Session 4 : Asking a Question – Learn Bahasa Indonesia

As I said in the first session, you can turn an affirmative sentence into a question by simply changing the tone of your voice to underline that you have added a question mark.

  • Mau ikut ? [Want join] : Do you want to join ? 
  • Kalian bersaudara ? [You (plural) *having the propriety of*(ber)-siblings ?] : Are you siblings ?
  • Adik anakmu ? [Younger brother/sister child you ?] : Is he/she your child ? 
  • Sudah menikah ? [Already married ?] : Are you married already ? 
    • Belum [Not yet] : No.

Remember that any question based on sudah calls for belum as an answer and not tidak.

The other most common way to make a question is to use an interrogative pronoun.

Interrogative pronouns

  • Apa : What
  • Siapa : Who/Whose/Whom
  • Kapan : When
  • B(e)rapa : How much / How many
  • Mana : Where. It is almost always used with a preposition :
    • Di mana [at where] when you ask for the position of something
    • Ke mana [to where] when you ask for a direction
    • Dari mana [from where] when you ask for the origin
    • Yang mana [which where] : which one
  • Bagaimana / (inf.) gimana : How
  • Kenapa / (inf.) kok : Why

The first 5 ones are the most important to remember as a beginner.

The position of the pronoun (or whatever the correct grammatical object it is) changes a lot depending on the sentence.

Please note that apa refers to things while siapa refers to person.

  • Siapa nama kamu ? [Who name you ?] : What is your name ?
    • Nama saya Elliot [Name I Elliot] : My name is Elliot.
  • Dompet siapa itu ? [Wallet who that ?] : Whose wallet is that ?
    • Itu dompet Novi [That wallet Novi] : That is Novi’s.
  • Kita tunggu siapa lagi ? [We wait who again ?] : Who else are we waiting for ?
    • Masih tunggu Agus [Still wait Agus] : We are still waiting for Agus.
  • Mau makan apa ? [Want eat what ?] : What do you want to eat ?
    • Answer 1 : Mau makan ayam lalapan [Want eat chicken lalapan] : I want to eat ayam lalapan (fried chicken served with a couple of raw vegetables and spicy sauce)
    • Answer 2 : Belum tahu. Ada apa ? [Not yet know. Have what ?] : I don’t know. What do you have ?
  • Gedung apa itu ? [Building what that ?] What is that building ?
    • Itu rumah sakit [That house sick] : This is an hospital.

If the questions can be answered in a quantified way, then most likely you have to use berapa :

  • Berapa umurmu ? [How much age you ?] : How old are you ?
    • Saya 26 [I 26] : I’m 26
  • Berapa harga kaus ini ? [How much price tshirt this ?] : How much for this tshirt ?
    • Harganya 50,000Rp mas [Price the 50,000Rp brother (Javanese origin only)] : The price is 50,000Rp
  • Berapa jauh dari sini ? [How far from here ?] : How far is it from here ?
    • Tidak jauh, pake motor satu jam saja  [Not far, use motorbike one hour just] : Not far, just one hour away by motorbike

Use ada

Ada is one of the most common verbs you will encounter. It translates roughly into have but has a broader meaning than in English. You can use it to translate anything resolving around “Do you have ?” or “Is there ?

  • Di mana ada penginapan yang murah ? [At where have accommodation which cheap ?] : Where can I found a cheap accommodation ?
    • Coba cek di sebelah sana [Try check at over there] : Try to check over there
  • Ada air Bu ? [Have water Mrs ?] : depending on the context Do you have water (at a restaurant) or Is there any water (in the mountains while trekking).
    • Ada [Have] : Yes I have
  • Ada apa di sana ? [Have what at there ?] : What can I find there ? 
    • Ada banyak hal yang menarik di sana [Have lot thing which interesting at there] : There are a lot of interesting things there.
  • Aku cari jes hujan. Ada ? [I look for jacket rain. Have ?] : I’m looking for a rain jacket. Do you have any ?
    • Maaf iya, tidak ada [Sorry yes, no have] : I’m sorry we don’t have any

You might have noticed that ada can be translated both by have or be :

  • Ibu ada di belakang rumah [Mrs/Mother have at behind house] : My Mum is back the house 

Use kalau

This is something I use a lot to inquire about something. Kalau (inf. kalo) is a colloquial way to say if.

  • Kalau mau pergi besok, ada bis jam berapa ? [If want go tomorrow, have bus hour how much ?] : If I (subject depends on the context, could be you for instance) want to go tomorrow, at what time is there a bus ? 
    • Ada yang berangkat jam 7 dan satu lagi jam 9 [Have one leave 7 hour and one again hour 9] : There is one leaving at 7 and another one leaving at 9
  • Kalau naik angkot ini, langsung ke tujuan atau harus pindah ? [If ride minibus this, direct to destination or must change ?] : If I take this minibus, is it direct to my destination or do I need to change ?
    • Kurang tahu. Coba tanya langsung supirnya [Less know. Try ask direct driver-the] : I don’t know. Try to ask the driver directly
  • Kalau kita 5 orang, kamu kasih diskon ? [If we 5 people, you give discount ? ] : If we are 5 people, would you give us a discount ? 
    • Ya udah, aku kasih harga khusus untuk kamu 1,000,000 Rp [Yes already, I give price special for you 1,000,000Rp] : Ok, I give you a special price 1,000,000Rp



I often read in books that you should use apakah at the beginning of your sentence to introduce a question. I don’t remember anytime I hear or used this word in the daily life. This is pure formal Indonesian. Put it in a corner of your head just in case.

  • (form.) Apakah dia marah ? [“Question marker” he angry ?] : Is he angry ?
  • Dia marah ? [He angry ?] : Is he angry ?

Apakah can be shorten up to the -kah particle that also turns the sentence into a question.

Translating Is it … or not ?

(inf.) Nggak / ga (no) that we will see in session 8 can be used to make such a sentence :

  • (inf.) Bisa nggak ? [Can not ?] : Can {you} or not ?

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