Join our all-new Duome Forum to rediscover what was lost with Duolingo Forum closing and more...
··········· Table of Contents ···········

Letters 1 updated 2019-07-17 ^

The Devanagari Script

Hindi has a long and interesting history. The immense evolution of North Indian culture can easily be seen in how the language has developed. It has had more than one script (writing system) used for the written language. At the time of India's independence, article 343 of the Indian constitution stated that "the official language of the Union [of India] (since India was considered a union of various unrelated states at that time) should become Hindi in Devanagari script." This variety of Hindi is called Modern Standard Hindi, which you will learn through this course.

The Devanagari script is an abugida, i.e. it consists of individual ‘units’ that represent a single vowel sound along with a few supporting consonant sounds.

वर्णमाला varṇamālā (Hindi's The Alphabet)

The order in which Hindi letters are memorised and generally presented is called the वर्णमाला (garland of letters). Both vowels and consonants are divided into groups, where each one is characterised by the placement of the tongue in the mouth. The groups are presented in an order where the tongue placement moves from the posterior to the anterior part of the buccal cavity.

First, let's learn all letters in their distinct forms. Hindi has 11 vowels. 9 of them are:

manner of articulation short long
guttural a ā
palatal i ī
labial u ū
retroflex -

Hindi has 33 basic consonants. Some of the plosives (sounds which are produced when the tongue hits any location in the mouth and restricts all the airflow) are:

manner of articulation uv. ua. uv. a. v. ua. v. a. nasal
guttural k kh g gh ṅ (ng)

(uv. - unvoiced, v. - voiced, ua. - unaspirated, a. - aspirated)

Letters 2 updated 2018-10-25 ^

Hindi has 33 basic consonants. More of the plosives (sounds which are produced when the tongue hits any location in the mouth and restricts any flow of air) are:

m.o.a. uv. ua. uv. a. v. ua. v. a. nasal
guttural k kh g gh ṅ (ng)
platal c ch j jh ñ
dental t th d dh n

(m.o.a. - manner of articulation, uv. - unvoiced, v. - voiced, ua. - unaspirated, a. - aspirated)

Letters 3 updated 2019-07-17 ^

More Vowels:

manner of articulation long dipthong
palatoguttural ē ai
labioguttural ō au

Diacritics

Vowels lend their sounds to consonants through vowel marks which are written around the base consonant. Taking (k) as an example, vowel marks are added to consonants as follows:

Vowel Vowel Mark Compound
a ka
ā का
i ि कि ki
ī की
u कु ku
ū कू
कृ kṛ
ē के
ai कै kai
ō को
au कौ kau

IMPORTANT FEATURES OF DEVANAGARI

Letters 4 updated 2019-07-17 ^

Hindi has 33 basic consonants. The remaining plosives (sounds which are produced when the tongue hits any location in the mouth and restricts all the air flow) are:

m.o.a. uv. ua. uv. a. v. ua. v. a. nasal
guttural k kh g gh ṅ (ng)
platal c ch j jh ñ
retroflex ṭh ḍh
dental t th d dh n
labial p ph b bh m

(m.o.a. - manner of articulation, uv. - unvoiced, v. - voiced, ua. - unaspirated, a. - aspirated)

Others:

manner of articulation semi-vowels fricatives
guttural - h
platal y ś
retroflex r
dental l s
labial v -

(semivowels allow the flow of some amount of air, fricatives force air out of a small space created in the mouth during articulation)

Additional Consonants:

Loan consonants:

Conjunct Consonants

When two or more consonants, some of which do not have a vowel following them, are placed directly next to each other, the tongue requires instantaneously shifting its position. This is represented in Hindi through conjunct consonants. E.g. नमस्ते (namastē). This word can be broken down as: न (na) + म (ma) + स (sa) + ् (delete preceding a) + ते (tē), where the conjunct consonant is स्त sta (स + ् + त). Notice that because of the halant, the स (sa) gets modified, and only half of it is written, while the remaining part is attached to the following त (ta). Many such conjunct consonants can exist, and the letter modifications follow a general pattern:

The irregular र

र follows different rules in conjunct combinations.

र् + X X + ् + र
E.g. पार्क pārk प्रदेश pra-dēś
break down पा pā + र् r + क k[a] प् p + र ra + दे ē + श ś[a]

The second case involves writing the र like a slash symbol below the vowel-less consonant. E.g. प्र pra, क्र kra, द्र dra, घ्र ghra. The first case involves writing the र् like a small C above the following consonant. E.g. र्प rpa, र्क rka, र्द rda, र्घ rgha.

Basics 1 updated 2019-08-19 ^

पहले पाठ में आपका स्वागत है! Welcome to the first lesson!

इतिहास itihās - History

Hindi is an Indo-Aryan language, meaning it stems from Sanskrit. Naturally, a major part of Hindi vocabulary finds its roots in Sanskrit.
However, the Mughal influence (of Persianised rulers) has lent several Persian (particularly old Persian), Arabic, and Turkish vocabulary to Hindi.
Hindi has also only recently undergone another gradual, albeit intentionally designed change the last few hundred years: Sanskritisation. This term refers to the use of words (called तत्सम tatsam words: तत् tat - there, सम sam - same; meaning exactly the same as in Sanskrit) which are straight away picked up from Classical Sanskrit to be used in official, formal occasions while speaking Hindi. This should not be confused with the Sanskrit vocabulary that has evolved over long periods of time and now forms the base of the language.
Other than that, Hindi has a plethora of English (and occasionally Portuguese) loanwords.

शब्दावली shabdāvalī - Vocabulary

Summarising the previous paragraph, the four basic origins for Hindi words are:

This information will be used further in these tips and notes.

लिंग liṅg - Gender

All Hindi nouns, verbs, and adjectives have a gender. There are two genders in Hindi - masculine (m.) and feminine (f.). There are a few ways to guess a word’s gender based on its origin:

masculine feminine
ending vowel ा/आ ā ी/ई ī
ending sound consonant या yā

होना hōnā - to be

Like most languages, the verb be is the most irregular in Hindi. However, all Hindi verbs require it in some or the other form as an auxiliary verb for basic conjugation. This means that you’ll find this verb in some or the other form attached to every other verb.

When used as an auxiliary verb, it has the simplest conjugation:

Pronoun (Eng.) Pronoun (Hindi) होना hōnā be
I (1st person) मैं maim̐ हूँ hūm̐ am
He/She/It (3rd person) यह/वह yah/vah है hai is

Pronouns - यह yah, वह vah

Notice that Hindi has only two words for third person pronouns:

Pronoun Usage
यह yah Gender-Neutral Pronoun, meaning he, she, it, or this (used when the person/thing is somewhere close or if you’re pointing towards them)
वह vah Gender-Neutral Pronoun, meaning he, she, it, or that (used when the person/thing is at a distance or not present in the scene)

Often, यह (yah) is pronounced as and वह (vah) is pronounced as colloquially. In formal and literary contexts, these colloquial pronunciations are considered incorrect.

Articles

Definite articles do not exist in Hindi. This means that there is no translation for "the" in Hindi. If the situation demands a strong specification, demonstrative articles are used (this, that). In Hindi, यह yah and वह vah also act like this and that respectively.

Basics 2 updated 2020-07-03 ^

namastē all the way

नमस्ते namastē is a super versatile greeting which can be used for saying hello or goodbye to people. Hindi also doesn’t make use of phrases like good morning, goodnight, and so on frequently. नमस्ते namastē is also used in place of those.

Even though Hindi uses धन्यवाद dhanyavād (thank you), there is no direct translation for “you’re welcome”. In place of that, you could hear phrases like “doesn’t matter”, “it was my duty” or “don’t be so extra” (in Hindi of course) on Indian streets.

talking about yourself

Remember from Basics 2 that verbs have gender in Hindi, which means that they tell us about whether the subject is masculine or feminine. So, when you’re talking about yourself, you’ll use your verbs according to your gender.

Also, remember that Hindi verbs have three parts: the verb root (the actual verb), the suffix (a word-ending which tells us about the gender), and the auxiliary verb (some form of the verb होना hōnā - to be, which tells us about when the action happened). For the first person, I, these are:

Pronoun (English) Pronoun (Hindi) Suffix (m.) Suffix (f.) होना hōnā
I मैं maim̐ ता ती हूँ hūm̐ (am)
You तुम tum –ते tē –ती tī हो hō (are)
He/She यह yah/वह vah –ता tā –ती tī है hai (is)

(You and He/She have also been included for comparison. Notice that the suffixes for I and He/She are the same. Moreover, feminine suffixes are the exact same for all three.)

Taking खाना khānā [to eat] as an example, it is conjugated as:

Pronoun (English) Pronoun (Hindi) खाना (m.) खाना (f.)
I मैं maim̐ खाता हूँ khātā hūm̐ खाती हूँ khātī hūm̐
You तुम tum खाते हो khātē hō खाती हो khātī hō
He/She यह yah/वह vah खाता है khātā hai खाती है khātī hai

E.g. I eat an apple. = मैं सेब खाता हूँmaim̐ sēb khātā hum̐

(Remember that verbs come after the object, which is the person or thing on which an action is being done, unlike English. Also, notice that a male would say this sentence and that sentences end with a पूर्ण विराम pūrṇ virām - ।, instead of a full stop or period in Hindi.)

Remember that the ँ simply nasalises the preceding vowel. It is written as a ं on the vowel marks ि, ी, े, ै, ो and ौ. When transliterated, ‘m̐’ is used to represent this nasalisation.

learn to say no

The word नहीं nahīm̐ is used for both No as an answer to a question, and in sentences of negation in the form of not or don’t. It is always placed just before the verb.

E.g. मैं पानी नहीं पीती हूँ। maim̐ pānī nahīm̐ pītī hūm̐ - I don’t drink water. (Notice that a female would say this sentence)

Moreover, in both colloquial and formal situations, the auxiliary verb होना hōnā can be dropped. This means that the above sentence can also be - मैं पानी नहीं पीती। maim̐ pānī nahīm̐ pītī - I don’t drink water. This means that both sentences are fully valid and equally used. The placement of नहीं nahīm̐ can get somewhat complex with phrasal verbs that will be taught later on. Hopefully, it won’t be as difficult as saying no in real life.

Plurals updated 2018-10-25 ^

Plurals (बहुवचन bahuvachan)

Pluralising Hindi nouns deals with four cases:

This information reduced in a table:

Noun Gender Ending Repl. Add. Example
Masculine (m.) ा (आ) े (ए) - लड़का>लड़के (boy>boys)
Masculine (m.) anything else - - आदमी>आदमी (man>men)
Feminine (f.) ि (इ)/ ी (ई) ियाँ (इयाँ) - लड़की>लडकियाँ (girl>girls)
Feminine (f.) anything else - ें (एँ) और>औरतें (woman>women)

(Repl. - Replaced by, Add. - Addition of)

Third Person Plural Pronouns – ये, वे and First Person Plural Pronoun – हम

ये (plural of यह) and वे (plural of वह) are used for ‘they’ in Hindi. Their meanings are like those of यह and वह respectively. Mostly, just like यह, ये is pronounced as ye (the way it is written, ये), whereas just like वह, वे is pronounced as vo (like वो).

हम means ‘we’ in Hindi. All these three pronouns – ये, वे, and हम use हैं as the form of होना (be).

Second Form of ‘You’ – तुम

This lesson introduces the second way to say ‘you’ – तुम. Refer to Tips and Notes – Basics 2 for its usage. Its form of होना is हो, and uses slightly different gender specification suffixes.

होना – to be

Singular Pronoun होना (be) Plural Pronoun होना (be)
मैं (I) main हूँ hūn हम (we) ham हैं hain
तुम (you) tum हो ho तुम (you all) tum हो ho
तू (you) tu है hai - -
यह/वह (he/she/it) yah/vah है hai ये/वे (they) ye/ve हैं hain

Notice: the verb forms for तू and यह/वह, and हम and ये/वे are exactly the same.

Conjugations in Simple Present

sing. Pronoun Suffix (m.) Suffix (f.) Aux. Verb होना pl. Pronoun Suffix (m.) Suffix (f.) Aux. Verb होना
मैं (I) ता taa ती हूँ hūn (am) हम (we) ते te ती हैं hain (are)
तुम (you) ते te ती हो ho (are) तुम (you all) ते te ती हो ho (are)
तू (you) ता taa ती है hai (are) - - -
यह/वह (he/she/it) ता taa ती है hai (is) ये/वे (they) ते te ती हैं hain (are)

Example Verb पीना – to drink

sing. Pronoun पीना (m.) पीना (f.) pl. Pronoun पीना (m.) पीना (f.)
मैं (I) पीता हूँ पीती हूँ हम (we) पीते हैं पीती हैं
तुम (you) पीते हो पीती हो तुम (you) पीते हो पीती हो
तू (you) पीता है पीती है - - -
यह/वह (he/she/it) पीता है पीती है ये/वे (they) पीते हैं पीती हैं

Introduction updated 2018-10-25 ^

Postpositions

Just like English has prepositions (certain words placed before nouns and pronouns that give meaning about their activity, for example, at, by, from, on, in, etc.), Hindi has postpositions. These are responsible for the third most challenging grammatical aspect of Hindi as mentioned in Tips and Notes for Basics 1 – the oblique case. The oblique case is a case, i.e. it refers to the small changes (called inflections in the world of linguistics) made at the end of nouns and pronouns when a postposition is placed after them. However, this lesson teaches those sentences which do not require the oblique case, and hence, it will be dealt with in later lessons.

So, unlike English, any (usually smaller, monosyllable) word that describes a noun’s activity or description is placed after it (post-position). For example:

Raj is in India - राज भारत में है
Here, the postposition में (in) is placed after भारत (India).

When used with a different verb:

Raj studies in India and Julia studies in America. - राज भारत में पढ़ता है और जूलिया अमेरिका में पढ़ती है।

Possessives

Words denoting possession are also gendered in Hindi. Possessive pronouns are generally different words altogether, while an equivalent of ’s (का/की/के) is used for other nouns in Hindi.

However, there is a difference. The gender and number of possessive pronouns agrees with the gender and number of the object and not the subject. This means that मेरा (my - masculine), for example, is used when the object the first person possesses is masculine, and not that that person is male.

Singular-Object Possessive Pronouns:

Pronoun m. obj. f. obj.
मैं (I) मेरा मेरी
तू (you) तेरा तेरी
वह (he/she/it) उसका उसकी
यह (he/she/it) इसका इसकी

For example,

का/की – Hindi Equivalent of Apostrophe S (‘s):

Possessive Particle m. obj. f. obj
‘s का की

For example,

Family updated 2018-10-25 ^

The Oblique Case

As mentioned before, the oblique case is a case. This means that its ending differs from the normal form (called the nominative case). A word’s oblique case depends on its gender and number (again), and terminal sound.

Singular:

Ending Gender Repl. Add.
(आ) masc. (ए) -
anything else masc. - -
any ending fem. - -

Plural:

Ending Gender Repl. Add.
(ए) masc. pl. ों (ओं) -
ि (इ)/ (ई) masc. pl. ियों (इयों) -
anything else masc. pl. - ों (ओं)
ियाँ (इयाँ) fem. pl. ियों (इयों) -
ें (एँ) fem. pl. ों (ओं) -

(Repl. - Replaced with, Add. - Addition of, masc. - masculine, fem. - feminine, pl. - plural)

For example,

Singular:

Word Meaning Gender Obl. Form
लड़का boy masc. लड़के
मेरा my masc. obj. मेरे
आदमी man masc. आदमी
सेब apple masc. सेब
लड़की girl fem. लड़की

Plural:

Word Meaning Gender Obl. Form
लड़के boys masc. pl. लड़कों
आदमी men masc. pl. आदमियों
से apples masc. pl. सेबों
लडकियाँ girls fem. pl. लड़कियों
अरतें women fem. pl. अरतों

(Obl. - Oblique Case)

How are plural masculine words and singular oblique case variants differentiated between? Answer – through context.

(that’s language)

Example: केले में – In the banana

Whenever a doer or receiver of a verb takes the oblique case, all the descriptive words attached to it take the oblique case as well (since all those words together are considered the subject/object).

Example: मेरे केले में – In my banana
Here, the subject is मेरा केला (my banana), and hence, both मेरा and केला take the oblique case.

का/की also influence the preceding entity to take the oblique case.

Example:

Third Form of You – आप

Verb Conjugation:

Pronoun Suffix (m.) Suffix (f.) Aux. Verb होना
आप (you) ते te ती हैं hain (are)
हम (we) ते te ती हैं hain (are)
ये/वे (they) ते te ती हैं hain (are)

(The conjugations of ये/वे and हम are the same as those for आप)

(Possessive pronouns are pluralised using the regular rule; plural feminine objects show no change.)

(The oblique case form of all plural possessive pronouns show no change as an exception)

Full List of Possessive Pronouns

sing. m. obj. f. obj. m. pl. obj. pl. Pronoun m. obj. f. obj. m. pl. obj.
मैं (I) मेरा मेरी मेरे हम (we) हमारा हमारी हमारे
तुम (you) तुम्हारा तुम्हारी तुम्हारे तुम (you all) तुम्हारा तुम्हारी तुम्हारे
आप (you) आपका आपकी आपके आप (you all) आपका आपकी आपके
तू (you) तेरा तेरी तेरे - - - -
वह (he/she/it) उसका उसकी उसके वे (they) उनका उनकी उनके
यह (he/she/it) इसका इसकी इसके ये (they) इनका इनकी इनके

Formality and Respect

In formal situations and for respected people (including all elders), plural versions are used in every context. For example, with पिता (father): मेरे पिता भारत में हैं - My father is in India; उसके पिता अमेरिका से नहीं हैं - His father is not from America.

Possession with अपना/अपनी/अपने

In Hindi, sentences like “I eat my apple” seem too redundant (मैं मेरा सेब खाता हूँ). So, a class of three different words are used to replace possessive pronouns when their (pro)noun has been mentioned before.

अपना is used for masculine singular objects, अपनी for female singular or plural objects, and अपने for masculine plural objects. Example:

Sometimes, these words can also be used when their noun or pronoun is obvious from the context. For example, when a kid comes up to you, you might ask them “अपना नाम बताओ” – Tell me your name (बताओ – imperative form of tell), where it is obvious that अपना means your (Notice that me is not required in such a sentence).

These words also take up the oblique case. For example, वह अपने घर से आती है – She comes from her home (आना - to come; अपना घर changes to अपने घर because of से - from).

Animals updated 2018-10-25 ^

Adjectives

We learnt how अपना/अपनी/अपने and मेरा/मेरी/मेरे work and how they are used depending on the object's gender and number. Let's name this system of three forms of a single word the आ/ई/ए system, which explains that adjective-like words (including all possessive pronouns, adverbs, and so on) that end with:

For example, My:

Obj. Gender Obj. Number Nominative Case Oblique Case
masculine singular मेरा मेरे
feminine sing./pl. मेरी मेरी
masculine plural मेरे मेरे

All adjectives use the आ/ई/ए system unless they end with consonants. Adjectives, as in English, are placed before the (pro)noun.

For example:

होना - The Habitual Form

We have learnt the हूँ, हो, है, हैं forms of होना. However, along with these (default) forms, होना can be conjugated just like other verbs in the simple present.

(मैं) होता/होती हूँ, (तुम) होते/होती हो, (यह/वह) होता/होती है, etc.

These forms can be referred to as the habitual form, as they are used when be is expressed in a way which represents a phenomenon that already exists and will continue to exist in the future.

For example:

Activity updated 2018-10-25 ^

The Present Continuous Tense

In this tense, Hindi does not require the gender and noun-specification suffix at the end of the verb root. The subject’s gender and number are represented by the auxiliary verb रहना. On its own, रहना means to live. However, it also gives the meaning of staying or halting. The format for the present continuous tense is:

[Verb Root] + [Conjug. of रहना]

The forms of रहना used for this tense are different from those of its conjugation for the simple present.

Conjugation

sing. Pronoun masc. fem. pl. Pronoun masc. fem.
मैं (I) रहा हूँ रही हूँ हम (we) रहे हैं रही हैं
तुम (you) रहे हो रही हो तुम (you all) रहे हो रही हो
तू (you) रहा है रही है - - -
आप (you) रहे हैं रही हैं आप (you all) रहे हैं रही हैं
यह/वह (he/she/it) रहा है रही है ये/वे (they) रहे हैं रही हैं

For example, मैं सेब खा रहा हूँ - I am eating an apple.

Notice that the vowel sounds for the various forms of रह are those of the suffix with in the simple present, while the forms of होना also match the conjugation as an auxiliary verb in the simple present.

आना (to come) and जाना (to go)

These verbs work in a peculiar manner:

For example, मैं तुम्हारे घर जाता हूँ और वह मेरे घर आता है – I go to your house and he comes to my house (Here, तुम्हारा घर and मेरा घर take the oblique case)

And, मैं तुम्हारे घर जा रहा हूँ और तुम मेरे घर आ रहे हो - I am going to your house and you are coming to my house.

To Have

There is no single verb for have in Hindi. Two ways to mention possessions are:

Postpositions Using के

Instead of being simple monosyllables, some postpositions in Hindi use the format: के + [postposition]. For example, as just learnt, के पास. Other examples include के लिए (for), के ऊपर (above), के नीचे (below), etc.

Pronouns take the plural-object form for these postpositions. For example, मेरे पास, उसके पास, जूलिया के पास, etc.

Adjectives updated 2018-10-25 ^

As discussed before, adjectives use the आ/ई/ए system with the following endings:

Other adjectives end with consonants and are used in the same form for objects of any gender or number.

Food updated 2018-10-25 ^

Personal Pronouns in the Oblique Case

Essentially, personal pronouns take up the following oblique case forms:

Sing. Pronoun Oblique Form Pl. Pronoun Oblique Form
मैं (I) मुझ (me) हम (we) हम (us)
तुम (you) तुम (you) तुम (you all) तुम (you all)
तू (you) तुझ (you) - -
आप (you) आप (you) आप (you) आप (you all)
यह (he/she/it) इस (him/her/it) ये (they) इन (them)
वह (he/she/it) उस (him/her/it) वे (they) उन (them)

However, these are used in few categories of sentences and find no substance in this lesson other than being mentioned.

Personal Pronouns in the Oblique (Dative) Case

The previous forms were mentioned because those are the oblique case forms of personal pronouns per se but are seldom used as their applications are limited to very few cases which have not been discussed yet.

Even though Hindi has only two cases (nominative, oblique), it is said so because these are broadly the two major word-ending changing cases (causing significant inflections). This means that Hindi recognises a few other cases commonly seen in most languages. However, for those cases, Hindi uses the oblique case forms (those mentioned in the last section) along with a pinch of a few particles to convey the proper meaning in the required context.

[Indirect objects are those for which the subject does a verb action, as opposed to direct objects upon which the subject does the verb action. Direct objects can be understood as the usual objects in a simple subject-object-verb pattern. Verbs that require objects, eg. eat, drink, see, as opposed to dance, sleep, etc., are known as transitive verbs.]

Sing. Pronoun Oblique Form Pl. Pronoun Oblique Form
मैं (I) मुझे (to me) हम (we) हमें (to us)
तुम (you) तुम्हें (to you) तुम (you all) तुम्हें (to you all)
तू (you) तुझे (to you) - -
आप (you) आपको (to you) आप (you) आपको (to you all)
यह (he/she/it) इसे (to him/her/it) ये (they) इन्हें (to them)
वह (he/she/it) उसे (to him/her/it) वे (they) उन्हें (to them)

(Notice that all plural forms of personal pronouns have the nasalising dot - anusvara ं, except आप)

For other nouns, the particle को (to) is used. Indirect objects are placed after subjects in Hindi. For example:

In the above example, the nouns in the dative case are indirect objects, to whom the various items are being given. The various items are in the accusative case (showing no change).

Desires with चाहिए

चाहिए is a form of the verb चाहना (to want, need, desire), and literally means “is wanted/needed/desired by”. Like other verbs, it is placed at the end of sentences, and requires the subject to take the dative case. For example:

Liking with पसंद

पसंद is a word which means “like”. In its sentence construction, पसंद होना means “to be liked by”. It also requires the subject to be in the dative case. होना is conjugated appropriately to है or हैं based on the object’s number. For example:

Numbers updated 2018-12-12 ^

Quantitative Interrogative Words

This lesson teaches you the word कितना in its various forms. There are two ways to use this word:

Adverbs

In Hindi, Adverbs are always used in one single form, i.e. they do not show changes depending on their object's gender or number. Eg., कुछ (some, few):


14 skills with tips and notes
0.003