Unlike in English the word order in bahasa Indonesia is ‘the primary word is placed in the front, followed by the defining word’, whilst in English the defining words precede the primary word. For example:
Blue book buku biru
The word “book” is called the ‘noun’, and the word “blue” is the ‘adjective’. In English the adjective comes before the noun. But in Indonesian the noun may come first and the adjective follows.
Kopi manis Sweet Coffee
Kopi pahit Black Coffee
Kopi susu Coffee with milk
Ayam goreng Fried chicken
Nasi goreng Fried rice
Air putih (white) Water
Daging Kambing Lamb meat
Roti bakar Toast
Telur rebus Boiled egg
Bir Bintang Bintang beer
Tas ini This bag
Meja itu That table
This also applies in noun phrases that express possession:
nama Anda your name
toko Anda your shop
gedung saya my building
kantor saya my office
sekolah John John’s school
rumah Bu Nur Mrs Nur’s house
Note: *Anda gedung, literally “you are a building”!
Saya akan pergi ke pasar dengan ibu saya.
I am going to the market with my mother.
Saya mau makan di restoran Anda.
I want to eat in your restaurant.
Saya suka minum kopi pahit di rumah bu Nur.
I like to drink black coffee at Mrs. Nur’s house.
When you want to say the name of a place – the name (the modifier adjunct) comes after the place (the headword).
For example you say kota New York (New York city), Bank Mandiri (Mandiri Bank), Toko Fajar (Fajar store), sekolah Santo Paulus (St. Pauls’s school), gedung Lippo (the Lippo Building), Jalan Lumumba (Lumumba Street), Mesjid Al-Akbar (Al-Akbar Mosque) and so on.
Study these sentences and observe how word order works in noun phrases and place names.
Saya mau makan di Rumah Makan Padang.
I am going to eat at Padang Restaurant.
Santi akan pergi ke Mesjid An-Nur.
Santi is going to go to An-Nur Mosque.
Apakah Anda bisa pergi ke gedung administrasi?
Can you go to the administration building?
Apa kamu suka tinggal di Jalan Kesambi?
Do you like living in Kesambi Street?
Pak Purba di toko buku sekarang.
Mr Purba is at the book shop right now.
Dr. Uli Kozok
University of Hawai’i at Manoa