April 26, 2013

कौन है versus कौन होता है

Question

What is the difference between कौन है and कौन होता है?

Answer

कौन है uses the simple form of होना, whereas कौन होता है uses the present habitual form of होना.

कौन है is specific, whereas कौन होता है is non-specific/general. कौन है asks for identity, whereas कौन होता है asks for character, kind, quality, etc.

A few examples will clarify:

वह कौन है – “Who is he/she?”; In this example, the speaker is asking for a person’s identity.

वह कौन होता है मेरी आलोचना करने वाला – “Who is he to criticize me?”; In this example the speaker is asking about a person’s character, qualities, and not about the person’s identity.

मनुष्य का सबसे अच्छा दोस्त कौन होता है – “Who is (a) man’s best friend?”; this is a general question, not a question about a particular identity.

अंजलि से बात करती हुई लड़की कौन है – “Who is the girl talking to Anjali?”; this is a specific question about someone’s identity.

  • Divija Sampathi

    वह कौन होता है मेरी आलोचना करने वाला – “Who is he to criticize me?”…Why to use ‘karne vaala’ instead of ‘karne ko’?

    • करने वाला is correct. This is just the form of the idiom. The “reason” is that these kinds of sentences are qualitative; i.e. the speaker is asking something like “what kind of person is he who criticizes me”. That’s why we use “होता है” and not “है” – “होता है” is for generic or qualitative sentences. The participle आलोचना करने वाला is a qualitative participle here, so it naturally fits with the qualitative verb. That’s the grammatical explanation, but it’s probably easier to just accept the idiom! 🙂