English foreign language has become a much studied by students today. As we know that there are differences between English and Indonesian.  These differences can make the indonesian learners get difficulties in learning English. The differences are also predicted to be difficult things for the English learners who learn Indonesian. The differences between Indonesian and English are as follows:

Differences Between the two Languages

1. Bahasa Indonesia is still a root-based language with nice complete root word families while English has diverged and the study of root words is not as useful. Many original English root words are now not used and forgotten although some of their derived forms remain popular.

2. English has tenses for verbs while bahasa Indonesia has no similar concept.

3. Bahasa Indonesia doesn’t have gender (male/female/neuter personal pronouns)

4. Bahasa Indonesia doesn’t have a plural suffix which is comparable to the English “s”. Indonesian plural concept is understood by context or by the addition of other words to express the concept of something being “more than one”.

5. Pronunciation is different but not drastically different.

6. Bahsaa Indonesia doesn’t use contractions such as aren’t, won’t, etc.

7. Indonesian sentences almost always have the primary thought or focus on the beginning of the sentence, the main thought comes first and the adjunct second. English is more varied and inconsistent.

8. Many English words can be used in different ways (e.g. same-spelled words with different meanings) while bahasa Indonesia has fewer.

9. Modifying adjectives are usually placed before the noun in English but after nouns in bahasa Indonesia

10. There are no articles in bahasa Indonesia (no a, an or the), although the se- prefix can act in a similar manner such as in secarik = a scrap or sebuah = a piece (of fruit).

11. English doesn’t use the circumfix affix

12. English uses figurative forms a lot more frequently than in bahasa Indonesia

13. English has different spellings for 3rd person singular verbs while bahasa Indonesia does not change the verb. (example: “I go, you go, he goes” – “I go” is 1st person singular, “you go” is 2nd person singular and “he goes” is 3rd person singular with “goes” as a different spelling of “go”.)

14. Hyphens – English uses hyphens to form adjectives & nouns from differing words, compounding them with the combined meaning (e.g.  life-giving = adj.). Bahasa Indonesia uses hyphens for repetition of the same word or almost-same words (reduplication, expressing repetition or indicating things smaller than real size like toys).

15. In spoken Indonesian, there are no linking verbs corresponding to the English words “be, am, is, are, was, were”.

16. interrogative in English is bounded with the position, form, verb and time, meanwhile in Indonesian it is not.

17. There are four differences between English and Indonesian prepositional meaning place.

(1) Based on the meaning, to indicate the place, Indonesian prepositional meaning place use di while English prepositional meaning place use in, on, and at.

(2) Based on the meaning, the use of English prepositional meaning place above and over are different from Indonesian prepositional meaning place di atas to indicate the place that higher than a point.

(3) Based on the meaning, the use of English prepositional meaning place under,underneath, beneath and below are different from the Indonesian prepositional meaning place di bawah to indicate the place that lower than a point.

(4) Based on the meaning, the use of English prepositional meaning place between and among are different from Indonesian prepositional meaning place di antara to indicate the place on side of a person or thing that has two sides.

18. Based on the tenses, in English, if an action was happen in past, the verbs automatically was changed but in Indonesian was not.

19. Based on the type, in Indonesian has eleven kinds of adverbs..
20. Personal Pronoun

There are no differences between personal pronoun and possesive pronoun in bahasa Indonesia. Example (contoh):
Saya/aku = I, me, my

= I am Zata = Saya Zata

= That was me (in that picture)= itu saya

= My house  = rumah saya

21. Pronouns

There are two forms of “we”, kami or kita, depending on whether the speaker includes the person being talked to. Kami (exclusive) is used when the person or people being spoken to are not included, while kita (inclusive) includes the opposite party. Their usage is increasingly confused in colloquial Indonesian. There are two major forms of “I”, which are saya and aku. Despite having the same meaning, saya is definitely the more formal form, whereas Aku is used often used with family, friends and between lovers. There are three common forms of “you”, which are kamu, Anda and kalian. Anda is the more polite form of “you” and is used in conversations with someone you barely know, advertising, business situations or with someone whom you wish to respect. Kalian is the common plural form of “you” and is often said to be slightly informal.

NB: Because of the overall structure of Indonesian society and influences from regional dialects, many more different pronouns exist in Indonesian. Some of these ‘additional pronouns’ may show utmost politeness and respect (eg. saudara/saudari = you (male/female) or Anda sekalian = you (polite, plural form)), may be used only in the most informal of situations (eg. gua/ lu = me/ you – see Indonesian slang), or may even possess somewhat romantic or poetic nuances(eg. daku/dikau = me/you).

Demonstrative pronouns

There are two kinds of demonstrative pronouns in the Indonesian language. Ini (this, these) is used for a noun which is generally near to the speaker. Itu (that, those) is used for a noun which is generally far from the speaker. There is no difference between singular form and the plural form. However, plural can be indicated through duplication of a noun followed by a demonstrative pronoun. Also, the word yang is often placed before demonstrative pronouns to give emphasis and a sense of certainty, particularly when making references or enquiries about something/ someone.

Pronoun in Indonesian: the singular third person, either male or female, has the same term, i.e. dia

23. Noun Phrase Formation

In Engish, the noun position is after the modifier, but in bahasa Indonesia is the other way. The noun position is before the modifier.
Contoh:               My book           Nice house

Buku saya         Rumah bagus

24. Article 

In bahasa Indonesia, sometimes you can skip the articles  a, an, and the because the role of articles is not important. However , in English, an article is very important because it is grammatical requirement.


I am doctor

Saya  dokter

SBY is the president of the Republic of Indonesia

SBY        presiden         Republik Indonesia

I have a car. They have 3 cars.

Saya punya satu mobil. Mereka punya tiga mobil.*

*You have to translate a in that sentence because you  comparing something.

25. To Be

In casual language or colloquial, you don’t need to translate To be (is/am/are/was/were/be/been). Contoh:

My name is jane      = Nama saya Jane.

I am American        = Saya orang Amerika.

I am a doctor        = Saya dokter

He is my husband     = Dia suami saya.

They are my children = Mereka anak (-anak) saya.

26. Tenses

They are no verb changes in bahasa Indonesia (to show the  tenses). We can understand the tenses from time markers or even from the context. Indonesian does not have Tense marker as English does.  English has both time marker and tense. Indonesian has only the time adverbs but not the tenses. Moreover, in Indonesian, the form of the verbs does not change although the time changes.


Present tense

I goto school (today).

Saya pergike sekolah (hari ini).

Past Tense

I wentto the office yesterday.

Saya pergi ke kantor kemarin.

The first idea to be discussed in this paper lies on the idea of plural. Plural here refers to the form of a noun or a verb which refers to more than one person or thing. English expresses plural implicitly by creating patterns how to use –s and –es. Indonesian on the other hand expresses plural explicitly and is made by reduplicating the singular form. No definite rules how to create a plural form of a word except by reduplicating it, e.g rumah-rumah, mobil-mobil.

Book      = buku                                  (singular)        boy= anak lelaki

Books     = buku-buku                                    (plural)             boys=anak-anak lelaki

2 books   = 2 buku (not 2 buku-buku)

The idea of plural can be clearly seen trough the following examples:

Indonesian                                                                 English

Serigala itu binatang                                                A wolf is an animal
Wolves are animal
Wolf is animal

Hiu itu ikan apa mamalia?                                        Is a shark fish or mammal?
Are sharks fish or mammal?
Is shark fish or mammal?

Tukang pos selalu membawa surat                      A postman always brings letters
Postmen always bring letters
Postman always bring letters

Hewan peliharaan membutuhkan perhatian         A pet needs care
Pets need care
Pet need care

From the example above, we can see that in English, the ideas of plural are expressed in many ways. A final –s or –es is added to a noun to make a noun plural. Sometimes, the changing a (man) to e (men) is also needed to indicate plural. A final –s or –es is added to a verb I when the subject is a singular noun (a wolf, a shark, a pet) or a third a person singular pronoun (she, he, it) (Azar, 1989)

28.Word order

Adjectives, demonstrative pronouns and possessive pronouns follow the noun they modify. The basic word order of Indonesian is Subject Verb Object (SVO). However many Indonesians will speak in a passive/objective voice, making use of the Object Verb Subject word order. This OVS word order in Indonesian will often permit the omission of the subject and/or object (i.e. ellipses of noun/pronoun) and can benefit the speaker/writer in two ways:

1) Adding a sense of politeness and respect to a statement or question

Ultimately, the choice between active and passive voice (and therefore word order) is a choice between actor and patient and depends quite heavily on the language style and context.

2) Convenience when the subject is unknown, not important or implied by context

For example, a friend may enquire as to when you bought your property, to which you may respond

Ultimately, the choice between active and passive voice (and therefore word order) is a choice between actor and patient and depends quite heavily on the language style and context.

29.Word Formation

Indonesian is an agglutinative language and new words are generally formed via three methods. New words can be created through affixation (the attaching of affixes onto root words), formation of a compound word (a composition of two or more separate words), or reduplication (repetition of words or portions of words).


Unlike in English, adjectives in the Indonesian language follow the nouns that they describe


The Indonesian language utilises a complex system of affixes (i.e. prefix, infix, suffix and confix (circumfix)). Affixes are applied with certain rules which depend on the initial letter of a base word (BW = base word, eg. a habitual verb, adjective, etc in its simplest form), and/or the sound combination of the second syllable. For example:

  • The affix Ber + ajar (teach) = BeLajar (Note the deletion of ‘R’ and the addition of ‘L’) = to study
  • The affixes Me + ajar + -kan = meNGajarkan (Note the addition of ‘NG’) = to teach (transitive)

By comparison

  • The affix Ber + judi (gamble) = Berjudi (Note that Ber- remains unchanged) = to gamble
  • The affixes Me + judi + -kan = meNjudikan (Note the addition of ‘N’) = to gamble away (money, one’s life, etc)
    Also, depending on the affix used, a word can have different grammatical meanings (e.g. me + makan (memakan) means to eat something (in the sense of digesting it), while di + makan (dimakan) means to be eaten (passive voice), ter + makan (termakan) means to be accidentally eaten. Often two different affixes are used to change the meaning of a word. For example, duduk means to sit down, whereas men + duduk + kan (mendudukkan) means to sit someone/ something down. Men + duduk + i (menduduki) means to sit on something, di + duduk + kan (didudukkan) means to be sat down, diduduki (diduduki) means to be sat on, etc).

As with any language, Indonesian grammar can often present an array of inconsistencies and exceptions. Some base words when combined with two affixes (eg. me + BW + kan) can produce an adjective rather than a verb, or even both. For example, bosan when combined with the affixes me- and -kan produces the word membosankan, meaning boring (adjective) or to bore (someone) (active verb). However, not all base words can be combined with affixes, nor are they always consistent in their subsequent usage and meaning. A prime example is the word tinggal which, when combined with affixes, can change quite dramatically in both meaning and grammatical use:

  • Tinggal (base word (BW) form) = to reside, live (in a place)
  • Meninggal (MeN+BW) = to die, pass away (short form of ‘Meninggal dunia’ below)
  • Meninggal dunia (MeN+BW + world) = to pass away, to die (lit. pass on from the world)
  • Meninggalkan (MeN+BW+kan) = to leave (a place); to leave behind/abandon (someone/ something)
  • Ketinggalan (Ke+BW+an) = to miss (a bus, train, etc); to be left behind
  • Tertinggal (Ter+BW) = to be (accidentally) left behind
  • Ditinggalkan (Di+BW+kan) = to be left behind; to be abandoned
  • Selamat tinggal (word + BW) = goodbye (said to the person staying)

Noun affixes are affixes that form nouns upon addition to base words.

30. Sentence structure
The basic order for Indonesian sentence is; Subject, Verb, Object or Adjective or Adverb. In syntactical term, simply we use the definition of S = NP.VP. A short hand way of saying that pattern is; a sentence consists of Noun Phrase and Verb Phrase. Yet in many cases, the order can be put in various ways, e.g a sentence may come from NP.VP, or NP.NP, or NP.AP or NP.PP. In English, the order strictly lies on S = NP.VP (sometimes VP with to be or linking verb). Below, you will find the differences in syntactical level

Indonesian                                                                              English

NP.VP                                                                                      NP.VP
Paman pergi ke Surabaya tadi malam                                  Uncle went to Surabaya last night
Kakak ke kampus naik motor                                                Brother rides to campus
Ibu ke pasar naik becak                                                         Mother goes to market by peddycap

NP.AdvP                                           NP.VP
Bibi di kebun                                   Aunty is in the garden
Dompetnya di atas meja                His wallet is on the table

NP.AP                                                     NP.VP
Brudin sakit semalam                            Brudin was sick last night
Mereka bising sekali tadi sore            They were very noisy this afternoon

NP.NP                                                                          NP.VP
Orang yang di sana tadi malam Andi                      The man who was there last night is Andy
Kebanyakan warga desa ini nelayan                       Most citizen of this village are sailors

Note: NP: Noun Phrase                  Adv P: Adverbial Phrase
AP: Adjective Phrase                      VP    : Verb Phrase

31. Passive and Object-Focus Construction
The idea of passive is rare in speech, yet it occurs often in academic writing. The passive form of a verb phrase contain this pattern; be + past participle, e.g is bitten, was stolen, can be taken. In Indonesian, passive is shown by adding di- before a verb, e.g dimakan, ditipu, dipermalukan. In most clauses, the subject refers to the “doer”, or actor of the action of the verb (Leech and friends, 2003). When we create a passive sentence, the focus of the sentence goes to Subject. This term is well known as Canonical passive, e.g Buku itu sudah dibaca oleh Andi or The book has been read by Andi.

Passive sentence in Indonesian, the position of focus may go to Object. We call it Object focus or in another word non canonical passive. The term can be defined as a sentence which has semi-active and semi-passive construction, e.g Buku itu sudah saya baca. This phenomenon does not occur in English except in relative clauses.

Indonesian                                                        English
A: Erni menulis makalah ini                            A: Erni writes this paper
P: Makalah ini ditulis oleh erni                       P: This paper is written by Erni
Makalah ini ditulis Erni
Makalah ini Erni tulis*

A: Dia sudah mengirim suratnya?                 A: Has she sent the letter yet?
P: Suratnya sudah dikirim oleh dia?              P: Has the letter been sent by
Suratnya sudah dikirim dia?
Suratnya sudah dia kirim?*
Sudah dia kirim suratnya?*

A: Saya tidak memakan makanan itu              A: I did not eat that food
P: Makanan itu tidak dimakan oleh saya        P: That food was not eaten by me yet
Makanan itu tidak saya makan*
Tidak saya makan makanan itu*

Note: A: Active        P:Passive
* NonCanonical Passive/Object focus

Notice that object focus constructions in Indonesian also occur in the so-called relative clauses in English. While relative clauses of the object pattern type in English do not change the voice of the verb, in Indonesian they do. That is, the antecedent referred to by the relative pronoun becomes an object focus in Indonesian. Compare the following English sentences with their Indonesian counterparts

Indonesian                                                                                        English
Orang tua yang ditemui Rika di sekolah adalah kakeknya        The old man (whom) Rika met at the school was his grand father

*Orang tua yang Rika menemui di  sekolah……..

Indonesian                                                                                          English
Demonstrasi yang saya tonton di TV sangat menakutkan         Demonstration I watched on TV was scary

*Demonstrasi yang saya menonton di TV…….

Errors such as *Orang tua yang Rika menemui di sekolah….or *Demonstrasi yang saya menonton di TV…are common to occur in the speech or writing produced by speakers of English learning Indonesian. Apparently, this is a kind of error known in TEFL as transfer. That is the carrying over of a syntactic structure in English into Indonesian (Kadarisman, 2002:3)

Object-focus construction in Indonesian are different from cleft in English, e.g That is the man that I have met, or That is the key I am looking for. In Indonesian, cleft sentences are equal to object-focus + -lah construction, e.g  Lelaki itulah yang pernah saya temui, and Kunci itulah yang sedang saya cari.

In English, it is also possible to have object focus. Here we will call it Object fronting, e.g  The man I have met, and The key I am looking for. However, it should be noted that object focus in English is a “marked” or unusual structure, whereas object focus in Indonesian as an “unmarked” or common structure. Moreover, object focus in Indonesian makes the sentence “partly passive and hence the term Non-cannonical passive. In contrast, English object fronting does not change the sentence from active into passive. (Kadarisman, 2002:4).

32. Subject prominence in English and –nya in Indonesian
English is a subject prominent language. It means every sentence in English always requires a subject. The subject can be a proper name, pronoun or something else. Yet in Indonesian, the subject may be omitted. This phenomenon can be mentioned as Zero subject sentence. The subject is coverable from the context.

Indonesian                                                            English
Tinggalnya dimana sekarang?                           Where do you stay now?
Pekerjaannya apa?                                               What do you do for living?
Butuhnya apa dariku?                                         What do you need from me?
Uangnya berapa?                                                 How much money do you have?

In the sentence Tinggalnya di mana?, we do not find a subject since the subject needs not to be put there. Yet, this sentence still be understood by Indonesian people. Here zero subjects play role, and it is coverable from the context. In the sentence Where do you stay now?, the subject is definite, and in this case the subject is “you”.

33. Terms of Address
In Indonesia, The term of address is used to differentiate positions of people. It is also used to show politeness in conversation. To address someone who is older than us, we must use the proper address, e.g Bapak, Ibu, Panjennengan. In English, those terms are not used. English only addresses “You” to all of their interlocutors.

Indonesian                                                                                      English
Anda                                            sudah makan?                          Have you had your dinner?
Bapak/Ibu                                                                                       Are you hungry?
Pak Roni/Bu Dewi
Heri/Puspita                                 lapar?

34. Code Switching and Code Mixing
The next discussion in this topic lies in the term of Code Switching and Code mixing that occurs in Indonesian and English spoken community. The existence of these two phenomena is familiar in daily conversations conducted among them. Many Code switching and code mixing’s events occur both in Indonesian people

conversation and English spoken community. Here, Code-switching refers the use of two languages simultaneously or interchangeably (Valdes-Fallis, 1977). Chana (1984) describes code-switching as the juxtaposition within the same speech exchange of passages of speech belonging to two different grammatical systems or subsystems. Code mixing on the other hand can be defined as the involvement of the deliberate mixing of two languages without an associated topic change. The example given by Pfaff (1979) demonstrates this event, a code mixing phenomenon between English and Spanish language.
*I went to the house chiquita
I went to the little house (Pfaff, 1979)

* Saya pergi ke rumah chiquita
Aku pergi ke rumah kecil (Pfaff, 1979)

In this session, we are going to talk shortly about Code mixing phenomenon that occurs in Indonesian. Below, you will find clear examples of code mixing in a conversation between two Javanese;
A: Mana Pak Wendi Lim, kok belum datang?
B: Wah, dalem mboten ngertos, Pak
A: Lho, kemarin kan kamu saya suruh menyampaikan nota saya ke kantornya.
B: Waktu saya sowan ke sana, beliau tidak ada. Sedang tindakan ke Madiun, kata  Mbak Nunung Sekretarisnya.
A: Mbak Nunung bilang apa?
B: Mungkin sore atau malam hari Pak Wendi baru pulang dari Madiun. Lalu bilang,“Notanya ditinggal di sini saja. Kalau Bapak rawuh, nanti saya haturkan” (Kadarisman, 2002:5).

35. Gender versus Kinship Orientation
The idea of gender orientation in English is commonly used in the form of pronoun, both subject and object. It may appear as he, she, him or her. More than that, the gender orientation is also used to differentiate subjects in a sentence. There are many terms to differentiate subject. One is used to differentiate siblings. We find the words “brother” and “sister” is aimed to differentiate male and female siblings, or son or daughter to differentiate male and female child. In Indonesian the term of gender orientation is not well known. When we talk about a child, we commonly say anak without referring what sex the child has. English will say a boy or a girl instead of a child. In this case we can say that English is a strongly gender oriented language. Below you will find example for that:

Indonesian                                                   English
Kemana dia pergi?                                      Where does he go?
Where does she go?

Buku itu milik dia                                         The book belongs to her
The book belongs to him

Anak itu bermain di lapangan                    The boy plays on the playground
The girl plays on the playground

In Indonesian language, the ideas of kinship are very popular. These ideas play basic role in conducting a conversation. It seems the cultural background may support these Ideas. The cultural bound of Indonesian people create a close and respectful relationship with others. Someone who is close to us will be treated differently with someone who has no relative connection. The differentiation of address may be the realization for that.

Indonesian                                                English
Nak/mas/Pak/saudara/Om Deni         mau kemana?                   Where are you going?



The similarities and differences occur in the position, the form and also in the meaning of the words. The result of the study shows that there are similarities between English and Indonesian

  1. Based on prepositional meaning place:

(a) Based on the meaning, to indicate the name of city, country, province and place the English prepositional meaning place on, in, and at are similar with Indonesian prepositional meaning place di.

(b) Based on the meaning, the English prepositional meaning place above and over are similar with Indonesian prepositional meaning place di atas to indicate the place that higher than a point.

(c) Based on The Meaning, the English prepositional meaning place under, underneath, beneath and below are similar with Indonesian prepositional meaning place di bawah to indicate the place that lower than a point.

(d) Based on the meaning, the English prepositional meaning place between and among are similar with Indonesian prepositional meaning place di antara to indicate the place on side of a person or thing that has two sides.

2. Based on the function:

Both English and Indonesian explain verb, adjectives, and the other adverbs. There are three kinds of position. They are position in the front, in the middle and in the behind.

3. Both English and bahasa Indonesia use the same 26 letter alphabet, divided similarly between vowels and consonants. Neither language uses accent marks for any of the 26 letters.

4. The ways of arranging sentences and paragraphs are similar.

5.  Both languages use similar methods of classifying word types into nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, etc ,

6.  Both languages form words in the same way by attaching prefixes and suffixes to root words

7. Both languages have transitive & intransitive structures

8. Both languages have passive & active voices – bahasa Indonesia uses “di-”  prefix to indicate the passive voice while English uses the “-ed” suffix.

9. Both languages use similar numbering systems except that bahasa Indonesia uses a decimal(dot) instead of a comma as 3 digit separator (be aware that English is inconsistent with terms for large numbers – American system and British/European system are different)

10. Both languages use similar punctuation marks such as commas, periods, parenthesis, question marks, quotation marks, hyphens, etc.

11. Symbols are nearly the same for both languages

12. Capitalization is nearly the same for both languages

13. There are many words that are identical to both languages and even more that are very similar. See our website lists – 780 identical words and 1,200 that are very similar. Most spellings for names of the world’s countries are the same or very similar in both languages.

14. Actually, bahasa Indonesia and English have the same structures. i.e.:

They   want   to go to  Bali.

              Mereka  mau  pergi ke Bali.

We  like  to study  French.

Kami  suka belajar bahasa Perancis.