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Question Words in Indonesian Posted by on Feb 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

Constructing an interrogative sentence in Indonesian is much simpler than in English, as Indonesian does not recognize “to be” or tenses. However, sometimes you should memorize some expressions because they are specific to Indonesian, and they would not make sense if you translated them into English. So memorization is the best way to learn them. Following are the Indonesian question words:

Following are the Indonesian question words:

Indonesian English
1 Apa What
2 Siapa Who
3 Kenapa/Mengapa Why
4 Kapan When
4 Berapa (banyak, lama, …) How (much, many, long, ….)
5 Bagaimana How
6 (di/ke/dari) mana Where (at/to/from)

Structure

In general, question sentences usually have the same word order as the corresponding statements. The question word can be placed at the beginning or the end of the sentence, except when you attach the interrogative suffix ‘-kah.’ In addition, you can use a high intonation at the end instead of a question word to indicate an interrogative sentence.

Indonesian English
Apa Anda (ber)bicara (bahasa) Inggris? Do you speak English?
Kenapa/Mengapa Anda sedih? Why are you sad?
Kapan Anda lahir? When were you born?
Siapa nama Anda? What is your name?
Berapa harga mangga ini? How much is the mango?
Jam berapa sekarang? What time is it?
Bagaimana kabar Ibu Anda? How is your mother?
Di mana Anda tinggal?Note: it is common to place the question word at the end of the sentence.Anda tinggal di mana? Or (tinggal di mana?– informal) Where do you live?

APA

The location of “apa” in a sentence will indicate whether the answer is yes, no, or an open-ended answer, except when the question word “apa” is placed in front of a noun; then the answer is expected to be open-ended.

  1. To expect a yes or no answer

Sentence structure: Apa …..?

Apa Bapak sudah makan?J: Ya, sudah. Have you eaten yet?A: Yes, I have
  1. To expect an open Ended answer

Sentence structure: ….. apa?

Bapak mau minum apa?J:Saya mau kopi susu. What do you want to drink?A:I want to have a cup of coffee with milk.
Anda membaca apa?J: Saya membaca majalah The Economist What are you reading?A: I am reading The Economist
  1. To expect an open ended answer

Sentence structure: Apa + noun …..?

Indonesian English
Apa warna bendera Indonesia?:J: merah dan putih. What is the color of Indonesian flag?A: red and white.
Apa rasa jeruk?J:J: asam manis. What does orange taste like?A: sweet and sourA: sweet and sour.

Except:

Indonesian English
Apa Anda sakit?J: Tidak or Ya Are you sick?A: No, I am not or Yes, I am
Anda sakit apa?J: saya sakit gigi. What kind of illness do you have?A: I have a toothache.

Question word + suffix ‘kah

The suffix ‘-kah can be added optionally to all question words to soften the tone of the question, but they can only place at the beginning of the sentence.

Correct position English Incorrect position
Apakah Anda Ibu Jane? Are you Mrs. Jane? Anda Ibu Jane Apakah?
Siapakah Anda? Who are you? Anda siapakah?
Siapakah nama Anda? What is your name? Nama Anda siapakah?
Di manakah Anda? Where are you? Anda di manakah?
Kapankah/mengapakah Anda menangis? Why are you crying? Ada menangis mengapa?

BERAPA

Use a question word ‘berapa’ when you expect an answer that is a ‘number’.

  1. Asking for other than time (Berapa …?)
  2. Asking for time (… berapa?).

Place the ‘berapa’ question word when you ask about time. Indonesian English

Indonesian English
Berapa harga mangganya?Note: Not “Mangganya harga berapa? How much is the mango?
Beraja jauh jarak dari New York ke Washington DC? What is the distance from New York to Washington DC?
Berapa lama Anda pergi? How long did you go?
Berapa jam? How many hours?
Berapa umur Anda? How old are you?
Perlu uang berapa?Note: “Berapa banyak Anda perlu uang” (wrong) How much money do you need?
Jam berapa sekarang? What time is it now?

Note: In some cases, ‘berapa’ is better placed at the end of the sentence.

SIAPA (who, whose, whom)

Indonesian English
Siapa Anda? Who are you?
Ruman siapa itu? Whose house is that?
Anda bicara dengan siapa? Or Dengan siapa Anda bicara? With whom do you speak?
Kepada siapa dia bicara? Whom did she talk to?

MANA

There are three kinds of question words ‘where’ to indicate a motion or station. MANA cannot be separated from the preposition (dari, ke, di), although ‘where’ is in English.

Indonesian English
Hari Kamis kamu mau pergi ke mana? Where will you go on Thursday?
Dari mana Indonesia import beras? Where did Indonesia import rice?
Anda berasala dari mana? Where do you come from? Or where are you originally from?
Kamu tinggal di mana? Where do you live?
Di mana kota Washington DC? Where is Washington DC?

Note:

Use question words ‘dari mana’ (where from) and ‘ke mana’ (where to) when you ask about a motion from and to one place. However, use ‘di mana’ (where at) when you ask about a location or a place.

 Different expression In Indonesian but have similar meaning in English

Indonesian English Explanation
Siapa nama Anda? What is your name Who is your name? (In English, you have to say What is your name?)
Naik apa ke New York? How do you go to New York? Ride what to (go) to New York? Or What kind of transportation are taking? (in English, you have to say How do you go to New York?
Nomor teleponnya berapa? or Nomor telepon Anda berapa? What is your the telephone number? How is the telephone number (in English: What is your telephone number)

 

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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.


Comments:

  1. Ivan:

    Thank you for providing this post. It has been so confusing to decipher when to put apa at the beginning and end of a question. This information will be an asset during my Fulbright Fellowship to Indonesia

    Terima Kasih Banyak.

    • asimonoff:

      @Ivan Halo Ivan,

      Terima kasih informasinya. Senang sekali postingan ini bisa membantu Anda.