Negation: Tidak, Bukan and Belum

There are several words to say “no” or “not” in Indonesian.

“Bukan” is used about a thing or a person. Examples:
Ini bukan mobil saya. This is not my car
Dia bukan guru. She is not a teacher

“Tidak” is used about all other things. Examples:
Dia tidak sedih. She is not sad.
Dia tidak meminjam uang itu. (He didn’t borrow that money.)
Dia tidak di sini. She is not here.

To answer a question, too, we must choose correctly between ‘bukan’ or ‘tidak’. Examples:

Q:“Apa ini mobil Anda? ” → A: “Bukan.” “Is this your car? → “No.” ”
Q:“Apa dia sedih? ” → A: “Tidak. “Is she sad? → “No.”

Note that “tidak” is the correct word before “semua” and “banyak”.
Tidak semua orang suka pada dia. Tidak banyak mobil di luar.

A few words take either ‘tidak’ or ‘bukan’ before them. Examples are untuk and seperti..
Surat ini tidak/bukan untuk Anda. This letter’s not for you.
Anak ini tidak/bukan seperti anak Ibu. This child is not like your child, Bu.

Sometimes “bukan” is used for emphasis, in place of “tidak”. This suggests: not [X] but something else.

Dia bukan sedih. [suggests: She’s not sad – it’s something else she’s feeling.]
Ali bukan meminjam uang itu. [suggests: He didn’t borrow it – he did something else with it.]

This idea of “not [X] but something else”, can be spelt out in full, with “tetapi” or “melainkan”. Examples:
Dia bukan sedih, tetapi capai sekali. (She’s not sad, but very tired.)
Ali bukan meminjam uang itu, melainkan mencurinya. (He did not borrow it, but rather stole it).

Or, with this kind of sentence, ‘bukan’ can be moved to the beginning (with optional ‘nya’ on it).

Bukan(nya) dia sedih, tetapi dia capai sekali. (It’s not that he’s sad, but he’s very tired.)
Bukan(nya) Ali meminjam uang itu, melainkan dia mencurinya. (It’s not that Ali borrowed the money, but rather he stole it)

“Belum” means ‘not yet.’ It is always the word for ‘no’ in answer to ‘Sudah…?’.
“Dia sudah makan/ kawin/ datang?” → “Belum”.

‘Belum’ is used instead of ‘tidak’ whenever the speaker believes the event may happen in the future. Examples:
Sebentar! Saya belum siap! Wait a minute! I’m not ready!” (i.e. not yet ready)
Saya belum kawin. I’m not married. (i.e. not yet married)

If you said “Saya tidak siap,” or “Saya tidak kawin,” it would suggest that you will never be ready, or will never marry. So usually it would sound odd to say this.

“Belum” is also used when something was a future possibility, ‘back then’. For example.

Tahun lalu saya belum mengenal Anda. Last year I didn’t know you. (i.e. I didn’t yet know you, back then)

Exercise 1.

Insert the correct word, ‘tidak’ or ‘bukan’. (No special use of ‘bukan’ for emphasis)

Exercise 2.

Match the sentence halves.

Exercise 3.

Choose ‘tidak’ or ‘belum’, whichever would normally be appropriate.

Exercise 4.

Say it in Indonesian. (Use ‘bukan(nya)’ or ‘tidak’ or ‘belum’ as appropriate).
1. ___Saya tidak belajar bahasa Jepang___ . I don’t study Japanese.
2.. ______________________________ “Have you read this book?” “No.”
3. _______________________________This film’s not interesting.
4. _______________________________ I haven’t seen Ari today.
5. _______________________________“Is he your father?” “No.”
6. _______________________________. He didn’t help, but rather bothered us.
7. _______________________________ She likes a lot of people, but not all.
8. _______________________________ “Are you going tomorrow?” “No.” (not going)
9. _______________________________“Is he your brother?” “No.”
10. ______________________________It’s not that this car is good but it’s cheap.
11. ______________________________ This medicine is not for you.
12. ______________________________. They’re not bad people.
13. ______________________________“Is she from Lombok?” “No.” (i.e. not Lombok)
14. ______________________________ In 1940 there wasn’t TV, only radio.
15. ______________________________This building is not the post office.
16. ______________________________“Is Yanti in the kitchen?” “No.” (i.e. not in …)
17. ______________________________ It’s not that I don’t like you.
18. ______________________________! He isn’t playing at home, but on the road!
19. ______________________________ “Do you like jazz?” “No.”


Answer Key

Exercise 1 2)  bukan 3) tidak 4) bukan 5) Tidak 6) tidak 7) tidak 8) Bukan 9) bukan 10) Bukan, bukan 11) tidak 12) bukan 13) bukan 14) Tidak 15) Bukan 16) tidak

Exercise 2.  2 – e, 3 – h, 4 – f, 5 – g, 6 – i , 7 – b, 8 – a, 9 – d

Exercise 3. 2) belum 3) Tidak. 4) Belum 5) belum 6) Tidak 7) Belum 8) tidak 9) belum  10) belum  11)belum 12) tidak 13) tidak 14) tidak 15) belum 16) Belum

Exercise 4. 2.)  “Anda sudah membaca buku ini?” “Belum.”  3) Film ini tidak menarik. 4) Saya belum melihat Ari hari ini. 5) “Dia ayah Anda? “Bukan.”. 6) Dia tidak/bukan menolong melainkan mengganggu kami. 7) Dia suka banyak orang tetapi tidak semua. 8) “Anda akan pergi besok?” “Tidak.” 9) “Dia adik Anda?” “Bukan.” 10) Bukan(nya) mobil ini bagus tetapi murah. 11) Obat ini tidak/bukan untuk Anda. 12) Mereka bukan orang yang jahat. 13) “Dia dari Lombok?” “Bukan.” 14) Pada tahun 1940 belum ada televisi, hanya ada radio. 15) Gedung ini bukan kantor pos. 16) “Yanti di dapur?” ‘Bukan.” 17) Bukan(nya) saya tidak suka pada Anda.” 18) Dia tidak/bukan bermain di rumah tetapi di (tengah) jalan. 19) “Anda suka musik jazz?” “Tidak.”


© Tim Hassall 2012
(May be reproduced for private study or for classroom use, with acknowledgement of author)

About author

Tim Hassall has a PhD in Applied Linguistics, an MA in TESOL, and a Graduate Diploma in Secondary Education. He coordinates and teaches courses on Indonesian language and aspects of Indonesian linguistics at the Australian National University, Canberra. His main research interests are the acquisition of second language pragmatics and the influence of English on Indonesian. He has published a number of articles in refereed journals and book chapters.

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