Pronouns are words that substitute for nouns or noun phrases.
Attributes of Pronouns
Hindi pronouns have several attributes:
Not all kinds of pronouns have all of these characteristics, however.
Kinds of Pronouns
There are several kinds of pronouns in Hindi:
- Personal Pronouns
- Demonstrative Pronouns
- Interrogative Pronouns
- Relative Pronouns
- Reflexive Pronouns
- Indefinite Pronouns
Personal pronouns substitute for nouns referring to persons. In English, the personal pronouns are: I, you, he, she, we, they. English also has an impersonal pronoun, it.
Refer to the article about personal pronouns for more information.
First Person Personal Pronouns
The first person personal pronouns in Hindi are मैं (“I”) and हम (“we”).
In colloquial Hindi, हम may be used to refer to a single person. Regardless, हम is always grammatically plural. Women may use masculine plural forms when using हम to refer to themselves, as in “हम अच्छे हैं” (“I am fine”, literally “We are fine [masculine plural]“). The word “लोग” (“people”) may be used to explicitly differentiate singular and plural references, as in “हम लोग” (“we people”).
Second Person Personal Pronouns and Honorifics
Hindi has three second person personal pronouns. Each pronoun represents the degree of intimacy between the speaker and addressee, the relative age of the speaker versus the addressee, and the relative social status of the speaker versus the addressee.
आप is formal and respectful. It is used for elders, superiors, seniors, and respectfully for peers. आप is always grammatically plural, regardless of how many people it addresses. The word “लोग” (“people”) may be used to explicitly distinguish a singular reference from a plural reference, as in “आप लोग” (“you people”).
तुम is informal and familiar. It is generally used to address peers as a sign of informality and familiarity. For instance, friends might address each other with तुम. तुम may also be used by an elder person or person of higher social status to address a younger person or person of lower social status. तुम is grammatically plural, regardless of how many people it addresses. The word “लोग” (“people”) may be used to explicitly distinguish a singular reference from a plural reference, as in “तुम लोग” (“you people”).
तू is intimate. Very close friends and some family members may use तू. तू may be used to refer to small children. तू may be used for asymmetrical relationships, such as masters addressing servants or parents addressing children. तू is always grammatically singular. It may not refer to more than one person.
Third Person Personal Pronouns
There are no third person personal pronouns in Hindi. There are no words which directly correspond to the English words “he”, “she”, “it”, or “they”. Instead, Hindi uses demonstrative pronouns for this purpose.
Thus, for example, in the sentence “यह मेरा भाई है” (“He is my brother”), the pronoun “यह” literally means “this”, but is used as a personal pronoun, so the sentence is literally “this (person) is my brother”.
In spoken Hindi, वह is typically pronounced as “वो“, and यह is typically pronounced as “ये“.
Proximity and Third Person Pronouns
Since demonstrative pronouns in Hindi convey proximity, it is important to distinguish between “proximal” (e.g., nearby) and “distal” (e.g., distant) references. For instance, in English, “this” and “these” refer to something which is somehow “nearby” or present, and “that” and “those” refer to something which is somehow “distant” or absent. Likewise, in Hindi, “यह” (“this”) and ये (“these”) are proximal demonstrative pronouns, and “वह” (“that”) and “वे” (“those”) are distal demonstrative pronouns.
Thus, for instance, “यह मेरा भाई है” and “वह मेरा भाई है” both mean essentially the same thing (“he is my brother”), though the former sentence implies that the brother is present or nearby, and the latter sentence implies that the brother is somehow absent or remote.
Demonstrative pronouns demonstrate other words or phrases; that is, they refer to specific entities, and therefore distinguish them from other entities. The demonstrative pronouns in English are “this”, “these”, “that”, and “those”.
In Hindi, the demonstrative pronouns are “यह” (“this”), “वह” (“that”), “ये” (“these”), and “वे” (“those”).
Demonstrative pronouns are often used as personal pronouns.
Refer to the article about demonstrative pronouns for more information.
In spoken Hindi, वह is typically pronounced as “वो“, and यह is typically pronounced as “ये“. In informal written Hindi, they will be written that way also. However, in formal written Hindi, they will be spelled as “वह” and “यह“.
Interrogative pronouns are used to interrogate (to form questions). Interrogative pronouns in English include words such as “who” and “what”.
Refer to the article about interrogative pronouns for more information.
Relative pronouns are used to relate clauses.
For instance, in English consider the following two related sentences:
“The man is standing there”; “The man is my father”. These two clauses can be combined with a relative pronoun: “The man who is standing there is my father.” The relative pronoun “who” combines the relative clause “(The man) is my father” with the main clause, and refers to the antecedent “man”.
Relative pronouns in English include words such as “who”, “whom”, “which”, “where”, “that”, “when”, and “why”.
Refer to the article about relative pronouns for more information.
Reflexive pronouns are used when an antecedent refers to itself. For instance, in the English sentence, “He kept the gift for himself”, “himself” is a reflexive pronoun. In English, words like “himself” can also be used as intensive pronouns, as in “He himself said that”. In Hindi, however, a different idiom is used for intensive emphasis. Other examples in English include “herself”, “itself”, “oneself”, “themselves”, etc.
Refer to the article about reflexive pronouns for more information.
Indefinite pronouns refer to indefinite quantities, things, or locations, etc. Examples in English include “someone, somewhere, something, anything, anyone”, etc.
Refer to the article about indefinite pronouns for more information.
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