Pronouns – Part 1 – Personal & Demonstrative Pronouns in the Direct Case

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Pronouns are very important words in any language.  They allow for us to refer to people and things without having to name them each time.  In order to understand how important and useful they are, consider what it would be like if you did not know them.  When referring to yourself or to the person you are talking to, it would be very awkward without them.  Can you imagine me having to say “Nathan is studying Hindi.”  “Nathan is going to school.”  instead of “I am studying Hindi.”  and “I am going to school.”  Or “Meena is teaching Hindi.”  “Meena is cooking” instead of “You are teaching Hindi.”  “You are cooking.”  And the word “He” is so much better than saying “That guy over there that I don’t know the name of”.  So you see, learning pronouns is essential.

Today’s lesson is the first in a series of lessons that deal with pronouns.  We are going to go over the personal and demonstrative pronouns in the direct case.  Personal pronouns refer to specific people.  These pronouns are “I, you, we, he, she, they” in English.  The demonstrative pronouns help to point out which things you might be talking about.  In English the demonstrative pronouns are “this, that, these, those”.  Pronouns can be in a different form depending on how it is used in a sentence.  The two cases that we have to be concerned with are the direct case and the oblique case.  The direct case we go over today.  This is the form that is used as the subject of a sentence.  The oblique case is used in other parts of a sentence and will be explained in a future episode.

While we do have pronouns in both Hindi and English, they are not one to one.  In some cases we have several pronouns in Hindi for one pronoun that we have in English.   And we also have the reverse, several pronouns in English that only have one pronoun in Hindi. 

I -  मैं

मैं नैथन हूँ।   I am Nathan.

मैं हिंदी पढ़ता हूँ।    I study Hindi.

मैं स्कूल जाऊँगा।  I will go to school.

मैं does not change depending on gender.  It can refer to a man or a woman.  But depending on the gender of the person it refers to, other parts of the sentence may change.

Adjectives that describe the person referred to by मैं must change to agree with the gender of that person.  Here is an example:

man:  मैं थका हूँ।  I am tired.

woman:  मैं थकी हूँ।  I am tired.

Verbs also change depending on the gender.  Here is an example of that.

man:  मैं मछली खाता हूँ। – I eat fish.

woman: मैं मछली खाती हूँ। – I eat fish.

What if you don’t know the gender of मैं?  This may be difficult to imagine, but consider this sentence in English:

Someone said, “I am going home.”

In this case, you may not know what the gender of the person referred to by “I” in the statement “I am going home.”  In English it is not a problem because there is no difference in gender.  But in Hindi where there is a difference, there is always an implied gender.  In this case, assume that it is masculine.  This will always be assumed unless we know specifically otherwise.

[spoken by an unknown person]  मैं घर जा रहा हूँ। – I am going home.

we – हम

“We” refers to a group of people that includes “I”.   Let’s see some examples.

हम हिंदी सीख रहे हैं। We are learning Hindi.

हम हिंदी की किताबें पढ़ते हैं। We read Hindi books.

हम बाज़ार जाएँगे।  We will go to the market.

हम क्रिकेट खेलते थे। We used to play cricket.

When dealing with an unknown group, mixed gender group or an all male group, हम should be considered masculine plural and the adjectives, verbs, and any other parts of the sentences that change based upon number and gender should agree with a masculine, plural subject.  This is the case with the examples above.  Here are some more example:

हम थके थे। – We were tired.

The adjective थका (tired) has been changed to थके to agree with a masculine, plural subject.  Also, notice the use of the verb थे (was) also agrees with a masculine plural subject.

If it is an all female group, then use the female forms of adjectives and verbs:

[all women]  हम हिंदी सीख रही हैं।  We are learning Hindi.

[all women]  हम हिंदी की किताबें पढ़ती हैं।  We read Hindi books. 

[all women] हम बाज़ार जाएँगी।  We will go to the market.

[all women] हम क्रिकेट खेलती थीं। We used to play cricket.  (notice there are feminine singular थी and feminine plural थीं forms of the word “were”, but in every other case feminine singular and plural cases are the same.)

(One thing to note is that the Hindi learning resources I use, Rupert Snell’s Teach Yourself Hindi, and the Hindi class taught at the University of Houston by Arun Prakash, and my mother-in-law Meena Jii all tell me that the feminine plural is the same as the feminine singular in every case except the habitual past where थीं is used and some places in the future tense.  However, I have encountered other Hind speakers that insist there is a feminine plural form that is different than the feminine singular form.  They insist that the bindu (dot) should be added anywhere the feminine form is used in the plural.  I have found some Hindi textbooks that mention this form.  And we have see cases on Indian TV where it is used.  

It is my recommendation that you not worry about this.  Consider that the difference between the way ती and तीं are said is very subtle.  Also, in writing, there is only the difference of the one dot.  And there are many resources that confirm that the use of the ती ending is used for both feminine singular and plural.  Unless your situation requires a different approach, just learn the ता, ते, ती endings.  But be aware that if you are corrected and told that the feminine plural should have a तीं ending, go with the flow, and take it with a grain of salt.  Adjust as necessary.  In the past, when I ran into issues like this I would try to get the native speaker to explain it to me, and I would show them my textbook, and they would not be convinced.  It caused a lot of confusion for me, and some discomfort on the other side as well.  One thing we all have to keep in mind is that we are Hindi learners, and that native speakers “own” the language while we are just trying to “check it out”.  )

Some people use हम to refer to themselves individually, as a singular person.   In these cases, the rest of the sentence still agrees with a plural subject, but only one person is being talked about.  An example of this is the interview with Richa in the episode  Meet Richa published on December 29, 2008.  

Richa:  हम लखनऊ से हैं।  (mein lakhanaoo se huun) – I am from Lucknow. (formal)

Richa: हाँ हम शाकाहारी हैं। (hain ham shaakaahaarii hain.) – Yes, I am a vegetarian.

Using हम to refer to just myself feels a little uncomfortable to me, and it might sound odd to some Hindi speakers.  My recommendation is to use मैं to refer to yourself unless you are around Hindi speakers and teachers that insist on using हम.

you आप, तुम, तू

In English, we only have one pronoun for “you”.  But in Hindi, there are three.   Each conveys a different level of politeness. 

आप is the most formal.  It is also considered to be plural.

क्या आप ठीक हैं?  Are you ok? 

This phrase can be used to address a man or a woman since ठीक (OK/fine) does not change forms.

However, you will see a change when we use the adjective अच्छा (good).

[asking a man] क्या आप अच्छे हैं?  Are you good/well?

[asking a woman] क्या आप अच्छी हैं?  Are you good/well?

You will also see changes in the verb.

[talking to a man]  आप मछली खा रहे हैं।  You are eating fish.

[talking to a woman] आप मछली खा रही हैं।  You are eating fish.

[talking to a man]  क्या आप स्कूल जाएँगे?  Will you go to school?

[talking to a woman] क्या आप स्कूल जाएँगी?  Will you go to school?

तुम is an informal version of “you”.  It should be used among friends that are about your age.  If there is any doubt on if it is appropriate, use the आप form of “you”.

तुम is also considered plural, but it also has some specific verb forms.

क्या तुम ठीक हो?   Are you OK?  (can be used for a man or a woman)

[asking a man] क्या तुम अच्छे हो?  Are you good/well?

[asking a woman]  क्या तुम अच्छी हो?  Are you good/well?

[talking to a man] तुम मछली खा रहे हो? You are eating fish.

[talking to a woman] तुम मछली खा रही हो? You are eating fish.

[talking to a man]  क्या तुम स्कूल जाओगे?  Will you go to school?

[talking to a woman]  क्या तुम स्कूल जाओगी?  Will you go to school?

In every day usage, you may find the आप and तुम forms combined.  A shop keeper wanting to be respectful and friendly at the same time might ask “आप कैसे हो?”  (How are you?).  No one that I have encountered considers this to be proper Hindi.  But it may be something you will encounter.

तू is the least formal way of referring to someone.  It is used by parents with their children.  It is used with servants.  Used in the wrong context, it can be very disrespectful.  I would recommend not using it. 

तू is considered to be singular. 

क्या तू ठीक है? Are you OK?  (asking a boy or a girl)

[asking a boy] क्या तू अच्छा है?  Are you good/well?

[asking a girl] क्या तू अच्छी है?  Are you good/well?

[talking to a boy] तू मछली खा रहा है। You are eating fish.

[talking to a girl] तू मछली खा रही है। You are eating fish.

[talking to a boy]  क्या तू स्कूल जाएगा?  Will you go to school?

[talking to a girl] क्या तू स्कूल जाएगी?  Will you go to school?

this, it, he, she – यह

In English we have separate words for this, it, he, she.  In Hindi, the choice of pronouns is a little different.  There is a singular, third-person pronouns that is used to refer to things and people nearby and another one for things and people further off.  And there are plural equivalents of these as well.

यह is best translated as “this” or “it”

यह क्या है?  What is this?

यह कलम है।  This is a pen.

यह लाल है।  could be translated as “This is red.” or “It is red.”

And we can use it to distinguish between objects.

यह कुरसी अच्छी है।  This chair is good.

यह can also be used for “he” or “she” but should be used only for people that are close to you either in space or in relationship.

यह मेरी पत्नी है।  She is my wife.  (Could also be translated as “This is my wife.”)

It is more common though to use वह to refer to people.

that, it, he, she – वह

Similar to यह, this pronoun वह can be used as a translation of that, it, he, or she in English.  Here are some examples:

वह क्या है?  What is that?

वह घर है।  That is a house.

वह बड़ा है।  It is big.

वह बहुत महंगा है।  It is very expensive.

लेकिन वह अच्छा है। But it is nice.

वह can also be used to refer to people.

वह कौन है?  Who is he?

वह मेरा दोस्त है।  He is my friend.  (using मेरा form of “my” indicates that “friend” is masculine”.  In all these other examples, the sentences could refer to a female as well.)

क्या वह लन्डन से है। Is he from London?

नहीं वह अमरीका से है। No, he is from America.

वह can refer to a male or a female.  If it is unknown or unclear what the gender of वह is, then use the masculine singular forms and translate as “he”.  In some cases you can tell if it refers to a man or woman based upon other parts of the sentence.

Look at the word “थका” in these two sentences.

वह थका है।  He is tired.

वह थकी है। She is tired.

And look at the form of the word “was”.

वह ठीक था।  He was OK.

वह ठीक थी। She was OK.

The form of verbs and adjectives will have to be used to determine if वह refers to a “he” or a “she”.

वह is often pronounced as वो.  It is never written as वो, just the way it is pronounced changes.  This is in very common usage, and feel free to use it.  Just remember write it as वह.

these  ये

ये can be used in replace of “these” in English. 

ये कपड़े मेरे हैं।  These clothes are mine.

ये आपकी किताबें हैं।  These are your books.

they, those, he, she  वे

वे can be used for things or groups or people further from you.

वे खा रहे हैं।  They are eating.

वे क्या हैं?  What are those?

वे किताबें हैं।  Those are books.

The plural forms are often used in Hindi to show respect.  This is true when talking about people in the third person.  It would be more appropriate to say:

वे मेरे पिता जी हैं।  He is my father.

instead of using the singular version:

वह मेरा पिता है।  He is my father.


Today we learned all the personal and demonstrative pronouns in the direct case.

मैं – I

हम – We

Three forms of you:

आप formal

तुम informal

तू intimate

यह – this, it, he, she

ये – these

वह – that, it, he, she

वे – they, those  (respectful form of he/she)

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