LEARN INDONESIAN GRAMMAR

Word Order

When you learn Indonesian grammar, the word order for Indonesian sentences is the same as for English sentences; subject, verb, object. A simple sentence structure example of ‘subject, verb, object’ is Saya membeli pisang ‘I buying bananas’ or ‘I’m buying bananas’.

There is no special terms for ‘is’ and ‘are’. Therefore ‘kapal biru’ is literally ‘boat blue’ meaning ‘the boat is blue’. The words ‘a’ and ‘the’ are either implied by the noun or indicated by the word yang. So to say ‘the blue boat’ you would say kapal yang biru
For sentences where no subject is obvious, the word ada is used. Ada is the closest equivalent to ‘there is’, but means ‘to be’. For example ada kapal yang biru means ‘there is a blue boat’.

Verbs

Indonesian has a basic verb form which may be used in colloquial speech, and you will be understood perfectly well when you use it. For formal use and in written communication, there are prefixes and suffixes which are added to the root word. The correct prefix or suffix depends on the type of verb and its context in the sentence.

When you learn Indonesian grammar, there are basically three types of verbs.

The 1st type stands alone and never requires a prefix when used as a verb

to cook
masak
to drink
minum
to eat
makan
to sit
duduk

The 2nd type is the ‘ber verbs’ because ber is used as a prefix to the root word. For example the root word bicara becomes berbicara, ‘to speak’. If the root word starts with ‘r’, such as renang, ‘swim’, the prefix drops the ‘r’ and becomes be, berenang, ‘to swim’.

‘Ber verbs’ are very common:

to swim
berenang
to run
berlari
to play
bermain
to ask
bertanya

The 3rd type are verbs that use the me prefix. The prefix can vary from word to word, and the root word is sometimes altered, so that, for example, the root word for ‘read’ tulis, becomes menulis ‘to read’.

to assist
membantu
to search
mencari
to open
membuka
to buy
membeli

Learning to use prefixes with verbs takes a lot of practice and time, however if you only use the root word when communicating, generally you will be understood.

Tense
Verbs don’t change their form with tense. Tense can be denoted by context, such as the use of a time word, for example kemarin ‘yesterday’ and besok ‘tomorrow’, at the beginning of a sentence. For example kemarin saya membeli buku means ‘I bought a book yesterday’ while besok saya akan membeli buku means ‘I will buy a book tomorrow’.

There are also several special tense indicators which are always placed immediately before the verb in a sentence. The most common are sudah ‘past’, sedang, ‘present’ and akan ‘future’ tenses. For example saya sudah belanja means “I have already shopped’, saya sedang belanja, means ‘I’m still shopping’ and saya akan belanja, means ‘I will shop’. For something that has just happened you can use baru saja, saya baru saja belanja, ‘I have just finished shopping’.
Here are a few examples:

to eat
makan
The child eats eggs
Anak itu makan telur
to drink
minum
I want to drink water
Saya mau minum air
to want
mau
They want to sleep
Mereka mau tidur
to go
pergi
The children go to the shop
Anak-anak pergi ke toko

Adjectives

Adjectives follow the noun:

blue book
buku biru
this book
buku ini
my book
buku saya
small book
buku kecil

When you want to say more than one thing about the noun you use yang

the large blue book
buku biru yang besar
the small red book
buku kecil yang merah

Comparisons in Indonesian are made with the use of kurang, ‘less’ and lebih ‘more’ and are placed before the adjective. Daripada is also used in place of ‘than’ in English, when two objects are being compared. For example daging sapi lebih mahal daripada ayam, ‘beef is more expensive than chicken’

smaller than
lebih kecil daripada
bigger than
lebih besar daripada
fewer than
lebih sedikit daripada
more than
lebih banyak daripada

To indicate extremes of comparison, yang paling is used

the smallest boat
kapal yang paling kecil
the biggest boat
kapal yang paling besar
the cheapest ticket
karcis yang paling murah
the most expensive ticket
karcis yang paling mahal

Pronouns

Personal Pronouns
When you learn Indonesian grammar, personal pronouns are used to reflect levels of politeness. When speaking to someone, you can use Bapak, ‘father’ and Ibu, ‘mother’, which are commonly used respectful terms for an older man or woman, instead of using one of the different words for ‘you’.
There are three forms of the word ‘you’. Saudara ‘relative’, is the most formal version. Kamu is more commonly used and used with friends. Anda is used when addressing more than one person (such as a group of people) and means ‘you’ when talking to the group, as in ‘you will all be going to the shop’.
The first person plural, ‘we’, has two different words in Indonesian. kita, ‘we’ when including the person spoken to, and kami, which only includes the people spoken about, but not the person spoken to.

Let’s go to breakfast
Mari kita pergi makan pagi
We’re going to breakfast (but not you)
Kami akan pergi makan pagi

Possessive Pronouns
The 1st and 2nd possessive pronouns (‘my’ and ‘your’) and the 3rd person plural (‘their’) are placed after the noun.

my car
mobil saya
your hat
topi kamu
their boat
kapal mereka

Possession in the third person (he, she or they) is expressed by using the suffix nya with the verb

his car
mobilnya
his / her boat
kapalnya

Questions

Question sentences are fairly simple to learn. There are several question words that can be used; they are used at the beginning of the sentence.

what
apa
How are you?
Apa Kabar?
who
siapa
What is your name?
Siapa nama saudara?
when
kapan
When does the bus leave?
Kapan bisnya berangkat?
where
dimana
Where is the station?
Dimana stasiun?
from where
darimana
Where have you been?
Darimana?
to where
kemana
Where does the bus go to?
Kemana bisnya pergi?
how / in what way
bagimana
What is the hotel like?
Bagimana hotelnya?
how many / much
berapa
How much is this?
Berapa harganya ini?
why
mengapa
Why is the bus late?
Mengapa bisnya terlambat?
may I
boleh
May I come in?
Boleh saya masuk?

Negation

Tidak, bukan and jangan are used to indicate negation. Tidak and jangan are used in front of verbs and adjectives, bukan is used in front of nouns.

I don’t want to
Saya tidak mau
That’s not it
Bukan yang itu
Don’t run
Jangan lari

Tidak and bukan can be used on their own to mean ‘no’ when answering a question

Do you like bread?
apakah kamu suka roti?
No (I don’t)
Tidak
This one?
Yang ini?
No (not this one)
Bukan

Plurals

The same word is used for singular or plural. Generally the word is said twice to indicate plural or more than one

child
anak
children
anak-anak

Doubling of the word has several other functions. It can be used to intensify the actual meaning of the word

slow
pelan
slowly
pelan-pelan
sit
duduk
sitting
duduk-duduk

Quantity Words
Quantity can be indicated by a number, or a quantity word used before the noun

all
semua
both
keduanya / dua-duanya
each
setiap / tiap-tiap
enough
cukup
every / each
masing-masing
little
sedikit
many / much
banyak
some / few
beberapa

Adverbs

often
sering
not yet
belum
never
tidak pernah
always
selalu
also
juga
immediately
secepatnya
very (quite)
sekali
too (small, big, etc)
terlalu
too (also)
juga
perhaps
bisa jadi
possibly
mungkin
really?
sungguh?

Comparisons

Comparisons in English that would be said ‘as…..as”, example ‘as big as’ in Indonesian they use the prefix se

as big as
sebesar
as long as
sepanjang
as blue as
sebiru
as high as
setinggi

Conjunctions

or
atau
after
sesudah
because
karena
before
sebelum
if
kalau
while
sedang / sementara
when
waktu
since
sejak

Prepositions

about
tentang
at, in, on (place)
di
at, in (time)
jam, dalam
between
antara
during
selama
for
untuk
from
dari
on
pada
through
melalui / lewat
till
sampai
to
ke
with
dengan
without
tanpa




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