Session 3 : Manipulate Tenses – Learn Bahasa Indonesia

Turn a verb into past or future tense

It’s very simple, you just have to add a marker before the verb. For the past, the most common one will be already : sudah.

  • Dia sudah datang pagi [He already come morning] : He came in the morning
  • Kamu sudah makan ? [You already eat ?] : Have you eaten yet ?

For the future, the exact same logic applies but you use akan instead of sudah. While sudah means something on its own, akan is only used as a future mark.

  • Dia akan kasih 200,000 rupiah [He *future mark* give 200,000 rupiah] : He will give 200’000 rupiah
  • Besok aku akan bantu temanku [Tomorrow, I *future mark* help friend I] : Tomorrow I will help my friend

In the previous sentence, given besok (tomorrow) already indicate the time, akan is not mandatory :

  • Besok aku bantu temanku [Tomorrow, I help friend I] : Tomorrow I will help my friend

In informal Indonesian, akan is very often replaced by mau [want/*future mark*] :

  • Mau ke mana ? [want/*future mark* at where ?] : Where are {you} going ?
  • Mau hujan [want/*future mark* rain] : It’s going to rain
  • Aku mau datang [I want/*future mark*] : I want to come or I will come. Cannot be more specific without context and the tone of the voice.

In informal Indonesian, the tense of the verb is often simply implied, especially if the temporal marker had been given in a previous sentence or if the tense is obvious given the context.

As a beginner, I recommend that you just learn this as well as the following vocabulary list before moving on to the next session.

  • Besok : tomorrow
  • Kemarin : yesterday
  • Pagi : morning
  • Malam : evening / night
  • Masih : still (ongoing)
  • Nanti : after

The Indonesian timeline

This should help you to choose the right time adverb :

Talking about something happening now

You can use sedang or lagi (inf).

  • Aku sedang nyetir [I *in the middle of* drive] : I’m driving
  • (Inf.) Kamu lagi apa ? [You *in the middle of* what] : What are you doing ?

If you want to translate while then you have to use saat :

  • Aku suka dengar musik saat nyetir [I like listen musik while drive] : I like to listen to music while driving

Talking about something recent

If it has just happened, use baru (lit. new). The notion of “just” is relative to the duration of the process you are referring to :

  • Kita baru selasai [We just finish] : We have just finished.
  • Aku baru dapat SIM [I just get driving licence] : I just got my driving licence (a few days ago)
  • Aku dapat SIM baru sekarang [I get driving licence just now] : I just got my driving licence (in the last couple of hours)

It it has happened earlier, use tadi :

  • Kamu makan apa tadi ? [You eat what earlier ?] : What have you eaten earlier ?

Beware of the word for last night : semalam. Usually adding the prefix se- before a name can create a unity : seminggu (one week), setahun (one year)…

It is also true for semalam which would then translate to one evening but most of the time it must be understood as last night (see confusion section below).

If you want to translate “this morning” the idiomatic translation is tadi pagi (and not pagi ini).

Talking about something older

Dulu can be translated by before, once or back then :

  • Dulu aku merokok [Before I smoke] : before I used to smoke

Another common expression is waktu itu [time that] : at that time

If you want to use a precise amount of time elapsed, you can introduce it with yang lalu

  • 10 tahun yang lalu, saya belum punya saudara [10 years which ago, I not yet have siblings] : I didn’t have any brother and sister 10 years ago

A few stuff to know about besok and kemarin

Besok and kemarin mean tomorrow and yesterday but it’s not strict.

They can also refer to the past or the future in a more general way. Besok could be also translated into “past period starting from yesterday but not too old either“. So let’s say you want to refer to your childhood, you cannot use besok as a marker.

  • Kemarin kaki saya dipatah [Yesterday leg/foot I broken] : I broke my leg or I broke my leg yesterday

If you wanna make sure to refer to the exact day before or after tomorrow you can use hari kemarin [day yesterday] or hari besok [day tomorrow].

You can also associate kemarin to minggu [week], bulan [month] or tahun [year] to form the expression last week or last year.

The logic is the same for the future but you use depan [in front of/ahead] instead of besok :

  • Tahun depan [year ahead] : next year
  • Minggu kemarin [week yesterday] : last week

Refering to an exact date

Dates shall be introduced with the pada preposition, in the informal language the preposition is often forgotten.

  • Pada tahun 2004 gempa bumi sangat besar mengguncang Aceh [On year 2004 have/”there is” shake earth large in Aceh] : In 2004, there was a large earthquake in Aceh
  • (form.) Pada masa depan, saya berharap lebih banyak orang Indonesia bisa keluar dari kemiskinan [On time ahead, I hope more a lot people Indonesia can exit from poverty] : In the future, I hope that more Indonesian could get out of poverty

Talking about something in the future

There is much less idioms about the future than about the past :

  • Minggu depan, aku pulang ke Jakarta [Week ahead, I go home to Jakarta] : next week I’ll come back to Jakarta
  • Nanti kita ketemu lagi [After we meet again] : We meet again another time

Nanti can be associated with another name and is then translated by later :

  • Nanti malam [After night] : later tonight

An informal alternative to nanti are words derived from sebentar [a moment] : bintar, bentar or ntar.

Describe a sequence of events

  • Masih / tetap : still
  • Hampir : almost
  • Nanti : later
  • Belum : not yet
  • Kemudian / lalu : then
  • Habis (lit. finished) : right after this
  • Sebelum : before
  • Setelah, sehabis, sesudah, seusai (form.) : after
  • Dulu : first
  • Akhirnya : finally
  • Makan dulu, lalu istirahat [eat first] : Eat first, then rest
  • Habis makan, kita pergi [Finished eat, we go] : We’ll go after eating
  • Sebelum kasih uang, saya mau tanya tentang rencana perjalanan [Before give money, I want ask about project travel] : Before giving the money, I want to ask about the itinerary

Describe a frequency

  • Setiap (inf. tiap) : every
  • Sering : often
  • Jarang : seldom
  • Selalu : always
  • Kadang-kadang : sometimes
  • Saya sholat setiap hari [I pray every day] : I pray everyday (sholat is for Muslim prayer only)
  • Orangtuaku sering makan di restaurant ini [Parents (lit. old people) I often eat at restaurant there] : my parents often eat in this restaurant
  • Dia selalu malas [He always lazy] : he/she is always lazy

Translating never

Translating never might be a bit confusing. You are going to use pernah [ever], which is usually used to describe something that you have done at least once :

  • Mas sudah pernah pergi ke Bali ? [*Brother (for Javanese)* already ever go to Bali ?] : Have you been to Bali already ?
  • Inf. Kamu pernah ke Bali ? [You ever to Bali] : same as above but informal, sudah can be omitted because pernah implies the past, pergi also because ke implies the direction
  • Answer : Sudah. [Already] : Yes I have been there

To translate never, it depends on what you want to say :

  • I have never been to Bali (I have been 0 times to Bali in the past) : Saya belum pernah ke Bali [I not yet ever to Bali]
  • I will never go to Bali (In the future I will not go to Bali) : Aku enggak akan pernah ke Bali [I no “will” ever to Bali] > but it’s hard for me imagining an Indonesian saying that. It’s very categoric.

Using the right preposition

  • Pada : on
  • Dalam : in
  • Dari : from
  • Sampai (form. Hingga) : until
  • Sejak (form. Semenjak) : since
  • Sekitar (form. Menjelang) : around

Remember that preposition (especially dalam and pada) are often omitted in informal Indonesian.

  • Pada hari Senin, dia hilang hpnya [On day Monday, he loose cellphone he] : on Monday he lost his cellphone, (in informal Indonesian pada is often forgotten).
  • Dalam dua jam, kapal datang [In two hours, boat come] : A/The boat will come in 2 two hours
    • A more common version would be Dua jam lagi, kapalnya datang [Two hour again, boat the come] 
  • Dari minggu kemarin, kamu senang [Since week yesterday, you sad] : Since last week, you have been happy
  • Kita harus kerja sampai malam [We must work until night] : We must work until tonight
  • Sejak hari itu, dia takut anjing [Since day that, he afraid dog] : Since that day, he has been afraid of dogs
  • Bis akan datang sekitar jam 6 [Bus “will” come around hour 6] : Bus will come around 6

Avoiding some confusions

Pada cannot be translated by on when used with something else than time.

  • On Monday : Pada hari Senin
  • On the table : Di meja

Baru can be used as an adjective or a adverb, pay attention to the context :

  • Ada banyak mobil baru di depan toko [There is many car *just now/new* at in front shop] : There are many new cars in front of the shop
  • Mereka baru berangkat [They *just now/new* leave] : They just left
  • Kakak saya baru terima mobil baru [Older brother/sister I *just now/new* buy car new] : My brother/sister just received his/her new car

Lalu can also have different meanings depending on the context :

  • Saya menikah 2 tahun yang lalu [I marry 2 years which ago] : I got married 2 years ago
  • Cuci tangan, lalu kamu bisa makan [Clean hand, then you can eat] : Wash your hand first, then you can eat

Dulu have also totally different meanings depending on the context :

  • Makan dulu [Eat first] : Eat first
  • Dulu saya suka makan gorengan, tapi tidak bisa lagi karena kolesterol [Before I like eat fried objects, but no can anymore because kolesterol] I used to like eating fried snacks, but I cannot anymore due to cholesterol

Saat is also a noun meaning [moment] so the expression saat ini means now/currently.

Other words used in formal Indonesian

In written Indonesian, sudah is often replaced by telah and akan by agar or bakal.

Kini : now

Jaman : a period, an era

  • Jaman kini : nowadays

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