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 58  Making comparisons   

The Comparative Case

The best way to learn how to compare things in Malay is through examples. Study the following sentences carefully and you will have no difficulty making comparisons:
Click to listen  

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

Anda lebih kaya daripada saya!
Anaknya lebih besar daripada anak saya.
Saya lebih suka main badminton daripada tenis.
Perkara ini lebih penting daripada perkara itu.
You are richer than me!
His child is bigger than mine.
I prefer playing badminton to tennis.
This matter is more important than that.

Note: In the last sentence above perkara (meaning "matter" or "subject") can be replaced by hal while penting (meaning "important") can be replaced by mustahak.
The sentence then becomes Hal ini lebih mustahak daripada perkara itu. Didn't I mention earlier that quite often there are two Malay words for one English word, each of which is used 50% of the time, which means you have no choice but to learn both! Yes, I know it makes vocabulary learning all the harder!

More examples:
Kereta saya lebih besar daripada keretanya. (My car is bigger than his.)
Dia lebih gemuk daripada saya. (He is fatter than me.)
Kasut ini lebih mahal daripada kasut itu. (These shoes are more expensive than those.)
Adiknya lebih pandai daripada dia. (His younger brother/sister is cleverer than he is.)
Bahasa Malaysia lebih senang daripada Bahasa Perancis. (Bahasa Malaysia is easier than French.)
Emak anda lebih muda daripada emak saya. (Your mother is younger than mine.)

Or if you prefer putting it the other way round (and still saying the same thing):
Bahasa Perancis lebih susah daripada Bahasa Malaysia. (French is more difficult than Bahasa Malaysia.)
Emak saya lebih tua daripada emak anda. (My mother is older than yours.)
Note: For the sake of consistency I have used daripada in all the above sentences though some people prefer to use dari. According to Asmah Haji Omar, a Malay expert, both daripada and dari can be used interchangeably in comparative sentences.

Note that the English verb "to be" is absent from all the above sentences though if you like you can use adalah in the place of the verb "to be" eg. Emak saya adalah lebih tua daripada emak anda.
You will also notice from the above examples that you only have to put lebih before the adjective to turn it into the comparative case. Thus:
close = dekat    closer = lebih dekat (literally "more close")
rich = kaya    richer = lebih kaya (literally "more rich")
big = besar    bigger = lebih besar (literally "more big")
good = baik    better = lebih baik (literally "more good")
strong = kuat    stronger = lebih kuat (literally "more strong")
difficult = susah    more difficult = lebih susah
And just as in English you use the word "than" ("fatter than", "stronger than", etc.) to denote whatever you are comparing with, so too in Malay the word daripada is used as can be seen from the sentences above.

The Superlative Case

The superlative case is just as simple. There are two ways of describing things in the superlative.
You either put the adjective BETWEEN yang and sekali eg.
    closest = yang dekat sekali
    richest = yang kaya sekali
    biggest = yang besar sekali
    best = yang baik sekali
    strongest = yang kuat sekali
    most difficult = yang susah sekali

    or you put the adjective AFTER yang paling eg.

    closest = yang paling dekat
    richest = yang paling kaya
    biggest = yang paling besar
    best = yang paling baik
    strongest = yang paling kuat
    most difficult = yang paling susah

You might find it confusing if you study both forms at the same time so I would suggest you study the form that you find easier to remember.
Come to think of it there is actually a third way of expressing the superlative i.e. by adding the prefix ter- to the adjective. Thus terbesar means "the biggest" and tertinggi means "the highest" as in the sentence Pada masa ini Burj Khalifa di Dubai adalah bangunan tertinggi di dunia. (= At this moment Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world.)
Note that while not necessary it is not wrong to use yang in such cases, so it is equally right to say:
Pada masa ini Burj Khalifa di Dubai adalah bangunan yang tertinggi di dunia.

Perempuan ini cantik.
(This woman is pretty.)

Perempuan ini cantik juga.
(This woman is also pretty.)

Both of them are pretty but which one is prettier? This is how you say it in Malay: Kedua-duanya cantik tetapi yang mana lebih cantik?
If you are able to answer that question (I can't!) then you could say: Yang di kiri (the one on the left) or Yang di kanan (the one on the right)
Or if you are not sure which word is "left" and which is "right" then just point to the one you think is prettier and say Yang ini. (this one).
Please make a note of the two meanings of the word senang which has already been mentioned in Lesson 47:
(1) Datanglah ke rumah saya bila senang. (Come to my house when you are free.)
(2) Kerja itu senang sahaja. Dia pun boleh buat. (That job is really simple. Even he can do it.)
By the way the little word pun has got quite a number of other uses and if you'd like to learn more about these I have put them together in one page, following an email inquiry from a student. Go here for Various uses of the Malay word pun.

I have received the following query from a student in Spain:
I just went through Lesson 58 (on comparisons) and I saw that you only make "positive" comparisons, that is, where one thing is "more" than the other.
Dia lebih kaya daripada saya = He's richer than me.
But what if I want to say "He is less rich than me"?
Does it also work if I just say: Dia kurang kaya daripada saya?

First of all, let me thank the student for pointing this out. Yes, you are right. For the "negative" cases you need only replace lebih (more) with kurang (less), its direct opposite, as in the following examples:
Dia kurang rajin daripada adiknya. (He is less hardworking than his younger sibling.)
Dia kurang tinggi daripada bapanya. (He is shorter than his father.)
Perkara ini kurang penting daripada perkara itu. (This matter is less important than that one.)
However in such cases, in Malay as in English, we prefer to use the expression "not as (+ adjective) as" which practically means the same thing.
In Malay we do this by using tidak se joined by the adjective eg.
Dia tidak serajin adiknya. (He is not as hardworking as his younger sibling.)
Kereta anda tidak sebesar kereta saya. (Your car is not as big as mine.)
Hal ini tidak sepenting hal itu. (This matter is not as important as that one.)
Dia tidak setinggi bapanya. (He is not as tall as his father.)
In all the above cases se is not the short form for satu (as in sebelas, seratus, seribu, sebuah, sekali) but is used in the place of the word sama (= same). So
Kereta anda tidak sebesar kereta saya.
is the same as:
Kereta anda tidak sama besar kereta saya.
Hal itu tidak sepenting hal ini.
is the same as:
Hal itu tidak sama penting hal ini.
Sorry, if the above explanations should make things even more complicating for you the foreign student, but this is really for the "model" students (and if you have come this far I bet you are one!)

My car is bigger than his. Mobil saya lebih besar daripada mobilnya. Kereta saya lebih besar daripada keretanya.
These shoes are more expensive than those. Sepatu ini lebih mahal daripada sepatu itu. Kasut ini lebih mahal daripada kasut itu.
Bahasa Malaysia is easier than French. Bahasa Malaysia lebih mudah daripada Bahasa Perancis. Bahasa Malaysia lebih senang daripada Bahasa Perancis.
Note that while senang is frequently used in Malaysia for "simple" or "easy", the word has a different meaning altogether in Indonesia. There it means "happy" or "contented". The Indonesians use mudah or gampang when they want to say that something is "easy" or "simple" (though mudah is equally used in Malaysia). But to say that something is "difficult", both countries use either susah, sukar or sulit. You have three words to choose from and anyone of them will be understood whether you are in Malaysia or Indonesia.

                          Table of Lessons