Aku vs Saya: which to use?

Both “saya” and “aku” mean “I”, “me”, and “my”, meaning that we just need to use “saya” or “aku” for all three of them. Saya is the formal form, while aku is informal.

When to Use Saya or Aku

We use saya to talk to strangers, older people, or people with a higher standing than ours. Saya is also used in the business context. Addressing yourself as aku while talking to clients would be rude, and might make them feel uncomfortable. This is because aku is used in a more intimate situation, which is inappropriate in a business context.

The same applies to other formal contexts such as healthcare and education. People working at schools and hospitals refer to themselves as saya when talking to parents/customers or superiors to be respectful and formal. Examples of this would be students talking to their teachers, teachers talking to parents or the principal, or doctors talking to their patients – they would all use saya for ‘I’.

We use aku in an informal context. We refer to ourselves as aku while talking to friends, peers, classmates, and even in romantic contexts.

In Indonesian culture, in some situations people refer to themselves using their names (in the third person). These include teachers in class talking to their students, parents talking to their children and vice versa.

How to Use Saya and Aku to mean “my”

In the case of the possessive pronoun (“my”), the use of saya and aku has a small difference. Saya stays the same, while aku is often shortened to “ku”. Here is an example.

To say “This is my house”, we can use:

  1. Ini rumah saya. 
  2. Ini rumah aku.
  3. Ini rumahku. 

Note: Ini means this, rumah means house.

In case you didn’t know, Indonesian adjectives come after nouns. Possessive pronouns like “my” are an adjective, which is why we need to reverse its position with the noun it describes. So “my house” would be “rumah saya” (house my) in Indonesian.
We hope you know the difference between aku and saya by now. Try to use them correctly next time when you talk to Indonesians. If you’re looking for a language partner, we’re always available. Check out our Bahasa Indonesia online program.

By Jembatan Bahasa

Jembatan Bahasa is a professional and highly rated Indonesian language school based in Bali, Indonesia. Our teaching team is experienced and certified to teach Indonesian as a foreign language. Some of them have over eight years of teaching experience and have taught in a prestigious international school in Bali. Interested in learning Indonesian with us? WhatsApp us at +6282 145 950 737 or email at