English and Malay/Contrastive grammar

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Sentence Structure

In English the sentence structure is subject-verb-object (SVO). However, in Malay, the sentence structure is object-subject-verb (SOV). Below are literal translations, without word rearrangement, of the sentences from Farsi to English.

  • (ma) Bapa saya pergi ke sekolah. → Father my went to school.
  • (ma) Kucing saya mahu makan. → Cat my wants eat.
  • (ma) Ibu saya suka makan kacang. → Mother my likes eating peanuts.
  • (ma) Baju putih terbesar untuk saya. → Coat white too big for me.
  • (ma) Manusia selalu menguna ubat doktor. → People always use medicine doctor.

Below are the previous sentences rearranged to English grammar standards.

  • (ma) Bapa saya pergi ke sekolah. → My father went to school.
  • (ma) Kucing saya mahu makan. → My cat wants to eat.
  • (ma) Ibu saya suka makan kacang. → My mother likes eating peanuts.
  • (ma) Baju putih terbesar untuk saya. → The white clothes are too big for me.
  • (ma) Manusia selalu menguna ubat doktor. → People always use the doctor's medicine.


Indefinite and Definite

In Malay, there is no usage of articles. For instance, translating a noun with a preceding article in English to Malay will render this result:

  • (en) a/the table → meja
  • (en) a/the son → anak
  • (en) a/the cat → kucing
  • (en) a/the father → bapa
  • (en) a/the door → pintu

However, in Malay, there is also a suffix, "-nya", to reference a particular noun in a conversation. It is somewhat similar to "his" or "her" in English, but the subject must have been referenced first.

  • (ma) John sedih kerana ibuyna marah. → John is sad because (his) mother is angry.
  • (ma) Cikgu memberi Jack kerjarumahnya. → Teacher gave Jack (his) homework.
  • (ma) Mary ambil bukunya. → Mary took (her) book.
  • (ma) Jessica terlupa namanya. → Jessica forgot (her) name.
  • (ma) Priscilla suka begnya. → Priscilla loves (her) bag.

If the noun is first referenced in the conversation or text, or if the subject being referenced is ambiguous, then there is no need for "-nya".

  • (ma) Bapa memberi John ais-krim. → Father gave John ice cream.
  • (ma) Saya bermain bola. → I played ball.
  • (ma) Mary beritahu John tentang kucing baru Jack. → Mary told John about Jack's new dog.
  • (ma) Mereka makan makanan malam. → They ate dinner.
  • (ma) John dan Jack pergi ke perpustakaan di dalam kereta John. → John and Jack went to the library in John's car.

There is also a word, 'tersebut', that is used to reference previously-mentioned objects, nouns, or ideas, from a longer text or conversation. A good translation of this word to english is "the aforementioned" or "the above".

  • (ma) Sila mengikuti arahan tersebut. → Please follow the aforementioned instructions.
  • (ma) Memberi saya buku tersebut. → Give me the aforementioned book.
  • (ma) John membaca cerita tersebut. → John read the above story.
  • (ma) Pencuri tersebut mencuri dompet ibu.The aforementioned thief stole mother's wallet.
  • (ma) Arash mencuci kereta tersebut. → Arash washed the aforementioned car.


Personal Pronouns

  • (ma) Saya bermain bola sepak → I played soccer.
  • (ma) Awak bermain bola sepak → You (singular) played soccer.
  • (ma) Dia bermain bola sepak → He/she played soccer.

(In Malay, there are no distinctions between he or she.)

  • (ma) Kami bermain bola sepak → We played soccer
  • (ma) Kamu bermain bola sepak → You all (plural) played soccer.
  • (ma) Mereka bermain bola sepak → They play soccer.


In Malay, the determiner comes before the noun in English, but after the noun in Malay.

  • (ma) Saya suka buku ini → I like this book.
  • (ma) Saya suka buku itu → I like that book
  • (ma) Saya suka buku dia → I like his/her book.
  • (ma) Saya suka rambut ia → I like its hair.


Adjectives in Malay succeed the nouns they modify, unlike English which has the adjective precede the noun it is modifying.

  • (ma) rambut hitam → black hair (literally translated "hair black")
  • (ma) ikan besar → big fish (literally translated "fish big")
  • (ma) anak kecil → little sister (literally translated "sister little")
  • (ma) lelaki tinggi → tall boy (literally translated "boy tall")
  • (ma) cikgu gemuk → fat teacher (literally translated "teacher fat")
  • (ma) ibu cantik → beautiful mother (literally translated "mother beautiful")
  • (ma) kotak tinggi → tall box (literally translated "box tall")
  • (ma) taxi kuning → yellow taxi (literally translated "taxi yellow")
  • (ma) televisyen warna → color television (literally translated "television color")
  • (ma) pokok epal → apple tree (literally translated "tree apple")
  • (ma) isteri muda → young wife (literally translated "wife young")


In Malay, there are verb conjugations. These conjugations are prefixes attached to the verb. These prefixes make the tense understood. In English, the subject most always has to be stated (an exception for the imperative). Below are some examples of simple past tense in English.

  • I went
  • You (singular) went
  • He/She/It went
  • We went
  • You all (plural) went
  • They went

  • I screamed
  • You (singular) screamed
  • He/She/It screamed
  • We screamed
  • You all (plural) screamed
  • They screamed

  • I saw
  • You (singular) saw
  • He/She/It saw
  • We saw
  • You all (plural) saw
  • They saw

However, in Malay, prefixes added to the verbs make the tense understood.

  • (ma) Saya pergi → I went
  • (ma) Awak pergi → You (singular) went
  • (ma) Dia pergi → He/She went
  • (ma) Kami pergi → We went
  • (ma) Kamu pergi → You all (plural) went
  • (ma) Mereka pergi → They went

  • (ma) Saya menjerit → I screamed
  • (ma) Awak menjerit → You (singular) screamed
  • (ma) Dia menjerit → He/She screamed
  • (ma) Kami menjerit → We screamed
  • (ma) Kamu menjerit → You all (plural) screamed
  • (ma) Mereka menjerit → They screamed

  • (ma) Saya melihat → I saw
  • (ma) Awak melihat → You (singular) saw
  • (ma) Dia melihat → He/She/It saw
  • (ma) Kami melihat → We saw
  • (ma) Kamu melihat → You all (plural) saw
  • (ma) Mereka melihat → They saw

Below are the same verbs translated to present perfect tense from Malay to English. In the simple present tense, the prefixes change because the tense changed.

  • (ma) Saya dipergi → I have gone
  • (ma) Awak dipergi → You (singular) have gone
  • (ma) Dia dipergi → He/She has gone
  • (ma) Kami dipergi → We have gone
  • (ma) Kamu dipergi → You all (plural) have gone
  • (ma) Mereka dipergi → They have gone

  • (ma) Saya dijerit → I have screamed
  • (ma) Awak dijerit → You (singular) have screamed
  • (ma) Dia dijerit → He/She has screamed
  • (ma) Kami dijerit → We have screamed
  • (ma) Kamu dijerit → You all (plural) have screamed
  • (ma) Mereka dijerit → They have screamed

  • (ma) Saya dilihat → I have seen
  • (ma) Awak dilihat → You (singular) have seen
  • (ma) Dia dilihat → He/She has seen
  • (ma) Kami dilihat → We have seen
  • (ma) Kamu dilihat → You all (plural) have seen
  • (ma) Mereka dilihat → They have seen