Saya pernah berjumpa dengan dia.
Dia pernah menjadi jiran saya.
Saya pernah melawat ke Paris.
Saya pernah menjadi wartawan.
I have met him before.
He was once my neighbour (at a certain time in the past).
I have already visited Paris (when exactly is of secondary importance).
I was once a journalist (but I am no longer one).
It is also used in questions eg. "Have you ever been to London?" is Anda pernah ke London?
For those who want to know more:
As the above statements indicate that something happened at a particular time in the past it is usually followed by questions of place and time as the following examples will show: Saya pernah berjumpa dia. Bila itu? (When was that?) Sudah 10 tahun. (10 years ago). Di mana? (Where?) Di rumah kawan saya. (At a friend's house).
Saya pernah melawat ke Paris. Bila itu? (When was that?) Pada tahun lalu. (Last year.) Dengan siapa? (With whom?) Seorang diri. (Alone).
What if you wish to say that you have never done something or never been to a place?
To be able to say this all you have to do is to add belum or tidak before pernah. Thus: Saya belum pernah ke Amerika Syarikat. (I have never been to the United States). Incidentally the word syarikat alone means a "company" (a business company). Dia belum pernah melihat salji. (He has never seen snow). Saya tidak pernah buat kerja ini. (I have never done this type of work before).
Note that tidak pernah is often contracted to tak pernah in its spoken form. Use these two words also when you answer a question with the word "Never".
I didn't realize it could be confusing for a learner to choose between sudah and pernah until I received this email from Jean Kagi (reproduced with permission):
Dear Mr P. Goh,
I'm enjoying studying the Malaysian Language with your online course,
but I have just one problem. I can't understand or "feel" the subtle
difference between the use of sudah and pernah. I think I have it
worked out but then I read a new sentence and I'm confused again! Even
trying through French and German, I can't work it out. I don't like to
bother you, but I would appreciate it if you could tell me either that
it really is difficult or if there is some obvious explanation that I
just can't find.
As the problem could be shared by others I've decided to publish my reply here:
Thanks for your email and sorry that I can only get back to you now.
Ok let's put it this way. Both sudah and pernah indicate that you have done
If it is something that you do often eg. eat, bathe, sleep, telephone a
friend, send a letter, etc then use sudah. In such cases you just cannot
But if it is something that perhaps you do only once in your lifetime eg. go
to a far distant country, meet the president of your country, talk to
someone ten years ago though he doesn't remember it, went dancing with
your film idol (how lucky can you get!), studied a foreign language and then gave
it up, been up in a spaceship, been neighbours with someone (but not
anymore), been a teacher once (but not anymore), etc then use pernah. I
hope you get the drift.
Also when you use pernah it is not for something that happened yesterday but
it is for something that took place in some distant past. If you are thinking in English try to think on the lines of "I have done (whatever action) BEFORE" to justify using pernah.
However if it is still confusing I would suggest you forget about pernah and just
use sudah under all circumstances. You cannot go wrong there. And if you
hear someone use pernah you know you can substitute it with sudah. Don't
crack your head over this. It's not such a big issue after all to use one
or the other correctly - especially for a foreign learner.