July 14, 2012

Infinitive + होना

The “infinitive + होना” idiom is very common in Hindi. It has the following form:

[oblique “agent”] को [infinitive] [form of होना]

For example: मुझे जाना हैइसको जाना है, हमें जाना होगा, मुझे जाना था

In this idiom, if the infinitive has an object, then the infinitive and the form of होना both agree with the object of the infinitive in number and gender. This is analogous to ergative constructions with ने – the agent is “blocked” by the postposition को, so the infinitive agrees with its object instead.

This idiom has two primary uses:

  • To express compulsion
  • To express a want or desire


This idiom can be used to express a mild, incidental compulsion or need. It is similar to the English idiom “have to”.


मुझे जाना है – “I have to go”

मुझे उन लोगों के आने से पहले पराठे बनाने हैं – I have to make the parathas before they come.

मुझे उससे बात करनी है – “I have to talk to her”

हमें उन लोगों की मदद करनी है – “We have to help them”

अगर तुम उससे बात करना चाहते हो तो तुम्हें हिंदी में बात करनी होगी – “If you want to speak to her, then you’ll have to speak in Hindi”

मुझे जाना था – “I had to go”


This idiom is commonly used to express wants or desires rather than needs or compulsions. This is generally only used with the present tense. It is somewhat colloquial.


मुझे चाय पीनी है – “I want to drink tea”

मुझे पराठे खाने हैं – “I want to eat parathas”

  • Divija Sampathi

    Hi..अगर तुम उससे बात करना चाहते हो तो तुम्हें हिंदी में बात करनी होगी..Can you pls explain why it is ‘बात करनी होगी’ but not ‘baat karna hoga’ ..Is ‘हिंदी’ the object here? If so, it is blocked by the postposition ‘में’ ..Then how does it become ‘बात करनी होगी’..Pls let me know David

    • Hi, Divija! That’s a great question. In Hindi, infinitives sometimes agree with their object. In the idiom in this article (infinitive + होना), the infinitive agrees with its object in gender if it has one, and the form of होना likewise agrees in gender. Also, if an infinitive represents a compound verb (e.g. बात करना), then the infinitive agrees with the noun part of the compound verb if there is no object or the object is “blocked” by a postposition. Thus, in the example “मुझे उससे बात करनी है”, करनी is feminine because बात is feminine and the object is “blocked” by a postposition (उससे). This works the same way for verbs too; for instance “मैंने उससे बात की”. Does this make sense? I know this seems complicated in explanation, but in practice it is simple, once you have enough experience. I’ve written an article about infinitives and gender here: http://hindilanguage.info/notes/volume-4/infinitives-and-gender/