Session 2 : Addressing someone – Learn Bahasa Indonesia

Personal pronouns

  • I : Aku (informal), Saya (formal)
  • You (singular) : Kamu (informal), Anda (formal)
  • He/She : Dia
  • We : Kita, Kami
  • You (plural) : Kalian
  • They : Mereka

A common mistake among foreigners : if you refer to yourself as saya remember to address the other person as anda and not kamu, otherwise you’re implying that you are better than your interlocutor (because you deserve the formal pronoun and not him).

I use informal pronouns almost all the time and it has never got me into trouble. It gives my Indonesia a rather friendly tone though. Of course, if I got pulled over by the police and I’m not carrying my licence I will adapt my language.

By using Kita, you are including the listener into the We, while by using Kami you are exluding him. My advice : use Kita all the time, you can deal with this kita / kami issue once you know how to hold a proper conversation.

Possessive pronouns

If you remember the first session, you know that personal and possessive pronouns are indistinctive in Indonesian. Hence Aku = I = My

You may also remember that Indonesian people love to shorten up words. When used as possessive pronouns aku, kamu and dia are often transformed into a suffix (-ku, -mu, -nya) that is added to the noun.

  • Berapa umur kamu ? = Berapa umurmu ? [How much age you ?] : How old are you ?
  • Ini rumah dia = Ini rumahnya [This house he] : This is his house
  • Itu tas aku = Itu tasku [That bag I] : That is my bag

Keep in my that -nya suffix has a lots of other purposes, the most common one being to put the emphasis on one word. In informal Indonesian -nya can also serve as an equivalent of kamu (yours). 

  • Itu rumahnya ! : can be translated also into “This is the house !” (that we were looking for) depending on the context.
  • (inf.) Siapa namanya ? [Who name you ?] : What is your name ? 

Kinship terms

Instead of using a personal pronoun, Indonesian people very often use a family term to address to someone.

Kinship terms for beginners

  • Bapak / inf. Pak [father] : to address an older person or someone with a good social status (government official, teacher, doctor …)
  • Ibu / inf. Bu [mother] : equivalent of Bapak for women.
  • Kakak / inf. Kak [older sibling] : to address someone about your age or slightly older. If you are more than 30 you can use to address a person between 15-29.
  • Adik / inf. Adeh [younger sibling] : to address kids



More personal pronouns

In Jakarta slang, aku can be replaced by gue and kamu by lo.

Ia and beliau (respectful) are equivalent of dia used in written Indonesia.

In movie subtitles, kamu is very often substituted by kau. It might be related to engkau term which is an equivalent of kamu used mostly around Medan area.

More kinship terms

  • Mas/Mbak : Javanese words to address a young man/woman. Understood in all Indonesia, very commonly used to call a staff or a waiter. Lots of regional variation too, very good idea to learn them if you stay long in an area.
  • Kakek [grandfather] : to address an elder male (Bapak can be used also)
  • Nenek [grandmother] : to address an elder female (Ibu can be used also)
  • Paman / inf. Om [uncle] : to address someone older that you know and respect
  • Tante / inf. Bibi [aunty] : equivalent of Paman for women
  • Abang [elder] : to address someone older
  • Tuan [Sir] : very polite way to address to a man.
  • Nyona [Mrs] : very polite way to address a woman
  • Nona [Miss] : very polite way to address an unmaried woman
  • Bung, Abang, Bang [comrade, brother] : familiar or affective way to address a male adult




Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.