The presence of suffix –kan is used primarily to derive causatives, that is to express causation or to cause something to happen. Many are based on an adjective. Most mean: to cause something to be [what the adjective says]. Examples:

Lia membersihkan kamarnya.
Polisi membebaskan Hadi.
Dia menyelamatkan anaknya.
Lia cleaned her room.
The police freed Hadi.
She saved her child.
(i.e. she caused it to be bersih: clean)
(i.e. they caused him to be bebas: free)
(i.e. she caused it to be selamat: safe)

One special group is based on an adjective that describes a feeling. Examples:

Kabar itu mengherankan.
Film ini membosankan.
Sikapnya mengecewakan.
That news was surprising.
This film is boring.
His attitude is disappointing.
[i.e. it causes one to be heran: surprised]
[i.e. it causes one to be bosan: bored]
[i.e. it causes one to be kecewa: disappointed]

Note that we did not say (although we could have):

Kabar itu mengherankan kami.
Film ini membosankanpara penonton.
Sikapnya mengecewakan saya.
That news surprised us.
This film bores the audience.
His attitude disappoints me.

We just said “Kabar itu mengherankan,” etc. These -kan verbs are used like adjectives. Often they can be translated by English adjectives ( “surprising”, “boring,” “disappointing”).

Many causative -kan verbs are based on an intransitive verb. Most mean: to cause something to do [the action of that verb]. Examples:

Dia mengembalikan buku.
Dia membangunkan anaknya.
Saya menghentikan mobil.
He returned the books.
She woke up her child.
I stopped the car.
[i.e. he caused them to kembali: to return]
[i.e. she caused it to bangun: to wake up]
[i.e. I caused it to berhenti: to stop]

Some are based on a noun. A number mean: to cause something to be [what the noun says]. Examples:

Dia mengorbankan kariernya demi keluarga.
Kami mencalonkan Pak Gafur sebagai ketua.
Mereka merahasiakan pembunuhan itu.
She sacrificed her career for her family.
We nominated Pak Gafur as chairman
They kept those killings a secret.
[i.e. she caused it to be a korban: a sacrifice]
[i.e. we caused him to be a calon: a candidate]
[i.e. they caused them to be a rahasia: a secret]

When the base noun is a place, the most common meaning is: to cause someone to go to that place. Examples:

Mereka ingin sekali menyekolahkan anaknya.
Tahun lalu banyak mahasiswa yang dipenjarakan.
Karena resesi ekonomi banyak buruh yang harus dirumahkan.
They really want to send their child to school.
Last year many university students were imprisoned.
Because of the economy recession a lot of workers needs to be made redundant
[i.e. to cause it to go to a sekolah: school]
[i.e. were caused to go to a penjara: a prison]
[i.e. were caused to stay at home/made redundant]

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

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