Negation: Tidak vs Bukan

In this lesson we will explain the difference between tidak and bukan which are used to negate a word after it. The basic rule is very simple: use bukan to negate a noun and use tidak for everything else (verb, adverb, adjective, etc.). The preposition (e.g., untuk, bagi, kepada) by the rule should be negated by tidak, but using bukan to negate preposition usually sounds more natural because they usually give an implicit contradiction nuance. (More about this "contradiction thing" below!)

For now, let's see how do we use them in sentences:

But that's not all!

Bukan is also used to negate a verb or an adjective to make an implicit contradiction. Compare these two sentences:

Both could be translated as "Taufik doesn't play basketball." or "Taufik is not playing basketball." The first sentence is a normal statement. It's just stating that Taufik doesn't play basketball, plainly, without any implicit meaning. The second sentence is a bit awkward by itself, but if it's used in a proper situation or sentence it can deliver a deeper message. The second sentence has a hidden meaning that "Taufik plays something, but that something is not basketball." Like what we explained before, this "implicit contradiction meaning" is also the reason why preposition usually is preceded by bukan. Let's take more examples:

Ayu tidak mencintai Ganteng.
(Ayu doesn't love Ganteng, but luckily she's not necessarily in love with anyone.)

Ayu bukan mencintai Ganteng.
(Ayu doesn't love Ganteng, but someone else. Sadly.)

Mereka tidak berkelahi.
(They doesn't fight. That's all. Nothing weird happens. Peace for everyone.)

Mereka bukan berkelahi.
(They doesn't fight, it may looks that way, but they do something else. Maybe they are acting or just joking.)

Ayah tidak marah denganmu.
(Dad is not angry with you. He loves you. He hugs you. He buys you a new car.)

Ayah bukan marah denganmu.
(Dad is not angry with you. Well... he definitely is angry, but not with you, maybe at how rainy the weather is.)

Buku ini tidak untuk para wanita.
(This book is not for women. This sounds a bit weird, because it doesn't have the implicit meaning "but this book is for men". It's possible that the book is not for anyone though, so even if it's a bit weird, tidak still can be used here.)

Buku ini bukan untuk para wanita.
(This book is not for women. This sentence is more natural because it has the implicit meaning "but this book for is for men". Yay! Max*m rules!)

Kematiannya tidak kemarin.
(His/Her death is not yesterday. This totally sounds weird because it doesn't have the implicit meaning "but his/her death is at the other time". It's impossible that his/her that is not yesterday but also not at the other time. It's gramatically correct and understandable, but is rarely used and sounds very weird.)

Kematiannya bukan kemarin.
(His/Her death is not yesterday. Maybe it's just this early morning.)

That's all guys. We hope it'll help. If you have any question, don't hesitate to write it on the comment section below. We'll answer it asap. ;)