So you have finally decided to move to India, or you are already there? Lucky you! We've put together some basics lessons for you to understand and hopefully be able to converse in the most spoken language of India: Hindi.

You probably know that English falls into the Germanic family of languages, but because of Great Britain's history, most of the common vocabulary that you use in your everyday life comes from either Latin or French.

However, Hindi is probably closer to Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish) than it is from English, at least grammatically. The good thing if you're learning how to speak Hindi is that you will also be able to speak Urdu. Both languages are mutually intelligible as they both sprouted from Hindustani.

The split between the two sister languages happened when it was decided that Hindustani should be written using the Persian alphabet in the Nastaʿlīq style. This gave Urdu. On the other hand, native Hindu prefered the Devanagari script, native from India. This gave Hindi.

While you may be able to speak Hindi (Hindi also contains more words borrowed from Sanskrit) to an Urdu speaker (Urdu includes more words borrowed from Persian and Arabic), it is unlikely that you will be able to exchange correspondence.

Let's take a look at the basis of Hindi Grammar.

Reading Indian newpaper while waiting for the train.
You will have to learn Hindi and the Devanagari script if you want to read the newspapers like a local. (by vishwaant)

How to build sentences in Hindi

English and Hindi differ on many points when it comes to the structure of sentences. The order of the words being only one side of it, Hindi nouns and adjective are also gendered, something that English speakers might find confusing.

Hindi Nouns And Genders

Unlike English, Hindi uses genders for most of its words. If you have learned French or Spanish in school, you should be able to grasp the concept pretty quickly.

Basically, in Hindi, any given word (or close) has a gender, masculine or feminine. This will affect how the words end. So it is essential to know which gender to use for every word if you want to get the grammar and the pronunciation right.

For example :

  • A girl = larkee ( लड़की  ) / Mother = maataa ( माता )
  • A boy = larkaa ( लड़का  ) / Father = Pitaa ( पिता )
  • A husband = patiपति )
  • A wife = patnee पत्नी )

Usually, feminine words end in aa whereas masculine word terminates in ee. But as you can see above it is not always the case.

One thing that will probably annoy some Hindi beginners is that genders do not seem to follow any rule when it comes to words used to describe objects, emotions or places.

The good thing about the Romance languages that you may have learnt years ago is that gender is pretty consistent in Spanish, Italian and French. Forget those genders those since Hindi belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages and that the rules of masculine and feminine are completely different.

OrangeOrange (F)Naranja (F)नारंगी - Nāraṃgī (M)
HouseMaison (F)Casa (F)घर - Ghar (M)
PigeonPigeon (M)Paloma (F)कबूतरअ - Kabūtrā (M)
BookLivre (M)Livro (M)किताब - Kitāb (F)
FlowerFleur (F)Flor (F)फूल - Phūl (M)
LightningEclair (M)Relámpago (M)बिजली - Bijlī (F)

As you can see, there is no real logic when it comes to nouns genders and the only thing you can do is put your learning hat on and try t memorise as many Hindi words as you can.

A little side note: the word "orange" actually comes from India and is based on the Sanskrit word "nāraṅga"  (नारङ्ग) which gave "nārang" in Persian and "nāranj" in Arabic before arriving in Spain to give "naranja".

It is intresting to note as Hindi has been dramatically influenced by Persian and Arabic for centuries but this word reminds us that languages travel both ways and Indo-Aryan languages also made their way into European languages (Guess where the word "shampoo" came from ...)

Back to Hindi noun genders: a rough rule of thumb to know if a word is masculine or feminine is to look at the end of the word, usually (but not always) words ending in -ee are feminine and words ending in aa are masculine.

Learn about online Hindi classes here.

Adjectives in Hindi: Inflective or not?

To add a level of complexity to the Hindi language vs the English language, many of the Hindi adjectives are what linguist called "inflecting adjective". Nothing too complicated to understand as it just means that, unlike English, in Hindi, most attributes need to match the word they describe.

In total an adjective has three different forms:

  • The masculine singular form which is the same as the adjective itself and always with -aa or -a.
  • The masculine plural form which looses the -aa ending and replaces it with -e.
  • The feminine singular AND plural form which looses the -aa ending and replaces it with -e.

Remember that the neutral form of the inflective adjectives always ends with -aa, making it easy to spot. All you need to do then is to remember of which gender the noun your writing is and apply the right ending.

Let us look at a few examples with the adjective small (chota), big (bada), yellow (peela).

A small orange (Masculine singular) = Ek chhota naarangee ( एक छोटा नारंगी )

Big houses (Masculine plural) =Bade ghar ( बड़े घर )

A big lightning (Feminine singular) = Ek badee bijalee ( एक बड़ी बिजली )

Small books (Feminine plural) = Chhotee kitaaben ( छोटी किताबें )

A yellow flower (Masculine singular) = Ek peela phool ( एक पीला फूल )

Yellow flowers (Masculine plural) = Peele phool ( पीले फूल )

Indian kids at school.Indian kids learn at least 2 languages in school, Hindi and English. ( by DFID)

Hindi also has non-inflecting adjectives that will make your life easier as they always stay the same no matter what gender the word they describe is or if it is a singular or plural form.

Unfortunately, this type of adjective is less common. These adjective do not have a specific ending so it makes it harder to spot them and it will be a case of learning them rather than trying to spot them.

A few of these non-inflecting adjectives include:

Kam =short as in "वह कम है /Vah kam hai" meaning "He is short".

Sankeern = narrow as in "यह सड़क बहुत संकीर्ण है  /Yah sadak bahut sankeern hai" meaning "This street is too narrow."

Namakeen = salty as in "यह एक नमकीन लस्सी है / Yah ek namakeen lassee hai" meaning "This is a salted lassi"

Saaph = clean as in "उसका कमरा साफ है / Usaka kamara saaph hai" meaning "His room is clean"

Videshi = foreign as "एक विदेशी भाषा / Ek videshee bhaasha" meaning "A foreign language"

Interestingly the word "Bhaasha" which means language in Hindi is the same in many other Indian languages such as Marathi, Telugu, Bengali or Kannada and can also be found in many Southeast Asia languages : in Indonesian (Bahasa), in Javanese (Basa), in Malay (Bahasa) or Nepali (Bhāṣā), proving once more that languages travel and influence each other.

Check out this Hindi spoken course!

The Hindi Sentence Structure

The common sentence structure in English follows the pattern subject,  verb and object. 

" My name is John."

In Hindi, it is slightly different as the words follow the pattern subject, object and verb.

" My name is John = Mera (my) naam (name) jon hai (is) =

मेरा नाम जॉन है"

Hindi might even appear simpler to beginners as the order of the words never change even when using a different type of sentence like questions. In English questions often reverse the object and subjects. This is not the case in Hindi.

What is your name? = Tumhaara naam kya heतुम्हारा नाम क्या हे?

Hindi Verbs

The Hindi language relies heavily upon the use of auxiliary verbs and if there is one verb that you should learn from the start it is most certainly "Honaa" meaning "to be".

But first, how to recognise the infinitive form of a Hindi verb. Simply look at the suffix, as all regular Hindi verbs will end with -naa. By removing this suffix you will form the participle of the verb, very useful when you want to conjugate.

Below you will see the conjugation of the verb Hone in the present, past and future.

- Present Tense -

I am = Main hoon
You (intimate) are = Too hai
You (familiar)  are = Tum ho
You (formal) are = Aap hain
He / She / This  is = Voh / Yeh hai
We are = Ham hain
They / That are  = Ve / Ye  hain

The present form of Hona does not inflect depending on the gender of the subject, however, the past and future tense do and the feminine form is written in parenthesis.

- Past Tense -

I was = Main tha (thi)
You (intimate) were= Too tha (thi)
You (familiar)  were= Tum the (thin)
You (formal) were= Aap the (thin)
He / She / This  was = Voh / Yeh tha (thi)
We were = Ham the (thin)
They / That were = Ve / Ye  the (thin)

- Future Tense -

I will be = Main hunga (hungi)
You (intimate)  will be = Too hoga (hungi)
You (familiar)  will be= Tum hoge (hungi)
You (formal) will be= Aap honge (hungi)
He / She / This  will be= Voh / Yeh hoga (hungi)
We will be = Ham honge (hungi)
They / That will be= Ve / Ye  honge (hungi)

The Hindi language also has two forms for the third personal pronoun. The near form, Yeh (singular) and Ye (plural) refer to a person or an object (masculine or feminine) in the direct view of the speaker. The far form, Voh (singular) and Ve (plural), refers to something remote to the speaker.

Chai is the Indian spiced milk tea the locals love.

Why don't you stop for a chai on your way to work and have a little chat in Hindi with your chai-wala?

Hindi tenses

Most of Hindi verbs will require that you use auxiliary verbs such as Honaa. However Hindi conjugation is fairly simple once you got the hang of it.

By removing the suffix -naa from the infinitive form of a verb you find its stem. By adding -taa (singular masculine), -te (plural masculine) or -tee (singular and plural feminine), you create its participle.

The present simple is simply built with the stem of the verb + correct present participle suffix -(taa, -te or -tee) + the correct conjugated form of the auxiliary "to be".

Let's see how it works step by step:

  1. Bolnaa = To speak
  2. Bolnaa = Stem of the verb
  3. Add participle suffix = Boltaa (masc. sing.), Bolte (masc. plur.), Boltee (fem.)
  4. Add the auxiliary = Voh Boltaa tha (he speaks), Voh Boltee thi(she speaks), Ve Boltee hain (they speak)

Isn't it pretty simple?

The past simple forms exactly the same way but rather than using the present form of Honaa you will be using the Past form.

  1. Bolnaa = To speak
  2. Bolnaa = Stem of the verb
  3. Add participle suffix = Boltaa (masc. sing.), Bolte (masc. plur.), Boltee (fem.)
  4. Add the auxiliary = Voh Boltaa hai (he spoke), Voh Boltee hai (she spoke), Ve Bolte the (they spoke)

The future tense is slightly different as regular verbs have taken on suffixes marking the future tense and do not require the use of an auxiliary (see endings of Hona in the future simple tense).

I will speak = Main bolūngā

How To Find Lessons To Master Hindi Conjugation

If you want to study the Hindi language further, the best way to progress quickly and reach a conversational level is to start taking Hindi lessons.

However finding the right tutor, near you and who's method fit your needs and goals isn't an easy task.

Thankfully Superprof has got you covered! With thousands of qualified Hindi tutors all over the UK and in most parts of India, all registered on Superprof, your next lesson is only one click away.

As you can see, Hindi is less complicated than it looks. But learning any language requires time, dedication and most importantly practice. So start Netflixing all the Bollywood movies you can!

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