April 20, 2012

Multiple Subjects

Hindi verbs may have more than one subject. When a verb has more than one subject, it may become unclear how the subject should agree with the verb. This article presents some guidelines to help resolve this difficulty.

With Conjunctions

When the subjects are conjoined with a conjunction such as और (“and”), then the following guidelines apply:

Same Gender

1. If the subject are all animate or the subjects are all inanimate and all subjects are of the same gender, then the verb acquires the plural form of that gender.

Examples

मेरी बहिन और मेरी मौसी दुकान में खरीदारी कर रही हैं – “My sister and my aunt are shopping in the store”

रोटी और सब्जी मेज़ से कैसे गिरी – “How did the roti and vegetables fall off the table?”

Different Genders

2. If the subjects are all inanimate and are of different genders, then the verb generally agrees in gender with the last subject.

Examples

उसने साड़ियाँ और जूते ख़रीदे हैं – “She has bought saaris and shoes”

Note that this rule is true also for ergative agreement (ने constructions). The first noun is feminine (साड़ियाँ), yet the last noun is masculine (जूते), therefore the verb is masculine plural.

उसने जूते और साड़ियाँ खरीदी हैं – “She has bought saaris and shoes”

This is the same sentence, yet the word order is different. Thus, since the feminine noun came last, the verb was feminine.

3. If the subjects are animate and are of different genders, then the verb acquires the masculine gender.

Examples

प्रकाश और सायली किधर जा रहे हैं – “Where are Prakash and Sayali going?”

The masculine gender is used since the subjects were personal and of mixed gender.

Simplification

To simplify matters, a so-called “pendent phrase” may be used, followed by a word such as दोनों “both”, तीनों “[all] three”, or सब “all”.

उसने जूते और साड़ियाँ दोनों ख़रीदे हैं – “She has bought both saaris and shoes”

The subjects “pend” until they are resolved. The sense is:

“Saaris and shoes – she has bought both”

With Disjunctions

When the subjects are joined with a disjunction such as या (“or”), then the verb agrees with the last item in the disjunction.

क्या तुमने जूते या साड़ियाँ खरीदी – “Did you buy shoes or saaris?”