Malay Adjectives

Malay adjectives play a crucial role in the Malay language, as they describe the qualities of a person, place, or thing. Just like in any other language, adjectives help paint a vivid picture in the reader’s or listener’s mind of what is being discussed. Some common Malay adjectives include “besar” (big), “cantik” (pretty), “tinggi” (tall), “merah” (red), and “sabar” (patient) (LingApp).

As learners delve deeper into the Malay language, they will quickly discover that adjectives are an essential aspect of basic sentence construction. Using adjectives effectively enriches communication, aiding in the clear expression of thoughts and ideas. Malay adjectives can be used in various forms, such as descriptive adjectives that describe qualities, and quantitative adjectives that indicate a specific amount or number.

Mastering Malay adjectives is integral to becoming fluent in the language. Doing so will improve a learner’s ability to express themselves more effectively, enabling them to describe various aspects of their environment and experiences. By adding these colorful descriptors to their vocabulary, Malay language learners can bolster their communication skills and better understand the nuances of this rich, fascinating language.

Basic Malay Adjectives


Colors are fundamental adjectives that help describe the appearance of objects, people, and places. Here are some common color adjectives in Malay:

  • Merah – Red
  • Biru – Blue
  • Hijau – Green
  • Kuning – Yellow
  • Putih – White
  • Hitam – Black
  • Ungu – Purple
  • Emas – Gold
  • Perak – Silver


Size adjectives are used to convey the dimensions and proportions of objects or people. Some basic size adjectives in Malay include:


These basic Malay adjectives related to colors and sizes are essential building blocks for expressing more complex descriptions and ideas in the language.

Adjective Placement

In the Malay language, adjectives can be placed in different ways depending on the context. This section will discuss the two most common placements of Malay adjectives: before nouns and after nouns.

Before Nouns

Malay adjectives can be placed before the noun they describe. In this position, the adjective directly modifies the noun. Here are some examples (MyLanguages):

  • pohon hijau (a green tree)
  • gedung tinggi (a tall building)

After Nouns

In some instances, Malay adjectives can be placed after the noun they describe. When adjectives are placed after nouns, it is often necessary to use a linking word such as “yang” or “ber” to connect the adjective with the noun. Here are some examples (Learn101):

  • rumah saya warna putih (my house is white)
  • negara anda besar (your country is big)

Using adjectives after the noun allows the speaker to emphasize the adjective or create a more specific meaning. It is essential to understand the different ways adjectives can be placed in Malay to effectively describe and convey your thoughts.

Adjective Agreement

In this section, we will discuss the agreement of Malay adjectives in terms of genders and numbers.


Unlike many other languages, Malay adjectives do not change based on the gender of the noun they modify. This means that the adjectives remain consistent, regardless of whether the noun being described is masculine or feminine. For example, the adjective “cantik” (pretty) can be used to describe both a girl and a boy:

  • Perempuan cantik – Pretty girl
  • Lelaki cantik – Pretty boy


Similarly, Malay adjectives do not change according to the number (singular or plural) of the noun being described. Instead, Malay language expresses plurality by using numeral classifiers, also known as “kata ganda,” which are prefixed to the noun. However, the adjective itself remains unchanged. Let’s consider the adjective “besar” (big) in the following sentences:

Big houseRumah besar
Big housesRumah-rumah besar

As seen in the examples above, the adjective “besar” remains the same regardless of the singular or plural form of the noun “rumah” (house). It is important to note that the numeral classifier “rumah-rumah” is used to denote the plurality of the noun without altering the adjective.

Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

In Malay language, comparative and superlative adjectives play a significant role in expressing more complex relationships between items or people. This section will discuss the comparative and superlative forms in Malay and how they differ from other languages.

Comparative Forms

Comparative adjectives in Malay are derived from basic adjectives through the use of affixes. Unlike English, which typically adds “-er” to adjectives or uses the word “more,” Malay utilizes the affix ‘ter-‘ and ‘se-‘ to form comparative structures. For example:

  • English: taller – Malay: lebih tinggi (more high)
  • English: smaller – Malay: lebih kecil (more small)

The affix ‘ter-‘ is used to emphasize the comparison with the basic adjective, whereas ‘se-‘ is used as an intensifier to provide a more subtle comparison.

Superlative Forms

Superlative adjectives in Malay are also formed using the affixes ‘ter-‘ and ‘se-‘. However, when creating superlative forms, the affixes are used to intensify the meaning of the basic adjective, rather than providing a direct comparison as seen in comparative forms.

For example:

  • English: the tallest – Malay: yang paling tinggi (that [is] most high)
  • English: the smallest – Malay: yang paling kecil (that [is] most small)

It is important to note that Malay language generally does not have an equivalent for “the” when forming superlative adjectives. Instead, the presence of “yang” (that) serves the same purpose in differentiating the superlative form from the basic adjective.

In conclusion, Malay comparative and superlative adjective forms are distinct from their English counterparts in terms of their structure and the use of affixes ‘ter-‘ and ‘se-‘. Understanding these forms is crucial when comparing and describing items or people in Malay language.

Adjective Pronouns

In the Malay language, adjective pronouns are not only used to describe nouns but can also take the place of a pronoun to provide more information about the subject. This section will share some examples and provide a brief insight into how adjective pronouns function in Malay.

Adjective pronouns in Malay can be formed by adding prefixes or suffixes to certain words, such as verbs or nouns. For example, an adjective can be derived from a verb using the suffix -an, as in “cantik” (beautiful) which becomes “mencantikkan” (embellish) when the suffix is added (Lolyglotclub). Similarly, adding the suffix -nya to a noun creates an adjective pronoun, like “batik” (batik fabric) becoming “batiknya” (batik-patterned).

In addition to the examples of forming adjective pronouns with prefixes and suffixes, Malay adjectives also need to agree with the inherent gender of the noun they’re describing. Although Malay doesn’t have specific gendered pronouns, nouns may have inherent gender, and adjectives must align with that. For instance, when describing a male doctor, you would use “doktor lelaki” (lelaki means male), and for a female doctor, you’d use “doktor perempuan” (perempuan means female) (LingApp).

Here are some common adjective pronouns in Malay relating to weather conditions (Learn101):

  • Sejuk – cold
  • Panas – hot/warm
  • Mendung – cloudy
  • Hujan – rainy
  • Bersalji – snowy
  • Cerah – sunny
  • Berangin – windy

By using correct adjective pronouns and understanding their formation and agreement with nouns, you can express descriptions more accurately and effectively in Malay.

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