Expressing Plurals and Singular Forms in Bahasa Indonesia
by TruAlfa and IndoDic.com
Reduplication is often mentioned as the formal way to express the plural form of nouns in bahasa Indonesia. However, in informal daily discourse, speakers of bahasa Indonesia usually use other methods to indicate the concept of something being "more than one". Reduplication may indicate the conditions of variety and diversity as well and not simply to indicate something as being plural. This concept of variety and diversity is often used to describe things that have some uniqueness such as when referring to individual persons (committee members), individual countries (members of ASEAN), etc. Reduplication is used less often when referring to general things that are somewhat similar or generic in nature such as rupiah, eggs, trees, cans of beans, people in general, etc. For example, if two people are standing near a school and talking about students in general, when one states "siswa dari sekolah itu sering lolos" (student(s) in that school are often absent), the other would understand it to be plural and mean students in general. If the speaker wanted to say only one student was often absent he would probably refer to the student by name or say "siswa itu" (that student). It would not be common to see reduplication used in such an informal context and we would not often hear the reduplicated form "siswa-siswa sering lolos".
We regret being unable to provide Indonesian translations for English plural nouns in TruAlfa Dictionaries and on Indodic.com website. It is nearly an impossible task since there often is no translation at all. As explained above, Indonesians usually use the singular noun form in informal discourse when they refer to something as being "more than one" and hope the context of the discourse will allow the listener to understand a plural meaning. The best we can do in a translation dictionary and on this website is to refer users to the Indonesian translation for the singular form of the noun. The user then has the options described below to express the concept of a noun being "more than one" in bahasa Indonesia.
Indonesian Ways to Express Plural Nouns
1. Context Alone: Most of the time, just the context of the discourse itself is used to indicate plural and no special wording is used.
2. Group Words: a plural can be shown by using the singular noun and adding group words. For example, "more than one person" could be phrased as "beberapa orang" (some people), "banyak orang" (many people) or "para siswa" (students as a group).
3. Numeric Words: a plural can be shown by using the singular noun and adding numeric words such as "dua orang" (two people) or "lebih dari tiga orang" (more than three persons).
4. Plural Personal Pronouns: a plural can be shown by using plural personal pronouns like mereka, kami or kita in the same sentence or in other sentences nearby to clarify it is "them" or "they".
5. Reduplication may be used to indicate "more than one" but it also may convey the concept of variety or diversity. However it is suitable for use by people learning the Indonesian language to express the plural concept when they are unsure about using the other methods described above.
Indonesian Ways to Express Singular Nouns
It may also be useful to discuss ways to clarify that a discourse is regarding the singular form and not plural. Some of the ways to express singular are:
1. Singular Clarifying Words: the concept of something being singular can be expressed by using clarifying words such as;
e.g.; hanya saya (only me) or hanya itu (only that or only it)
2. Numeric Words: a singular concept can be expressed by using the number 1 "satu" or suatu (one)
e.g.; satu orang = one person or suatu tempat = one place
3. Singular personal pronouns: singular can be expressed by using a singular personal pronoun such as dia or ia (he or she) or itu (it or that)
4. Naming: singular can be expressed by referring to a person, place or thing by specific name such as; Tuti; Abdullah; Brunei
English Plural Nouns Spelled Same as 3rd Person Singular Verbs
example: you can say "These abuses must stop!" - using abuses as a noun - but you can also say
"He abuses his workers" - using abuses as a 3rd person singular verb