5 Indonesian Grammar Rules – Formula and Examples

Learning about a certain language means you need to have a comprehensive knowledge about its grammar. Therefore, you must also understand about the grammar rules. Between languages, there are both similar and diverse rules about grammar. This time , we will focus in 5 Indonesian Grammar Rules.

Compared to English, Indonesian Grammar Structures is quite flexible. There are no 16 types of sentences or grammatical gender. However, it does not mean that Bahasa Indonesia is easier. It has its own difficulties. Hence, let’s learn about 5 Indonesian Grammar Rules.

1. Complete and Incomplete Sentence

Without a doubt, every single language has its own rules for forming a sentence. Basically, in Indonesia a sentence contains a Subject and a Verb (Predikat in Bahasa Indonesia) that are not separable (except for imperative sentence). It is defined as complete sentence. Moreover, A complete sentence must at least consists Subject + Verb.

Here are the examples

  • Saya bermain sepak bola (I play football) – statement
    – Saya – I= subject (S)
    – Bermain – play = verb (V)
    – Sepak bola – football = complement (C)
  • Kamu sedang bermain apa? (What are you playing?) – interrogative
    – Kamu – you = subject (S)
    – Sedang bermain – are playing = verb (V)
    – Apa – what = (Question word) (QW)
  • Mainkan bola itu! (Play the ball!) – imperative
    Mainkan – play = verb (V)
    Bola itu – the ball = complement  (C)

It is also possible to make reverse sentence. It is when a sentence contains a reverse S-V formula. On the other word, it becomes V-S (Verb before Subject). Usually, it is found in creative writing and considered as a language style. Here are the examples.

  • Pergilah ia dari tepi sungai. (He is leaving (from) the riverside)
    – Pergilah – is leaving (V)
    – ia – he (S)
    dari tempat – from the riverside (Adv. of place)

In reality, people do not always follow the formula above. As a product of society, of course language practice is depends on each person, not reverse. Consequently, language becomes very dynamic and vary. In terms of sentences, incomplete sentence is one of the evidence of language dynamics.

As you know, a complete sentence contains at least Subject and Verb. In incomplete sentence, there is no rules. It is usually happened for efficiency (shorten the time). For your information, Indonesian people like to shorten their sentence and word. Therefore, there are diverse informal form of words and sentences. You must know the context and understand of the intonation (or punctuation in written form) of the conversation. Here are the examples.

  • A: Kamu mau apa? (What do you want to do?)
    B: Makan. (Eat.)
  • A: Makan? (Eat?) – Do you want to eat?
    B: Boleh. (Can) – Of course/Okay
  • A: Makan! (Eat!)
    B: Gak mau. (Do not want) – I do not want to eat.

Learn more about Indonesian sentence in Indonesian Sentence Construction

2. Transitive/Intransitive and Object/Complement

The second an third group in 5 Indonesian Grammar Rules to be discussed are Transitive/Intransitive and Object/Complement. Beside the Forming Indonesian Words and Affixes, two subjects above are considered very challenging, even for the native. In fact, it is very related to Indonesian Sentence Structures and Indonesian Prefixes.

Transitive/Intransitive is a term that is related to Indonesian Verbs. There are four possible types for Indonesian verb, which are (1) active transitive, (2) passive transitive, (3) active intransitive, (4) passive intransitive. It is very critical to understand it because it is a key element of a sentence. For instance, it will determine the next element of the sentence: object, complement, adverb, or punctuation (end of sentence).

What is the difference and characteristic of each verb category?

  • Active Transitive Verb
    – It is a verb that must be followed by object(s) (transitive)
    – Mostly it is signified by me- Prefix
    – It has passive equivalence that signified by ‘di- prefix’ (transtive)
    Example: Ibu mencuci baju (Mother washed the clothes)
  • Passive Transitive Verb
    – It is a verb that must be followed by object(s) (transitive)
    – Mostly it is signified by ‘di- prefix’
    – It has active equivalence that signified by ‘me-(N) prefix’ (transitive)
    Example: Baju dicuci ibu (The clothes were washed by mother) 
  • Active Intransitive Verb
    – It is a verb that are not followed by object(s) (intransitive)
    It could be followed by Complement, Adverb, or Punctuation
    – Mostly it is signified by Prefix Ber-
    – It could not be passive sentence (intransitive)
    – Saya bermain boneka (I play dolls) – Dolls is complement
    – Saya bermain. (I play.)
    – Saya bermain di lapangan. (I play at the yard)
    Confuse about Object and Complement? We discuss it later!
  • Active Intransitive Verb
    – It is a verb that are not followed by object(s) (intransitive)
    It could be followed by Complement, Adverb, or Punctuation
    – Mostly it is signified by Prefix ‘ter-‘
    – It could not be active sentence (intransitive)
    – Saya tertusuk jarum – I was accidentally cut by a needle
    – Saya tertusuk. (I was stabbed)
    – Saya tertusuk di jalan (I was stabbed on the street)

The Transitive/Intransitive characteristic plays very significant role to determine Object/Complement. There is no specific difference between both, except the preceding verb. Yes, if it a noun class word/phrase that follow a ‘me-(N)’ or ‘di-‘ verb, it is must be identified as an object. Therefore, you could reserve the sentence as active/passive. However, if the verbs contains ‘ber-‘ or ‘ter-‘ prefix, it is must be identified as a complement because it must be an intransitive verb. Therefore, you could NOT reserve the sentence as active/passive. Here are the examples.

  • Saya memainkan boneka (I play the doll)
  • Saya bermain boneka (I play dolls)
  • Saya menjual ikan (I sell fish)
  • Saya berjualan ikan (I sell fish)

However, there are several conditions when the rules are broken. Even though ‘me-(N)’ and ‘di-‘ are commonly identified as transitive signifier, there are several exception. Sometimes, it is not followed by object(s). Instead, it is followed with punctuation (end of sentence) as Subject-Verb sentence structure and considered correct. But, it is only for several verbs. Here are the examples.

  • Ibu mencuci. (in English: Mom washes)
  • Saya ditusuk (I was stabbed)

On the other hands, even though ‘ber-‘ is an intransitive signifier, there are several occasion when a sentence identified as intransitive wothout ‘ber-‘ verb. It happened when the verbs are a root word verb (formal and informal). Here are several examples.

  • Saya duduk (I sit)
  • Saya main boneka (I play dolls)
  • Saya makan di restoran (I ate at the restaurant)

3. Indonesian Phrases Form

Phrase is a set a word that form together and still identified as single class word/part of speech (noun, verb, and so on). In terms of forming verb, adjective, and adverbs, English and Bahasa Indonesia shares similar rules. However, it becomes very different when we move to forming a noun phrase.

In Bahasa Indonesia, noun phrase uses D–M formula (or Head-Modifier), while English uses the reverse formula (M–D) (Check more in Indonesian to English Grammar). It is very often become the common mistakes o non-native speaker. Here are the examples

  • ruang (room) + besar (big) = ruang besar (big room)
  • anak (kid) + yang (which is/that is) + pintar (smart) = anak yang pintar (smart kid/A kid that is smart)
  • biru (blue) + laut (sea) = biru laut (sea blue)
  • laut (blue) + biru (sea) = laut biru (blue sea)
  • pensil (pencil) + ayah (dad) = pencil ayah (Dad’s pencil)
  • ayah (dad) + Kyle = ayah Kyle (Kyle’s dad)

In addition, the reverse condition between Bahasa Indonesia and English is also happened in compound noun.

  • makanan (food) + laut (sea) = makanan laut (seafood)
  • sepak (kick) + bola (ball) = sepak bola (football)
  • mandi (bath) + kamar (room) = kamar mandi (bathroom)
  • sapu (sweep) + tangan (hand) = saputangan (handkerchief)

4. Standard/Non-standard Indonesian Sentence: Indonesian Word Order

When we are talking about standard language, it is only used in several situation, such as academics, certain newspaper, letter, several formal situation, and so on. Because Bahasa Indonesia is a very dynamic, as well as the diversity of its nation, the language became very flexible. Consequently, it made standard language become hard, stiff, unfamiliar, strange to use in Indonesian people daily life. In addition, the rules are not applied as clear and as strict as English other languages.

Beside diction (word choice), it is also important to know standard order of Bahasa Indonesia. It is actually very simple. Except for imperative and reverse sentence (V-S sentence), the Indonesian sentence must contains an inseparable S-V. Take a look at these examples.

  • Kemarin paman datang (Yesterday uncle came)
  • Paman datang kemarin (Uncle came yesterday)
  • Paman kemarin datang (Uncle yesterday came) (non-standard) 

Kemarin – yesterday (Adverb), paman – uncle (Subject), datang – came (Verb)

All of the sentences above is very common and accepted by Indonesian people. However, you may see that third sentence is considered as a non-standard because the Adverb separate Subject from the Verb. It is very prohibited in formal and standard situation, but usually used in daily life by Indonesian native. Therefore, understand the situation.

Moreover, here are the formula of Indonesian Sentence and few examples

  • (Adv) + S + V + O/C/+C + Adv
  • S + V = Ibu berbelanja (Mom is shopping)
  • A + S + V = Sekarang ibu berbelanja (Now, mom is shopping)
  • S + V + O = Ibu membeli sayur (Mom is buying vegetables)
  • S + V + C = Ibu berbelanja sayur (Mom is buying vegetables)
  • S + V + O + C = Ibu membelikan anak-anaknya sayur (Mom is buying her children some vegetables)
  • S + V + O + Adv = Ibu membeli sayur di pasar (Mom is buying vegetables at the market)
  • S + V + C + Adv = Ibu berbelanja sayur di pasar (Mom is buying vegetables at the market)
  • S + V + O + C + Adv = Ibu membelikan anak-anaknya sayur di pasar (Mom is buying her children some vegetables at the market)
  • Adv + S + V + O + C + Adv = Sekarang Ibu membelikan anak-anaknya sayur di pasar (Now, Mom is buying her children some vegetables at the market)

Remember, do not reverse any elements. The use of verb is grammatically optional.

After learning about 5 Indonesian Grammar Rules, you should check out these following articles to enhance your Bahasa Indonesia skills. Good luck and keep practice!