Bahasa Malaysia

Let’s Emphasize That-Lah!


There are a few ways to emphasize sentences in Bahasa Melayu and they can all achieve the same basic result through different means and not all are created equal. Some have more emphasis than others. Let’s look at our sentence.

Cuti ini seronok.
This vacation is fun.

Basic but it will suit our purposes. Now we have a few options we can choose from to emphasize “seronok” (fun):

  • Sangat
  • Betul
  • Lah
  • Nya
  • Memang

Now that we have our words, let’s get building! Let’s start with our sentences built and work from there….

Cuti ini sangat seronok.
Cuti ini seronok betul.
Cuti ini seronoklah.
Cuti ini seronoknya

All of these to one degree or another means “very fun” but connotations can be different. For example, lets see how changing the sentence structure of the first one can once again change the emphasis.

Cuti ini sangat seronok.

It means the vacation was very fun, but we can emphasize “seronok” even further and instead of making it “very” fun we can make it “VERY” fun or “SO” fun by changing where “sangat” is.

Cuti ini seronok sangat!

“Betul” on its own means along the lines of “correct” however, forget that definition for the sake of emphasis. The “betul” unlike “sangat” can only go after the descriptor to be correct, not before. Therefore:

Cuti ini betul seronok.

Is incorrect, while:

Cuti ini seronok betul. 

Would be right.

Moving onto our endings, “lah” and “nya” are relatively versatile and can add emphasis to the end of nearly any word. “Nya” can emphasis or function like “ku” (aku – I) or “mu” (kamu – you) which are put at the end of words to denote ownership. “Kertaku” is my car, “Kekmu” is your cake and “Kucingnya” can either say that the cat belongs to him/her/them or emphasize the cat.  It sounds confusing but I assure you, it really isn’t. “Lah” and “Nya” in this case have the same function:

Cuti ini seronoklah.
Cuti ini seronoknya.

Finally “memang” is actually closer to “truly” rather than “very” so when you would use this would be completely based on the context.

I hope this lesson gave you a good look at the different types of emphasizers and how you could use them to add nuance to your conversations and writings. Enjoy!


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Resources for Self-Instructional Learners of Less Commonly Taught Languages Copyright © by University of Wisconsin-Madison Students in African 671 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.