “Battle” [v.]
  • Penjajahan — “Colonization” [n.]
  • Dasar negara — “National principle”

If you want to hear the pronunciation of each word and phrase listed above, be sure to visit our Indonesian Pancasila Day vocabulary list.

Final Thoughts

We hope you enjoyed learning about Pancasila Day with us, and that you took away some valuable information about Indonesian culture.

What are the Five Principles of Pancasila? Do you remember? Leave us your answer in the comments, and let us know your thoughts on this holiday!

If you want to continue learning about Indonesian culture and the language, has several free resources for you:

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We want to help you reach your language-learning goals, and we’ll be here with you every step of the way there.

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