April 20, 2012


A transitive verb can have a direct object, whereas an intransitive verb cannot. In English, often the same verb can be used both intransitively and transitively.

Consider the following examples in English:

The movie has started.

We started the movie.

Both examples use the verb “to start”. However, the former example uses the verb intransitively, whereas the second example uses the verb transitively.

In Hindi, however, rather than using the same verb intransitively and transitively, pairs are used which explicitly distinguish transitivity. These pairs are semantically and phonetically related, however.

Patterns of Transitive and Intransitive Verbs in Hindi

Hindi employs several basic patterns for distinguishing transitivity.

Adding to the Intransitive Verb Stem

Intransitive Verb Translation Transitive Verb Translation
चलना to walk, to move चलाना to make something move, to drive
बनना to be made, to be built बनाना to make, to build
लगना to be attached/applied/installed लगाना to attach/apply/install
उठना to rise, to get up उठाना to raise, to lift, to get (someone) up
बचना to be saved बचाना to save
पकना to be cooked पकाना to cook

Schwa Deletion

Some words may seem to change because of the phenomenon known as schwa deletion.

समझना “to understand”

समझाना “to make (someone) understand/to explain”

Morphologically, this word is just like any other intransitive-transitive pair that adds to the intransitive verb stem to form the transitive verb stem. However, due to schwa deletion, the latter word is pronounced “samjhana” whereas the former word is “samajhna”. The deletion of the schwa can make the word sound different.

Refer to the section on schwa deletion in the article about The Devanagari Script.

Adding to the Intransitive Verb Stem and Changing the Preceding Long Vowel

For some verbs, when is added to the intransitive verb stem, the preceding long vowel is shortened or altered according to the following patterns:


, , or becomes

, becomes

Intransitive Verb Translation Transitive Verb Translation
बैठना to sit बिठाना to seat (someone)
घूमना to roam around घुमाना to show (someone) around
जागना to be awake जगाना to awaken (someone)
सोना to sleep सुलाना to put (someone) to sleep

Note that consonants may be added, as in the example of सोना/सुलाना.

Altering the Initial or Medial Short Vowels of the Intransitive Verb Stem

Some verbs alter the initial short vowel or medial short vowel of the intransitive verb stem to form the transitive verb stem. The patterns are as follows:


becomes or

becomes or

Again, note that sometimes the consonant may change, as in धुलना/धोना.

Intransitive Verb Translation Transitive Verb Translation
निकलना to go out निकालना to take out, to extract, to push out
रुकना to stop (intransitive) रोकना to stop (transitive)
धुलना to be washed धोना to wash
खुलना to be open खोलना to open

Using होना versus करना with Compound Verbs

Refer to the article about compound verbs for an overview of compound verbs. करना is used to form the transitive form of many compound verbs, whereas होना is used to form the corresponding intransitive form of the compound verb.

Intransitive Verb Translation Transitive Verb Translation
शुरू होना to begin (intransitive) शुरू करना to begin (transitive)
ख़त्म होना to finish (intransitive) ख़त्म करना to finish (transitive)

There are other patterns of intransitive and transitive verb pairs. However, the ones listed above are the most prevalent.

Intransitive Imperatives

When issuing imperatives without an explicit object, the intransitive verb is used:

रुको – “Wait!”