August 6, 2013

Expletives and कि

The subordinating conjunction कि is very useful in Hindi.

In one usage, it is used with an expletive. An expletive is a word that serves a grammatical function but by itself has no meaning. Expletives are “placeholders” that represent some other part of the sentence. In English, expletives are very common. Whenever we say something like “it’s fun to learn another language”, we are using an expletive; the word “it” is the expletive, and it stands for “to learn”. We could have said “to learn another language is fun”, but this is very awkward in modern English; instead a gerund (“learning another language is fun”) or an expletive is used.

Here’s an example of an expletive with कि in Hindi:

इससे पहले कि आप इस सुविधा का उपयोग कर सकें, आपको शुल्क देना होगा – “Before you can use this feature, you will have to pay a fee”

In the previous example, the pronoun इस was the expletive that stood for the subordinating clause “कि आप इस सुविधा का उपयोग कर सकें“. An alternative syntax is “आपके इस सुविधा का उपयोग करने से पहले, आपको शुल्क देना होगा“. Sometimes, it is easier to use an expletive, especially when the clause is long or complex.

Here’s another example:

उन्होंने मुझे यह बताया कि उनका उत्पाद का नया संस्करण इस वर्ष के अंत तक उपलब्ध हो जायेगा” – “They told me that a new version of their product will be available by the end of this year”

In the previous example, the pronoun यह was not necessary, but it still functions as an expletive.

Expletives are often used without कि. In such cases, the subordinate clause precedes the expletive. Consider an example:

बच्चा विद्यालय जाना शुरु करे, इससे पहले क्या तैयारी करें? – “What preparations should we make before a child goes to school?”