To Open: खुलना vs. खोलना

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In the ख + vowels lesson, two Hindi words खुलना and खोलना where provided to illustrate the consonant ख in combination with different vowels.  Both of these were translated as “to open”. 

One of our listeners, Christian asks

“You give two examples that you both translate as “to open”: khulna and kholna. Are they synonymous, or does khulna not have a slightly different meaning (“to uncover”)?”

This is a very good question.  The best place to start out is looking at The Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary by R.S. McGregor  defines each of these words as

खुलना v.i. 1. to be open, to come loose, to unravel; to be untied or unfastened; to be disentangled; to be scattered (as clouds).  2. to be uncovered, or laid bare; to become clear (the sky); to be light (a colour).  3. to be cleared (as a drain); to be removed (an obstruction); to be broadened (the mind) 4. to be laid, or split, open; to be dissected; to be analyzed.

खोलना v.t. 1. to open; to loosen; to unfasten, to untie; to unmoor; to unlock; to take off, to remove 2. to disentangle; to unravel 3. to uncover; to lay open.  4. to clear, to unblock. 5. to solve; to explain, to display, to disclose


These two definitions show the critical difference between these two words.  One refers to the action of “opening” as seen from the thing being “opened”.    “The door was opened.” You would use खुलना  “दरवाज़ा खुला था”   

But if I were to say, “I opened the door.” use खोलना.  “मैं ने दरवाज़ा खोला”.


There are a lot of verbs that are like this.  See the episode: Related verbs (February 17, 2010).

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