Possessive Pronoun in Indonesian

Mastering Possessive Pronoun in Reading Indonesian Text

So pronouns stay the same when used to indicate possession in Indonesian. Does this make it difficult for Indonesian learners to understand?

Yes, it does!

Many Indonesian learners stumble with this during the journey of learning the language. Even someone who have learned the language for years could also make the same mistake once in a while!

Now let me help you out a little bit by explaining the way it works.

Firstly, make sure you know the pronouns below (block the lines to see the English translation of the word):

 Saya = I                 Anda = You        Dia = He/she/it    Mereka = They

Kalian = All of you    Kami = We (exclusive)   Kita = We (inclusive)

Then, look at the examples below.

 EXAMPLE  1 (Difficulty Level: 1)

Buku saya means my book.

So how does it work?

Well, you can say that ‘saya’ owns ‘buku’.

 EXAMPLE 2 (Difficulty Level: 2)

Buku teman saya means my friend’s book.

Here you can say that ‘saya’ owns ‘teman’. These two words then form a completely new noun called ‘teman saya’ which means my friend.

Now you can say that ‘teman saya’, the new noun, owns ‘buku’.

EXAMPLE 3 (Difficulty Level: 3)

Buku teman baik saya means my best friend’s book.

If you notice, there’s one word with a different function within this group of nouns. The word is ‘baik’ and it means good. When combined with ‘teman’, it becomes ‘teman baik’ which means good/best friend.

So let’s start again. ‘Saya’ owns ‘teman baik’, forming a new noun called ‘teman baik saya’.

Finally, you can say that ‘teman baik saya’ owns ‘buku’.

EXAMPLE 4 (Difficulty Level: 4)

Buku teman adik laki-laki saya means my younger brother’s friend’s book.

This is much more difficult but you can certainly decipher it. ‘Saya’ owns ‘adik laki-laki’, forming a noun ‘adik laki-laki saya’ which means my younger brother.

‘Adik laki-laki saya’ owns ‘teman’, forming a new noun called ‘teman adik laki-laki saya’ which means my younger brother’s friend.

Finally, ‘teman adik laki-laki saya’ owns ‘buku’, forming the final noun ‘buku teman adik laki-laki saya’.

The key is to find the group of nouns and interpret it from right to left and carefully combine the nouns that are present in the sentence in the same order (right–>left).

The trick above is only effective when you are reading Indonesian. When you listen, it is always harder. What you can do is to ask the speaker to stop and let you clarify who exactly is he/she talking about or by asking him/her to repeat. Then, you can quickly picture the word in your mind and interpret it from right to left. It may take some time for you to get used to this.

However, don’t forget that if the speaker know that you are learning Indonesian, you have the privilege to ask them to stop and repeat.  You might also want to note that the examples that I have given are only for demonstration and it’s quite uncommon for an Indonesian speaker to speak about a noun with difficulty level of 4 or above as it can even confuse a native speaker (and usually they will ask for clarification).

Final hint: How can I differentiate general pronoun and possessive pronoun?

This might not be as hard as you think!

1. If the pronoun comes at the very beginning of the sentence, for example: “Saya suka tas saya”, then it must be a general pronoun. Why? Because there’s no noun before it.

2. If the pronoun comes somewhere in the middle or at the end of the sentence, then it could be both. You just need to make sure you know what word comes before the pronoun. Is it a noun? Or, group of nouns? If yes, then the pronoun that comes after that must be a possessive one. If it’s not (say, the word before that is an adverb or adjective), then it must be general pronoun.

Any other hint? I guess for now that’s all I can say. The best thing to do is to practise whenever you can because practice makes it perfect.

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

Possessive Pronoun in Indonesian

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