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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.PRS just PTCL.SIMT smart PTCL.SIMT 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 so as, followed by the adjective, and a second function word soos as.

Example 2

as dit so snaaks is soos dit klink
PTCL.SIMT it so funny be.PRS PTCL.SIMT 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 PTCL.SIMT little sick PTCL.SIMT 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 PTCL.SIMT clever PTCL.SIMT 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.AUX.MOD just PTCL.SIMT+well therewith stop PTCL.SIMT 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 PTCL.SIMT ugly PTCL.SIMT 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 regte real, 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.
PTCL.SIMT merry as he yesterday be.PRT PTCL.SIMT 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 asof as if can form a conjunctive clause, introducing a metaphor:

Example 9

Dit was asof alles in stadige aksie gebeur het.
it be.PRT 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 PTCL.SIMT 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.PRT just PTCL.SIMT 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 PTCL.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 soos as:

Example 13

Ek is bevrees dit is nie so eenvoudig nie.
I be.PRS afraid it is not so simple PTCL.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 PTCL.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 soos as, the intensified two-word combination net so just 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 PTCL.SIMT that.REL 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 so just 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.PRT it also PTCL.SIMT 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 PTCL.SIMT sorry for their loss PTCL.SIMT 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 PTCL.SIMT little sorry for their loss PTCL.SIMT 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 jammer sorry. 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 SIMT.PTCL heavily infected SIMT.PTCL 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 PTCL.SIMT beautiful kind and friendly PTCL.SIMT 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 PTCL.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 PTCL.SIMT for.COMP the favourite under your children PTCL.INF choose.INF
    It is just as difficult as choosing your favourite child.

    The complement could also be an independent clause, in which case the second component, as as, 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 PTCL.SIMT 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 PTCL.SIMT important that.COMP we to each.other must.AUX.MOD 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 soos as, 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 PTCL.SIMT dead PTCL.SIMT 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
    PTCL.SIMT clever PTCL.SIMT 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
    PTCL.SIMT high PTCL.SIMT 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 so as. The word group so ... soos as ... as can be replaced in the last example with the synonymous phrase net so ... as just 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.AUX.MOD 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 deksel every pot gets his lid every 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 regte real, often followed by ou old, 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 hoe how 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 21

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 wat as ... as, illustrated by example (32 above), or so ... soos, which is also translated in English as as ... as:

Example 22

So slim soos hy normaalweg is, so dom kan hy op die rugbyveld wees.
PTCL.SIMT clever PTCL.SIMT he normally be.PRS PTCL.SIMT dumb can.AUX.MOD he on the rugby.field be.INF
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 asof as 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 dit it:

Example 23

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 net just can be used before asof, as in this sentence:

Example 24

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 asof just as if can be replaced by the abbreviated form nes of just as if: This abbeviation is presented and glossed as ne=s just=PTCL.SIMT in the sentence examples to indicate the equative within the construction.

Example 25

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

It is also possible to replace net soos just like with the abbreviated form nes, as illustrated with the example below:

Example 26

a. Ma is net soos Pa.
Mom be.PRS just PTCL.SIMT Dad
Mom is just like Dad.
b. Ma is ne=s Pa.
Mom be.PRS just=PTCL.SIMT Dad
Mom is just like Dad.
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