‘Bukan’, ‘Tidak’ or ‘Jangan’?

The moment you start learning Indonesian, you will be exposed to one of these words whether it is from a textbook, phrasebook or from a particular course that you are taking. You might have been told different ways to see it. But have you known enough?

Rather than finding an equivalent to these words in English, I would prefer to look at the function of each of the word so that you know how and when to use it rather than simple translation. Let us start.

Both ‘Bukan’ and ‘Tidak’ are modifiers that have the function of negating a word. But what kind of word do they modify?

‘Bukan’ negates nouns and adverbs.

Bear in mind that nouns and adverbs are broad concepts that should not be seen in a simple way.

For instance:
‘Tas’ which means bag is a noun
‘Tas saya’ which means my bag is a noun as a whole
‘Tas adik perempuan anda’ which means my younger sister’s bag is also a noun as a whole.

‘Kemarin’ which means yesterday is an adverb
‘Kemarin malam’ which means yesterday night is an adverb as a whole


Itu bukan buku adik perempuan anda.

That is not your younger sister’s book.

Why ‘bukan’?

Because as explained before, ‘tas adik perempuan anda’ is a noun as a whole.

In that sense, the usage of ‘Bukan’ could be very broad.

‘Tidak’, on the other hand, negates verbs and adjectives.

Fortunately, verbs and adjectives do not expand as far as nouns and adverbs. Hence it’s easier to use ‘tidak’.


Saya tidak suka tempat ini.

I don’t like this place

Why ‘tidak’?

Suka is a verb that means to like

‘Jangan’ literally means don’t and is a request or an order by nature.

In a simple way it can also be seen as an expression of disapproval.

Grammatically, it will make more sense to use this word with a verb and an adjective. For instance:

Jangan pergi means don’t go
Jangan sedih means don’t be sad

However, although grammatically questionable, many Indonesians use the same word to express disapproval of other things.

To explain this, I will have to give you some contexts:

1. Two people are talking about buying a present for their friends and one of them said:

“Bagaimana kalau kita belikan dia tas?” (How if we buy him/her a bag?)

Response: “Jangan tas. Dia tidak suka tas.”

So what does this mean? It can be interpreted in this way: “Don’t (buy) a bag. He/She doesn’t like a bag.”

2. Two people are making an appointment and one of them said:

“Bagaimana kalau kita bertemu besok?” (How if we meet tomorrow?)

Response: “Jangan besok. Besok saya sibuk.”

The response above can be interpreted in this way: “Not tomorrow. Tomorrow I am busy.”

Looking at the examples that I have given, you might be tempted to think that the word ‘Jangan’ means either don’t or not just as it is. I suggest not to take it that simply. Otherwise, you will get it confused with ‘bukan’ and ‘tidak’.

Perhaps the best way to see it is to take the word ‘jangan’ as an expression of disapproval.

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

Difference between ‘Bukan’, ‘Tidak’ and ‘Jangan’

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