A basic course in the Malaysian and Indonesian languages in 64 lessons  ©pgoh13
This course is copyrighted and is not to be reproduced under any circumstances.

  Lesson 48 Betulkah? (Is that true?)  

Click to listen  

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

Saya dengar anda sudah kahwin. Betulkah?
  Ya, betul.
Orang kata anda sudah berhenti kerja. Betulkah?
  Tidak, tidak betul.
Is that true?
I hear that you have been married. Is that true?
Yes, it's true.
They say that you have left your job. Is that true?
No, it's not true.


1. Another word often used in the place of betul (meaning "true") is benar.
2. You will notice that all answers in the affirmative are with Ya (simple, just consider it as a variation of Yeah!) or Betul (True) while negative answers are either with the word tidak which has already been covered in Lesson 37 and again here or with the word bukan which also means "no" or "not" and which will be explained in Lesson 51. By not introducing both words in the same lesson I hope you will not be confused as to when to use tidak and when to use bukan. But for the moment just remember that you say Tidak when the answer is "No". So a really critical word to know if there is one!

Fahamkah? (Do you understand?)
Ya, saya faham. (Yes, I understand.)
Tidak, saya tidak faham. Tolong ulang sekali lagi. (No, I don't understand. Kindly repeat it again.)
Or Boleh ulang sekali lagi? (Can you please say it again?) The final syllable in the sentence has to be on a rising tone so the listener knows it's a question.

Bolehkah anda tolong saya? (Can you help me?)
Another common word (though less informal) that is used in the place of tolong (meaning "to help") is bantu so the above question can also be Bolehkah anda bantu saya?
The answer is either in the positive:
Ya, boleh (Yes, I can) or Ya, memang boleh (Yes, of course I can) in which case make sure you pronounce the word memang as may-mang.
But if the answer is in the negative it will be:
Tidak, saya sangat sibuk sekarang. Minta maaf. (No, I'm very busy now. Sorry.)

Other examples:
Bolehkah anda maafkan saya? (Can you forgive me?)
Ya, memang boleh. (Yes, of course I can.)

Dia marahkah? (Was he angry?)
 Ya, dia marah. (Yes, he was.)

And if he was not angry:
Tidak, dia tidak marah. (No, he was not.)

Baguskah? (Is it good?)
 Ya, bagus. (Yes, it is.) But if you want to add that it is really excellent you can say Ya, bagus sekali.

Tidak, tidak bagus. (No, it's not good.)

Anda boleh cakap bahasa Inggeriskah? (Can you speak English?)
Ya, saya boleh cakap bahasa Inggeris. (Yes, I can speak English.)
Tidak, saya tidak boleh cakap bahasa Inggeris. (No, I can't speak English.)

I hope the above examples will give you a good idea of how to answer questions both in the affirmative and in the negative using tidak and not bukan.
You would have noticed that kah is frequently tagged on to the end of the question though it is not necessary if you give the last syllable a rising tone.

Betulkah? in a more complete form would be Betulkah itu? (Is that true?)
Other possible answers to this question (besides Ya and Tidak) are:
Mungkin (Probably)
Boleh jadi or Barangkali (Perhaps), and
Entah or Entahlah (Dunno) when you have no idea at all of its veracity.

Note: Instead of asking Betulkah you can also ask Betul tak?
However this form is often used to get your interlocutor to agree to something obvious that you've just said. In such a case this is not a real question as it expects a Ya betul for an answer, the English equivalent of the question being, "Isn't it so?"
An example of such a use is:
Kalau selalu mencuri, mesti kena tangkap satu hari, betul tak? (If one is in the habit of stealing one is sure to be caught one day, isn't it true?)
The above is an example of a sentence using the passive construction. The passive voice is very, very frequent in written Malay (especially in newspaper reports) so I'm making use of this occasion to talk about it.
In fact there are two main rules for the formation of the passive voice in Malay.
By using the word kena before the verb in the infinitive (that is, in its root form without the prefix) as in the above sentence (kena tangkap = to be caught). Other examples are:
Dia kena pukul = He was beaten.
Saya kena tipu = I was cheated. (It's important to know how to say this, if you have to make a police report, which God forbid!)
But instead of using kena we can use di followed by the verb in question to turn a sentence into the passive voice though in such cases it usually goes hand in hand with the word oleh eg.
Dia telah ditangkap oleh polis. (as in English "He was caught by the police"). Other examples:
Dia telah dipukul oleh dua orang yang dia tidak kenal. (He was beaten up by two men unknown to him.)
Saya telah ditipu oleh pemandu teksi. (I was cheated by a taxi-driver.)
For English-speaking learners it helps to have the word oleh (meaning "by") in the above passive sentences though your Malay language teacher might say that it shouldn't be there.
In fact this second construction of converting a verb into the passive (by putting di before it and quite often, kan after it, as in Dia telah diselamatkan oleh ahli bomba meaning "He was saved by the fireman") is very often used in Malay newspaper reports. The best way to familiarize yourself with the use of verbs in the passive voice in Malay is by studying how they are used in actual sentences. The examples in this page are all taken from Malay newspapers. You need to spend only 10 minutes or so every day but after some time I can assure you that you will be able to make use of them very easily.
If you have studied Lesson 42 well you would have remembered that kena has also the sense of being obliged or having to do something eg. Saya kena pergi sekarang meaning "I have to go now". I will not go into this again here.
As a matter of fact the word kena has a few other meanings such as hitting the target or suffering from a disease eg. Dia kena penyakit barah meaning "He is suffering from cancer".
Or, in typical Malaysian fashion (i.e. interposing a Malay word in an English sentence) you might hear someone in the office say: "If you make fun of the boss you're going to kena". From the context you can guess that kena here means to get into trouble or to be at the receiving end of someone's anger or some unpleasant treatment. In Lesson 36 you learnt that the word marah means "angry". The Malay expression for "got scolded" is kena marah. So if you should be having a sad face and you are asked why, you could say Saya kena marah to which your friend will undoubtedly ask Oleh siapa? (By whom?)
The word kena is also frequently used in the expression kena loteri meaning "to strike or win a lottery". Example:
Dia orang kaya sekarang kerana kena loteri baru-baru ini. (He is a rich man now having won a lottery recently.)

marry kawin kahwin
understand paham faham
Can you speak English? Anda bisa bicara bahasa Inggris? Anda boleh cakap bahasa Inggeris?
No, I can't speak English. Tidak, saya tidak bisa bicara bahasa Inggris. Tidak, saya tidak boleh cakap bahasa Inggeris.
lottery lotere loteri
taxi-driver sopir/supir taksi pemandu teksi
police polisi polis
cancer kanker barah, kanser

                          Table of Lessons