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Q&A

When would a sentence consist of "terdiri" with "atas" or "dari"?

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The Indonesian word "terdiri" meaning "consist/s (of)" is an interesting word as it uses two words along with it: "atas" ("on/top/above") and "dari" ("from" / "than" in some cases). Every time I encounter the word "consists", I have to write "terdiri", but the issue comes when you have to pick from the two of them.

Here's an example sentence that I got and chose the wrong word:

This sub-district consists of ten villages. Guess: Kecamatan ini terdiri atas sepuluh desa. Answer: Kecamatan ini terdiri dari sepuluh desa.

I tried research on these, but all I got from translating them is that they also face the same problem and both "atas" and "dari" are usable and the correct words. So now I'll ask here.

Pertanyaanku (My question): At what times am I supposed to use "atas" and "dari" in a sentence that uses "terdiri"?

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1 answer

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The same thing can be expressed in any given language in many ways.

You have not provided any source for the claim that "Kecamatan ini terdiri atas sepuluh desa." would be using the wrong word.

This page contains the sentence: "Kecamatan ini terdiri atas satu kelurahan dan beberapa desa." That convinces me that your guess was correct, too.

Here is a source for a competing claim that the two words, in a context like yours, are synonyms. In their own words: "Frasa 'terdiri atas' dan 'terdiri dari' pada dasarnya tidak memiliki perbedaan."

However, "terdiri dari" is much more frequent than "terdiri atas" in current language, so, as a language learner, you might be expected to learn "terdiri dari" first. That's what the software that mislabelled your sentence as incorrect was apparently assuming. In reality, "atas" or "dari" would be an equally correct answer and, for example, "sejak" would be a genuine wrong one.

Hypothetically, there could be dialectal or diachronic differences or foreign language influences at play; i.e., Bahasa Indonesia could be in the process of moving from "terdiri atas" toward "terdiri dari". But that, even if true, wouldn't make either form wrong today. Similar processes take several human generations either to complete or to dissolve half way through in yet another wave of language change. Till then, feel free to use either form.

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