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Indonesian Temporal Markers Posted by on Jul 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

Unlike those in English, Indonesian form of verb does not change to indicate the tense or aspect. A sentence such as: “Dia pergi ke kantor” carries no indication of whether the verb refers to the action has a regular occurrence or to a single occurrence, and if the latter, when it happens in relation to the present. This is inferred by listeners from the context within which the utterance is made.

Time can be indicated by adjuncts of time, such as “setiap hari”  “every day” and “tadi pagi” “this morning (past)”:

Dia pergi ke sekolah setiap hari. He goes to school  everyday.
Tadi pagi dia pergi ke sekolah. This morning he went to school.

Time can also be indicated by a set of temporal markers within the predicate. These indicate that the action has occurred, is occurring, or is yet to occur in relation to the moment of utterance or in relation to some other event referred to.


Sudah usually indicates that an action has occurred or that a state has been achieved:

Martini sudah pergi ke kantor. Martini has left to the office.
Martini sudah sembuh. Martini has recovered.

With verbs which indicate a state “sudah” usually refers both to the action which begins the state and to the continuation of the state:

Dia sudah bangun. He has woken up.
Dia sudah sarapan. He has had breakfast.

With such verbs, however, “sudah” can also indicate that the action is complete; context indicating which is meant:

Mareka sudah pergi. They have left.



“Belum” “not yet” combines the meanings of “bukan/tidak” (negative) plus temporal marker “sudah”:

Dia belum jadi professor. He hasn’t a professor yet.
Mereka belum berangkat. They haven’t left yet.


sedang” indicates that an action is in progress, sometimes glossed ‘in the process of’:

Mereka sedang makan. They are eating.
Bu Sumarni sedang belajar Bahasa Inggris. Bu Sumarni is studying English.


masih” indicates that an action is still occurring:

Dia masih makan. She is still eating.
Anak perempuan saya masih tidur. My daughter is still sleeping.


“akan” indicates a future event or state:

Kami akan makan nanti. We will eat later.
Mereka akan pergi ke Itali. They will go to Italy.

Notice the yes/no question construction with Modals and Temporal Markers!

1.   Apa boleh saya masuk? May I come in?
2.   Apa saya boleh masuk? May I come in?
3.   Apa bisa Anda bicara bahasa Indonesia? Can you speak Indonesian?
4.   Apa Anda bisa bicara bahasa Indonesia? Can you speak Indonesian?

The above examples are all questions that need either a yes or a no answer. The examples indicate emphasis on a different word, which in English is indicated by stress. Therefore note carefully the difference in stress, indicated by bold type in English versions.

5.     Apakah saya boleh  bertanya? May I ask a question?
6.     Bolehkah saya bertanya? May I ask a question?
7.     Boleh saya bertanya? May I ask a question?

The use of the question marker kah, is used for formal question (number 5 and 6). It is also common in Indonesian asking question with question intonation without a question marker (number 7).

Below are more examples that illustrate different ways to make a yes/no question.

Apa saya harus  pergi ke dokter? Must I go to a doctor?
Apakah saya harus pergi ke dokter? Must I go to a doctor?
Haruskah saya pergi ke dokter? Must I go to a doctor?
Saya harus pergi ke dokter? Must I go to a doctor?
Apa dia sudah makan malam? Did he already eat dinner?
Apakah dia sudah makan malam? Did he already eat dinner?
Sudahkah dia makan malam? Did he already eat dinner?
Dia sudah makan malam? Did he already eat dinner?
Apa Anda akan minum jus apel itu? Will you drink that apple juice?
Apakah Anda  akan minum just apel itu? Will you drink that apple juice?
Akankah Anda minum jus apel itu? Will you drink that apple juice?


Complete the sentence by translating the words in the brackets into Indonesian.

  1. Di mana Joko  (will) tinggal?
  2. Yeni (must) bangun jam 4 pagi setiap hari.
  3. Pak Budi (already) ada di dalam mobil.
  4. Ibu Ratna (not yet) pernah naik naik bis ke kantor.
  5. Hari ini mereka (able to) menyelesaikan tugas-tugas dengan cepat.
  6. Setelah belajar, kedua anak itu (may) menonton TV.
  7. Nenek saya (already) menelepon taksi untuk pergi ke bank.
  8. Keponakan perempuan saya (not yet) pernah mengunjungi kawah Tangkuban Perahu..
  9. Supir kami (in progress) mencuci mobil kami.
  10. Tahun depan anak sulung saya (can) pergi ke Amerika untuk bersekolah.





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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.