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The equative involves a comparison between two arguments which have received identical thematic roles from identical adjectives, and which have the same degree. An example is given below:

Example 1

Gert is net so slim soos jy.
Gert be just as smart as you
Gert is just as smart as you are.

In the Read more section, various aspects of equation are covered, including formation, degrees involved, aspects of the equative complement (such as types of complements), correlative constructions, and the expression of a metaphor.


The equative is always periphrastic, consisting of a construction introduced by the function word soas, followed by the adjective, and a second function word soosas.

Example 2

as dit so snaaks is soos dit klink
if it so funny be.PRS as it sounds
if it is as funny as it sounds

Lower degree equative

A negated form of the equative can be interpreted as a lower degree equative. It consists of a function word with an equative negative interpretation, followed by the adjective.

Example 3

Hy is net so min siek as die man in die maan.
he be.PRS just as little sick as the man in the moon
He is just as unlikely to be sick as the man in the moon.

The equative complement as argument, proposition, and simile or metaphor

Three types of complement with respect to the adjective can be distinguished. Firstly, it can be an argument, normally a noun, as in this example:

Example 4

Jy is net so slim soos hy.
you be.PRS just as clever as he
You are just as clever as he.

Secondly, it can be a proposition, in the form of a clause or infinitive construction:

Example 5

Jy kan net sowel daarmee ophou as daarmee voortgaan.
you can just as well therewith stop as therewith continue
You may just as well stop it as continuing with it.

Thirdly, the equative complement can be a simile, causing a high degree reading on the adjective:

Example 6

Hy is so lelik soos die nag.
he be.PRS as ugly as the night
He is as ugly as sin.

While a simile is an explicit form of comparison, introducing a figurative element, as in the previous example, a metaphorical equative acts in an associative way, and typically involves a noun with which particular qualities (implying descriptive adjectives) are implied. Such a metaphor is usually introduced by the adjective regtereal, as in this example:

Example 7

Hy is 'n regte werkesel.
he be.PRS a real work.ass
He is a real drudger.

Correlative construction

The equative may take the form of a correlative construction, as in:

Example 8

So vrolik as was hy gister was, so swaarmoedig is hy vandag.
as merry as he yesterday be.PST so melancholic be.PRS he today
As cheerful as he was was yesterday, so dejected is he today.

Metaphor with 'as if'

The comparative of the equative function word asofas if can form a conjunctive clause, introducing a metaphor:

Example 9

Dit was asof alles in stadige aksie gebeur het.
it be.PST as.if everything in slow action happened have.AUX
It was as if everything happened in slow motion.

Introduction: The equative

In essence, the equative can be identified as having the function of a comparison between two arguments with identical adjectives. The arguments are combined by means of the conjunctive expression (net) so ... soos(just) as ... as. Since the adjective is typically assumed in the second argument, it is can be regarded as an elliptic construction, as in this example:

Example 10

Die een is net so erg soos die ander (een erg is).
the one be.PRS just as bad as the other (one bad be.PRS)
The one is just as bad as the other (one is bad).

In addition to the predicative (and positive) use of the adjective, as in

Example 11

Sy argument was net so bedenklik soos joune.
his argument be.PST just as dubious as yours
His argument was just as dubious as yours.

the argument can also be negated:

Example 12

Blouluise is nie so aktief soos rooiluise nie.
blue.lice be.PRS not as active as red.lice NEG
Blue lice are not as active as red lice.

The comparative component of the second argument may furthermore fall away, and hence the use of soosas:

Example 13

Ek is bevrees dit is nie so eenvoudig nie.
I be.PRS afraid it is not so simple NEG
I am afraid it is not as simple.

Equative adjectives also occur in the attributive position, with the adjective determining a following noun, either as positive or negative arguments:

Example 14

Hierdie mense is net sulke mense soos ek en jy.
these people be.PRS just such people like I and you
These people are people just like you and me.
Example 15

nie net korrupte leiers nie, maar ook onderdane
not only corrupt leaders NEG, but also subjects
not only corrupt leaders, but also subjects

As in the case of predicative use, the comparative/equative component may fall away.

Example 16

Dié voëls is net sulke geesdriftige insektevangers.
these birds be.PRS just such enthusiastic insect.catchers
These birds are equally enthusiastic insect catchers.


Instead of soosas, the intensified two-word combination net sojust as, may also be used.

Example 17

'n Ronde gesig is omtrent net so breed as wat dit lank is.
a round face be.PRS about just as broad as what it long be.PRS
A round face is just about as broad as it is long.

A special equative construction is built around the two words ook sojust as, at least as:

Example 18

Verlede week het die kraaie gegaap, en die week vantevore was dit ook so warm.
last week have.AUX the crows yawned, and the week before be.PST it also as hot
Last week it was scorching, and the week before it had been just as hot.

Lower degree equative

At first sight, a lower degree equative seems impossible, since it involves two elements which have the same degree. However, it is possible in the negated form of the equative, in which the two elements compared both fail to come up to the positive degree of the adjective. This is illustrated by the following pair:

Example 19

Frik is net so jammer vir hulle verlies as Griet.
Frik be.PRS just as sorry for their loss as Griet
Frik feels just as little pity for their loss as Griet.
Example 20

Frik is net so min jammer vir hulle verlies as Griet.
Frik be.PRS just as little sorry for their loss as Griet
Frik feels just as little pity for their loss as Griet.

In the last example above, both arguments have the same low degree with respect to the adjective jammersorry. The word group net so min, sometimes also written as one word, can also be glossed as equally little.

The equative complement as argument, proposition, and simile or metaphor
  • The equative element is an argument

Depending on the valency of the verb involved in the predicate, or the complexity of the prenominal determiner, the equative element may consist of one or more arguments. In addition, the equative element may also be a clause or a metaphor. Some different examples of the first category are:

Example 21

Biltong is net so swaar besmet soos rooi vleis.
jerked.meat be.PRS just as heavily infected as red meat
Biltong is just as heavily contaminated as red meat.
Example 22

Sy is net so mooi, gaaf en vriendelik soos haar stem.
she be.PRS just as beautiful kind and friendly as her voice
She is just as beautiful, kind and friendly as her voice.
Example 23

nie net belangrike historiese gebeurtenisse nie, maar ook alledaagses
not just important historical events NEG, but also everyday.ones
not only important historical events, but also everyday ones
  • The equative element is a proposition in the form of a clause

As in the case of arguments as complements of verbs or nouns, adjectival equative elements as propositions may take the form of more than one type of structure, varying in complexity. For example, the adjective may combine with an inifinitive clause, as in:

Example 24

Dis net so moeilik as om die gunsteling onder jou kinders te kies.
it.be.PRS just as difficult as PTCL·INF the favourite under your children to choose
It is just as difficult as choosing your favourite child.

The complement could also be an independent clause, in which case the second component, asas, falls away because of the elliptic nature of the construction:

Example 25

Dis net so goed 'n gids op Robbeneiland vra 'n groep Nederlandse toeriste: "Why did you come to Robben Island?"
it.be.PRS just as well a guide on Robben Island ask a group Dutch tourists: "Why did you come to Robben Island?"
A guide on Robben Island might just as well ask a group of Dutch tourists: "Why did you come to Robben Island?"

In addition, a dependent clause may be used:

Example 26

Dis net so belangrik dat ons na mekaar moet luister.
it.be.PRS is just as important that we to each.other must listen
It is just as important that we must listen to each other.
  • The equative complement is a simile or metaphor

The equative construction may have a complement which causes a high degree reading of the adjective by means of either a simile or a metaphor. While similes tend to be conventional and idiomatic in each language, and contain the equative element soosas, metaphors are often created on the spur of the moment, and do not contain the equative element. Examples of conventional similes:

Example 27

Hy is so dood soos 'n mossie.
he be.PRS as dead as a sparrow
He is as dead as a doornail.

In such cases, the known basis of the equation has been lost, so that the comparison simply serves as an indication of a high degree reading, as also in:

Example 28

so slim soos die houtjie van die galg
as clever as the little.piece.of.wood of the gallows
as sharp as a razor

A mere factual equation is based on a known basis of comparison:

Example 29

so hoog soos Johannesburg bo seespieël
as high as Johannesburg above sea.level
as high as Johannesburg above sea level

As can be seen from the examples above, the equative complement is introduced by the same word as the comparative complement discussed earlier, namely soas. The word group so ... soosas ... as can be replaced in the last example with the synonymous phrase net so ... asjust as ... as, but not in the first two, where the equative complement is a fixed simile.

In creative texts, metaphors are often created anew, as in the examples below:

Example 30

Sy is my brug na die onbekende.
she be.PRS my bridge to the unknown
She is my bridge to the unknown.
Example 31

Sy is my deksel – saam kan ons 'n pot aan die stoom sit.
she be.PRS my lid – together can we a pot to the boil put
She is my lid – together we can set the pot boiling.

In actual fact, this expression is based on the conventional saying elke pot kry sy dekselevery pot gets his lidevery Jack gets his Jill, and the metaphor depends on the reader's knowledge of the saying.

Many metaphors may obtain a fixed secondary meaning as a result of continued usage, or eventually even reflect the primary meaning, as in this example:

Example 32

Hierdie produk is ons vlagskip.
this product be.PRS our flag.ship
This product is our flag ship.

In a non-navy context, the primary denotation has been replaced by the metaphorical meaning of 'pride', or 'pièce de résistance'. In informal usage, metaphors which have a predominantly figurative meaning, can be recognised by the use of the descriptive attributive adjective regtereal, often followed by ouold, for emotive reinforcement, as in this example:

Example 33

Hy is 'n regte (ou) huishaan.
he be.PRS a real (old) house.rooster
He is a real home bird.

Correlative construction

The correlative equative is structurally similar to the comparative correlative, which is introduced by hoehow at the start of each of two clauses. It should be noted in the following example of the comparative correlative that the English equivalent in translation is the instead of how, and that in Afrikaans, unlike in Dutch, inversion is required at the end of the second clause:

Example 34

Hoe meer sy oefen, hoe beter speel sy.
how more she practises, how better plays she
The more she practises, the better she plays.

The same syntactic rule also applies to the correlative equative, in which the first conjunct can either be introduced by so ... as watas ... as, illustrated by example (32 above), or so ... soos, which is also translated in English as as ... as:

Example 35

So slim soos hy normaalweg is, so dom kan hy op die rugbyveld wees.
as clever as he normally be.PRS as dumb can he on the rugby.field be
As clever he normally is, as dumb he can be on the rugby field.

Metaphor with 'as if'

The basic meaning of the equative is that it denotes sameness of degree. The function word signalling an equative in this construction is asofas if. The conjunct introduced by asof takes the form of a metaphor that is predicated of the subject of the first conjunct, which in the following example is ditit:

Example 36

Dit was asof die grond getreur het.
it was as.if the earth grieved have.AUX
It was as if the earth mourned.

By way of emphasis, the adverb netjust can be used before asof, as in this sentence:

Example 37

Dis net asof die note in my kop kom lê terwyl ek die musiek hoor.
it.be.PRS just as.if the notes in my head come lie while I the music hear
It is just as if the notes settle in my head as I hear the music.

In a slightly less formal style, net asofjust as if can be replaced by the abbreviated form nes ofjust as if:

Example 38

Dis nes of Mamma nie luister nie.
it.be.PRS just as.if Mom not listen PTCL.NEG
It is just as if Mom does not listen.
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