‘Berubah’, ‘Mengubah’ or ‘Mengganti’

Among all of the verbs that mean to change in Indonesian, ‘berubah’, ‘mengubah’ and ‘mengganti’ are the ones that are used the most. However, these three words are significantly different and cannot be used interchangeably. Do you know the difference?

‘Berubah’ is an intransitive verb (Subject-Verb) that means to change. When this word is used in a sentence, the change is focused on the subject.

Subject + Verb

Rudi + sudah berubah
Rudi has changed

Who’s changed?
Subject = Rudi

‘Rudi’ in this sentence does not change anyone/anything else. Instead, ‘Rudi’ is the one who’s changed.


Example 1:
Sinta sudah berubah. Sekarang dia lebih sabar.
Sinta has changed. Now she’s more patient.

Example 2:
Saya mau berubah menjadi orang yang lebih baik.
I want to change (and) become a better person.

‘Mengubah’ is a transitive verb (Subject-Verb-Object) that means to change. When this word is used in a sentence, the change is focused on the object (because of the subject).

Subject + Verb + Object

Saya + mau mengubah + dunia
I want to change the world

Which one will change?
Object = Dunia

‘Saya’ in this sentence is the agent of change. The one that’s going to change (hopefully) is the object (‘dunia’).


What happens if we use the word ‘berubah’ instead in the example above?

If the word ‘berubah’ is used, three things will happen:

  1. The change will occur in the subject (‘saya’)
  2. The word ‘dunia’ will need to be removed as ‘berubah’ is an intransitive verb (Subject-Verb) and an object cannot be put right after it without appropriate conjunction.
  3. The meaning of the whole sentence will be changed completely.


Example 3:
Saya harus mengubah kebiasaan saya.
I need to change my habit.

Example 4:
Saya harus mengubah pola makan saya.
I need to change my diet (eating pattern).

‘Mengganti’ is another transitive verb (Subject-Verb-Object) with a similar nature like ‘mengubah’  (subject affecting the object). This word means to change or to replace.

When using the word to change in Indonesian, one needs to think whether the change will involve transformation or replacement. If the change involves transformation of the object, use ‘mengubah’. If the change involves replacement, use ‘mengganti’.


Example 5:
Saya harus mengganti baju.
I need to change clothes.

Example 6:
Saya harus mengganti HP saya.
I need to change my phone.


Have a question regarding this topic? Post your question below!


Difference between ‘Berubah’, ‘Mengubah’ and ‘Mengganti’

2 thoughts on “Difference between ‘Berubah’, ‘Mengubah’ and ‘Mengganti’

  • 09/08/2015 at 8:58 am

    what about ‘berganti’, ‘menukar’ sir?

    • 10/08/2015 at 1:37 pm

      Hi John,
      Thanks for posting a question.

      ‘Berganti’ is quite a unique verb that can be classified as intransitive. When ‘berganti’ is used, similar kind of change as indicated by ‘mengganti’ happens but the change occurs in the subject without clear indication of who’s changing what (not Subject affecting Object as like most men- words). The change occurs in the subject and it’s assumed that it’s deliberately done by the subject.

      i.e. if you say ‘Budi harus mengganti baju’, the ‘baju’ is the one that will be changed/replaced because of Budi. If you say ‘Dia berganti kewarganegaraan’, ‘dia’ is the one that will be changed (citizenship-wise) because of him/herself .

      ‘Berganti’ is often used together with other words (mostly nouns) to indicate a particular type of change. Examples:
      1. ‘Berganti’ arah –> To change direction
      2. ‘Berganti’ kewarganegaraan –> To change citizenship

      ‘Menukar’, on the other hand, means to exchange. So it’s exchanging one thing with another thing.

      Hope this answers your question!


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