Guide on How to Say in Malay: Formal and Informal Ways

Malay, also known as Bahasa Malaysia, is the official language of Malaysia and one of the most spoken languages in Southeast Asia. Whether you’re a traveler, an expat, or simply interested in learning a new language, knowing how to say common phrases in Malay can prove to be highly useful. This guide will provide you with formal and informal ways to express yourself in Malay, along with some regional variations when necessary. Let’s get started!

Formal Expressions

When you want to communicate in a formal manner in Malay, it is important to use the appropriate vocabulary and phrases. Here are some commonly used phrases:

Saying Hello:

  • Selamat pagi – Good morning
  • Selamat tengah hari – Good afternoon
  • Selamat petang – Good evening
  • Selamat malam – Good night

These greetings are suitable for any formal setting, whether you’re meeting someone for the first time or attending a business meeting.

Asking for Help:

  • Tolong saya – Please help me
  • Mohon bantu saya – I kindly request your assistance

Using polite language and requesting help with these phrases will help you navigate different situations smoothly.

Expressing Gratitude:

  • Terima kasih – Thank you
  • Terima kasih banyak – Thank you very much
  • Saya menghargai bantuan anda – I appreciate your help

Showing gratitude is an essential part of maintaining formal interactions, and these phrases will help you express your appreciation.

Informal Expressions

Informal conversations in Malay tend to be more relaxed and casual. Here are some expressions that you can use in informal settings:

Saying Hello:

  • Hi! – Hi!
  • Apa khabar? – How are you?
  • Hai! Apa cerita? – Hey! What’s up?

Using these informal greetings will help you connect with Malaysians on a more personal level.

Asking for Help:

  • Tolong – Help!
  • Aku perlukan bantuan – I need help
  • Sila tolong aku – Please help me

When seeking assistance informally, these expressions will come in handy.

Expressing Gratitude:

  • Terima kasih ya – Thanks
  • Terima kasih banyak-banyak – Thanks a lot
  • Aku sangat menghargainya – I really appreciate it

Showing appreciation informally is all about keeping it simple and friendly, so these phrases will do the trick.

Regional Variations (when necessary)

Malay is spoken in various regions across Southeast Asia, and while the language remains largely the same, there can be some minor variations in vocabulary or pronunciation. Here are some examples:


  • Restoran – Restaurant (instead of “kedai makan” used in some regions)
  • Pangsapuri – Apartment (instead of “kondominium” used in some regions)

These variations are not significant and are generally understood throughout the Malay-speaking regions.

Tips for Learning Malay

Learning a new language can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding. Here are some tips to enhance your learning experience:

  1. Immerse Yourself: Surround yourself with Malay language materials such as books, movies, and music to practice regularly.
  2. Find a Language Buddy: Connect with native speakers or fellow learners to practice speaking Malay and get valuable feedback.
  3. Practice Pronunciation: Pay attention to the pronunciation of words and practice speaking them aloud to improve fluency.
  4. Use Mobile Apps: Utilize language-learning apps that offer Malay lessons and interactive exercises to supplement your learning.
  5. Visit Malaysia: If possible, immerse yourself directly in the local culture and interact with Malaysians to enhance your language acquisition.
  6. Be Patient and Consistent: Learning a new language takes time and effort, so be patient with yourself and practice consistently.

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the Malay language!

Now that you have a better understanding of how to say common phrases in Malay, you can confidently engage in conversations, whether formal or informal. Remember to adapt your language based on the context, and don’t be afraid to practice and make mistakes. Malaysians will appreciate your effort to communicate in their language, and it will surely enhance your overall experience in Malaysia and other Malay-speaking regions. Selamat belajar (Happy learning)!

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Written by Hayley Aimee

Hey there, I'm Hayley — your go-to guide for the Malay language! When I'm not writing comprehensive tips on phrases and words in Malay, I enjoy reading classic novels and strolling with my friendly golden retriever. Having lived in Malaysia for over a decade, I've grown fond of their vibrant culture and delicious food, "Makan"! Through my posts, I aim to bridge the language gap, making Malay as simple as saying "Hello". So whether you're planning to travel or just intrigued by the language, I'm here to help. Terima Kasih! ("Thank you" in Malay.)

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