Ever vs. Pernah (English ver.)

Ever vs. PernahIf you are learning foreign languages, have you ever encountered words that are difficult to translate in your native language? And if you are a student of Bahasa Indonesia, the word “pernah” might be one of them.

Some people put their faith in dictionaries and use “ever” as the counterpart of “pernah.” Of course this is not a problem when you are constructing interrogative questions such as one that I asked in the beginning of this article. The same goes with negative sentences, like “I have never eaten that” that is translated as “saya tidak pernah makan itu.”

Problem arises when you realize that Indonesians use “pernah” quite often in affirmative sentences (neither a question nor a negative question). Take, for example, “dia pernah bertemu Angelina Jolie.” You wouldn’t say “He ever met/have ever met Angelina Jolie” in your normal sentences, right? Well, Indonesians do.

As with other concept words, learners should realize that some Indonesian words don’t translate quite well in English. “Pernah” is not different from those words. So what is the meaning of “pernah” then?

Simply put, “pernah”, as the word “ever”, is only used when you tell other people that from sometime in the past until now, you have experienced a certain thing (meeting Angelina, as in the previous example) at least once in your life.


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