Session 13 : Confusing points – Learn Bahasa Indonesia


It is most of the time used as a verb that can be translated by become. Very commonly used to express an evolution from one state to another, including an emotional state.

  • Aku jadi bingung [I become confused] : I’m getting /I got confused
  • Anakku mau jadi dokter [Child I want become doctor] : My son/daughter wants to become a doctor

There is a grammatical distinction between menjadi (become) and terjadi (happen). But in the oral language, the prefix is very often omitted (see session 1), hence only jadi remains.

A funny pun, but impossible to translate perfectly :

  • Pilkada kalau jadi pasti lupa, pil KB kalau lupa pasti jadi [PILihan KEpala DAerah = Choice Head Region if become certain forget, contraceptive pill if forget certain happen] : After they got elected for sure they forget, forget contraceptive pill and for sure it will happen.

One idiom that you must know is tidak jadi that you use to say that you cancel something you have planed before.

  • Aku sakit, enggak jadi makan bersama nanti malam [I sick, no become eat together later night] : I’m sick, I cannot have dinner with you tonight (enggak is a synonym for tidak, but used mostly in Java)

Otherwise jadi is a logical connector that can be translated by so :

  • Jadi kamu mau ikut ga ? [So you want join no?] : So are you joining or not ?


Sama can mean both same or with :

  • Dia sering nongkrong sama adikku [He often hangs out with little sibling I] : He often hangs out with my little {brother}
  • Aku minta ikan pepes sama es jeruk [I ask fish pepes (wrapped and cooked in banana leave) with ice orange] : I’d like ikan pepes with an orange juice

It is the same sama that you find in bersama [together]. I think that sama is much more common than its synonym dengan given in most phrasebooks.

Another sama is the one that you find in sama sama (you’re welcome) :

  • Kita punya sepatu yang sama [We have car which same] : We have the same shoes

Pakai / Pake / Paket

Not a very crucial one, but it confused me for a long time. Pakai and pake are actually the same word. Pake is an informal deformation of pakai (you can refer to the link given at the end of this session for a more structured approach regarding deformation of spelling in informal Indonesian).

Pakai (or pake) has 3 main meanings :

  • To wear
  • To use (even though it is an improper use of pakai according to the dictionary, memakai should be use instead in this case)
  • To add to something (regarding food or drinks for instance)


  • (Talking to an ojek driver) (inf.) Pak, berhenti bentar, aku mau pake jes hujan [Mr, stop one moment, I want wear vest rain] : Stop for a moment, I’m going to put on a rain jacket.
  • Kalau mau pergi ke sana pakai kenderaan umum, harus naik apa ? [If want go to there use transport public, must climb what ?] : If {I} want to go there using public transport, what should {I} take ?
  • Uang yang ada di meja boleh dipakai untuk belanja ? [Money which have at table may *passive mark*-use for shop ?] : Can I use the money on the table for grocery ?
  • (inf.) Bu, minta es teh tapi ga pake gula iya ? [Mrs, ask ice tea but no use/add sugar yes ?] : Mrs, may I get an iced tea but no sugar ok ?

Pake can be easily confused with pake/t/ which simply means a package or something wrapped :

  • Jangan susah, di pelabuan ada paket nasi dijual  [Do not difficult, at harbour have package rice *passive mark*-sell] : Don’t worry, at the harbour there are some sellers of take-away rice meal.

Translate do and make

You basicaly have 3 words : bikin, buat and lakukan. All are defined as synonyms of each others by the dictionary.

From my experience I would say that lakukan is a bit more formal that the two others.

  • Tanteku lagi bikin kue [Aunt I still do cake] : My aunt is making cakes
  • Berita ini membuat dia terdiam [New this make he “the most”-calm] : This news left him speechless
  • Simpel! Lakukan gerakan stretching ini untuk bikin harimu lebih bersemangat [Simple ! Do movement stretching this for make day yours more lively] : Simple! Do this stretching movement to make your day more lively (taken from Detik Health)
  • Kalung terbuat oleh emas [Necklace “passive mark”-make by gold] : A necklace made of gold
  • Jika kamu melakukan hal ini, segala jadwal yang telah kamu buat pasti menjadi berantakan [If you do thing this, all schedule which “past marker” you make certain become mess] : If you do this, all the schedules you made will definetly be messed up (excerpt from here)

Buat can be confusing because it can mean both make and for (in that case it is a synonym for untuk)

  • Kembalinya disimpan aja pak, buat beli rokok lah [Return-“emphasis” “passive mark”-keep just father, for buy cigarette “that’s the right thing to do”] : Just keep the change Mr, buy cigarette with it.
  • Ponsel RAM 4GB, buat apa sih ? [TelPON SELuler RAM 4GB, for what “introduces confusion”] : Are 4GB for a cellphone really useful ?

If you want to translate “what are you doing“:

  • Universal version : Kamu lagi apa ? / Kamu lagi bikin apa ?
  • Common version heard in Java : Kamu lagi ngapain ?

Dulu, lalu and mau

I’ve talked about their multiple meanings in session 3. As a reminder :

  • Mau can mean want but also be a future marker like akan
    • Aku mau beli camera [I want buy camera] : I want to buy a camera or I will buy a camera (without context there is no way to tell)
  • Dulu can mean first (when refering to a sequence of event) but also refer to a distant past 
    • Makan dulu : eat first
    • Jaman dulu : the old days
  • Lalu can be used to refer to something in the past (dua tahun yang lalu) but also means then
    • Dia mampir di Padang dua tahun yang lalu [He/She stop in Padang two year which “in the past”] : He/She stopped in Padang two years ago


Pas means that something is adequate, just at the right level

  • Belanja puas, harga pas [Shop satisfied, price adequate] : Satisfying shopping, fixed price (Indomaret slogan)
  • (told by a cashier after receiving money) Uangnya pas iya [Money -“stressing mark” adequate yes] : That’s the exact amount, no change right ?
  • Bajunya pas banget sih [Cloth -“stressing mark” adequate very “informal particle to add some emphasis”] : This shirt suits you perfectly (banget is mostly used in Java/Jakarta)
  • Prabowo sebut 99 persent rakyat Indonesia hidup pas-pasan [Prabowo mentions 99 percent citizen Indonesia live “just enough”] : Prabowo mentions that 99% of Indonesian citizen have barely enough to live (statement of presidential candidate Prabowo during the 2018 campaign)

Pas can also be used to translate while or when :

  • Para siswa takut pas disuntik di sekolah [All students afraid when “passive mark”-injection at school] : All the pupils were afraid during when they received injection at school.
  • Pas ada orang lihat, langsung berhenti terus dibantu [When “there is” people see, directly stop continue “passive mark”-help] : When people saw him, they immediately stop and gave him help

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