Bukan vs. Tidak

Bukan vs. Tidak

For a lot of learners of Indonesian, TIDAK is almost always introduced as the translation for NO/NOT. This is not wrong but it is not fully correct either. There are actually two different words for NO/NOT. This feature is unique not only for Indonesian (Malay) but also for other languages in the archipelago (including in the Philippines).

Bukan

I believe this word is the less familiar word of the two words we’re discussing here. However, I put this first because it only has one function, thus easier to explain.

Saya bukan guru.(I’m not a teacher.)

Dia bukan teman saya. (He’s not my friend.)

Emily Blunt bukan orang Indonesia. (Emily Blunt is not Indonesian.)

“Bukan” is followed by NOUNS.

Tidak

Tidak is basically used to negate others (everything besides Nouns).

Buku itu tidak bagus untuk anak-anak. (The book is not good for Children.) – followed by an adjective

Mereka tidak suka makan di rumah makan ini. (They do not like eating in this restaurant.) – followed by a verb

Dia tidak di rumah. (He is not at home.) – followed by a preposition (location)

Tidak or Bukan?

A friend of a friend once asked me, which one is correct, “Saya bukan dari Indonesia” or “Saya tidak dari Indonesia”? The reason for this is that sometimes we hear native Indonesians say this. I told her that both are correct, with further explanation:

Saya tidak dari Indonesia = Saya tidak datang dari Indonesia.

Saya bukan dari Indonesia = Saya bukan orang dari Indonesia.

As a Response

The consequence of having two different negating words is that when we respond to a yes-no question, we have to consider using the correct word.

A: Kemarin Anda pergi ke Solo? (Did you go to Solo yesterday?)

B: Tidak. Kemarin saya tidak pergi ke Solo.

And…

A: Ini rumah Anda? (Is this your house?)

B: Bukan. Ini bukan rumah saya.

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