Hindi-Urdu distinguishes two genders, two numbers, and three cases of direct, oblique, and vocative. Nouns may be further divided into declensional subtypes, type-I and type-II, with the basic difference being that the former has characteristic terminations in the direct singular while the latter does not. An alternative assessment of this division would be that of respectively "marked and unmarked" nouns.
The below table displays the suffix paradigms. A hyphen symbol (for the marked) denotes change amongst terminations, whereas a plus sign (for the unmarked) denotes termination addition.
|| Voc. |
|| -o |
|| +o |
||-ī, -i, -iyā
|| -iyo |
|| +o |
The next table of noun declensions, mostly adapted from , shows the above suffix paradigms in action. Words: laṛkā "boy", kuā̃ "well", seb "apple", pitā "father", cākū "penknife", ādmī "man" , mitra "friend", laṛkī "girl", śakti "power", ciṛiyā "bird", kitāb "book", aurat "woman", bhāṣā "language".
|| Voc. |
- Also the voc. sg.
- A small number of marked masculines display nasalization of all terminations.
- Perso-Arabic loans ending in final unpronounced h are handled as masculine marked nouns. Hence bacca(h) → baccā. The former is the Urdu spelling, the latter the Hindi.
- Unmarked nouns ending in ū and ī generally shorten this to u and i before the oblique (and vocative) plural termination(s), with the latter also inserting the semivowel y.
- Some masculines ending in ā don't change in the direct plural and fall in the unmarked category. i.e. pitā "father", cācā "uncle", rājā "king".
- Many feminine Sanskrit loanwords end in ā. i.e. bhāṣā "language", āśā "hope", icchā "intention".
- Some Perso-Arabic loans may use their original dual and plural markings. i.e. vālid "father" → vālidain "parents".
Adjectives may be divided into declinable and indeclinable categories. Declinables are marked, through termination, for the gender, number, case of the nouns they qualify. The set of declinable adjective terminations is similar but greatly simplified in comparison to that of noun terminations —
|| Dir. sg.
|| All else |
|| -e |
Indeclinable adjectives are completely invariable, and can end in either consonants or vowels (including ā and ī ). A number of declinables display nasalization of all terminations. Dir. masc. sg. (-ā) is the citation form.
- Examples of declinable adjectives: baṛā "big", choṭā "small", moṭā "fat", acchā "good", burā "bad", kālā "black", ṭhaṇḍā "cold".
- Examples of indeclinable adjectives: xarāb "bad", sāf "clean", bhārī "heavy", murdā "dead", sundar "beautiful", pāgal "crazy", lāl "red".
Declinable adjective baṛā "big" in attributive use
|| Voc. |
Indeclinable adjective xarāb "bad" in attributive use
|| Voc. |
All adjectives can be used either attributively, predicatively, or substantively. Substantively they are of course declined as nouns rather than adjectives.
sā (~ se ~ sī) is a suffix for adjectives, modifying or lightening their meaning; giving them an "-ish" or "quite" sense. e.g. nīlā "blue" → nīlā-sā "bluish". Its emphasis is rather ambiguous, sometimes enhancing, sometimes toning down, the sense of the adjective.
Comparatives and Superlatives
Comparisons are made by using "than" (the postposition se; see below), "more" (aur, zyādā), and "less" (kam). The word for "more" is optional, while "less" is required, denoting that in the absence of either it's "more" than will be inferred.
|| Meaning |
|Gītā Gautam se lambī hai
|| Gita is tall than Gautam
||Gita is taller than Gautam
|Gītā Gautam se aur lambī hai
|| Gita is more tall than Gautam |
|Gītā Gautam se kam lambī hai
||Gita is less tall than Gautam
In the absence of an object of comparison ("more" of course is now no longer optional):
|| Meaning |
|zyādā baṛā chokrā
|| The more big lad
|| The bigger lad |
|chokrā zyādā baṛā hai
|| The lad is more big
|| The lad is bigger |
Superlatives are made through comparisons with "all" (sab).
|| Meaning |
|sabse sāf kamrā
|| The clean than all room
|| The cleanest room |
|kamrā sabse sāf hai
|| The room is clean than all
|| The room is the cleanest |
In Sanskritized and Persianized registers of Hindi-Urdu, comparative and superlative adjectival forms using suffixes derived from those languages can be found.
|| Persian |
|| -tarīn |
The aforementioned inflectional case system only goes so far on its own, and rather serves as that upon which is built a system of agglutinative suffixes or particles known as postpositions, which parallel English's prepositions. It is their use with a noun or verb that is what necessitates the noun or verb taking the oblique case (though the bare oblique is also minorly used adverbially), and it is with them that the locus of grammatical function or "case-marking" then lies. There are six such one-word primary postpositions:
- kā – genitive marker; variably declinable in the manner of an adjective. X kā/ke/kī Y has the sense "X's Y", with kā/ke/kī agreeing with Y.
- ko – marks the indirect object (hence named "dative marker"), or, if definite, the direct object.
- ne – ergative marker; applied to subjects of transitive perfective verbs.
- se – ablative marker; has a very wide range of uses and meanings:
- "from"; dillī se "from Delhi".
- "from, of"; "to fear of you".
- "since"; itvār se "since Sunday".
- "by, with"; instrumental marker.
- "by, with, -ly"; adverbial marker.
- "than"; for comparatives.
- a minority of verbs use se rather than ko to mark their patients.
- mẽ – "in".
- par – "on".
- tak – "until, up to".
Beyond this are a slew of compound postpositions, composed of the genitive primary postposition kā (itself obliqued: ke, kī) plus an adverb.
- kī taraf "towards", ke andar "inside", ke āge "in front of, ahead of", ke ūpar "on top of, above", ke nīce "beneath, below", ke pīche "behind", ke bād "after", ke bāre mẽ "about", ke bāhar "outside", ke liye "for", ke sāmne "facing, opposite", etc.
Hindi-Urdu has personal pronouns for the first and second persons, while for the third person demonstratives are used, which can be categorized deictically as proximate and non-proximate. Pronouns distinguish cases of direct, oblique, and dative. The lattermost, often called a set of "contracted" forms, is in free variation with the oblique case plus dative postposition. Pronouns do not distinguish gender.
Also displayed in the below table are the genitive pronominal forms to show that the 1st and 2nd pronouns have their own distinctive forms of merā, hamārā, terā, tumhārā apart from the regular formula of OBL. + kā; as well as the ergative pronominal forms to show that the postposition ne does not straightforwardly suffix the oblique bases: rather than *mujh ne and *tujh ne, direct bases are used giving mai ne and tū ne, and rather than in ne and un ne, it's inhõ ne and unhõ ne.
tū, tum, and āp are the three second person pronouns ("you"), constituting a three-fold scale of sociolinguistic formality: respectively "intimate", "familiar", and "polite". The "intimate" is grammatically singular while the "familiar" and "polite" are grammatically plural. When being referred to in the third person however, only those of the "polite" level of formality are grammatically plural. The following table is adapted from .
|| kin |
|| āp ko
|| kinhẽ |
|| in kā
|| us kā
|| un kā
|| jin kā
|| kis kā
|| kin kā |
|| ham ne
|| tū ne
|| tum ne
|| āp ne
|| is ne
|| inhõ ne
|| unhõ ne
|| jis ne
|| jinhõ ne
|| kis ne
|| kinhõ ne |
- Postpositions are treated as bound morphemes after pronouns in Hindi, but as separate words in Urdu. Followed here is the example of Urdu, for easier reference.
- The varying forms for the 3rd pn. dir. constitute one of the small number of grammatical differences between Hindi and Urdu. yah "this" / ye "these" / vah "that" / ve "those" is the literary set for Hindi while ye "this, these" / vo "that, those" is the set for Urdu and spoken (and also often written) Hindi.
- The above section on postpositions noted that ko (the dative case) marks direct objects if definite. As "the most specific thing of all is an individual", persons (or their pronouns) nearly always take the dative case or postposition.
- Some speakers prefer plural ham over singular mãĩ. This is not quite the same as the "royal we"; it is rather colloquial.
- koī and kuch are indefinite pronouns/quantifiers. As pronouns koī is used for animates ("someone") and kuch for inanimates ("something"). As quantifiers/adjectives koī is used for singular count nouns and kuch for mass nouns and plural count nouns. koī takes the form kisī in the oblique. The form kaī "several" is partially a plural equivalent to koī. kuch can also act as an adverb, qualifying an adjective, meaning "rather". koī preceding a number takes the meaning of "about, approximately". In this usage it does not oblique to kisī.
- apnā is a (genitive) reflexive pronoun: "my/your/etc. (own)". Using non-reflexive and reflexive together gives emphasis; e.g. merā apnā "my (very) own". xud, āp, and svayam are some (direct; non-genitive) others: "my/your/etc.-self". Bases for oblique usage are usually apne or apne āp. The latter alone can also mean "of one's own accord"; āpas mẽ means "among/between themselves".
|| Non-prox. |
|| vaisā |
|| vaise |
Hindi-Urdu has few underived forms. Adverbs may be derived in ways such as the following —
- Simply obliquing some nouns and adjectives: nīcā "low" → nīce "down", sīdhā "straight" → sīdhe "straight", dhīrā "slow" → dhīre "slowly", saverā "morning" → savere "in the morning", ye taraf "this direction" → is taraf "in this direction", kalkattā "Calcutta" → kalkatte "to Calcutta".
- Nouns using a postposition such as se "by, with, -ly": zor "force" → zor se "forcefully" (lit. "with force"), dhyān "attention" → dhyān se "attentively" (lit. "with attention").
- Adjectives using postpositional phrases involving "way, manner": acchā "good" → acchī tarah se "well" (lit. "by/in a good way"), xās "special" → xās taur par "especially" (lit. "on a special way").
- Verbs in conjunctive form: hãs- "laugh" → hãs kar "laughingly" (lit. "having laughed"), mehrbānī kar- "do kindness" → mehrbānī kar ke "kindly, please" (lit. "having done kindness").
- Formative suffixes from Sanskrit or Perso-Arabic in higher registers of Hindi or Urdu. Skt. sambhava "possible" + → "possibly; Ar. ittifāq "chance" + -an → ittifāqan "by chance".
The Hindi-Urdu verbal system is largely structured around a combination of aspect and tense/mood. Like the nominal system, the Hindi-Urdu verb involves successive layers of (inflectional) elements to the right of the lexical base.
Hindi-Urdu has 3 aspects: perfective, habitual, and continuous, each having overt morphological correlates. These are participle forms, inflecting for gender and number by way of a vowel termination, like adjectives. The perfective, though displaying a "number of irregularities and morphophonemic adjustments", is the simplest, being just the verb stem followed by the agreement vowel. The habitual forms from the imperfective participle; verb stem, plus -t-, then vowel. The continuous forms periphrastically through compounding (see below) with the perfective of rahnā "to stay".
Derived from honā "to be" are five copula forms: present, past, subjunctive, presumptive, contrafactual (aka "past conditional"). Used both in basic predicative/existential sentences and as verbal auxiliaries to aspectual forms, these constitute the basis of tense and mood.
Non-aspectual forms include the infinitive, the imperative, and the conjunctive. Mentioned morphological conditions such the subjunctive, "presumptive", etc. are applicable to both copula roots for auxiliary usage with aspectual forms and to non-copula roots directly for often unspecified (non-aspectual) finite forms.
Finite verbal agreement is with the nominative subject, except in the transitive perfective, where it is with the direct object, with the erstwhile subject taking the ergative construction -ne (see postpositions above). The perfective aspect thus displays split ergativity.
Tabled below on the left are the paradigms for adjectival concord (A), here only slightly different from that introduced previously: the f. pl. can nasalize under certain conditions. To the right are the paradigms for personal concord (P), used by the subjunctive.
|| Pl. |
|| -e |
|| -ī(̃) ||
|| 3rd. |
|| -ẽ |
The sample verb is intransitive dauṛnā "to run", and the sample inflection is 3rd. masc. sg. (P = e, A = ā) where applicable.
|Obl. Infinitive|| *-n-e
|| dauṛne |
|Conjunctive|| * kar
| *-n-e vāl-A
|Perfective|| *-A (hu-A)
|Imperfective|| *-t-A (hu-A)
Adverbial. Obl. of adjectival.
|Imperfective|| *-t-e (hu-e)
|| dauṛte hue |
|Contingent Future|| *-P
|| dauṛe |
|Definite Future|| *-P g-A
|| dauṛ |
|| dauṛo |
|| dauṛiye |
|| dauṛnā |
|Deferential|| *-iye gā
|| dauṛiye gā ||
Aspectuals plotted against copulas.
|| Continuous |
||* rah-A |
||dauṛ rahā ho |
- Much of the above chart information derives from .
- The future tense is formed by adding the suffix gā (~ ge ~ gī) to the subjunctive, which is a contraction of gaā (= gayā, perfective participle of jānā "to go"). The future suffix, conjunctive participle, and suffix vālā are treated as bound morphemes in written Hindi, but as separate words in written Urdu. Again followed here is the example of Urdu, for easier reference.
- The present copula (h-?) seems not to follow along the lines of the regular P system of terminations; while the subjunctive copula (ho-P) is thoroughly irregular. So here are all of their forms.
|| 3rd. |
|| vo |
- For the 1. subj. sg. copula and list hū̃ while lists hoū̃.
- lists the polite imperative ending as -iye, while lists it as -ie but -iye after ā, o, ū.
- The euphonic glide y is inserted in perfective participles between prohibited vowel clusters. It is historically the remnant of the old perfective marker. The clusters are a + ā, ā + ā, o + ā, and ī + ā, resulting in āyā, ayā, oyā, iyā. e.g. khāyā/khāye/khāī/khāī̃ (khā- "eat").
- In addition, the combinations ī + ī and i + ī give ī. e.g. piyā/piye/pī/pī̃ (pī- "drink").
- As stated, agreement in the transitive perfective is with the direct object, with the erstwhile subject taking the ergative postposition ne. If however the direct object takes the postposition ko (marking definiteness), or if no direct object is expressed, then agreement neutralizes to default m. sg. -ā.
- Is this regard, there are a small number of verbs that while perhaps logically transitive still do not take ne and continue to agree with the subject, in the perfective. e.g. lānā "to bring", bhūlnā "to forget", milnā "to meet", etc.
- Besides supplying the copulas, honā "to be" can be used aspectually: huā "happened, became"; hotā "happens, becomes, is"; ho rahā "happening, being".
- -ke can be used as a colloquial alternative to -kar for the conjunctive participle of any verb. But for karnā it is the only possible form; karke, not *karkar.
- Hindi-Urdu displays a very small number of irregular forms, spelled out in the cells below.
|| ga- *
|| d- |
|| l- |
|| pījie |
- *However, it is jā- that is used as the perfective stem in the rare instance of an intransitive verb like jānā being expressed passively, such as in a passivized imperative/subjunctive construction: ghar jāyā jāe? "Shall [we] go home?" (lit. "Shall home be gone to [by us]?").
Transitives or causatives are morphologically contrastive in Hindi-Urdu, leading to the existence of related verb sets divisible along such lines. While the derivation of such forms shows patterns, they do reach a level of variegation so as to make it somewhat difficult to outline all-encompassing rules. Furthermore, some sets may have as many as four to five distinct members; also, the meaning of certain members of given sets may be idiosyncratic.
Starting from intransitive or transitive verb stems further transitive/causative stems are produced according to these assorted rules —
- 1a. Root vowel change: a → ā, u/ū → o, i/ī → e. Sometimes accompanied by root final consonant change: k → c, → , l → Ø.
- 1b. Suffixation of -ā. Often accompanied by:
- Root vowel change: ū/o → u, e/ai/ā/ī → i.
- Insertion of semivowel l between such vowel-terminating stems.
- 2. Suffixation of -vā (in place of -ā if and where it'd occur) for a "causitive".
The following are sets culled from and . The lack of third members displayed for the ghūmnā to dhulnā sets does not imply that they do not exist but that they were simply not listed in the source literature . Intransitive verbs are coloured brown while transitives remain the usual black.
- girnā "to fall", girānā "to fell", girvānā "to cause to be felled".
- banna "to become", banānā "to make", banvānā "to cause to be made".
- khulnā "to open", kholnā "to open", khulvānā "to caused to be opened".
- sīkhnā "to learn", sikhānā "to teach", sikhvānā "to cause to be taught".
- khānā "to eat", khilānā "to feed", khilvānā "to cause to be fed".
- biknā "to sell", becnā "to sell", bikvānā "to cause to be sold".
- dikhnā/dīkhnā "to seem", dekhnā "to see", dikhānā "to show", dikhvānā "to cause to be shown".
- kahnā "to say", kahlānā "to be called".
- ghūmnā "to go round", ghumānā "to make go round".
- "to lie down", "to lay down".
- "to sit", "to seat".
- sonā "to sleep", sulānā "to make sleep".
- dhulnā "to wash", dhonā "to wash".
- "to break", "to break", "to cause to be broken".
In the causative model of "to cause to be Xed", the agent takes the postposition se. Thus Y se Z banvānā "to cause Z to be made by Y" = "to cause Y to make Z" = "to have Z made by Y" = "to have Y make Z", etc.
Compound verbs, a highly visible feature of Hindi-Urdu grammar, consist of a verbal stem plus an auxiliary verb. The auxiliary (variously called "subsidiary", "explicator verb", and "vector") loses its own independent meaning and instead "lends a certain shade of meaning to the main/stem verb, which "comprises the lexical core of the compound". While most any verb can act as a main verb, there is a limited set of productive auxiliaries. Shown below are prominent such auxiliaries, with their independent meaning first outlined, followed by their semantic contribution as auxiliaries.
- jānā "to go"; gives a sense of completeness, finality, or change of state. e.g. ānā "to come" → ā jānā "to come, arrive", khānā "to eat" → khā jānā "to eat up", pīnā "to drink" → pī jānā "to drink up", "to sit" → "to sit down", samajhnā "to understand" → samajh jānā "to realise", sonā "to sleep" → so jānā "to go to sleep", honā "to be" → ho jānā "to become".
- lenā "to take"; suggests that the benefit of the action flows towards the doer. e.g. "to read (to/for oneself)".
- denā "to give"; suggests that the benefit of the action flows away from the doer. e.g. "to read (out)".
The above three are the most common of auxiliaries, and the "least marked", or "lexically nearly colourless". The nuance laden by an auxiliary can often be very subtle and as well is not necessarily grounds for a rendering in different words upon translation to English as the examples here might conveniently show. lenā and denā, transitive verbs, occur with transitives, while intransitive jānā occurs mostly with intransitives; a compound of a transitive and jānā will be grammatically intransitive as jānā is.
- "to throw, pour"; indicates an action done vigorously, decisively, violently or recklessly; it is an intensifier, showing intensity, urgency, completeness, or violence. e.g. mārnā "to strike" → "to kill", pīnā "to drink" → "to drink down".
- "to sit"; implies an action done foolishly or stubbornly; shows speaker disapproval or an implusive or involuntary action. kahnā "to say" → "to blurt out", karnā "to do" → "to do (as a blunder)", "to fight" → "to quarrel (foolishly)".
- "to fall"; connotes involuntary, sudden, or unavoidable occurrence; adds a sense of suddenness or change of state, with its independent/literal meaning sometimes showing through in a sense of downward movement.
- "to rise"; functions like an intensifier; suggests inception of action or feeling, with its independent/literal meaning sometimes showing through in a sense of upward movement. e.g. jalnā "to burn" → "to burst into flames", nacnā "to dance" → "to break into dance".
- rakhnā "to keep, maintain"; implies a firmness of action, or one with possibly long-lasting results or implications; occurs with lenā and denā, meaning "to give/take (as a loan)", and with other appropriate verbs, showing an action performed beforehand.
- The continuous aspect marker rahā may have originated as a compound verb with rahnā ("remain"): thus mãĩ bol rahā hū̃ = "I have remained speaking" > "I have continued speaking" > "I am speaking". However it has lost the ability to take any form other than the perfective, and is thus considered to have become grammaticalized.
Finally, having to do with the manner of an occurrence, compounds verbs are mostly used with completed actions and imperatives, and much less with negatives, conjunctives, and contexts continuous or speculative. This is because non-occurrences cannot be described to have occurred in a particular manner.
Another notable aspect of Hindi-Urdu grammar is that of "conjunct verbs", comprised of a noun or adjective paired up with a general verbalizer, most commonly transitive karnā "to do" or intransitive honā "to be(come)", functioning in the place of what in English would be single unified verb.
In the case of an adjective as the non-verbal element, it is often helps to think of karnā "to do" as supplementally having the senses of "to cause to be", "to make", "to render", etc.
|| Meaning |
|| sāf karnā
|| to do clean
|| to clean |
|| niyukt karnā
|| to do appointed
|| to appoint |
|| band honā
|| to become closed
|| to close |
|| xatm honā
|| to become finished
|| to finish |
In the case of a noun as the non-verbal element, it is treated syntactically as the verb's (direct) object (never taking the ko marker; governing agreement in perfective and infinitival constructions), and the semantic patient of the conjunct verbal expression is often expressed/marked syntactically as a genitive adjunct (-kā ~ ke ~ kī) of the noun.
|| Conjunct + patient
|| Meaning |
|| intazār karnā
|| kisī kā intazār karnā
|| to do somebody's wait
|| to wait for somebody |
|| istemāl karnā
|| fon kā istemāl karnā
|| to do a phone's use
|| to use a phone |
|| bāt karnā
|| Samīr kī bāt karnā
|| to do Sameer's talk
|| to talk about Sameer |
|| to do an idol's installation
|| to install an idol |
With English it is the verb stems themselves that are used.
| Verb stem
|| Meaning |
|| caik karnā
|| to check |
|| bor honā
|| to bore |
The passive construction is periphrastic. It is formed from the perfective participle by addition of the auxiliary jānā "to go"; i.e. likhnā "to write" → likhā jānā "to be written". The agent is marked by the postposition se. Furthermore, both intransitive and transitive verbs may be grammatically passivized to show physical/psychological incapacity, usually in negative sentences. Lastly, intransitives often have a passive sense, or convey unintentional action.
Usages of nominal forms
The following section gives examples of different ways in which nouns and pronouns may be used.
Also called nominative.
- * The subject or complement of the verb honā (to be)
- laṛkā āj yahā̃ nahī̃ hai ("The boy isn't here today")
- yah mez hai ("This is a table")
- * The subject of an intransitive verb
- maĩ caltā hū̃ ("I'm going")
- * The subject of a transitive verb that is not in the perfective aspect
- vah kitāb likh rahā thā ("he was writing the book")
- * The direct object of a transitive verb, when its identity is not definite.
- darzī bulāo ("call a tailor")
Also called agentive. For nouns, this consists of the oblique form followed by ne. For pronouns it is given in the tables above.
- * The subject of a transitive verb that is in the perfective aspect.
- usne kitāb likhī ("he wrote the book" compare "he was writing the book" above)
Also called object or dative-accusative For nouns, this consists of the oblique form followed by ko. For pronouns it is given in the tables above.
- * The direct object of a transitive verb, where its identity is definite.
- darzī ko bulāo ("call the tailor" compare "call a tailor" above)
- * The indirect object of a verb.
- yogesh ne ajay ko apnī tasvīrẽ dihkāī̃ ("Yogesh showed his pictures to Ajay")
- * In a variety of idiomatic expressions, often in combination with the verb honā (to be), indicating a close connection with another noun, or sometimes adjective, in the same sentence.. Masica calls this the "dative subject construction".
- mujhe bahut xushī hai ("I am very pleased" literally "there is to me great happiness")
- āpko kyā cāhiye ("What do you want?" literally "What to you is wanted?")
For nouns, this consists of the oblique form followed by kā. For pronouns it is given in the tables above. This form indicates possession, and agrees with the thing possessed in gender, number and case in the same manner as an adjective such as .
- us strī kā ("that woman's son")
- us strī ke ("that woman's sons")
The oblique case may be followed by other postpositions including the following:
- se ("by, with, from"), to create what are sometimes caled the ablative, sociative and instrumental cases.
- mẽ ("in") and par ("on") in what is sometimes called the locative case.
- tak ("up to").
The oblique case may be used on its own, without any following postposition or particle: this usage is known as the general oblique.
- bhūkõ marā ("I'm dead of hunger")
With regards to word order, Hindi-Urdu is an SOV language. In terms of branching, it is neither purely left- or right-branching, and phenomena of both types can be found. The order of constituents in sentences as a whole lacks governing "hard and fast rules", and frequent deviations can be found from normative word position, describable in terms of a small number of rules, accounting for facts beyond the pale of the label of "SOV".
- Indirect objects precede direct objects.
- Attributive adjectives precede the noun they qualify.
- Adverbs precede the adjectives they qualify.
- Negative markers (nahī̃, na, mat) and interrogatives precede the verb.
- Interrogatives precede negative markers if both are present.
- kyā ("what?") as the yes-no question marker occurs at the beginning of a clause.