Students of Malay often gets confused as to the correct usage of 'apa' and 'apa-apa'.
To be able to use them correctly, one has to know its part of speech. 'Apa' or 'what' in English is a 'kata tanya' (question word) and should only be used when one asks the name of something or an animal. For example, you can write two sentences such as the ones given below.
1 Apakah yang kaupegang itu? [What are you holding?]
2 Apakah nama binatang ini? [What is the name of this animal.]
As for 'apa-apa' or 'whatever' in English, it is a pronoun in the group 'kata ganti nama tak tentu' or 'a pronoun denoting something uncertain in nature'. Perhaps the following sentences will bring out its meaning.
1 Saya tidak memahami apa-apa yang dikatakannya. [I did not understand whatever he had uttered.]
2 Tiada apa-apa di dalam kotak ini. [There is nothing whatsoever in this box.]
3 Ambillah apa-apa yang kausukai. [Take whatever you like.]
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