Learning any foreign language presents some challenges, and Hindi is no exception. The script can be intimidating at first but it is also very phonetic and well-suited to the language. Hindi is a highly gendered language, and this category might be hard to master at first. Another hard aspect is knowing how to use the various auxiliary verbs because some uses are rather idiomatic.
However, Hindi grammar is, in general, fairly regular. It may take some time and effort to master, but nothing is impossible with a little patience. This article will give you an overview over the key aspects of Hindi grammar to give you the idea of what you should focus on learning.
Hindustani distinguishes two genders (masculine and feminine), two noun types (count and non-count), two numbers (singular and plural), and three cases (direct, oblique, and vocative).
Nouns may be further divided into two classes based on declension, called type-I (marked) and type-II (unmarked). The basic difference between the two categories is that the former has characteristic terminations in the direct singular while the latter does not.
There are no articles in Hindi.
Adjectives may be divided into declinable, and indeclinable categories. Declinables are marked, through termination, for the gender, number and case of the nouns they qualify. The set of declinable adjective terminations is similar but greatly simplified in comparison to that of noun terminations.
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.
All adjectives can be used either attributively, predicatively, or substantively. Substantively they are declined as nouns rather than adjectives.
Comparisons are made by using “than” (the postposition se), “more” (aur, zyādā), and “less” (kam). The word for “more” is optional, while “less” is required, so that in the absence of either “more” will be inferred.
Gītā Gautam se lambī hai — (gita gautam than tall is) — Gita is taller than Gautam.
Superlatives are made through comparisons with “all” (sab). Comparisons using “least” are rare; it is more common to use an antonym.
kamrā sabse sāf hai — (room than all clean is) — The room is the cleanest.
Hindi has few underived forms. Adverbs may be derived in different ways, for instance:
- Simply obliquing some nouns and adjectives: nīcā “low” → nīce “down”, dhīrā “slow” → dhīre “slowly”.
- Nouns using a postposition such as se “by, with, -ly”: zor “force” → zor se “forcefully” (lit. “with force”).
- Adjectives using post-positional phrases involving “way, manner”: acchā “good” → acchī tarah se “well” (lit. “by/in a good way”).
- Verbs in the conjunctive form: hãs “laugh” → hãs kar “laughingly” (lit. “having laughed”).
Hindi has personal pronouns for the first and second person, 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/accusative. The latter, most often called a set of “contracted” forms, is in free variation with the oblique case plus dative postposition. Pronouns do not distinguish gender.
Emphatic pronouns of Hindi are formed by combing the exclusive emphatic particle hī or the inclusive emphatic particle bhī (with the interrogatory and relative pronouns) and the pronoun in their regular oblique and direct case.
The Hindi verbal system is largely structured around a combination of aspect and tense/mood. Like the nominal system, the Hindi verb involves successive layers of inflectional elements to the right of the lexical base.
The inflection of standard Hindustani verbs includes:
- three persons: first, second and third.
- two numbers: singular and plural.
- five moods: indicative, contrafactual (the past subjunctive & the conditional), presumptive, subjunctive (in addition to infinitive), and imperative.
- two voices: active and passive. The passive voice uses the compound postposition ke dvārā or by converting the verb into a compound verb using the auxiliary verb jānā.
- two tenses without auxiliary verbs (future and simple past).
Hindi 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 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”.
Non-aspectual forms include the infinitive, the imperative, and the conjunctive.
Finite verbal agreement is with the nominative subject, except in the transitive perfective, where it is with the direct object.
The default word order of Hindi is SOV.
Hindi uses postpositions instead of prepositions. The usage of Hindi postpositions is very similar to prepositions in English.
Some of the common Hindi prepositions are: के उपर (ke upar), को (ko), के लिए (ke liye), से (se), के बीच में(ke beech me).
This is a very brief overview of Hindi grammar. To truly master it, you will need to study each of the parts of speech in much more detail. However, this overview will hopefully give you a general idea of the Hindi grammatical system and of the main points you should consider when learning.