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Guide to Basic Indonesian Grammar

Last update on January 2, 2024

This article offers an introduction to the fascinating world of Indonesian language grammar. While not a complete guide, it serves as a stepping stone for your journey of language mastery. We'll explore fundamental concepts like sentence structure, verb conjugation, and the use of particles, equipping you with the initial tools to navigate basic communication. Check this guide regularly to refresh your memory and use it to practice.

As you progress, you'll discover the nuances and intricacies of the language. This introduction aims to spark your curiosity and interest, providing a solid foundation for further exploration. Remember, language learning is a lifelong adventure, and this article merely marks the beginning of your captivating voyage into the heart of Bahasa Indonesia.

Checkbox icon Personal Pronouns

Bahasa Indonesia does not have separate pronouns based on gender, dia can be translated both as he, she or it depending on context.

Have you ever notice the difference between they and you (plural)? When we use they we don’t include the person we are speaking to, when we use you (plural) we include the person we are speaking to. Indonesian grammar has a similar construction for the pronoun we. For example: if you are in a restaurant with a friend and want to say to the waiter you want to pay, you could say: kami ingin membayar (we want to pay). It will not include the waiter. If you are talking to your friend in this situation you could say: kita harus pergi (we should go).

But wait, there is more: kita is also frequently used in colloquial conversation for both the inclusive and exclusive meanings of we.

Checkbox icon Verb Conjugation

Good news, there is no verb conjugation in Indonesian.

But what does it mean? We of course still have ways to talk about the past, present and future in Indonesian but the verb does not change. For example makan means to eat, it does not matter if we are talking about something that happened on the past or in the future, if I or he is the one that is eating, the word we use is makan.

Checkbox icon Gender

Nouns do not have gender in Indonesian. Most words can be used to refer to both male and female individuals. For example, the word anak can mean both son and daughter. There are no specific pronouns based on gender, dia can mean he, she or it.

Checkbox icon Plural

In Bahasa Indonesia words do not change to form a plural. Instead the plural is formed by duplicating the noun, for example: jeruk (orange) and jeruk-jeruk (oranges). Reduplication is not used when number can be implied from context, for example: saya makan dua jeruk (I eat two oranges). Using jeruk-jeruk in this case would be considered a pleonasm.

Checkbox icon Articles

There are no articles in the Indonesian language

Checkbox icon Negative Sentences

There are two main ways of creating negative sentences in Indonesian: Tidak is used to negate a verb or adjective. Bukan is used to negate a a noun or noun phrase. Two popular variants of tidak are ndak and nggak, these are commonly used in informal contexts.

Tidak is used to negate verbs and adjectives. For example:

Bukan is used to negate nouns. For example:

Checkbox icon Asking Questions

There are different ways of asking questions in Indonesian. Raising intonation is one way to ask questions. This type of question is exactly the same as a statement, the only difference is the question mark at the end.

Yes or no questions might be created by placing apa in the beginning of the sentence. When in formal situations it is possible to use apakah instead of apa. Apa kamu suka kopi? (Do you like coffee?)

Apa can algo be used to create what questions. Kamu sedang apa? (What are you doing?) Buku apa yang sedang kamu baca? (What book are you reading?)

Berapa is used to create 'how much' or 'what quantity' questions typically with things that can be counted. Berapa harga buku ini? (How much is this book?). Berapa tahun kamu belajar bahasa Indonesia? (How many years have you been learning Indonesian?)