-i vs -kan

With many verbs there is a neat contrast between -i and -kan.

Typically, with an “-i” verb: the Undergoer stays where it is, while the action is directed towards it.

Typically, with a “-kan” verb: the Undergoer moves from one place to another, while it is caused to do or used to do the action.

Ari memasuki mesjid.
Ari memasukkan koin.
Ari entered the mosque.
Ali inserted a coin.
The mosque stays where it is, while Ari enters it.
The coin moves, when Ari inserts it.

Another example of it:

Bu Ani menawari tamu itu teh.
Bu Ani menawarkan teh kepada tamu.
Bu Ani offered the guest tea.
Bu Ani offered tea to the guest..
The guest stays in one place, while this action “menawari” is directed at him/her.
. The tea moves, as this action “menawarkan” is done.

The endings -i and -kan do not always contrast in this way. On a few verbs -i and -kan have the same meaning. Examples: menyesali /menyesalkan (‘to regret something)’; menyakiti /menyakitkan (to hurt someone)’; menamai /menamakan (to name someone).

To see that the Undergoer moves with a “-kan” verb, sometimes you need a little imagination. Examples:

Mereka meneriakkan yel-yel.
Dia menuliskan kata “Merdeka!” pada tembok.
They shouted chants. (teriak = to shout)
S/he wrote the word “Merdeka!” on the wall.
The chants move because they fly through the air.
The word “Merdeka” moves from the pen onto the wall.

When you use Passive, the same rule applies. But now the Undergoer, i.e. the thing which moves or doesn’t move, is on the left of the verb. E.g.

Ari memasuki mesjid.
Mesjid itu dimasuki oleh Ari.
Ari memasukkan koin.
Koin itu dimasukkan oleh Ali.
Ari entered the mosque.
The mosque was entered by Ari.
Ari inserted a coin.
The coin was inserted by Ari.

Reference: Dr. Timothy Hassall, Indonesian Grammar, ANU – Canberra.

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