April 20, 2012

Conjunct Verbs

Many Hindi verbs are formed by conjoining a noun or adjective with a verb. Such verbs are called conjunct verbs. The most common verb used to form conjunct verbs is करना (“to do/to make”).


The general form is as follows:

noun/adjective + form of करना

A conjunct verb formed with a noun is called a nominal conjunct verb. A conjunct verb formed with an adjective is called an adjectival conjunct verb.

Nominal Conjunct Verbs

Nominal conjunct verbs combine a noun with a verb to form a conjunct verb.

There are two basic patterns of nominal conjunct verbs.

Often the object of the verb in the corresponding English sentence is marked with a postposition, typically का,की, or से.

However, some nominal conjunct verbs are like basic transitive verbs. Their object is either unmarked, or marked by को.


Consider the following examples of nominal conjunct verbs.

With Postpositions

मदद करना “to help”

मैंने उसकी मदद की – I helped her

हमें एक दुसरे की मदद करनी चाहिए – We should help each other

इंतज़ार करना “to wait (for someone/something)”

मैं अपनी बहिन का इंतज़ार कर रहा हूँ – I am waiting for my sister

कोशिश करना “to try/to attempt”

मैं हिंदी सिखने की कोशिश कर रहा हूँ – I am trying to learn Hindi

Like Regular Transitive Verbs

मना करना – “to forbid”

मैंने उससे जाने के लिए मना किया – I forbade him to go

शुरू करना “to begin (transitive)”

अध्यापक ने क्लास शुरू की – The teacher began the class

पता करना – “to come to know / to find out / to realize”

मैंने उसकी असलियत पता किया – “I came to know her true nature”

Adjectival Conjunct Verbs

Adjectival conjunct verbs combine an adjective with a verb to form a conjunct verb.


बड़ा करना – To enlarge / to increase

मुझे ये फोटो और बड़ा करना है – I have to enlarge this photo

ठीक करना “to fix/to make right”

यह आदमी मेज़ ठीक करेगा – This man will fix the table

कम करना “to reduce/to make less”

मैं दाम कम करूँगा – I will reduce the price

साफ़ करना “to clean”

उसने कमरा साफ़ किया – He cleaned the room


A few notes are instructive.

Postpositions and Agreement

If the subject of a nominal conjunct verb is “blocked” by a postposition, then the verb agrees with the noun.

हमें एक दुसरे की मदद करनी चाहिए – We should help each other

Note that the infinitive करनी agrees with मदद, which is feminine, since the subject, हम, is blocked by the postposition को (implicit in the special form हमें = हम + को).

मैंने उसकी मदद की – I helped her

Note that the verb की agress with मदद, since the subject, मैं, is blocked by the postposition ने.


All conjunct verbs with करना are transitive (their agents require the agentive postposition, ने, when they are transitive and perfective). Hence in the sentence मैंने उसकी मदद की, the agent is marked with ने and the verb agrees with the conjunct noun.

Intransitive Counterparts

Many conjunct verbs have corresponding intransitive forms which employ होना (“to be”). Contrast the following two sentences:

माँ ने मूवी शुरू की – Mom started the movie

मूवी शुरू हो गयी – The movie has started

Negation of Conjunct Verbs

In negative sentences, the negative particle नहीं generally comes between the noun or adjective and करना.

उन लोगों ने हमारी मदद नहीं की – Those people did not help us

आदमी मेज़ ठीक नहीं करेगा – The man will not fix the table

  • nilaya_shogun

    this is a very helpful article! thanks!
    I have questions regarding the inflection of the conjunct verbs in ergative or even oblique alignment, perhaps not just relating to this article but in general.
    in the above mentioned sentence

    अध्यापक ने क्लास शुरू की — The teacher began the class

    the verb inflects according to the female ‘class’. Same applies here when the perfective of करना inflects according to a direct infinitive as opposed to a noun (like क्लास) used with शुरू करना

    पिछले साल मैंने लिखना शुरू किया — last year i took up writing.

    How is it when I’d like to say ‘last year I began writing a book’ or even ‘books’ ??

    would it be: (not using को)

    पिछले साल मैंने किताब लिखनी शुरू की or
    पिछले साल मेंने किताबें लिखनी शुरू कीं

    i.e. —> would I use direct infinitive (किताब लिखना) + शुरू किया or the inflected infinitive (किताब लिखनी) + शुरू की and would करना also inflect according to the plurality of the object (as in किताबें) in style of शुरू कीं ?

    this question therefore covers the inflection of conjunct verbs in the ergative/oblique. Which part determines the inflection? Or rather, how is the hierarchy structured? From what I gathered the inflection of transitive verbs looks at the object and, if a conjunct verb is based on a noun (like इंतज़ार करना, used with का) as apposed to a neutral adjective (like बंद करना etc.), then the noun’s gender is decisive. But (I might be wrong here!) … some conjunct verbs based on nouns don’t use का/की/के or any other postposition like से for that matter (that right?), so how does the verb inflect in such cases??

    not sure, maybe this here makes sense and exemplifies: (using हल करना for ‘to solve’)

    ‘We will have to solve our problems’

    which one is correct?
    हमें अपनी समस्याओं का हल करना पड़ेगा
    हमें अपनी समस्याओं को हल करना पड़ेगा
    हमें अपनी समस्याएँ हल करना पड़ेगा
    हमें अपनी समस्याएँ हल करनी पड़ेगी

    1. does a conjunct verb based on a noun always block the object with a postposition (like का, की, से etc.) ?
    2. would it always be को if no other postposition is normally used?
    3. if not, does the verb inflect according to the last mentioned noun in the sentence?
    4. if not that either, does it inflect according to the direct object (unless it is blocked by a postposition)?

    seriously, if you shed some light on this topic it will solve many others too!
    thanks in advance!

    • Great questions. Let me state a few general principles.

      1. Infinitives that complement verbs in ergative alignment (e.g. लिखनी in “मैंने किताब लिखनी शुरू की”) may inflect according to the gender of their object, or the invariable masculine singular may be used (e.g. “मैंने किताब लिखना शुरू किया”). You can think of the infinitive as the verb’s “object”, so लिखना entails किया, etc. The inflected infinitive is more common. If the verb is not in ergative alignment, then the invariable masculine singular form is used (e.g. “मैं किताब लिखना शुरू करूंगा”).

      2. If a complementary infinitive is inflected for gender, it inflects according to the number of its object too (e.g. उसने केले खाने शुरू कर दिए)

      3. The main verb may or may not be inflected for number; there is no strict rule here. Some speakers prefer one way, some another. Fortunately, the difference in pronunciation (nasalization) and writing (bindu) is pretty subtle anyway, so most people won’t even notice. Here are some general principles:

      3.1) Only the last word is nasalized (e.g. “शुरू कर दी हैं” and not “दीं हैं”).

      3.2) If होना is the final word, it’s generally pluralized if the object is plural (e.g. “उसने अपनी यात्रा की तैयारियां करनी शुरू कर दी हैं”)

      3.3) With compound verbs, the last verb isn’t pluralized (e.g. “उसने केले खाने शुरू कर दिए”).

      3.4) With conjunct verbs, the verb is pluralized (e.g. “मैंने दो किताबें लिखनी शुरू कीं”).

      These principles are very likely to be broken! I’ve read and heard such sentences many different ways. I’ve asked native speakers and they say that they cannot clearly discern which way is preferable.

      Here’s the answer to your questions:

      Q1: No; some verbs can be used without any postposition. Some verbs require one postposition. Some verbs can be used with multiple postpositions.
      Q2: को is tricky; it is used in certain contexts. But, no – को is never automatically used.

      Q3: The verb inflects according to the object or the object of its complementary infinitive.

      Q4: Yes.

      Regarding you examples with हल करना: #1, #2, and #4 are correct. That is a good example of the flexibility of the postpositions.

      The good news: since there is so much variability, it’s not likely that you’ll make a mistake if you guess. Native speakers probably don’t know what is “right” in many situations too. With enough experience, this will probably become intuitive. If you can learn English so well that you can have a very complex (and flawless) dialog about a technical subject like grammar, then you must have done something really well when you learned! Maybe you should give me some tips!

      I like to think of this as a “cascade”: picture a waterfall with water trickling down from one rock to another. The gender “cascades” from the object to the infinitive to the main verb.

      In the most recent transcript that I added (http://hindilanguage.info/transcripts/sarabhai-vs-sarabhai/episode-28-sunehri/), there is an instance of this phenomenon: “बाद में घोड़ा लुढ़क गया और फिर गाड़ी चलानी बंद करनी पड़ी”.

      Try searching in Google too: type things like “करनी शुरू” (with quotes), etc. if you’re interested in more examples.

      Let me know if you have any further questions. Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful questions.

      • nilaya_shogun

        oh thank you super much for this detailed reply!

        I can now see why I have been confused about the handling of such inflections, obviously the ‘cascade’ (good metaphor — that’s how I’d like to see it too!) overwhelms speakers as to where to set the anchor, which results in more flexible tolerance for multiple variations.

        having combed through my own examples earlier, yet another version could have been (and perhaps could be) हमें अपनी समस्याएँ हल करनी पड़ेंगी (with nasalized पड़ना according to ‘problems’).

        just one conclusion of yours I cannot quite suss

        3.3) With compound verbs, the last verb isn’t pluralized (e.g. “उसने केले खाने शुरू कर दिए”).
        3.4) With conjunct verbs, the verb is pluralized (e.g. “मैंने दो किताबें लिखनी शुरू कीं”).

        if the compound’s shading verb’s ergative is NOT pluralized, should it not be ‘दिया’ instead of ‘दिए’ ??
        and would the latter sentences with a compound thus be मैंने कुछ किताबें लिखनी शुरू कर लिया or लिए ?

        PS: i often search phrases in google to get to the bottom of a verb’s usages or genders of nouns even, but this can be very misleading because—like you say—many Hindi speakers are oblivious to grammatical devices, genders, ergative uses etc. and thereby use them more intuitively, so it isn’t always reliable.
        asking YOU on the other hand provides us with a detailed analysis because you learnt the language theoretically as well 😉

        thanks again!

        • I’m glad my answer was helpful. In 3.3 and 3.4, I meant to say “nasalized”, not “pluralized”. The verb always agrees with the complementary infinitive, but it may or may not be nasalized. Sorry for the confusion! Thus, in the sentence “उसने केले खाने शुरू कर दिए”, the plural verb is necessary, but the nasalization is possible; I probably would not nasalize it personally. In the sentence “मैंने दो किताबें लिखनी शुरू कीं”, the verb has to match the infinitive, so they either have to be both masculine or both feminine. Yes, you’re right that searching in Google is both difficult and misleading. I’d much rather prefer that people ask questions here. 🙂 As always, let me know if you think of any more questions.

          • nilaya_shogun

            aw i be see dem!
            right, as for nasalization only applies to feminine perfectives, ‘दिए’ dispenses with it anyway… 😉 whereas पहले साल उसने साड़ियाँ बनानी शुरू कर दी may thus ignore nasalization if I got it right. presumably the same applies in the passive, i.e. वाराणसी में बहुत-सी नई इमारतें बना दी गई / गईं.


          • Basically, people are fairly inconsistent about nasalization. If we want to be consistent, we could just nasalize when we pluralize. However, this is not really the practice of most people. But, fortunately, whatever we do, the difference is minor, so most native speakers probably won’t really notice. However, we do need to mind the gender and number, since mistakes in this category will be obvious to a native speaker.

          • nilaya_shogun

            मैंने तुम्हारी बात समझी

  • Divija Sampathi

    Hai David..In the sentence, अध्यापक ने क्लास शुरू की – The teacher began the class.. Pls lemme know why “ki” is used instead of “kiya” in the last? Is “class” a feminine noun?

  • Aditya

    Is there a way to form single verbs from nouns–as in, not by adding another verb to the noun, but by using a suffix to turn the noun into a verb, like “strength” to “strengthen,” or (Spanish) “ayuda” (“help”) to “ayudar” (“to help”)? Or can you only use another verb like “करना” to add to nouns and adjectives to make a verb?

    • There are probably some examples of this in Hindi, but it isn’t very common. Conjunct verbs (noun/adjective + करना) are very common, however.