Indonesian Passive Voice


The passive voice is very frequent in Indonesian, much more frequent than in English. In English the frequency is estimated at about 4-5% in the input to children, but in Indonesian it is estimated between 28-35% (The Acquisition of Passive Voice in English and Indonesian).

See Transitive verbs and Voice in Indonesian.

Passive type one

The agent (optional) is third person:

  1. Pronoun: dia "3SG", mereka "3PL"

  2. Noun: common noun, proper noun

The structure: Patient + di-base (+ (oleh) + Agent)

Some examples:

1. a. Budi sedang dikejar.
      Budi PROG PASS-chase
      "Budi is being chased."

   b. Budi sedang dikejar dia.
      Budi PROG PASS-chase 3SG
      "Budi is being chased by him/her."

   c. Budi sedang dikejar oleh dia.
      Budi PROG PASS-chase by 3SG
      "Budi is being chased by him/her."

   d. Budi sedang dikejarnya.
      Budi PROG PASS-chase=3SG
      "Budi is being chased by him/her."

   e. Budi sedang dikejar olehnya.
      Budi PROG PASS-chase by=3SG
      "Budi is being chased by him/her."

   f. *Budi sedang dikejar oleh saya.
       Budi PROG PASS-chase by 1SG
       intended meaning: "Budi is being chased by me."


2. a. Budi membeli buku untuk saya.
      Budi ACT-buy book for 1SG
      "Budi bought a book for me."

   b. Budi membelikan saya buku.
      Budi ACT-buy-APP 1SG book
      "Budi bought me a book."

   c. Buku dibeli (oleh) Budi untuk saya.
      book PASS-buy (by) Budi for 1SG
      "A book was bought by Budi for me."

   d. Saya dibelikan Budi buku.
      1SG PASS-buy-APP Budi book
      "I was bought a book by Budi."

   e. *Saya dibelikan buku Budi.
       1SG PASS-buy-APP book Budi
       Intended meaning: "I was bought a book by Budi."

   f. Saya dibelikan buku oleh Budi.
      1SG PASS-buy-APP book by Budi
      "I was bought a book by Budi."

Passive imperatives

An imperative with a transitive verb can be expressed in the passive, with prefix di- (Sneddon et al. 2010: 334-335).

Some examples:

3. a. Tolong dibuka jendela ini!
      please PASS-open window this
      "Please have this window opened!"

   b. Jangan dibuka jendela ini!
      NEG PASS-open window this
      "This window is not to be opened!"

Passive type two

The agent (obligatory):

  1. Pronoun: aku "1SG", engkau "2SG", dia "3SG" etc.

  2. Pronoun substitute: kinship terms bapak "father", ibu "mother" etc., proper noun

The structure: Patient + Agent + base

Some examples:

4. a. Budi sedang aku kejar.
      Budi PROG 1SG chase
      "Budi is being chased by me."

   b. Budi sedang kukejar.
      Budi PROG 1SG=chase
      "Budi is being chased by me."

   c. Budi sedang engkau kejar.
      Budi PROG 2SG chase
      "Budi is being chased by you."

   d. Budi sedang kaukejar.
      Budi PROG 2SG=chase
      "Budi is being chased by you."

   e. Budi sedang dia kejar.
      Budi PROG 3SG chase
      "Budi is being chased by him/her."

   f. Budi sedang bapak kejar.
      Budi PROG father chase
      "Budi is being chased by me/you (old man)."

   g. Budi sedang David kejar.
      Budi PROG David chase
      "Budi is being chased by me/you (David)."

   h. *Budi dia sedang kejar.
       Budi 3SG PROG chase
       intended meaning: "Budi is being chased by him."

   i. *Budi sedang David kejar.
       Budi PROG David chase
       intended meaning: "Budi is being chased by David."

This is different from topicalization.

Budi, saya sedang mengejarnya.
Budi 1SG PROG ACT-chase=3SG
"Speaking about Budi, I am chasing him."


Buku saya beli untuk Budi.
book 1SG buy for Budi
"A book was bought by me for Budi."

Budi saya belikan buku.
Budi 1SG buy-APP book
"Budi was bought a book by me."


Makanan saya masak dan makan.
food 1SG cook and eat
"Food was cooked and eaten by me."

Makanan kumasak dan kumakan.
food 1SG=cook and 1SG=eat
"Food was cooked and eaten by me."

*??Makanan kumasak dan makan.
Intended meaning: "Food was cooked and eaten by me."

Makanan kumasak dan kaumakan.
food 1SG=cook and 2SG=eat
"Food was cooked by me and eaten by you"

cf. coordination in active sentences

Budi memasak dan memakannya.
Budi ACT-cook and ACT-eat=3SG
"Budi cooked and ate him/her/it."

Budi memasak dan memakanmu.
Budi ACT-cook and ACT-eat=2SG
"Budi cooked and ate you."

See Zwicky and Pullum (1983) about cliticization vs inflection

Other passive constructions

The structure is similar to passive type one above.

Passives with prefix ter-

Most ter- verbs fit one of three categories: stative, accidental, abilitative (Sneddon et al. 2010: 116).

no agent, refer to a state of affairs, contrast with di- passive verbs which refer to an action.

Some examples:

5. a. Pintu itu terbuka. (cf. Pintu itu dibuka)
      door that ter-open
      "That door was opened."

   b. Surat itu tertulis dalam bahasa Inggris. (cf. Surat itu ditulis dalam bahasa Inggris)
      letter that ter-write in language English
      "That letter is written in English."

The word ‘accidental’ is a cover term for a variety of uncontrolled actions and it is not appropriate in all cases; depending on the particular verb and the context other terms may be more appropriate, such as ‘unintended’, ‘unexpected’, ‘agentless’, ‘involuntary’, ‘sudden’ (Sneddon et al. 2010: 117).

Some examples:

6. a. Bukumu terbawa olehku. (cf. Bukumu kubawa)
      book=2SG ter-bring by=1SG
      "Your book was taken by me (by mistake)."

   b. Obat itu terminum anak saya. (cf. Obat itu diminum anak saya)
      medicine that ter-drink child 1SG
      "The medicine was drunk by my child (accidentally)."

   c. Dia ditembak atau tertembak polisi.
      3SG PASS-shoot or ter-shoot police
      "He was shot deliberately or accidentally by the police."

indicate that the agent has the ability to perform the action. All abilitative constructions are transitive and passive.

Some examples:

7. a. Mobil mahal itu terbeli oleh saya. (cf. Mobil mahal itu saya beli)
      car expensive that ter-buy by 1SG
      "That expensive car can be bought by me/I can afford to buy that expensive car."

   b. Suara guru itu tidak terdengar. (cf. Suara guru itu tidak didengar)
      voice teacher that NEG ter-hear
      "That teacher's voice cannot be heard."

   c. Budi tidak terkejar. (cf. Budi tidak dikejar)
      Budi NEG ter-chase
      "Budi cannot be chased."

   d. Perampok itu ditembak berkali-kali, tetapi tidak tertembak.
      robber that PASS-shoot repeatedly but NEG ter-shoot
      "That robber was shot at repeatedly but (he) was not successfully shot."

Passives with circumfix ke-...-an

With a few exceptions these constructions are adversatives; they indicate that the subject undergoes an unpleasant or undesired experience or event. Adversative verbs explicitly focus attention on the adverse effect of the event on the subject. There is only a limited number of adversative verbs and new formations are not common (Sneddon et al. 2010: 124).

Some examples:

8. a. Budi kehilangan uang.
      Budi ke-lost-an money
      "Budi has suffered the loss of his money."

   b. Mereka kematian ayah.
      3PL ke-die-an father
      "They have suffered the death of their father."

Some examples:

9. a. Budi kecurian mobil. (cf. Mobil Budi dicuri)
      Budi ke-steal-an car
      "Budi suffered the stealing of his car/Budi had his car stolen/Budi was robbed of his car."

   b. Saya kecopetan (dompet) di bus.
      1SG ke-pickpocket-an (wallet) in bus
      "I was pickpocketed (of my wallet) on the bus."

Some examples:

10. a. Budi kehujanan.
       Budi ke-rain-an
       "Budi was caught in the rain."

    b. Rumah itu kebanjiran.
       house that ke-flood-an
       "That house was flooded."

Some examples:

11. a. Budi kedinginan.
       Budi ke-cold-an
       "Budi suffers extremely from cold."

    b. Budi kehausan.
       Budi ke-thirsty-an
       "Budi suffers from severe thirst."

Link to discussion notes as transcribed by DanFlickinger.

CapitolHillPassives (last edited 2017-01-06 22:51:06 by DavidMoeljadi)

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