There are four negative words: bukan, tidak, belum and jangan.


Bukan negates a noun; that is, it is used if the predicate centre contains a noun or noun phrase, example:

Dia bukan guru. – She is not a teacher.

Bukan can replace tidak. As such it is emphatic, implying that a contradictory statement could follow, example:

Dia bukan bodoh. – She is not stupid.

The contradiction can be expressed, for instance, as a clause beginning with melainkan(but rather), example:

Dia bukan bodoh melainkan malas saja. – He’s not stupid but just lazy.

A number of prepositions, including karena(because), untuk(for), seperti(like), can be negated by either bukan or tidak. Examples:

Ini bukan/tidak untuk kamu.
– These are not for you.
Penyakitnya bukan/tidak karena itu. – His illness is not because of that.
Ini bukan/tidak seperti desa kita. – This isn’t like our village.


Tidak negates all types of predicate other than nouns, including verbs, adjectives, prepositional phrases, examples:

Dia tidak disini. – She is not here.
Lalu lintas Jakarta tidak ramai saat Lebaran. – Traffic in Jakarta is not busy during Lebaran.

Several variants of tidak are tak and tiada. Tak has a literary flavour for most Indonesians. Tiada is a literary form meaning the same as tidak ada(there isn’t). Tiada is mostly used in poems or song lyrics. Examples:

Tak ada dosa yang tak terampuni. – There are no sins which can not be forgiven.
Tiada lagi cinta di hatiku. – There is no more love in my heart.

With some verbs tidak can be replaced by kurang(less) to indicate a lessened degree of negation or to soften the impact of the negation. Example:

Aku kurang percaya akan kabar itu. – I didn’t really believe that news.

Both tidak and bukan can be emphasized by sama sekali(not at all, definitely not) and sedikitpun(not even a little). Examples:

Ini sama sekali bukan uang orang lain – This is definitely not other people’s money.
Saya sama sekali tidak tergantung pada dia. – I’m not in the least dependent on him.
Mereka sediitapun tidak perduli pada orang lain. – They don’t in the slightest care about other people.


Belum(not yet) combines the meanings of bukan/tidak plus temporal marker sudah.

Dia belum profesor. – He’s not a professor yet.
Mereka belum berangkat. – They haven’t left yet.


Jangan(don’t) occurs in imperative constructions.

Jangan merokok disini! – Don’t smoke here!
Jangan tidur! – Don’t go to sleep!

In the presence of jangan prefix me-(active) and di-(passive) on transitive verb is optional.

Jangan (mem)baca buku itu sekarang! – Don’t read that book now!
Pakaian ini tidak kotor. Jangan (di)cuci! – These clothes aren’t dirty. Don’t wash them!
Jangan (men)cuci sekarang! Kita harus pergi. – Don’t was now! We have to go.
Diangkat! Jangan diseret! – Lift it! Don’t drag it!

Indonesian Reference Grammar by Dr. James Sneddon

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