Tatabahasa or grammar is inconsistent and at times, volatile.  What is considered "correct" today may become "incorrect" within a few years.  This is good news for folks who thrive on commercializing school text books because chances are low that older brother can hand down his school books to younger brother.  Next year is always a different story.

So allow me to make an important disclaimer : While all the Malay grammar in this website is accurate at the time they are uploaded, any future changes, usually quietly, by the linguistic authorities are not my responsibility.  Read at your own risk. :-)

As a Malaysian, up to this very day I still find Bahasa Malaysia grammar ten times more exasperating than the erratic alien English Grammar.  Here are the additional  points that drive me nuts:


No third person pronoun for the non-humans.

* "Huh? No third person pronouns for Mr Gorilla?" That makes him pretty upset.

In English, it is okay to say:" The Gorilla is upset.  It is upset."

Translated into Bahasa Malaysia, we USED to say: " Gorila marah.  Ia marah."

Nowadays, the sentence  IA     MARAH     is    a     grammatical    sin.

Someone wrote to the DPB: ( excuse the stiff language as I translated this almost word for word ) " If "ia" cannot be used for animals and name of the mentioned animal has to be repeated each time it is used.  Doesn't it create problems even more so for me as my job is to make subtitles? We have limited time and space for translation, especially if the name of the animal is long.  Is there not another way to give a personal pronoun to animals?"

He got this reply: " We understand your predicament.  However, this matter cannot be avoided and animal's name has to be repeated each time the animal is being referred to. And we suggest you use compound sentences to minimize repetition of the animal's name."


Second singular persons - Mandarin has a polite form of "you" and a casual form of "you".  Italian use "he/she" as a form of "you" when speaking to people they are not acquainted with.  Bahasa Malaysia has a polite form of you, " anda"  whereas your usage of " kamu" and "awak" will clearly reflect your higher or lower social status and tricky for a woman who doesn't like others to know that she is OLD.  You see, older people are classified as the "higher" status.

I ended up at the bottom of the social ladder or giving away the fact that I am ANCIENT whenever I speak in Bahasa Malaysia...

" It's better to be higher $$$-wise"


First person singular and first person plural blurred boundary - Plural form of a pronoun is used to add weight to the social status - In English, the Queen use "We" instead of " I".  In Bahasa Malaysia, the lady who cleans toilet can also use "we" instead of "I" because, "we" is the synonym of "I".

Also: the passive voices. For example: I pay Si Botak when written in passive form is Si Botak I pay; You pay Si Botak in passive form is Si Botak you pay whereas He pays Si Botak written in passive form is Si Botak is paid by him.  The first person and second person passive forms are easily confused with inverted sentences, isn't it?

Ubiquitous but Sidelined- The Word "Yang"

Imagine English with "the" ? That would be as bad as Malay language with "yang".  Yang is easy when it is the article preceding honorary titles to address important people of Malaysia.  Yang is intermediate level when used in forming compound and complex sentences.  Personally, I think non-Malaysian learners should be more conscious of "yang".

The Challenge

In bahasa Malaysia, you don't have to struggle with tenses,  for example just one word "akan" is sufficient to express future actions. 

Advance level challenge would be the prefixes and suffixes called imbuhan.  Many years ago dangerous is merbahaya, now it is decided that the prefix mer does not exist so dangerous becomes berbahaya.   Another small suffix "an" has at least seven different functions that I have counted.  The list of suffix and prefixes is quite long and on top of that, there are different ways of pairing up prefix and suffix to join a root word. Make this level the ultimate goal if you are ambitious.


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