Lesson 51 Bukan Not (used with nouns/pronouns)
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A second reading (by Muhammad Nor Ismat, a native speaker)
There are two words of negation in Malay - bukan and tidak.
But there is a difference between them. Bukan is mainly used to DENY the truth of something and is therefore used with nouns and pronouns eg. Ini bukan kereta saya (This is not my car) or Bukan dia (Not him) while tidak (already covered in detail in Lesson 37), is mainly used with adjectives and verbs. To refresh your memory here are some sentences that show how tidak is used with adjectives:
Ini tidak berat. = This is not heavy.
Dia tidak gemuk. = He is not fat.
and with verbs:
Dia tidak ambil beg saya. = He didn't take my bag.
In the spoken form the word ambil is often pronounced as ambek.
Saya tidak tahu dia sudah keluar. = I didn't know that he had left.
You might want to compare the above sentence with Dia ada di luar meaning "He is outside".
Note the difference between Dia tidak bodoh. = He is not stupid (as can be seen from his consistently good results) and
Dia bukan bodoh tetapi malas. = He is not stupid but lazy (to explain why he got low marks). So this is an exception to the general rule which says that tidak and not bukan is used with adjectives.
Bukan and not tidak is used for colours, eg.:
Warna kesukaannya ia-lah biru, bukan merah. = His favourite colour is blue, not red.
Note that bukan is also used as a question tag in the same way that French speakers use "n'est-ce pas". Eg.:
Ini pen anda, bukan? = This is your pen, isn't it?
where bukan is added more for confirmation than anything else. Thus in such questions the person expects you to answer Ya, ini pen saya. (Yes, this is my pen.) But if this is not the case and it is not your pen, the answer would be: Bukan, ini bukan pen saya. (No, this is not my pen.)
Dia kata dia akan datang esok, bukan? = He said he would be coming tomorrow, didn't he?
How would you translate the following sentence in Malay: "This is the first time I come to Malaysia".
Well, it is translated as Ini kali pertama saya datang ke Malaysia. An Indonesian is more likely to say Ini pertama kali saya datang ke Malaysia. But don't worry too much whether to say pertama kali or kali pertama. You won't be making a mistake whichever order is used.
But how do you deny the above statement (i.e. if this is not the first time you come to Malaysia). Where would you put bukan? As in English bukan is inserted before "first time". Thus:
Ini bukan kali pertama saya datang ke Malaysia. = This is not the first time I come to Malaysia.
If I said Hari ini hari Ahad = Today is Sunday when it is not so, again it is bukan and not tidak that has to be used.
You will therefore say Hari ini bukan hari Ahad = Today is not Sunday. Perhaps it will help if you remember that when factual errors have to be corrected it is bukan that has to be used.
In other words when someone says something that is not true you have to use bukan and not tidak (though as you are a foreigner you will be understood even if you should use one for the other so don't worry too much over this.)
By the way Sunday is very often referred to as hari Minggu in both Malaysia and Indonesia.
Incidentally when you wish to point out to someone that he is not doing things as it should be done you will say Bukan begitu (literally "not like that").
In the rare occasions when bukan is used with an adjective it is usually followed by another clause starting with tetapi as in the following sentence:
Dia bukan sombong tetapi malu. = He is not proud but shy.
If no such distinction is made you will simply say Dia tidak sombong. (He is not proud).
Finally if all the above is quite confusing to you just learn these two little phrases by heart as they will be needed at one time or another in your daily conversations:
Bukan dia meaning "Not him (or her)" but someone else
and Bukan itu meaning "Not that one!" (when you are being shown an article in a shop).