April 19, 2012

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are words which substitute for proper or common nouns.

Pronoun Translation Form of होना Translation
मैं I हूँ am
हम We हैं Are
आप You (honorific) हैं Are
तुम You (familiar) हो Are
तू You (intimate) है Are
यह/वह He/She/It/This/That है Is
ये/वे They, These, Those हैं Are


A first person pronoun refers to the speaker, a second person pronoun refers to the addressee, and a third person pronoun refers to others.


A singular pronoun refers to a single entity whereas a plural pronoun refers to multiple entities.

Grammatical Plurality

However, the second person personal pronouns आप and तुम are grammatically plural. They can address a single person or multiple people, yet grammatically, with respect to their agreement with other words, they are treated as plural. For instance, if either is the subject of a verb, the verb must be plural, and if either has a predicate adjective, the adjective must be plural, as in “आप कैसे हैं” (“how are you?”). Even if आप refers to a single person, it nonetheless requires the plural verb हैं and the plural adjective कैसे.

However, in colloquial Hindi, especially among younger generations, some speakers will say “आप कैसे हो“.

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”). आप is used with the plural form of होना: हैं.

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”). तुम is used with a special form of होना: हो.

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. The form of होना used with तू is है.

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”.

Pronunciation Note

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.

The Oblique Case

Some personal pronouns have distinct forms in the oblique case.

Direct Case Oblique Case
मैं मुझ
हम हम
आप आप
तू तुझ
तुम तुम
यह इस
वह उस
ये इन
वे उन

Special Forms with the Postposition को

Several pronouns have optional special forms when they appear with the postposition को.

Pronoun Form with को Alternative Form
मैं मुझको मुझे
हम हमको हमें
आप आपको (none)
तुम तुमको तुम्हें
तू तुझको तुझे
यह इसको इसे
वह उसको उसे
ये इनको इन्हें
वे उनको उन्हें

Note that the alternative forms end in the vowel , and the plural forms are nasalized. Also note that the alternative forms involving यह and वह have only a single , which differentiates them from इससे and उससे.

Compound Postpositions

Many postpositions consist of more than one word. The first word will be के or की. When a personal pronoun is the object of a compound postposition, the possessive form corresponding to the personal pronoun is used in the oblique case. Some pronouns have corresponding distinct possessive adjectives, and some do not.

Pronoun With के पास
मैं मेरे पास
हम हमारे पास
आप आप के पास
तुम तुम्हारे पास
तू तेरे पास
यह इसके पास
वह उसके पास
ये इनके पास
वे उनके पास

Thus, for example, the form “मुझ के पास” would not be correct; instead मेरे पास would be used. However, आप has no corresponding possessive adjective, so आप के पास is correct.

Improper Forms

Many Hindi speakers use possessive forms with postpositions which are not compound. For instance, a very common phrase is “मेरे को” which is used instead of “मुझे“.

Separated/Adjoined Postpositions

Postpositions may be joined to personal pronouns or written separately, e.g. मुझ को or मुझको. However, typically only a few postpositions are adjoined, particularly को, से, and का; Hindi speakers generally prefer to adjoin these postpositions to personal pronouns.