Indonesian to English Grammar – Formula – Exercise

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One of the key in learning second language is understand its grammar. Sometimes, learning certain language grammar is very difficult because it has huge difference with our mother-tongue. Beside that, we also deal with socio-cultural aspect that implied in the language. In fact, that condition also happened between Bahasa Indonesia and English. Therefore, to make it easier, this time we will learn about Indonesian to English grammar.

Bahasa Indonesia and English are classified to different group of language. While Bahasa Indonesia is a agglutinative language, English is classified as fusional language. On the other word, both have different characteristic, especially in grammar. It also includes part of speech, tenses as well as negation. Before move to the lesson, you may check Indonesian Grammar Structures

1. Indonesian Noun Phrases

Noun phrase is a set a word that still identified as a noun. Bahasa Indonesia and English use different rule in forming a noun phrase. In Bahasa Indonesia, noun phrase uses D–M formula (or Head-Modifier), while English uses the reverse formula (M–D). To make it clear, take a look of this.

  Bahasa Indonesia English
Noun Phrase   Gadis (n) + Cantik (Adj) = Gadis cantik Beautiful (Adj) + Girl (n) = Beautiful girl
Noun Phrase   Hari (n) + Kamis (n) = Hari Kamis Thursday
Noun Phrase   Rumah (n) + saya (pron.) = Rumah saya My (pron.) + house (n) = my house
Adjective Phrase   Sangat (adv) + pintar (Adj) = Sangat pintar Very (adv) + smart (Adj) = very smart

You may notice that there are different word order between Bahasa Indonesia and English noun phrase. The head element Indonesia, which are gadis, hari, and rumah, is placed before it modifier (cantik, Kamis, saya). However, in forming Adjective phrase, both took the same formula.

See also common Indonesian Nouns

2. Indonesian Singular/Plural Nouns

Another  part of Indonesian to English grammar is about singular/plural nouns. While English is very strict in using particle a/an to determine a countable noun as a singular as well as suffix -s/-es for plural, Bahasa Indoensia has more flexible rule about singular/plural noun. Take a look at this table.







(Sebuah) Buku


A book

Beberapa buku Some books
Banyak Buku Many books
Dua buku two books

(Seorang) Anak

Anak-anak (also mean childish)


Beberapa anak Some children
Dua anak Two children
Para anak The children

While you can’t use ‘book’ without any article or suffix -s in a sentence, it is possible to use the word ‘buku’ without particle. However, you can’t exactly identify it exactly as singular or plural because it might be both. Moreover, using particle equal as a/an, such as sebuah, seorang, setangkai in Bahasa Indonesia is very optional. To make it easier, take a look at this table.

Bahasa Indonesia English
Singular nouns do not need a particle need particle (a/an/the)


(optional) using particle, such as seorang (for person), sebuah (fruits/thing), seekor ( for animal), and so on.
Plural nouns


through reduplication (buku-buku) must be followed by s/es
add word such as sejumlah, beberapa, banyak, para (for person), or number (2,3, 4) add word such as some, many, few or number (2,3, 4)

To learn more, check Indonesian Plural Nouns and Learn Indonesian Plural

3. Verbs and Tenses

One significant difference between Bahasa Indonesia and English grammar is related to verbs. In Bahasa Indonesia verbs play very significant role because it is the will determine other elements in a sentence, while in English the verb form is determined by the time as well as the subject. To make it easier to understand, take a look at this example.

  • Saya makan nasi (I eat rice)
  • Kemarin kamu makan apa? (What did you eat yesterday?)
    Saya makan nasi (I ate rice)

If you notice, even though both ‘saya makan nasi’ sentence refer to different time, there are no single difference in both sentence. It happened because Bahasa Indonesia does not emphasize the time as much as English. However, to signify time, sometimes we use certain Indonesian Auxiliary Verbs or Adverbs of time to help us determine it. Here take a look at the table.

Tenses Auxiliary verb/adverb Example English
Present simple Saya makan I eat
Past simple/Past continuous kemarin (yesterday), minggu lalu (last week) Saya makan nasi kemarin I ate rice yesterday
Present continuous sedang, sekarang (now) Saya sedang makan nasi

Sekarang saya makan nasi

I am eating rice

I am eating rice now

Present perfect sudah, telah Saya sudah makan I have eaten
Future simple akan (will), hendak (going to), mau (want), besok (tomorrow), nanti (later) Saya hendak makan

Nanti saya makan

I am going to eat

I will eat later

4. Active/Passive Sentence

Another important element in Bahasa Indonesia is affixes because it is also used to form word, including verbs that determine a sentence to become active and passive. While in English active/passive is about word structure as well as choosing the right verb and to be, in Bahasa Indonesia it is matter of using the right affix to be attached with the verb. Active verbs are usually signified with prefix me(N) or ber-, while passive sentence usually signified by verbs added by prefix di- or ter- (For more explanation, Indonesian Prefixes. Here take a look at these examples.

  • ambil (take)me(N) + ambil = mengambil (active verb)
    Andi mengambil bola (Andi took the ball)di + ambil = diambil (passive verb)
    Bola diambil Andi (The ball was taken by Andi)

 5. Indonesian Pronoun

Pronoun is a very interesting part of speech of every language because it implied socio-cultural aspects on it. Even though the basic pronoun classification between Bahasa Indonesian and English similar, still there is certain characteristic in each language. In Bahasa Indonesian Pronouns, there are groups of words that have similar meaning, but have different function or sense.

  • I = saya, aku, gua, beta
    – Saya : Formal situation, considered as the most polite
    – aku   : To close friend, considered as friendly, informal
    gua  :  To close friend, informal, sometimes is considered rude
    – beta
      : usually used by East Indonesian people, informal
  • You = Anda, kamu
    Anda  : Formal situation, for someone equal or under
    – kamu  : To peer group, informal, has friendly sense
  • You (plural) = kalian
  • We = kita, kami
    kita   : Us + You (addressee), oral conversation
    – kami : Us (without you), formal
  • They = mereka
  • He/She = dia (genderless pronoun)
  • It = (no equal translation)

You may notice that the word ‘dia’ could be translated as he/she. It might be happened because of socio-cultural aspects in Indonesia. It is also no equal translation for brother/sister because in Indonesia there is only two types of core sibling, which are kakak (older) and adik (younger). Moreover, these pronouns are also function as English object pronouns, possesive pronouns, ans possesive adjective in formal situation. Take a look at these examples.

The book is mine  

Itu buku saya


That is my book
The book is belong to me
I love you,

you love me

Saya sayang kamu,

kamu sayang saya

So, that is several parts of Indonesian to English Grammar. You could also check these following articles