Asking Questions in Indonesian – Formula – Examples

Indonesian people are known as one of the friendliest people in the world. Yes, most of Indonesian people like to talk. It is considered as a way to know each other and make friends. However, to have a fluent conversation, equal language knowledge is a must. As other languages in the world, one of the language knowledge that should be mastered is about asking questions in Indonesian.

Before learning about technical stuff, such as question words, we must also learn about Indonesian Greeting Etiquette and Manners. As you know, every society in the world has its own social-cultural aspects that also reflected in language. To learn more, you may also check sacred Communication Etiquette in Indonesia

1. Indonesian Greetings/Introduction

Before asking a direct question to someone else, especially strangers or someone older/senior, you must have a greeting/introduction. It is very important to leave good impression for someone else. Therefore, you may not want to be considered rude only because you miss this part. Here take a look of these examples.

Polite and Formal Way to Ask Questions

  • Permisi, Pak. Saya mau bertanya. Apakah saya boleh pergi sekarang (Excuse me, Sir. I want to ask. Can I leave now?)
  • Selamat pagi, Bu. Numpang tanya. Di manakah jalan ini? (Good morning, Mam. I want to ask. Where is this street?)

If you notice, there is a specific formula

  • Excuse me/Greeting + pronoun + state you want to ask + the question

In fact, the ‘state you want to ask’ is optional if it is not a stranger. Sometimes, using it to someone close make a stiff impression for the addressee. In addition, in Indonesia there are other pronouns than Sir/Mam. Some of it related to Indonesian certain ethnicity. Here are several examples.

  • Bapak/Pak = for someone much older, respected, or senior (male)
  • Ibu/Bu = for someone much older, respected, or senior (female)
  • Mas = for someone a little bit older, equal, close, or young man (male – derived from Javanese)
  • Mbak = for someone a little bit older, equal, close, or young woman (male – derived from Javanese)
  • Kak/Kakak = for someone a little bit older, equal, young (male/female)
  • Dek = for someone younger (male/female)

Furthermore, when you asking question in Indonesian, make sure you also pay attention with your non-verbal language, such as smile; do not raise your voice to high; and focus to the addressee (See Indonesian Greeting Customs). Then, if you asking question for interview and that person do not know you, it is very appropriate to introduce yourself. Learn it more in How to Introduce Yourself in Indonesian

Informal Way to Ask Questions

  • Pagi, Dek. Apa kabar? (Good morning, Dek. How are you?)
    *Dek is an Indonesian pronoun for someone younger
  • Kita mau ke mana, Ri? (Where are we going, Ri?)
  • Kak, kita mau ke mana? (Older brother, where are we going?) 

If you notice, there is a specific formula

  • (Informal greetings) + pronoun + questions
  • question + pronoun
  • pronoun + question

Asking questions in Indonesian in informal way, you may shorten the greetings from Selamat pagi (Good morning) to just pagi. Moreover, even in informal situation, using a pronoun is a must. It could be places either at beginning or the end of conversation.

If you’re addressee are older, you can not call them only by their name. You must add a title before their name. Except you are very close with the person, it is very prohibit to disobey the rules. Learn more about Indonesian greetings, in Good Afternoon in Indonesian

2. Indonesian Question Word

There are two types of questions, which are yes/no question and WH questions. In Bahasa Indonesia, there are three ways to ask yes/no question, which are using ‘apakah’, ‘-kah’ particle, or using interrogative intonation (raising the pitch at the end of sentence). Here are the examples

  • Apakah kamu baik-baik saja? (Are you okay?)
  • Sudahkah Susi menyelesaikan tugasnya? (Have Susi finished her homework?)
  • Rudi main bola. (Rudi is playing football) – statement
  • Rudi main bola? (Is Rudi playing football) – interrogative
    * raising intonation at the syllabe -la in bola 

For confirmation question, you could also add the particle ‘kan’ at the end of sentence. Take a look at these examples.

  • Ibu sedang pergi, kan? (Mom is going out, isn’t she?)
  • Kemarin Lulu ke bioskop, kan? (Lulu was going to the cinema, wasn’t she?)

Moreover, there are also WH questions word. There are two formulas about asking questions in Indonesia.

  • Formal
    Question Word + statement
    Apa yang kamu lakukan? (What are you doing?)
    Mengapa ibu pergi? (Why mom is leaving?)
  • Informal
    Statement + Question word
    Kamu sedang apa? (What are you doing?)Subject + question word + Verb
    Ibu mengapa pergi (Why mom is leaving?)

Moreover, here how to Indonesian Question Word compared with English. Check also Indonesian Question Word Order

  • what (apa)
    – Apa yang mau kamu makan? (What do you want to eat?
  • who/whom/whose (siapa)
    – Siapa yang datang? (Who is coming?)
  • when (kapan/bilamana)
    – Kapan Andi datang? (When will Andi come?)
    * bilamana is rarely used
  • where (di mana/ ke mana/ dari mana)
    – Di mana Andi? (Where is Andi?)
    – Ke mana Andi? (Where is Andi going?)
    – Dari mana Andi? (Where is Andi going?)
  • why (mengapa/ kenapa [inf])
    – Mengapa kamu menangis? (Why are you crying?)
    – Kenapa kamu menangis? (Why are you crying?)
  • how (bagaimana, gimana [inf])
    – Bagaimana kabarmu? (How are you?)
    – Gimana kabarmu? (How are you?)
  • how many/how much (berapa)
    – Berapa gajimu? (How much is your salary?)
  • which (yang mana [inf])
    – Kamu suka yang mana? (Which one do you like?)

Notes about asking questions in Indonesian:

  • How are you? also could be translated as ‘Apa kabar?’ (see more in How Are You in Indonesian
  • What is your name? is translated as ‘Siapa nama kamu?’. If you asking for someone name, you use the word ‘siapa’.
  • What time is it? is translated as ‘Jam berapa?’/Pukul berapa?’ 

Here are more several commons questions in Indonesia

  • Di mana kamu bersekeloh? (Where are you studying?)
  • Di mana pasar terdekat? (Where is the nearest market?)
  • Apakah kamu senang? (Are you happy?)
  • Berapa harga apel ini? (How much is this apple cost?)
  • Bagaimana kamu akan melakukan hal tersebut? (How are you going to finish it?)
  • Apa makanan favorit kamu? (What is your favorite foos)
  • Siapa penyanyi kesukaanmu? (Who is your favorite singer?)
  • Bolehkah saya permisi sebentar? (Could I be excused for a while)
  • Apakah kamu menyayangi aku? (Do you love me?)
  • Berapa lama waktu yang dibutuhkan untuk sampai ke sekolah? (How long does it take to reach the school?

So, there are all about asking question in Indonesia. Keep practice and learn new knowledge about Bahasa Indonesia. To enhance your skill, you can check these following articles: