FYI, ‘Besok’ Doesn’t Always Mean ‘Tomorrow’


One day, you need help with something and you ask your Indonesian friend. He seems busy at the time but you ask, nonetheless, in Indonesian. He says, “Oke. Saya kerjakan besok, ya.” The next when you meet him, he hasn’t done it. You’re confused and a little bit frustrated.

Lexically speaking [in any Indonesian-English dictionaries you read], “tomorrow” means “besok”, but why when an Indonesian says “besok” it doesn’t always mean “tomorrow”. Why?

From the perspective of an Indonesian (me), Indonesians have a vague concept of time; well, at least with this word. This vagueness can be seen in our so-called “ngaret” or “jam karet”, the habit of coming up late. Young people nowadays make jokes, saying that “otw [on the way] means you’re still in your bed, trying to get up”. One of my students, a German who worked for her social year in Nias Island, told me a story when she was invited to a youth meeting in a church in South Nias. She came at the exact hour she was told to but, much to her surprise, the others showed up two hours later. She was pissed off, but she learned one important lesson; to come up two hours after any appointed time.

For many Indonesians, aside from “tomorrow”, “besok” can mean sometime in the future. It’s a word that, to some extent, can be seen as nonspecific and ambiguous. I’m not trying to discourage you from your learning, but whenever an Indonesian says “besok” to you, don’t hesitate to ask “besok,’besok’ atau besok kapan-kapan?”

PS: This happens with the words “nanti” and “kemarin” as well. “Nanti” can mean “later (on the same day)” or just like besok (some time in the future). “Kemarin”, on the other hand, can mean “yesterday” or “sometime in the past”.

Do you have similar experiences? Share it in the comment section below!

“I” in Indonesian

I In Indonesian

In the previous posts, I mentioned the intricacy of “you” in Indonesian (here), as well as the two Indonesian words for “we” (here). After talking (writing :p) about these pronouns, I’m going to talk about “I” in Indonesian. Is it going to be as intricate as “you” or “we”?

Saya and Aku

Unfortunately, yes. Even though translating or using “I” in Indonesian is not as difficult as it is with you, this is still important to know that there is definitely more than one word for “I” in Indonesian.

“I” is commonly translated as saya and aku. Saya is a bit formal. I say a bit because you can actually use this word in many situations, not only in formal ones, unlike Anda, which sounds very formal; however, this can indeed sound quite distant when a person uses it with his family members. Aku on the other hand sounds less formal. Some Indonesians avoid using this with their family members due to it being very direct, especially when it is used to talk to older people. They have other alternatives.

Other Indonesian words for I

In Jakarta, many young people use the indonesianized Hokkien word “gue” (or “gua”). In the Moluccas (especially in Ambon) they use their own Ambonese Malay dialect word “beta”. In West Sumatera Province, they have the Minang word “awak”. Other areas have their own version of I and, as you might guess, many ethnic groups will likely not use these words exclusively without conversing wholly in the local languages.

Despite these words, some Indonesians also use salutations to address themselves. Look at this example:

Mother : “Ibu mau pergi ke pasar. Kamu mau ikut?”

Anak : “Iya, bu. Ibu mau beli apa?”

In this example, the word “ibu” is used by the mother to address herself and the child use it too to address her mother. The same thing happen with other salutation words, like bapak, mas, mbak, kakak, etc.

As it is with Indonesian “you”, some people also address themselves by using their names. Don’t be surprised when you find an Indonesian addressing herself using her name; she’s not talking about another person with the same name!


Richard Ariefiandy

Room : Kamar and Ruang


Hi, readers and Indonesian learners alike! Today we’re going to be talking about Indonesian word for room… or words?

In Indonesian, the word room is translated as both kamar and ruang but we will mostly see room translated as kamar, and this is not without reason. However, we don’t say meeting room as kamar rapat.


This word originates from the Dutch word kammer. This word can be translated as chamber or room. We know that chamber of commerce in Indonesian is kamar dagang, and to show consistency of this explanation, I would like to point out that the Indonesian translation for Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets is kamar rahasia. This word is also used for rooms with more sense of privacy, such as bedroom and bathroom; kamar tidur and kamar mandi, respectively.


Ruang actually means space. So, time and space means ruang dan waktu and retrobulbar space is ruang retrobulbar (a medical term). However, ruang is also used as room. For rooms without a sense of privacy, such as waiting room or meeting room, we use ruang; ruang tunggu and ruang rapat, respectively.

Kamar or ruang?

What is a guest room in Indonesian? Interestingly, it can mean both kamar tamu and ruang tamu. It is ruang tamu if it refers to a room (space) in a common Indonesian house where you entertain your guests and talk with them. For some reason, you don’t take them to the living room unless they are close to you personally. It can also mean kamar tamu if it refers to a specific room where your guest is staying; a bedroom you might say, but for a guest.

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.


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 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

(Indonesian) Sentences Without A Subject

Sentences Without A SubjectHello fellow readers! The post today will discuss Indonesian sentences that often occur without subjects. Have you ever faced difficulty understanding what a native Indonesian says because they often omit the subject when talking? Or perhaps you have been in Indonesia for quite a while that you’re accustomed to how they talk. Nonetheless, I hope this post helps you figure out why this happens and in what situations you may find this, and if you’re a student of Indonesian and have been studying Indonesian, you can share your experience here.

English sentences

In English, whether you realize it or not, sentence construction is always Subject + Verb. Even if you don’t really want to talk about an action, you still put TO BE as the substitute of the verb. “You are beautiful” doesn’t contain any action, and you can’t say “you beautiful”, since beautiful is not a verb, so you need to put are.

Indonesian sentences don’t require a TO BE

In Indonesian, sentences usually contain a subject and a verb. This is true if we’re talking about an activity. Let’s say we want to say “I took a cab last night”, which is “tadi malam saya naik taksi” in Indonesian, and the verb is naik. But if we want to describe a condition, let’s say “this place was cold”, it translates into “tempat ini dingin”. As you can see, was is not translated and not needed.

Subject is understood

Besides not translating (not needing) a TO BE, often there is no subject in an Indonesian sentence. This happens mostly because the subject is understood. For example, you talk to a person and say “mau makan sekarang?”, you will say that “do you want to eat now?” in English. Indonesians refrain from saying Anda (you) because it’s understood in the context. Sometimes people don’t really say you to avoid being too direct.

Impersonal it

Indonesian sentences don’t use subject because the subject itself doesn’t exist. In “It’s impossible to go out tonight. It’s too cold.”, what does the word it refer to? This impersonal it exists because a sentence must contain a subject. In Indonesian, this it doesn’t translate. In Indonesian, the sentence above is translated as “Tidak mungkin untuk pergi ke luar malam ini. Terlalu dingin.

Any comments and questions? Wanna give some more examples from what you encountered in real life? Please write in the comment section below, or send an email to


Richard Ariefiandy

Progressive Tense in Indonesian

Progressive Tense in IndonesianAs I have explained earlier, concepts in English are often represented by words in Indonesian. A very common example is the concept of TENSES. Indonesian doesn’t recognize verb conjugation to express this concept; however, we have special vocabulary that we use to represent them. I wrote how SUDAH is used to represent the PERFECT TENSE of English. Do you still remember? You might want to check again here.

In this post I will be discussing the word SEDANG. We use this word to express PROGRESSIVE actions, thus representing the English PROGRESSIVE TENSE. Look at the example:

They ARE studyING for her exam tomorrow.

(Mereka SEDANG belajar untuk ujian dia besok.)

When I went to her house yesterday, she WAS watchING a movie.

(Waktu saya pergi ke rumahnya kemarin, dia SEDANG menonton film.)

It’s very easy, right?

Everytime you want to describe progressive (ongoing) actions, just remember to use sedang.

There is an important note, though…

The thing is, PROGRESSIVE TENSE in English has many functions. The concept can be used to describe ongoing actions (we use SEDANG for this one) as well as future actions (which requires a different word other than SEDANG and will be discussed in a different post). Aside from those two functions, PROGRESSIVE TENSE is also used to express annoyed feeling by adding the word ALWAYS between the TO BE and the verb-ING. In this case, we will not use SEDANG, but rather SELALU as a direct translation of ALWAYS. Look at the example below:

She IS always watchING tv. I don’t like that.

(Dia selalu menonton tv. Saya tidak suka itu.)

So, to wrap up, the concept of PROGRESSIVE TENSE is represented by the word SEDANG in Indonesian. However, not all functions of this TENSE will use SEDANG. Progressive tense that refers to future actions and progressive tense that express annoyed feelings are the exceptions.

PS: There will be further discussion of the word SEDANG on my future post, talking about expressions using SEDANG but is not necessarily represented by PROGRESSIVE TENSE.

Richard Ariefiandy

Di mana atau dimana?

Masalah Ketika Memakai di

Pernah melihat tulisan ”di larang buang sampah disini”? Merasa ada yang salah? Sebagian dari kita pasti pernah melihat atau melakukan ini. Mengalami kebingungan atau kesulitan apakah harus menulis “di” menjadi satu kata atau terpisah. Tentunya ini bisa dimaklumi karena dalam bahasa lisan kita tidak membedakan pengucapan “di larang” dan “dilarang”. Untuk kita itu semua terdengar sama, bukan?

Meskipun demikian, tidak berarti kita harus membiarkannya, apalagi tulisan kita menunjukkan seberapa berpendidikannya kita. Terlebih lagi kalau kita adalah akademisi yang harus banyak menulis artikel, jurnal, paper, ataupun tesis di Bahasa Indonesia.

Bagaimana kita bisa memutuskan apakah ‘di’ harus dipisah atau disatukan? Mudah saja. Tentukan apakah kita mau menulis ‘di’ sebagai imbuhan untuk kata kerja pasif atau sebagai kata depan.

Kata kerja pasif adalah kata kerja dengan objek di depan, seperti “kue ini dimakan oleh dia”. Kata “dimakan” adalah kata kerja pasif. Adapun kata depan adalah kata yang dipakai untuk menunjukkan lokasi. Contohnya, ‘di depan’, ‘di sana’, ‘di rumah’.

Mudah bukan?

Kalau kita lihat lagi, ‘di’ yang dipakai sebagai imbuhan pasti diikuti kata kerja dan fungsinya membentuk kata kerja pasif. Untuk kasus ini, ‘di’ harus disatukan penulisannya. Sementara itu, ‘di’ yang dipakai sebagai kata depan biasanya diikuti kata benda atau posisi/lokasi. Nah, untuk yang ini, ‘di’ harus dipisah penulisannya.

Sekali lagi…

‘Seperti yang ditunjukkan di grafik di bawah ini, penjualan diperkirakan akan meningkat tajam di kuartal kedua tahun ini.’

Kalau artikel ini membantu, memberi “pencerahan”, atau mungkin sekedar mengingatkan yang sudah teman-teman ketahui, silakan share atau beri komentar ^^


-Richard Ariefiandy-