Session 6 : Verbs to Interact With Someone – Learn Bahasa Indonesia

For this lesson, you don’t need to learn a lots of vocabulary :

  • Boleh : may
  • Mau : want
  • Bisa : can
  • Harus : must
  • Perlu : need
  • Dilarang : forbidden


  • Boleh rokok di sini ? [May smoke at here ?] : May {I} smoke here ?
  • Boleh masuk ? [May enter ?] : May {I} enter ?
  • Boleh ambil foto kamu ?  [May take photo you ?] : Can {I} take a picture of you ?
  • (inf.) Ga boleh gitu [No may like that] : You cannot {do it} like this 
  • Aku mau makan di restauran Padang [I want eat at restaurant Padang] : I want to eat at the Padang restaurant (restaurant that offers Padang-style food).
  • Bisa jalan kaki sampai sana ? [Can travel foot until there ?] : Is it possible to walk there ?
  • Bisa antar aku di sana ? [Can escort I at there ?] : Can you give me a ride there ?
  • Dia harus pulang [He must go home] : He must go home
  • Kalau mau jadi kaya, harus kerja keras [If want become rich, must work hard] : If {you} want to become rich, {you} have to work hard
  • Aku perlu sepatu baru [I need shoe new] : I need new shoes
  • Lewat sini itu dilarang [Pass here that forbidden] : It’s forbidden to pass here

The answer expected to the first questions is either Boleh : Yes please or Tidak boleh : Sorry but you cannot. The very same logic applies with bisa.

Remember that you address staff, waiters or clerks using boleh and not bisa.

This is enough for beginners.


Synonyms of mau and harus

A quite common alternative to mau is pengen.

Ingin sounds very formal and it’s unlikely you find it anywhere but in written Indonesian.


A formal alternative to harus is wajib.

Harap [hope] sounds very formal and is often used to give instructions to the public (like in airport) :

  • Tamu harap lapor [Guest hope report] : Guests are required to report 


If you want to say that someone is good at something you can use pintar or (inf.) jago or (form.) mahir. Bagus could also work but the previous ones are more idiomatic :

  • Dia pintar renang [He clever swim] : He is a good swimmer
  • (inf.) Kamu jago main bola ? [You good at play ball ?] : Are you good at playing football ?
  • (form.) Dia mahir dalam hal itu [He proficient in thing that] : He is good at that thing

If you want to say that you are not good at something, simply use tidak :

  • Aku tidak jago masak [I no good cook] : I don’t cook well


If you want to say that something is impossible the translation in the dictionary is mustahil but you are very likely to hear tidak mungking [no maybe] instead :

  • Mereka belum berangkat, jadi tidak mungkin datang sebelum malamnya [They not yet leave, so no maybe come before night-the] : They didn’t leave yet, so it’s impossible that they arrive before tonight.
  • Tidak ada yang tidak mungkin [No have which no maybe] : Nothing is impossible


If you want to talk about your successes or failures you can use the following words :

  • Berhasil : to succeed
  • Gagal : to fail
  • Menang : to win
  • Kalah : to loose


  • Kemarin timnas menang lawan Vietnam [Yesterday National Team (Tim Nasional) win against Vietnam] : Yesterday the national team won against Vietnam
  • Kita berhasil ! [We suceed !] : We made it !
  • Tak boleh gagal lagi [No may fail again] : We cannot fail another time

Expressing a need

Butuh is a synonym for perlu, most of the time you can switch them without any impact on the meaning.

Still, butuh tends to express a deeper need than perlu. If you want to say that you need someone for instance :

  • Saya butuh kamu [I need you] : I need you in my life, to overcome an ordeal, to defend me against someone you want to kill me.
  • Saya perlu kamu [I need you] : I need you so I can borrow your car or carry my broken fridge to the repair shop

A very useful expression is tidak usah [no need] : it won’t be necessary.

Translate should

Sebaiknya is the most direct translation. Depending on the tone of the voice, a phrase built around harus could be translated by should instead of must. Quite often the particle -nya is added to harus in such a case.

  • Kamu sebaiknya kunjungi dia [You should visit he/she] : You should visit him/her

Other way of asking permission / being polite

  • Sisanya boleh minta dibungkusin mbak ? [Rests May ask di (“passive mark”)-wrap-in sister ?] : Would you please wrap-up the remaining food Miss ?
  • Pak, aku mau tanya, bagaimana … [Mr, I want ask, how …] : Mr, I’d like to ask > polite way to introduce a question to someone
  • Bapak, saya boleh minta izin mendaki gunungnya [Mr, I may ask permission climb moutain the] : Mr, I’d like to ask the permission to climb the mountain
  • Bu, boleh masuk kebunnya ? Aku mau ambil foto dari sana [Mrs, may enter the field ? I want take photo from there] : Mrs, may I walk in the field ? I want to take a picture from there

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.