“You” — the second person pronoun

First person in a conversation is “I” or “we” (plural) – the one(s) doing the talking or writing to the audience/readers.
Second person in a conversation is “you” or “you plural” – the one(s) being addressed or talked to or written to, the audience. Third person in a conversation is “he/she” or “they (plural)” – the one(s) being talked about or written about.
Identify first, second and third person pronouns in these sentences. Identify the 1st, 2nd and 3rd person pronouns in the following four examples. Can you translate them to Indonesian?

1. “I love you, not him!” 

2. “But he loves you.”

3. “What will we do?”

4.“Just tell them all to leave us alone.”  


Unlike the English “You”, the second person pronouns in Indonesian can be expressed in many ways and their use depends on the level of familiarity in the speaker–hearer relationship: whether it is formal, friendly or familial (within the family). Another important determinant is the difference in social status between participants. In this lesson you are introduced to the use of the second person pronouns.

Kamu: used to younger people, among friends, parents to children, teacher to students (usually in primary and secondary schools), and can be singular or plural eg. Sinta saying to her friend: Kamu mau ke mana? Where are you going? Kamu bagaimana? How are you?

Kau: shortened form of ‘engkau’, is used in the same way as ‘kamu’.

Kalian: always plural, teacher to students, parents to children, between the same age group, formal and informal eg. Teacher to students: Kalian dari mana? Where are you from?

Saudara: formal use; used among people of both sexes who occasionally meet each other, superiors to subordinates, lecturers to students; can be followed by names eg. a manager to a job seeker: Selamat pagi Saudara Budi. Good morning, (you) Budi. or a university lecturer addressing students: Selamat siang Saudara–saudara Good day, (you) students.

Anda: the same as “Saudara” eg. between two people who newly meet: Anda mau ke mana? Where are you going?

NOTE ‘Anda’ is not usually followed by names. For example, we cannot say: Selamat pagi Anda Maya. Instead, we say: Selamat pagi Saudara Maya.

Bapak: used towards people we respect, people who are older or of higher status, formal, males only; often shortened to “Pak” (before names, or as a “Sir” tag at end of sentence or a call at beginning of sentence, but NOT when it means “you”) eg. Students greeting their male teacher: Selamat pagi, Pak Budi. Good morning, Mr. Budi. Bapak bagaimana? Sir, how are you? Pak, jam berapa ujian kami, Pak? (tag at end of sentence or a call at beginning of sentence. Or both.)

Ibu: same as above, females only; often shortened to “Bu” eg. Students to their female teacher: Apa kabar Ibu Budi? How are you, Mrs. Budi? Ibu mau ke mana? Where are you going, Madam/Miss? 8. Names can indicate “you” also eg.
Ida mau makan apa? What would you like to eat, (Ida)?

NOTE ‘Bapak’ literally means ‘father’ whereas ‘Ibu’ means ‘mother’. In the above discussions, they are used as second person pronouns featuring status differences between speakers at the time of speaking. Among close friends, however, it is common to call one another by name and to use the name itself as a second person pronoun.