Hindi Writing Guide

This is a guide for writing in Hindi.  See the individual lesson pages below.

Introduction

Hindi is written in an alphabet called देवनागरी (devanagari).  It is written from left-to-right.

There are no capital letters in Hindi.  

Hindi vowels

 

 

There are two types of vowels in Hindi, short vowels and long vowels.  Short vowels are pronounced more quickly than long vowels, hence they are called short.  Each short vowel has a corresponding long vowel.

The first vowel of Hindi is अ /a/ as in about or but.  It is considered a short vowel:

Yo

 

The next vowel is आ /aa/ as in father or copper.  It is considered a long vowel:

 

Yo

 

The next vowel is इ /i/ as in sit.  It is a short vowel:

 

 

Next comes ई /ii/ as in feet but without any glide in the sound:

 

Yo

 

The next vowel is उ /u/ as in book or put. It is a short vowel:

 

 

The next vowel is ऊ /uu/ as in food.  It is a long vowel:

 

 

Next comes ऋ /ri/ which sounds like a tapped r (tongue touches the top of the mouth quick) followed by a short इ.  Many people pronounce it just as ri.  It is found only in words of Sanskrit origin, like Krishna and Rishi.  It is a long vowel:

 

 

The next vowel is ए /e/ as in say or gate but without any glide. It is a short vowel:

 

 

The next vowel is ऐ /ai/.  In Western Hindi it is pronounced /ai/ like cat, mad.  In Eastern Hindi, it is pronounced like bike, like, fine:

 

Yo

 

The next vowel is ओ /o/ as in cold but without a glide:

 

 

The final vowel is औ /au/ as in saw:

 

Nasalization

All the vowels in Hindi--except for ऋ /ri/--can be nasalized, meaning they can be pronounced with as a nasal quality (as if you have a cold).  The sign to indicate this is called the chandrabindu ँ, which is added above a vowel or consonant:

हँसी (hãsī) laughter:

 

हाँ (haaN): yes:

 

 

For vowels that attach ABOVE to letters, the full ॅ (chandra or moon) is not added--there is not room--but rather just the bindu (dot), which is added just to right of the vowel sign:

 

किं, कीं, कें, कैं, कों, कौं

 

Some people will not write (or type) the full chandra (moon).

 

In some words, the bindu (dot) will appear as a replacement for any of the nasal sounds (ङ, ञ, ण, न, म) when they are found as the first letter of a conjunct.

 

Some example words are:

 

हिन्दी  =  हिंदी  Hindi

अण्डा  =  अंडा  Egg

लम्बा  =  लंबा  long, tall

Vowel signs (matras)

Vowels in the Their Full Form

As covered earlier, there are a number of vowels in Hindi: अ, आ, इ, ई, उ, ऊ, ऋ, ए, ऐ, ओ, and  औ.  These are the "full form" of the vowels when they 1) occur at the start of the word or 2) follow after another vowel.

Example 1. A vowel at the start of a word occurs for example in the word अब (ab) "now":

Example 2. A vowel following another vowel occurs in the word आओ (āo) "come":

Vowel Signs

However, when the vowels follow a consonant or any of the non-vowel letters they will take assume a different shape.  This shape is called a mātrā (मात्र).

The Exception: अ

However, there is one exception, the vowel अ (a), which does not have a matra.  If अ follows a consonant, it does not get its own shape, and the consonant is just written in its normal form.  For example, the word तब (tab) "then":

Here the sounds are equivalent to त + अ + ब.

Note that the final "अ"  is not pronounced.  There are a number of situations where that occurs in Hindi, such as at the end of word, before certain verb suffixes (-ना, -ता/ते/ती) and other situations.  For a thorough discussion, see xxxx.

The remaining vowels all have vowel signs that are added either before, after, above, or below individual letters.  Here they are on the letter क:

आ is represented by the sign ा written AFTER the consonant(s):

का = क + आ

 

इ /i/ when it is pronounced after a consonant is actually written BEFORE it as the sign ि  .  It joins to the stem--usually the vertical line--of the consonant:

कि = क + इ

ई /ī/, the long vowel, is written AFTER the consonant with the sign ी.  It also joins at the the top to the stem (vertical line) of the consonant:

की = क + ई

उ /u/, a short vowel, is usually written BELOW the consonant using the sign ु:

कु = क + उ

There is one exception when उ  follows the letter र (r) it is written as रु:

रु = र + उ

ऊ  /ū/, a long vowel, is usually written BELOW the consonant as the sign ू:

कू = क + ऊ

There is one exception here as well when ऊ follows the letter र  (र) it is written as रू:

The vowel  ऋ /ri/ usually attaches BELOW a consonant as the sign ृ:

कृ = क + ऋ

The vowel ए /e/ attaches the consonant at its stem (vertical line) from ABOVE in the form े  (note, one line):

के = क + ए

The vowel ऐ /ai/ also attaches from ABOVE to a consonant at its stem (vertical line) in the form ै (note, two lines):

कै = क + कै

The vowel  ओ /o/ is added AFTER a consonant in the form ो:

को = क + ओ

The vowel  औ /au/ is added AFTER a consonant in the form ौ:

कौ = क + औ

क (ka) series

The Hindi alphabet of consonants begins with letters and sounds that are formed by moving the back of the tongue near the soft palate.  These correspond to the k and g sounds in English.   Hindi, however, differentiates between the letters क (k) and ख (kh) and ग (g) and घ (gh).  Kh and Gh also contain a short puff of air after the consonant called aspiration.  One way to experience this is to put your hand up and feel the puff of air when you pronounce kh and not when you say k.   Aspiration (the puff of air)  differentiates different sounds and letters in Hindi.

The first letter is क (k) as in skit:

Yo

The next letter is ख (kh) as a strongly aspirated version of kit:

Yo

 

Following k and kh is the letter ग (g) as in good.  Note that the tongue is in the same place for this sound as for k, but there is a resonance in the vocal chords, which is referred to as voicing:

 

Yo

 

After ग (g) comes घ (gh) as a strongly aspirated version of dog house spoken quickly:

 

Yo

 

The last letter in this series is actually a nasal.  To pronounce it, put your tongue in the same position as for k, but allow air to flow through your nose.  This sound may be difficult to do on its own.   Fortunately, in Hindi it will only occur before a k, kh, g, or gh sound:

 

Yo

च (cha) series

The next series of letters of letters, the tongue is placed against the hard palate. These correspond to the "ch" and "j" sounds in English.  As in the previous, series these are distinguished between aspirated (followed by a puff of air) and non-aspirated.

The first letter is च (ca), which is not aspirated, as in cheese:

Yo

 

The next letter is छ (cha), which is like cha but followed by a puff of air, a strong version of church:

 

Yo

Following is the letter ज (ja) as in Jim:

Yo

Next is the letter झ (jha) which is is strongly aspirated version of jar:

Yo

The last letter is the nasal ञ (nya), which will only occur in Hindi before ca, cha, ja, or jha:

Yo

ट (ṭ) series

For the next series of letters, the ट (ṭ) series, the tip of the tongue is put on the top of the mouth.  These characters are referred to as retroflex.  They sound like the English "t" but the tongue is up higher in the mouth (in English the tip of the tongue is usually put on the ridge above the top row of teeth).  When transcribing English words into Hindi, this sound is used.  When romanized in scholary works, it is often represented with a dot underneath (ṭ).

The first character ट (ṭ) in this series contains no aspiration (puff of air exhaled at the end of the sound):

Yo

 

The next character ठ (ṭh) does have aspiration:

 

Yo

 

The next character is ड (ḍ), a "d" sound with the tip of the tongue at the top of the mouth.  Like "t" the "d" is usually pronounced in English with the tip of the tongue on the ridge above the top row of teeth.  That sound does not exist in Hindi, so this character is used to transcribe the English D sound.  It has no aspiration:

 

Yo

 

The next character is ढ (ḍh).  It does have aspiration:

 

Yo

 

The last character is a nasal, pronounced with the tip of the tongue at the top of the mouth.  It will usually occur in Hindi before the ट, ठ, ड, and ढ characters:

 

Yo

त (ta) series

For the next series of letters, the tongue is placed behind the teeth for another series of "t", "d", and "n" sounds.  In English, the tongue is usually put on the ridge above the teeth.  Hindi also has "t" and "d" sounds where the tongue is placed at the top of the mouth (retroflex).

The first letter is त (ta).  It does not have a puff of air (aspiration) after it:

Yo

The next letter is थ (tha), which does have a puff of air after it:

Yo

The letter थ will cause a break in the "clothesline" from which the Hindi letters hang, as in साथ (with):

 

Next is the letter द (da), which has no aspiration (puff of air):

Yo

Next is the letter ध (dha), which has aspiration (puff of air):

Yo

Note that like the letter थ above, ध will cause a break in the "clothesline" from which the Hindi letters hang, as in the word आधा (half):

The last letter in this series is न (na), which is a nasal.  This nasal sound will occur followed by a vowel, as in नान (naan):

 

Yo

प (p) series

In the next series of letters, the air is blocked at the lips--they are therefore called labials--as in the sounds "b" and "m."

The first letter is प (p), as in spin.  There is NO aspiration (following puff of air):

Yo

Next comes the letter फ, as in the p-h combination in top-hat.  It has aspiration:

Yo

After that comes the letter ब (b) as in bin.  It does NOT have aspiration (a following puff of air):

Yo

Then comes the letter भ (bh), which is followed by a puff of air. It sounds like the b-h combination in club-house. Like the letter थ, it will cause a gap in the "clothesline" from which the letters hang:

Yo

The last letter is the "nasal" of the group, which in this case is the letter म (m) as in man. It can occur by itself or in combination with other letters:

Yo

य, र, ल व (y, r, l, v)

The next group of letters have the tongue in different parts of the mouth.

The first letter is य (y) as in yes:

Yo

What follows in the letter र (r) as in serene:

Yo

Next comes the letter ल (l) as in label:

Yo

The last letter in this group is the letter व (l) as in vine.  However, for this sound the lips simply touch (like the sound b) without contacting the teeth:

Yo

ष श स (sh, sh, sa) series and ह (ha)

The next group of letters all sound similar, and they have all have a hiss sound like sh and s.

The first letter is ष (sh).  This is like the English sh as in shell.  However, the tongue is up at the top of the mouth like for the retroflex ट and ड letters:

Yo

Some people do not distinguish this sound--which only occurs in words of Sanskrit origin--from the next sound, sh as in shell:

Yo

The last letter in स (s) as in sin.  However, unlike in American English, the tongue is at the back of the teeth, as in the sounds त (t) and द (d):

Yo

Finally, the last letter is ह (ha), as in ahead.  It is a full voiced "h" sound:

Yo

Conjuncts

As you learned, the basic consonant has an inherent vowel (अ) already attached to the sound. However, not all words will require each consonant to contain a vowel between each letter. When a consonant appears without a vowel between it and the next consonant a conjunct will appear.

 

An example of a word that would require a conjunct form would be the word school in the devanagari scrip: सकूल। Written with just the consonants and no conjuncts the translation would sound like suh koo l. Unless another form is found to combine स + क, the word school cannot be translated into the devanagari script. In this word, and many others you will learn, a conjunct is formed between स + क to delete the vowel that is inherent. In this case, school would be written as स्कुल. स drops the last line of the consonant to join with क showing there is no vowel between them.

Most conjuncts are fairly simple and follow a pattern. The ones shown below do not follow a typical pattern and will require memorizing.

 

The first conjunct to learn is क्‌ + र

 

Conjunct formed between क् + ष

 

 

This is an odd conjunct requiring three letters. It uses the conjunct from above (क् + ष = क्ष) and combines it with म

क्‌ + ष्‌ + म = क्ष्‌ + म

 

 

Conjunct formed between ज्‌ + ञ

 

 

Conjunct formed between त्‌ + र

 

 

Conjunct formed between द्‌ + ग

 

 

Conjunct formed between द्‌ + द

 

 

Conjunct formed between द्‌ + ध

 

 

Conjunct formed between द्‌ + भ

 

 

Conjunct formed between द्‌ + म

 

 

Conjunct formed between द्‌ + य

 

 

Conjunct formed between द्‌ + र

 

 

Conjunct formed between द्‌ + व

 

 

Conjunct formed between ह्‌ + न

 

 

Conjunct formed between ह्‌ + म

 

 

Conjunct formed between ह्‌ + य

 

 

Conjunct formed between ह्‌ + र

Conjunct formed between ह्‌ + ल

Conjunct formed with ह्‌ + व

Numbers

This page is dedicated to the first 10 numbers in hindi and how they are drawn. You've already learned the names (aka एक, दो, तीन, etc...) these are the numerals as written in Hindi.

 

एक

 

दो

 

तीन

 

चार

 

पाँच

 

छः

 

सात

 

आठ

 

नौ

 

दस

 

As you can see, after the single digits, the numbers are paired to form the double digits. So when you get to 20 or 30 or 100 or 1000 the numbers will continue to pair to be २०, ३०, १००, or १००० the same way the numbers are paired in the Roman script.