Sih, Nah, Nih and Tuh


Meaning: ‘sih’ has a range of subtle meanings such as why, how come, actually, because, but, however
Application: Sometimes it’s pronounced ‘si’. Its general function is to smooth the flow of conversation. The addition of “sih” after a word or a sentence many times is used to emphasize or accentuate curiosity, uncertainty, anger, annoyance, confusion, amazement, surprise even disbelief.

Mahal amat sih sepatunya.
Bagus sih bagus cuma nggak cocok.
Ada apa sih? Kok rame banget?
Ngapain sih/
Denger denger sih dia baru beli TV baru.
Anak ini pinter soalnya orang tuanya guru sih.
Galak amat sih tuh orang?
Gimana sih, udah siang belom bangun juga.
Why the shoes is so expensive?
It’s actually good but it doesn’t suit (you/him/her).
What’s really happening? Why is it so crowded?
What are you really doing?
Rumor has it he just bought a new TV.
This kid is clever because his parents are teachers.
Why that person is so hostile?
How could you, it’s already noon and you’re still asleep?


Meaning: well, now then, so
Application: It occurs before a statement and it can be used to introduce a new topic. Or it can occur during the continuation of a topic to draw the listener’s attention.

Nah sekarang gue mau nanya, kenapa dia marah?
Itu waktu gue di Jakarta, nah waktu gue di Bandung lain lagi.
Nah! Apa gue bilang …
Now I want to ask, why was he angry?
That was when I was in Jakarta, then when I was in Bandung it was different again.
Well! What did I say ..

Nih and Tuh

Meaning: this, these and that, those
Synonym: In formal Indonesian they are demonstratives pronouns ‘ini’ and ‘itu’
Application: Sometimes it’s pronounced ‘ni’ and ‘tu’.
It occurs:

  1. before or after the noun;
  2. with pronouns as intensifiers, giving emphasis;
  3. in some cases after formal Indonesian demonstratives pronouns(ini and itu);
  4. after a verbal or adjective predicate to give it a stress.
Dessy tuh sensasi banget deh.
Ngerokok tuh nggak bagus.
Dia tuh anak baru.
Apa nih? Apa tuh?
Aku nggak tau kalo itu tuh bapaknya.
Maksudnya seperti ini nih.
Anak-anak ini tuh suka males.**
That Dessy is so sensational.
Smoking is definitely not good.
He is a new kid.
What’s this? What’s that?
I didn’t know that he is his father.
This is what I mean.
These kids are sometimes lazy.

** ‘Ini’ gives immediacy – these are the kids being talked about – while ‘tuh’ gives distance – they are not now present but have been mentioned previously.

*) Reference: Colloquial Jakartan Indonesian by James Neil Sneddon, 2006

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