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Indonesian Personal Pronouns (Kata Ganti Orang) Posted by on Nov 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

The Indonesian personal pronouns as a heritage of Malay, have been enriched by a great number of local languages to meet the dynamic of present Indonesian society. But its basic principle as a simple language is still the same.  For instance, both subjective and objective pronouns are the same. Following is the table:


PersonOrang ke-   Singular Plural
Formal Neutral Informal Formal Neutral Informal
I, me, my saya aku
we (incl.)we (excl.)us kita(incl.)kami (excl)
SecondKedua you, your Andasaudara/ saudari kamu, kau, engkauCultural related:mbak, mas, abang/bang, adik/dik
you (plural)all of you (mam)all of you (sir) Anda sekalianIbu-ibu sekalianBapak-bapak sekalian kalian
He/she, his/her beliau dia, ia
They, their mereka


First person (Orang Pertama)

Singular (Tunggal)

In Indonesia, there are many ways to express “I” or “me”.  It usually depends on the situation where the conversation takes place, the culture, and social relationships between speakers.  “Saya” is used in a formal situation with a stranger or someone to whom you show respect. “Aku” is used in an informal situation, such as speaking with friends, even when there are age differences. “Aku” is also used in literature.  In Jakarta, for example, “gue” is used to express “I” or to say her/his own name, like “Thia mau pulang ke rumah sekarang” (I, whose name is Thia, is about to go home now).

Plural (Jamak)

There are two notions for “we, us, our” in Indonesian: kita and kami. Kita is used when the person addressed (“you”) is included; kami is used when the person addressed is not included (“we, not you”). For example, in the following sentence, “kita” is used because the person addressed is included in the conversation:

Mari kita pergi – Let’s go. “You” is included.

  • Kami pergi ke bioskop kemarin – we went to the movie yesterday. “We, not you”
  • “Kita and Kami” also mean “I” to some local cultures, such as Sundanese.

Second person (Orang Kedua)

Singular (Tunggal)

Like “I,” there are many ways to say “you” or “your” in Indonesian. “Kamu” is commonly used among friends, but it is considered rude when speaking in a business setting or with elders or persons of authority.

“Anda” (it is written with a capital A, not “anda”) is used in a formal setting. On Java Island, you can also address someone in a more respectful way than “kamu,” which is “Mbak” (big sister or Ma’am) or “Mas” (big brother or Sir) to anyone the same age or older than you, and “dik” or “adik” when someone is younger than you.

“Engkau” is shortened as “kau” and is another form of “I” that is usually used outside Java Island, such as in Sumatra and Kalimantan. But, if used in another region, it is considered out of place. “Saudara” means sibling is another form of “you” to formally address someone; it can be addressed to both sexes, but sometimes there is “saudari,” which is used only to address females.  Both “saudara” and “saudari” usually are used within a small circle or those who are familiar with one another or among those with similar social statuses.

You can also use “Bapak,” which actually means “father,” Mister, or Sir, or “Ibu,” which means “mother,” Ma’am, or Miss, to express respect when addressing adult males or females. If you know the person’s name, use a suitable title followed by a person’s first name, such as Ibu Aminah, Bapak Joko.

The plural (Jamak)

“Kalian” is used in casual conversation with friends or children. It is used with children and between equals who have a close relationship with each other. It is sometimes used with younger adults, although this always conveys a suggestion of social superiority on the part of the speaker. When it is addressed to an adult, you can use “Bapak-bapak sekalian” or “Ibu-ibu sekalian” or “Anda sekalian,” which means all of you, whether adult males or adult females.

Third Person (Orang Ketiga)

Singular (Tunggal)

The use of “Ia” or “dia” are gender neutral personal pronouns. Both can be used for male or female as “he” or “she.”  However, in business settings or formal scenarios, it is considered impolite when you use “dia”; use “beliau” instead. It is used to express regard to someone with a higher status, a higher position, or someone with authority. The personal pronoun “beliau” is essential to building good rapport with business or social contacts.

The plural (Jamak)

“Mereka” is a personal pronoun for “they,” “them,” or “their” when it is put after a noun, such as “mobil mereka,” which means “their car.”


Unlike in English, “dia” and “mereka” can also be used for a person. In Indonesian, if you want to use “it” or “them” for a noun, you just repeat the noun. For example: “Banyak mobil di tempat parkir, mobil-mobil itu buatan Amerika.” This translates to: “There are a lot of cars in the parking lot, most of them are America-made cars.”


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About the Author: asimonoff

I’m an Indonesian language instructor, instructional material developer, reading test developer, and interpreter. I have been teaching Indonesian to adult students for 15 years, and have been teaching students from many backgrounds, such as private, military and diplomatic service employees. I’m Indonesian, but am living in the US now; my exposure to different cultures in my home country and in the US has enriched my knowledge in teaching Indonesian as a second language. I approach the teaching of the Indonesian language by developing students’ critical cultural awareness and competence. This method of teaching has been proven to be a key to the success of my students. Students become conscious of the essential role culture plays in the language.