A basic course in the Malaysian and Indonesian languages in 64 lessons  ©pgoh13
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  Lesson 53 Pernah (ever)  

The word pernah is used to indicate that you have already been to some place or have already done some action as the following examples will show:
Click to listen  

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

Saya pernah berjumpa (dengan) dia.
Dia pernah menjadi jiran saya.
Saya pernah melawat ke Paris.
Saya pernah menjadi wartawan.
I have met him before.
He was once my neighbour (at a certain time in the past).
I have already visited Paris (when exactly is of secondary importance).
I was once a journalist (but I am no longer one).

It is also used in questions eg. "Have you ever been to London?" is Anda pernah ke London?
Note that besides jiran, the word tetangga is equally used for "neighbour", both in Malaysia as well as in Indonesia.
In the sentence Saya pernah melawat ke Paris English speakers might not often think of putting the preposition ke (meaning "to") if it's translated as "I have already visited Paris". Don't worry too much about this and just say Saya pernah melawat Paris. The preposition however comes naturally to a local speaker. But if you really want to use the preposition then try to think of its English translation as "I have already been TO Paris."

As the above statements indicate that something happened at a particular time in the past it is usually followed by questions of place and time as the following examples will show:
Saya pernah berjumpa dia. (I have already met him.)
Bila itu? (When was that?)
Sudah 10 tahun. (10 years ago).
Di mana? (Where?)
Di rumah kawan saya. (At a friend's house).

Saya pernah melawat ke Paris. or Saya pernah ke Paris. (I have already been to Paris.)
Bila itu? (When was that?)
Pada tahun lalu. (Last year.)
Dengan siapa? (With whom?)
Seorang diri. (Alone).

What if you wish to say that you have never done something or never been to a place?
To be able to say this all you have to do is to add belum or tidak before pernah. Thus:
Saya belum pernah ke Amerika Syarikat. (I have never been to the United States). Incidentally the word syarikat alone means a "company" (a business company).
Dia belum pernah melihat salji. (He has never seen snow).
Saya tidak pernah buat kerja ini. (I have never done this type of work before).
Note that tidak pernah is often contracted to tak pernah in its spoken form. Use these two words also when you answer a question with the word "Never".

I didn't realize it could be confusing for a learner to choose between sudah and pernah until I received this email from Jean Kagi (reproduced with permission):

Dear Mr P. Goh,
I'm enjoying studying the Malaysian Language with your online course, but I have just one problem. I can't understand or "feel" the subtle difference between the use of sudah and pernah. I think I have it worked out but then I read a new sentence and I'm confused again! Even trying through French and German, I can't work it out. I don't like to bother you, but I would appreciate it if you could tell me either that it really is difficult or if there is some obvious explanation that I just can't find.

As the problem could be shared by others I've decided to publish my reply here:
Thanks for your email and sorry that I can only get back to you now.
Ok let's put it this way. Both sudah and pernah indicate that you have done an action.
If it is something that you do often eg. eat, bathe, sleep, telephone a friend, send a letter, etc then use sudah. In such cases you just cannot use pernah.
But if it is something that perhaps you do only once in your lifetime eg. go to a far distant country, meet the president of your country, talk to someone ten years ago though he doesn't remember it, went dancing with your film idol (how lucky can you get!), studied a foreign language and then gave it up, been up in a spaceship, been neighbours with someone (but not anymore), been a teacher once (but not anymore), etc then use pernah. I hope you get the drift.
Also when you use pernah it is not for something that happened yesterday but it is for something that took place in some distant past. If you are thinking in English try to think on the lines of "I have done (whatever action) BEFORE" to justify using pernah. The action is not something that happened recently (yesterday or last week, for example) but a certain amount of time (a year or several years) has lapsed since that action happened.
However if it is still confusing I would suggest you forget about pernah completely and just use sudah under all circumstances. You cannot go wrong there. And if you hear someone use pernah you know you can substitute it with sudah. Don't crack your head over this. It's not such a big issue after all to use one or the other correctly - especially for a foreign learner.
Besides in sentences such as Saya pernah melawat ke Paris even the locals would say Saya sudah melawat ke Paris.

I have already visited Paris. Aku telah mengunjungi Paris Saya pernah melawat ke Paris.
a company perusahaan syarikat
United States of America Amerika Serikat Amerika Syarikat
snow salju salji
Again as I have pointed out several times already, owing to linguistic influences that one country has over the other (and in both directions), what is given as the Indonesian version above is also intelligible in Malaysia and vice versa.

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