The Two Indonesian “we”

The Two Indonesian WeFor some people, this topic is a very basic topic covered in their first few meetings of Indonesian lessons, but for some, this is something they haven’t thought before. For those who have learned this, this article is a good reminder of how unique Indonesian “we” is, so keep reading this. Perhaps you’ll find something new. 😉

When a person says “we will go there tomorrow”, you can’t really tell whether you’re in that “we”, and we have to ask for clarification. Is the person talking about himself and other people or with you included? In Indonesian, there are two specific ‘we’s. Let’s take a look at both words.

Kita

When we say KITA, we include the person we talking to; KITA includes ‘you’. That’s why KITA is also known as we-inclusive. When someone says to you “kita akan pergi ke sana besok”, you know exactly that you are included. When you talk to a person “kita sudah tahu berita itu”, the person you’re talking to knows that he/she knows the news as well.

Kami

KAMI is the exclusive we, meaning ‘we’ that excludes the person you’re talking to. Using the same English example, when a person says “kami akan pergi ke sana besok”, you know that you won’t go there with the person saying this to you. That person will go with some other people. The same goes when you say this to a person; you don’t include the person you’re talking to.

Kami vs. Kita

For practicality reason, a lot of Indonesians nowadays prefer to use KITA only as ‘we’ (first person plural); KITA is more popular in usage and KAMI is losing its place as KITA’s counterpart. Whenever I use KAMI in a sentence (written or spoken), some of my friends say that I’m being very formal. In fact, I read an Indonesian language article on the internet saying that KAMI is the formal form of KITA!

Of course, on the bright side, English speakers no longer have to think which one to say whenever they want to say ‘we’; however, KITA and KAMI are two of many words that render Indonesian unique. If we lose KAMI, we’re losing what makes Indonesian pronouns special.

Thanks for reading, and tell me what you think in the comment section below.

Richard Ariefiandy

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