‘Mencari’ or ‘Menemukan’

When you look for the word to find in Indonesian, you will find the following two words: ‘mencari’ and ‘menemukan’. How are they different?


‘Mencari’ is a transitive verb that means to search for or to look for.


Understanding the nature of ‘mencari’ as a transitive verb is very important in helping you use this word correctly. As a transitive verb, ‘mencari’ can be followed by a noun directly. This means that when you use ‘mencari’, you can mention the noun that you are searching for right after without even using any preposition or conjunction in between.

I am searching for a new car

Saya sedang mencari mobil baru.

As you can see, you do not need to use the preposition for (‘untuk’) in the Indonesian sentence at all.

Example 1:

Kenapa dia mencari saya?

Why is he/she looking for me?

Example 2:

Mereka sedang mencari ibunya.

They are searching for their mother.


‘Menemukan’ is also a transitive verb that means to find.


Do you know that the root word of ‘menemukan’ is ‘temu’?

‘Temu’ is the root word of ‘bertemu’ that means to meet and ‘menemui’ that also means to meet (we’ll discuss the difference between these two words in our next post).

‘Menemukan’ means to find but it can also be seen as ‘meeting’ with the object or the person that you have been looking for.

It is important to understand that ‘menemukan’ is concerned about the moment at which the object or the person is found but not about the process when the object or the person is being searched for. If you want to talk about such process, you should use ‘mencari’ instead.

Mencari or menemukan

Example 3:

Mereka belum menemukan pesawat yang hilang itu.

They haven’t found that missing plane.

Example 4:

Kemarin saya menemukan uang di jalan!

Yesterday I found money on the street!


Summary & Exception


In summary, you should use ‘mencari’ when you are referring to the process of searching for something or someone. Once you have found it, you can use the word ‘menemukan’.

Also, there is one exception to this rule.

If you want to say something like this in Indonesian:

I am trying to find a job that suits me.

You can say either:

Saya sedang mencoba mencari pekerjaan yang cocok dengan saya

or

Saya sedang mencoba menemukan pekerjaan yang cocok dengan saya

This is because the English sentence can refer to both the process of searching and the moment at which it is actually found.

I hope you find the explanation above useful.

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