Indonesian auxiliaries

Waruno Mahdi mahdi at FHI-Berlin.MPG.DE
Sun Dec 12 19:15:06 UTC 1999

> Several sources on Indonesian which I have read (e.g. Dardjowidjojo 1967,
> De Heer 1975) state that 'mau', 'ingin' and 'suka' are auxiliaries. Can
> anyone point me in the direction of sources which present syntactic
> arguments in support of this claim?

First place to look would be Jim Sneddon's Reference grammar of Bahasa
Indonesia, of course. But my copy is at home.

I'm not so sure I understand what you mean by "auxiliaries", but I don't
suppose  "grammatical words" (prepositions, articles, classifiers etc.),
but probably the kind of auxiliary words that modify verbs to indicate tense,
aspect and negation, or modify adjectives to indicate degrees of comparison,
etc. (which I'm used to call modifiers)

If you merely mean "modal verbs" then, on the semantic plain, these verbs
indeed express modality of course. But just like that modal verbs also
behave in a particular manner on the syntactic plain in English, so do the
Indonesian verbs you listed. In this respect, they indeed share some features
of aspectual and other verb modifiers: Their position vis-a-vis a pronoun
or equivalent word expressing the agent depends upon whether the sentence
is of the subject-predicate or absolutive-ergative construction.
Like the modifiers (telah - perfective, akan - future), it follows the
pronoun in predicative sentences:

1a. dia sedang makan nasi itu (he mid eat rice that = he is eating that rice)
2a. dia akan makan nasi itu (he to eat rice that = he will eat that rice)

3a. dia mau makan nasi itu (he want eat rice that = he wants to eat that rice)
4a. dia suka makan nasi itu (he like eat rice that =
                                                  = he likes to eat that rice)
5a. dia ingin makan nasi itu (he wish eat rice that =
                                      = he wishes/would like to eat that rice)

While with pronouns in the ergative constructions, it precedes them:

1b. sedang dia makan, nasi itu / nasi itu sedang dia makan
   (he is eating it, that rice / that rice, he is eating it)
2b. akan dia makan, nasi itu  / nasi itu akan dia makan
   (he will eat it, that rice / that rice, he will eat it)

3b. mau dia makan, nasi itu / nasi itu mau dia makan
    (he wants to eat it, that rice / that rice, he wants to eat it)
4b. suka dia makan, nasi itu / nasi itu suka dia makan
    (he likes to eat it, that rice / that rice, he likes to eat it)
5b. ingin dia makan, nasi itu / nasi itu ingin dia makan
    (he wishes/would love to eat it, that rice/ ....)
The ergative sentences are somewhat more difficult to translate into English
and the English glosses here are only approximate.

In the passive voice, the modal verbs you listed can also behave like
aspectual and other modifiers (with the modal verbs, it's even more
difficult to translate into English):

1c. nasi itu sedang dimakan oleh dia (the rice is being eaten by him)
2c. nasi itu akan dimakan oleh dia (the rice will be eaten by him)

3c. nasi itu mau dimakan oleh dia (that rice is about to be eaten by him,
                                   he is intent upon eating it)
4c. nasi itu suka dimakan oleh dia (that rice is often/usually eaten by him,
                                    he likes/is accustomed to eat it)
5c. nasi itu ingin dimakan oleh dia
is unusual because it may be understood as modifier (that rice is what
he is about to eat, which he'd wish to eat) but may also be understood
as "normal" verb (that rice would like to be eaten by him)

Like the modifiers, they can serve as predicate in combination with an

1d. dia sedang kenyang (he is satiated)
2d. dia akan kenyang (he will be satiated)

3d. dia mau kenyang (he wants/is about to be satiated)
4d. dia suka kenyang (he likes to be/is usually satiated)
5d. dia ingin kenyang (he wishes/would like to be satiated)

Also in combination with prepositions _di_ (in, at) _ke_ (to), _dari_ (from)

1e. dia sedang di rumah (he is at home [at the moment])
2e. dia akan di rumah (he will be at home)

3e. dia mau di rumah (he wants/means to be at home)
4e. dia suka di rumah (he likes to be/is usually at home)
(use of _ingin_ in this latter construction is not attested, except
elliptically for _dia ingin [....] di rumah_ "he wishes [...] at home",
e.g. in answer to a question _dia ingin makan dimana_ "where does he want
to eat?"; it is p[ossible however, that some speakers may also consider
5e. _dia ingin di rumah_ as normal for "he wishes to be at home")

Note that in 3-4cde the modal verbs also express aspect.

However, unlike the aspectual and other modifiers, the modal verbs can
be used as transitive verbs:

3f. dia mau nasi (he wants rice)
4f. dia suka nasi (he likes rice)
5f. dia ingin nasi (he wants/wishes/longs for rice)

Also unlike the aspectual and other modifiers, the modal verbs have
applicative (suffix -i) transitive forms (ingin also causative with -kan):

3g. itulah nasi yang dia maui (that's the rice that he wants)
4g. itulah nasi yang dia sukai (that's the rice that he likes)
5g. itulah nasi yang dia ingini (that's the rice that he wishes)

(not possible for 1-2)

4h. dia menyukai nasi (he likes rice)
5h. dia mengingini nasi (he wants to have/wishes rice)
(not possible for 1-2, and to my knowledge not even attested for 3)

In gradation of "auxiliarity", mau and suka rank higher than
ingin, I find, with mau being slightly "auxiliarier" than suka. The
expression of aspect or tense connotation with ingin (future) in _c_ and
_d_ is much less prominent (negligible), compared to the two others.
What these latter express may come pretty close to pure aspect, but with
some modal connotation of course:

3i. rumah itu mau roboh (house that want collapse =
                       = the house is about to collapse/
                                     /on the verge of collapsing)
4j. bis kota itu suka terlambat (bus city that like belated =
                       = that city bus is often/usually behind schedule)

Hope I understood your question correctly.

Salam,   Waruno

Waruno Mahdi                  tel:   +49 30 8413-5411
Faradayweg 4-6                fax:   +49 30 8413-3155
14195 Berlin                  email: mahdi at
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