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v  d  e ) Indonesian Language Course (discussion)
Learning the Indonesian Language  •  Downloadable and Print Versions

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^ Indonesian ^ | << Lesson 3: Pronouns | Lesson 4: Simple Sentences | Lesson 5: Numbers >>



Basic Indonesian word order is similar to English. Generally, sentences begin with a subject, followed by a verb (also called a predicate), and then an object.

It's good news that Indonesian verbs don't change depending on tense. Indicating the past or future tense only requires inserting words that indicate the time, in a very regular system.

Contoh (Example):

  • Saya makan nasi
  • I eat rice.
  • Saya telah makan nasi
  • I ate or have eaten rice.
  • Saya sudah makan nasi
  • I ate or have eaten rice.
  • Saya akan makan nasi
  • I will eat rice.
  • Saya sedang makan nasi
  • I am eating rice.
  • Saya makan nasi kemarin
  • I ate rice yesterday.
  • Kemarin, saya makan nasi
  • Yesterday, I ate rice.

As you noticed in the examples above, the word "telah" or "sudah" indicate completed actions, the word "akan" indicate future actions, and the word "sedang" indicate actions in progress. The main verb (i.e. "makan" = to eat) is left unchanged.

Side note: In English, both cooked and uncooked rice are referred as rice alone. In Indonesian, uncooked rice is called beras while cooked rice is called nasi.

Note also that Indonesian has no notions of imperfect tense. Instead, Indonesian uses duration words, such as "selama" (literally means during or as long as):

Contoh (Example):

  • Saya sudah belajar Bahasa Indonesia selama dua tahun.
  • I have studied Indonesian (language) for two years.
  • Selama ini, saya belajar dengan baik.
  • Until now, I've studied well.
  • Selama dua tahun ini, saya belajar dengan baik.
  • For the last two years, I've studied well.
  • Selama kamu di sini, saya tidak akan pergi.
  • As long as you are here, I will not go.

Don't worry about these "tenses" yet. We'll study it in greater detail later.

Adding Emphasis


The Indonesian language is very expressive. While basic Indonesian word order matches English, you can scramble up the sentence structure, and the sentence will still have the same underlying meaning. In this regard, Indonesian is somewhat like Latin or Japanese, but without the cases or the particles. Usually, when a word other than the subject is put at the beginning of a sentence, it becomes the emphasis of the sentence. This is broadly used in spoken Indonesian.

Contoh (Example):

  • Saya sedang makan nasi
  • I am eating rice, neutral emphasis.
  • Sedang makan nasi saya
  • I am Eating My rice. (emphasis on the progress of eating rice).
  • Makan nasi sedang saya lakukan
  • Eating rice (is what) I am doing (now). (emphasis on eating rice)
  • Nasi sedang saya makan
  • Rice (is what) I am eating (now).

(emphasis on rice)

Note also that this way of providing emphasis can occur with any "tense" using the same pattern.

Don't be intimidated by this variability in word order. You can always form simple sentences as: Subject + Verb + Object.

^ Indonesian ^ | << Lesson 3: Pronouns | Lesson 4: Simple Sentences | Lesson 5: Numbers >>


Adjectives  Adverbs  Gender  Negation  Prepositions  Pronouns  Sentences  Tenses  Verbs  

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