Indonesian/Grammar/Adjectives

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For the western student, adjectives in Indonesian are a little difficult. Many adjectives are really stative verbs - that is, they are verbs that describe the state of things. For example merah (red) looks like an adjective in

  • Mobil merah itu adalah mobil saya.
  • that red car is my car.

but like a verb in

  • Mobil itu merah.
  • that car is red.

where "merah" is the verb "to be red".

However, the relative pronoun "yang" (which/who) easily disappears from sentences in Indonesian, therefore "merah" is probably also a verb (to be red) in the first sentence too

  • Mobil (yang) merah itu adalah mobil saya.
  • that car, which IS RED, is my car.

If in doubt it is better to assume that an adjective is really a stative verb rather than a true adjective.

Nouns can be turned into stative verbs by means of the prefix ber-something, which roughly translates the english affix be-something-ed and means having, using or wearing something e.g.

  • berkacamata - be spectacled (kacamata = spectacles)
  • berhasil - successful (beharvested) (hasil = yield or harvest)