April 20, 2012

Causative Verbs

Hindi has a class of verbs called causative verbs.

As the name implies, causative verbs indicate an action that the subject does not directly perform, but rather causes to happen, perhaps by causing some other agent to perform the action.

English Causative Verbs

English has a few idioms for expressing causative actions which are similar to Hindi causative verbs, such as “to have X do Y”, “to get X to do Y”, etc.


I had him fix the chair.

I got my eyeglasses repaired.

I had my car cleaned.

I got him to move the furniture.

I got my house cleaned by the cleaners.

Note that in each of the preceding examples, the subject’s participation is not direct, but indirect – the subject causes the action of the verb somehow (perhaps by asking or gesturing or some other solicitation), but does not directly perform the action of the verb.

If the agent that performs the action of a causative verb in English is explicitly expressed, it is either marked with the preposition “by”, or else indicated syntactically, by placing the agent as the object of the verb “to have”, followed by the stem of the main verb, or by placing the agent as the object of the verb “to get”, followed by the infinitive of the main verb.

Hindi Causative Verbs

Hindi verbs can be categorized into three related categories which express various relationships between the subject of the verb and the verb itself: transitive verbs, intransitive verbs, and causative verbs.

Refer to the section about transitivity for more information about transitive and intransitive verbs.

Transitive Verbs

Transitive verbs are verbs which can accept a direct object. For instance, in the English sentence “I burned the food”, the verb “burned” is transitive because it has a direct object, “food”.

मैंने खाना जलाया – “I burned the food”

The transitive verb जलाना means “to burn (something)”.

Note that Hindi speakers may prefer a compound verb in this instance: मैंने खाना जला दिया – “I burned the food”.

Intransitive Verbs

Intransitive verbs are verbs which do not accept a direct object. For instance, in the English sentence “The food burned”, the verb “burned” is intransitive because it has no direct object.

खाना जला – “The food burned/was burned”

The intransitive verb जलना means “to burn/to be burned”.

Note that Hindi speakers may prefer a compound verb in this instance: खाना जल गया – “the food burned”.

Note that in English the intransitive and transitive forms of verbs are often the same: “burned”, and “burned” in the previous examples. However, in Hindi, they are explicitly differentiated. Hindi has morphological correlates for transitive and causative verbs; that is, the form of the verb changes to indicate that the verb is transitive or causative. For instance, note that in the previous example, the transitive verb is lexically similar to the intransitive verb (जलाना versus जलना), and also the transitive verb is semantically similar to the intransitive verb (“to burn, to be burned”). In this instance, the transitive verb adds the vowel at the end of stem of the corresponding intransitive verb. This is a common pattern of pairs of intransitive and transitive verbs in Hindi.

Causative Verbs

Causative verbs express an action which the subject causes to happen (via some third party).

तुम लोग कब मेरा पासपोर्ट बनवायेंगे – When are you going to have my passport made?

मैंने उससे कुर्सी ठीक करवाई – “I had him fix the chair”

मैंने अपना चश्मा ठीक करवाया – “I had my eyeglasses fixed”

मैंने उससे कुछ खाना पकवाया – “I had him cook some food”

All causative verbs are transitive. However, the converse is not true; all transitive verbs are not causative.

Most causative verbs have stems that end with वा. Thus, causative verbs can often be formed by appending वा to the intransitive verb stems. For instance, पकना “to be cooked”, पकवाना “to cause to cook”, etc.

If the agent of the causative verb is mentioned, then it is followed by the postposition से. However, an agent need not be explicitly mentioned. Causative verbs always indicate that the action of the verb is performed by some external agent.

Form of Hindi Causative Verbs

Intransitive, transitive, and causative verbs comprise three semantically and lexically related categories of verbs.

There are several general patterns of formation.

The basic pattern of formation is that transitive verbs are formed by appending the vowel to the intransitive verb stem and causative verbs are formed by appending वा to the intransitive verb stem.

Thus, Hindi often indicate transitive and causative verbs with distinct morphemes ( and वा), or else with certain morphological changes (changes to the vowels or consonants of the intransitive verb stem).


Consider the following examples, noting the progression from intransitive to transitive to causative, and observing the form of each verb. Note how the transitive verb stem appends the morpheme and the causative verb stem appends the morpheme वा. This is the most basic pattern of transitive and causative verbs.

Intransitive Transitive Causative
पकना to be cooked पकाना to cook (something) पकवाना to cause to cook
बनना to be made बनाना to make बनवाना to cause to make
उठना to rise उठाना to raise उठवाना to cause to raise
लगना to be applied लगाना to apply लगवाना to cause to apply
जलना to be burned जलाना to burn (something) जलवाना to cause to burn

Morphological Changes

Hindi transitive and causative verbs can undergo certain morphological changes. Unfortunately, there is no prescription for all of these changes, and it is not always possible to predict each change. However, they do often follow distinct patterns.

Hindi transitive and causative verbs may undergo the following kinds of morphological changes:

  • Vocalic Changes – changes to the vowels of the intransitive verb stem. This is typically the initial vowel of the intransitive verb stem, although a medial vowel may also change. When the vowels changed, they are typically either lengthened or shortened to a corresponding long or short vowel, respectively. Sometimes the pattern is obvious, since the vowel is lengthened or shortened to its complementary vowel, for instance , or , . However, sometimes the “lengthening” or “shortening” of the vowel is not really a lengthening or shortening of the duration of the vowel, but a change to another long or short vowel that is not complementary, for instance and are interchanged sometimes.
  • Consonantal Additions – a consonant may be appended to the intransitive verb stem. The most common such consonant is .
  • Consonantal Changes – a medial consonant may be changed to another consonant.
  • Multiple changes – many verbs undergo both vocalic and consonantal changes.

Vocalic Changes

Sometimes the vowel in the preceding syllable of the intransitive verb stem is shortened in addition to adding or वा.

The vowels are shortened according to the following general guidelines:


, , become

, become


Intransitive Transitive Causative
बैठना to be seated बिठाना to seat बिठवाना to cause to seat
घूमना to roam around घुमाना to show someone around घुमवाना to cause to show someone around
रोना to cry रुलाना to make someone cry रुलवाना to cause to make someone cry

Occasionally a consonant is added when forming the transitive and causative verb stems, as in रोना/रुलाना/रुलवाना.

In contrast to the previous pattern, the initial or medial vowel of the intransitive verb stem may be lengthened when forming the transitive verb stem.

The vowels are lengthened according to the following general guidelines:


becomes or

becomes or


Intransitive Transitive Causative
रुकना to be stopped (to wait) रोकना to stop रुकवाना to cause to stop
निकलना to go out निकालना to take out निकलवाना to cause to take out
खुलना to be open खोलना to open खुलवाना to cause to open
कटना to be cut काटना to cut कटाना/कटवाना to cause to cut

Note that some causative verbs have two forms, one with and one with वा, as in कटाना/कटवाना.

Consonantal Changes

Some patterns exhibit consonantal changes when forming transitive and causative verbs.

Consonantal Additions

It is very common to add the consonant when forming the transitive and causative stems:

Intransitive Transitive Causative
सोना to sleep सुलाना to put to sleep सुलवाना to cause to put to sleep
रोना to cry रुलाना to make someone cry रुलवाना to cause to make someone cry

Both vocalic and consonantal changes can occur in some verbs.

Consonantal Changes

Intransitive Transitive Causative
टूटना to be broken तोड़ना to break something तुड़ाना/तुड़वाना to cause to break something
फटना to rupture, burst, break, crack, etc. फोड़ना to rupture something फुड़वाना to cause to rupture
बिकना to be sold बेचना to sell बिकवाना to cause to sell
छुटना to be free, to be released छोड़ना to let go, to set free छुड़ाना/छुड़वाना to cause to set free

Note the vowel and consonant changes in the previous examples.

First and Second Causatives (Verbs with no Intransitive Forms)

Some Hindi verbs have no intransitive form. However, such verbs may still exist in groups of three related verbs: transitive, first causative, and second causative. The first causative indicates that the subject is somehow directly involved in the action of the verb, whereas the second causative indicates that the subject of the verb is only indirectly involved in the action of the verb.


Intransitive First Causative Second Causative
सीखना to learn सिखाना to teach (to cause to learn) सिखवाना to have someone teach
देखना to see दिखाना to show (to cause to see) दिखवाना to have someone show
समझना to understand समझाना to explain (to cause to understand) समझवाना to have someone explain
सुनना to hear सुनाना to recite, to tell (to cause to hear) सुनवाना to cause to recite
खाना to eat खिलाना to feed (to cause to eat) खिलवाना to have someone feed
पीना to drink पिलाना to give someone something to drink (to cause to drink) पिलवाना to have someone give someone something to drink

Observe that similar vocalic and consonantal changes often occur in first and second causative verbs as occur in other transitive and causative verbs.

Verbs without Intransitive Forms with a Single Causative Form

Some transitive verbs have only a single corresponding causative verb form.


Intransitive Causative
करना to do करवाना / कराना to have someone do
लिखना लिखवाना to write लिखना लिखवाना to have someone write
देना to give दिलवाना to have someone give
ख़रीदना to buy ख़रीदवाना to have someone buy
भेजना to send भिलवाना to have someone send
पूछना to ask पुछवाना to have someone ask


1. All transitive adjectival conjunct verbs (adjective + करना) have adjective + होना as their intransitive form. Likewise, all transitive nominal conjunct verbs (noun + करना) have noun + होना as their intransitive form. In the same manner, transitive causative conjunct verbs are formed as adjective/noun + करवाना/कराना.

2. All causative and transitive verbs are “ने verbs”.

3. With regard to syntax, the external agent, if mentioned, generally comes after the subject. If the subject has both direct and indirect objects, the agent may be mentioned before or after the indirect object.