April 20, 2012

Relative Pronouns

Relative pronouns are used to relate two clauses which share a common word.

For instance, consider the two following English sentences:

“The man is standing there”; “The man is my brother”.

These sentences can be combined by using a relative pronoun:

“The man who is standing there is my brother.”

The relative pronoun “who” related the common factor of both sentences: “the man”. The pronoun “who” has the antecedent “man” (it refers to “man”). The entire relative clause “who is standing there” is like an adjective in this case.

Some Differences Versus English

Hindi relative pronouns are similar to English pronouns, but there are some notable differences.

Null Pronouns

English has a so-called “null” relative pronoun. Consider the following sentence: “You are the kindest person I know”. There is an implied relative pronoun which was omitted: “You are the kindest person (whom) I know”. This phenomenon is not present in Hindi. Hindi always requires a relative pronoun.

Relative and Interrogative Pronouns

In English, relative pronouns and interrogative pronouns have the same form, as “who” in “Who are you?” and “The person who is sitting there”. In Hindi, however, the forms are distinct. For instance, the corresponding phrases in Hindi would be आप कौन हैं and आदमी जो वहाँ पर बैठा हुआ है respectively.

Relative Correlative Constructions

Hindi generally prefers the so-called “relative correlative” construction, wherein a relative pronoun is used along with another corresponding pronoun. The pronouns are used in pairs which correlate two clauses.

In English, a slightly awkward example is: “The man who is standing there, he is my brother”. It is apparent that this construction is less common in English. In this example, the relative-correlative pair was “who … he”.

In Hindi, an equivalent example is: “जो आदमी वहां खड़ा है, वह मेरा भाई है” – “the man who is standing there is my brother”. The relative correlative pair जोवह (“the one who … that one …”) was used.

The following chart summarizes some parallel words in Hindi:

Proximal Distal Interrogative Relative
यह/ये वह/वे कौन/क्या जो
यहाँ वहाँ कहाँ जहाँ
इधर उधर किधर जिधर
इतना उतना कितना जितना
इतने उतने कितने जितने
एसा वैसा कैसा जैसा
ऐसे वैसे कैसे जैसे
अब तब कब जब

Notice the assonance of the pronouns. Interrogative pronouns begin with whereas relative pronouns begin with .

Relative Correlative
जो (जिस/जिन) जो भी वह/वे (उस/उन) वही (वह + ही)
जब, जब भी तब/तो, तभी (तब + भी)
जहाँ, जहाँ भी वहाँ, वहीं (वहाँ + ही)
जिधर, जिधर भी उधर, उधर ही
जितना, जितना भी उतना, उतना ही
जितने जितने भी उतने उतने ही
जैसा, जैसा भी वैसा, वैसा ही
जैसे, जैसे भी वैसे, वैसे ही

Some Examples of Hindi Relative Correlative Pairs

काश कि सीखना उतना ही आसान हो जितना भुलना – I wish that it were as easy to learn as it is to forget!

This example uses the relative-correlative pair जितना / उतना ही. This usage can be translated into English using the correlative pair “as … as”.

दूध में जितनी चीनी डालोगे वह उतना ही मीठा होगा – The milk will become as sweet as however much sugar you add

This example uses the relative-correlative pair जितना / उतना ही. This usage was again translated into English using the correlative adverbs “as … as”. Note that the first correlative जितनी is used as an adjective, and the second correlative उतना ही is used as an adverb.

मैंने जितना सिखा था, उतना ही मैं भूल गया – I have forgotten as much as I had learned

Clause Order

The relative clause can appear in several locations.

Before Main Clause

The general pattern for relative correlative pronouns is as follows:

relative word + relative clause + correlative word + main clause

जो किताब आपने मुझको दी, वह बहुत अच्छी है – “which book you gave to me, that is very good” – “the book that you gave me is very good”

Note that the relative pronoun precedes the word it refers to, whereas in English, a relative pronoun typically succeeds its referent.

Middle Of Main Clause

Other patterns are possible, however. For instance, as is common in English, the relative clause may come amid the main clause, without any explicit correlative word:

वह किताब जो आपने मुझको दी बहुत अच्छी है – “the book that you gave me is very good”

After Main Clause

Also, the order of the relative clause and correlative clause may be reversed, usually for emphasis, so that the correlative clause comes first, and the relative clause last:

वह किताब बहुत अच्छी है जो आपने मुझको दी – “that book is very good, that you gave to me” – “the book that you gave me is very good”

Notice that regardless of the word order, the common factor in the relative and correlative clauses comes first (किताब in the above examples).

Oblique Case

The singular and plural oblique forms of जो are जिस and जिन respectively.

जिस लड़की ने मुझको किताब दी वह भारत से है – “the girl who gave me the book is from India”.

भी and ही

भी makes the preceding pronoun indefinite:

जो = who

जो भी = whoever

ही makes the preceding pronoun definite:

जो भी तुम चाहो, वही मैं करूँगा – “I will do whatever you wish” – “Whatever you wish, [that exact thing/very thing/same thing] I will do”.

  • Matthew Chang

    I’m often confused on the constructions जब कि and जो कि; what do these mean exactly, and how are they used?

    • Good question. The particle कि is often used to make a longer form of certain words, e.g. जैसे (कि), जब (कि), जो (कि), क्यों + कि = क्योंकि, etc. Often, what you can say with the “short” form you can say with the “long form”, i.e. you can use जब कि instead of जब in many situations; the choice is stylistic. However, in a few cases, the “long” form has additional uses; for instance, जब कि can be used to mean “whereas” or “while”, as in “मुझे चाय पसंद है जब कि मेरी बीवी को कॉफ़ी पसंद है.” (“I like tea, whereas my wife likes coffee”).