‘Tua’ or ‘Lama’
The word old in English is one of the most used words when describing a thing or a person. Indonesian has two words that mean old: ‘tua’ and ‘lama’. Do you know the difference?
‘Tua’ is an adjective that means old and is usually used to describe nouns that have visible or obvious characteristics/attributes of being old. Because of such nature, ‘tua’ is more often used to describe nouns that are tangible. Some might also say that the word ‘tua’ is used to describe things or even persons that are decaying.
When a book is called ‘tua’, it means that the book simply looks old and worn out, or decayed if you like.
When a person is called ‘tua’, it usually means that they are aged and hold physical attributes that fits the word old.
‘Lama’ is an adjective that means old and an adverb that means long (time). It can be used to describe an object that might not necessarily have visible characteristics of being old but has been there for quite a long time. Because of such nature, ‘lama’ can be used to describe both tangible and intangible nouns.
The word ‘lama’ can also be more subjective than ‘tua’ in the sense that what’s old for you might not be old for the other person. Similarly, when used to refer to time, what’s long for you might not be long for the other person.
When a book is called ‘lama’, it doesn’t always mean that the book must look old. In fact, the book might look perfectly fine but it might have been published in, say, 1935. A good copy of The Hobbit that’s still available in 2015 can be referred to as ‘buku lama’.
When a person is called ‘lama’, it doesn’t always mean that the person must look old or age old, per se. This terminology is often used in politics or organisations when an ‘orang lama’ is referred to as people from previous era (i.e. era of leadership).
This example is the most distinctive example of the difference between ‘lama’ and ‘tua’. There is no such thing as ‘teman tua’ in Indonesian because that will infer that you have an aged friend (not a nice thing to say I reckon) whilst you actually want to say that you have known the person for long enough and for you he/she is an ‘old‘ friend.
Using ‘lama’ as adverb long (time) is actually easier than using it as old as you wouldn’t put this word together with any other object (since it’s always about time anyway).
These are some examples of how the word ‘lama’ can be used as long (time).
Wah, sudah lama sekali kita tidak bertemu!
Wow, we’ve not met each other for so long!
Aduh, kamu lama sekali. Tidak bisa lebih cepat?
Ouch, you take so long. Can’t (you) be quicker?
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