Telling the Time in Malay

In this post, you will learn how to read or tell the time in Malay. Some examples are included on how a conversation about time would follow.

Last time we have talked about numbers in Malay. Now we will talk about how you can use the numbers and also some other words to tell the time and date.

Terms for time reading

TermMalay EquivalentPronunciation
Secondsaatsa-at
Minuteminitmi-nit
Hourjamjam
O’clockpukulpu-kol
Halfsetengahse-te-ngah
Quartersukusu-ku

If you haven’t come across the post about numbers, you can read about it here. Now, we will use the numbers from before together with the terms above to tell the time. Basically, you start with the hours, followed by the minutes reading.

TimeReading
8:00Lapan
9:15Sembilan suku
10:30Sepuluh setengah
11:45Sebelas empat puluh lima minit
12:50Dua belas lima puluh minit

Tips: When your conversation already lead to the context of time, you could drop the term “minit” and read just the numbers (just like you would in English). Dropping the term “pukul” is also normal.

Time of the day

Below is the list for the time of the day. This would help to tell the time more concisely.

Time of the dayMalay EquivalentPronunciationTime Period
Morningpagipa-gi1 am – 11.59 am
Afternoontengah harite-ngah ha-ri12 pm – 1.59 pm
Eveningpetangpe-tang2 pm – 6.59 pm
Nightmalamma-lam7 pm – 11.59 pm
Midnighttengah malamte-ngah ma-lam12 am – 12.59 am

The way to use the terms above is by starting with the time reading, and then followed by the time of the day.

For example:

8:50 o’clock in the morning / Pukul lapan lima puluh pagi.

Again, you can drop the term “pukul” if you want to, since including the term “pagi” already implies that you are talking about the time.

In conversations

Now we will see how the terms above could be used in conversations.

a. What time is it?

A: What time is it now? / Sekarang dah pukul berapa?
B: It’s 2 o’clock in the morning. / Dah pukul 10 pagi.

“Sekarang” means now. “Dah” originally comes from the word “sudah” which means “already”. “Berapa” is a question phrase for quantity.

The phrase “what time is it?” can simply be rephrased as “pukul berapa?”. And the response could be as simple as “10 pagi”. Similarly in English, you can drop the word “pukul” and go straight away to the time reading.

b. Few minutes to go

A: Is it 2 yet? / Dah pukul 2 ke?
B: It is 10 minutes to 2. / Lagi 10 minit nak pukul 2.

“Ke” could mean two things, but in this sentence, it is a question phrase which asks for a confirmation of a statement. The statement in this example being “Dah pukul 2” or “It is 2 o’clock”. Adding “ke” which could be derived from “kah” turns the statement into a question. You can drop the question phrase “ke”, but the sentence needs to be read with a raised intonation at the end.

You could answer the question with “belum lagi” which means “not yet”. But in this case, let’s be more specific and it is 10 more minutes to 2 o’clock. Following the example above, “lagi” means “more”, and “nak” is a shortened reading of “hendak” which means “want (to)”. Therefore, you can say “lagi 10 minit nak pukul 2”.

c. Time of an event

A: When does the event start? / Bila acara tu bermula?
B: 8 o’clock at night. / Pukul 8 malam.

“Bila” is a question phrase to ask about time. “The event” refers to a specific event, and in Malay, the equivalent phrase is “acara itu”. The word “itu” usually shortens into “tu” in colloquial language. Finally, “start” translates to “bermula”. All together, the question phrase reads as “bila acara tu bermula?”.

The simple response would be “pukul 8 malam”. Of course, you could also respond by saying the time approximate “sekejap lagi” which means “just a few more minutes”. We will learn about this in some other post.

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