Smartphone version. The full version can be found here. 

  Lesson 26  Questions beginning with Boleh  

Click to listen to the Malay sentences.

A second reading (by Michelle Nor Ismat, a native speaker)

Can I enter? Boleh saya masuk?
Yes you can.   Ya, boleh.
Can you come tomorrow? Boleh anda datang esok?
No I can't.   Tidak, tidak boleh.
Can you speak English? Boleh anda cakap bahasa Inggeris?
Yes I can.   Ya, boleh.
Can I smoke? Boleh saya merokok?
No you can't.   Tidak, tidak boleh.
boleh = can
tidak boleh = cannot
masuk = to enter
keluar = to leave
merokok = to smoke
rokok = cigarette

Further examples:
Boleh saya jumpa Encik Tan? (Can I meet Mr. Tan?)
Boleh saya bercakap dengan saudara sekejap? (Can I talk to you for a while?). Note that saudara is often used among friends of the same age group when addressing each other in the place of awak or kamu.
(To a taxi-driver) Boleh tunggu sebentar? (Can you wait for a while?).
And at the end of it all (especially if he had waited patiently and in good humour for you) you might want to say Simpan semuanya (means "Keep the change" though literally the sentence means "Keep everything") when you hand him the fare.
To all intents and purposes there is no difference between sebentar and sekejap both of which mean "for a short while".
Bolehkah saya pinjam pen anda sekejap? (= Can I borrow your pen for a second?)
Possible answer: Boleh, memang boleh. Ini dia. (Yes, you can, of course you can. Here it is.)
Please note the difference in pronunciation in the first syllable of memang (=of course) and menang (=to win) both of which is spelt "me".
The first syllable of memang is pronounced as in the English word "may" while the first syllable in the word menang is pronounced as in the first syllable of the name "Murphy". (More of this in Lesson 50.)
Dia memang pandai means "Of course he is clever" (there is no doubt about it - it's a fact).
To end this lesson let me introduce the expression "Mana boleh!". These two words, which you have already learnt separately, are about the most common words in the Malay language and yet, when put together they have a very special meaning. Can you guess? Well, taking the sense of each word in turn you would translate it literally as "Where can!". The actual meaning is "How can!" - a protest or an exclamation meaning "It's impossible" or "I can't believe it!" (Not to be confused with "How come?" meaning "Why" translated simply as Mengapa).
WHAT? You don't even have a dollar in your pocket, a millionaire-to-be like you? Mana boleh tuan! ("How can man!" in Manglish)
By the way have you heard of the Malaysia boleh! slogan or the boleh phenomenon in Malaysia? If not you'll have to read this article on "The World Record-Breaking Capital" by Jack Boulware!

 Previous lesson     Table of Contents    Next lesson 

  This course is copyrighted and is not to be reproduced under any circumstances.