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Indian English

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Encyclopedia
Indian English is an umbrella term used to describe dialect
Dialect
The term dialect is used in two distinct ways, even by linguists. One usage refers to a variety of a language that is a characteristic of a particular group of the language's speakers. The term is applied most often to regional speech patterns, but a dialect may also be defined by other factors,...

s of the English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 spoken primarily in the Republic of India.

As a result of British colonial rule
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

 until Indian independence in 1947 English is an official language of India and is widely used in both spoken and literary contexts. The rapid growth of India's economy towards the end of the 20th century led to large-scale population migration between regions of the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 and the establishment of English as a common lingua franca between those speaking diverse mother tongues.

With the exception of the relatively small Anglo-Indian
Anglo-Indian
Anglo-Indians are people who have mixed Indian and British ancestry, or people of British descent born or living in India, now mainly historical in the latter sense. British residents in India used the term "Eurasians" for people of mixed European and Indian descent...

 community, speakers of English in the Indian subcontinent
Indian subcontinent
The Indian subcontinent, also Indian Subcontinent, Indo-Pak Subcontinent or South Asian Subcontinent is a region of the Asian continent on the Indian tectonic plate from the Hindu Kush or Hindu Koh, Himalayas and including the Kuen Lun and Karakoram ranges, forming a land mass which extends...

 learn it as a second language
Second language
A second language or L2 is any language learned after the first language or mother tongue. Some languages, often called auxiliary languages, are used primarily as second languages or lingua francas ....

 in school. In cities this is typically at English medium schools
English medium education
An English medium education system is one that uses English as the primary medium of instruction - in particular where English is not the mother tongue of the students....

, but in smaller towns and villages instruction for most subjects is in the local language, with English langauge taught as a modular subject. Science and technical education is mostly undertaken in English and, as a result, most university graduates in these sectors are fairly proficient in English.

Idiomatic forms derived from Indian literary and vernacular language have become assimilated into Indian English in differing ways according to the native language of speakers. Nevertheless, there remains general homogeneity in phonetics, vocabulary, and phraseology between variants of the Indian English dialect.

Grammar


The role of English within the complex multilingual society of India is far from straightforward: it is used across the country, by speakers with various degrees of proficiency; the grammar and phraseology may mimic that of the speaker's first language. While Indian speakers of English use idioms peculiar to their homeland, often literal translations of words and phrases from their native languages, this is far less common in proficient speakers, and the grammar itself tends to be quite close to that of Standard English
Standard English
Standard English refers to whatever form of the English language is accepted as a national norm in an Anglophone country...

, while exhibiting some features of American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

.

Phonology


Indian accents vary greatly. Some Indians speak English with an accent very close to a Standard British (Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation
Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

) accent (though not the same); others lean toward a more 'vernacular', native-tinted, accent for their English speech.

Vowels


In general, Indian English has fewer peculiarities in its vowel sounds than the consonants, especially as spoken by native speakers of languages like Hindi, which in fact has a vowel phonology very similar to that of English. Among the distinctive features of the vowel-sounds employed by some Indian English speakers are:
  • Many Indian languages do not natively possess a separate phoneme /æ/ (as in ). Thus, many speakers do not differentiate between the vowel sounds /ɛ/ (as in "dress") and /æ/ (as in ), except in cases where a minimal pair
    Minimal pair
    In phonology, minimal pairs are pairs of words or phrases in a particular language, which differ in only one phonological element, such as a phone, phoneme, toneme or chroneme and have distinct meanings...

     such as / exists in the vocabulary of the speaker. Such a speaker might pronounce "tax" like the first syllable of "Texas". Speakers of Southern languages and Sinhalese, which do differentiate /ɛ/ and /æ/, do not have difficulty making this distinction. Eastern IE languages, notably Bengali does have the /æ/ sound for both the vowels ā আ (hāñcco—the sneezing sound—pronounced as hæñcco)and /e/ এ (henglā—greedy—pronounced as hængla). The vowel a অ has two sound values in Bengali:as au in aura (tatkāl) and as o ও (Kalikātā). It lacks the short vowel value for a অ (parāthā). Nowadays most Indian students learn English from childhood which enables them to produce almost all phonetics used in English.
  • Chiefly in Punjab and Haryana states and western Uttar Pradesh, the short [ɛ] becomes lengthened and higher to long [eː], making sound like .
  • When a long vowel is followed by "r", some speakers of Indian English usually use a monophthong
    Monophthong
    A monophthong is a pure vowel sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not glide up or down towards a new position of articulation....

    , instead of the diphthong
    Diphthong
    A diphthong , also known as a gliding vowel, refers to two adjacent vowel sounds occurring within the same syllable. Technically, a diphthong is a vowel with two different targets: That is, the tongue moves during the pronunciation of the vowel...

     used for many such words in many other accents. Thus "fear" is pronounced [fir] instead of [fiə].
  • Indian English often uses strong vowels where other accents would have unstressed syllables or words. Thus "cottage" may be pronounced [kɒtedʒ] rather than [kɒtədʒ]. A word such as "was" in the phrase "I was going" will be pronounced [ʋɒz] or [ʋas] in Indian English: in most other accents it would receive the unstressed realization [wəz]. Another example is that many Indian English speakers often pronounce as /d̪iː/, irrespective of whether the definite article
    Article (grammar)
    An article is a word that combines with a noun to indicate the type of reference being made by the noun. Articles specify the grammatical definiteness of the noun, in some languages extending to volume or numerical scope. The articles in the English language are the and a/an, and some...

     comes before a vowel or a consonant, or whether it is stressed or not. In native varieties of English, is pronounced as [ðə] when it is unstressed and lies before a consonant, and as [ðiː] when it is before a vowel or when stressed even before a consonant.
  • Continuing the above point, the indefinite article is often pronounced by many Indian English speakers as [eː], irrespective of whether it is stressed or unstressed. In native varieties of English, is pronounced as [ə] when unstressed and as [eɪ] when stressed.
  • The RP vowels /ʌ/, /ə/ and /ɜː/ might be realized as /ə/ in Indian English. Bengalis often pronounce all these vowels as a, including the -colored versions of these vowels. Thus, may be pronounced the same as [farm].. "Van" as bhan etc.
  • General Indian English realizes /eɪ/ (as in ) and /oʊ/ (as in ) as long monophthong
    Monophthong
    A monophthong is a pure vowel sound, one whose articulation at both beginning and end is relatively fixed, and which does not glide up or down towards a new position of articulation....

    s [eː], [oː].
  • Many Indian English speakers do not make a clear distinction between /ɒ/ and /ɔː/. (See cot–caught merger.)
  • Unlike British, but like American English, some Indian speakers don't pronounce the rounded /ɒ/ or /ɔː/, and substitute /a/ instead. This makes sound as [nat]. The phoneme /ɔː/, if used, is only semi-rounded at the lips.. Similarly in South India "Coffee" will be pronounced kaafi, "Copy" will be kaapi etc.
  • Words such as , and would be pronounced with a back as in British English but unlike American English, i.e., [klɑːs], [stɑːf] and [lɑːst] rather than American [klæːs], [stæːf] and [læːst] and in South of India "Parent" is pɑːrent.
  • Most Indians have the Trap–bath split of Received Pronunciation
    Received Pronunciation
    Received Pronunciation , also called the Queen's English, Oxford English or BBC English, is the accent of Standard English in England, with a relationship to regional accents similar to the relationship in other European languages between their standard varieties and their regional forms...

    . Those who don't are usually influenced by American accents; not using the trap–bath split is often popularly construed as attempting to imitate an American accent.

Consonants


Among the most distinctive features of consonants in Indian English are:
  • Most pronunciations of Indian English are rhotic, but many speakers with higher education are non-rhotic.
  • Standard Hindi and most other vernaculars (except Punjabi & Bengali) do not differentiate between /v/ (voiced labiodental fricative
    Voiced labiodental fricative
    The voiced labiodental fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is v....

    ) and /w/ (voiced labiovelar approximant). Instead, many Indians use a frictionless labio-dental
    Labiodental consonant
    In phonetics, labiodentals are consonants articulated with the lower lip and the upper teeth.-Labiodental consonant in IPA:The labiodental consonants identified by the International Phonetic Alphabet are:...

     approximant [ʋ] for words with either sound, possibly in free variation with [v] and/or [w]. So wet and vet are homophones.
  • Because of the previous characteristic many Indians pronounce words such as as [flaː(r)] instead of [flaʊə(r)], and as [aː(r)] instead of [aʊə(r)].
  • The voiceless plosives /p/, /t/, /k/ are always unaspirated in Indian English, whereas in RP, General American and most other English accents they are aspirated in word-initial or stressed syllables. Thus "pin" is pronounced [pɪn] in Indian English but [pʰɪn] in most other accents. In native Indian languages (except Tamil), the distinction between aspirated and unaspirated plosives is phonemic, and the English stops are equated with the unaspirated rather than the aspirated phonemes of the local languages. The same is true of the voiceless postalveolar afficate /tʃ/.
  • The alveolar
    Alveolar consonant
    Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

     stops English /d/, /t/ are often retroflex [ɖ], [ʈ], especially in the South of India. In Indian languages there are two entirely distinct sets of coronal plosives: one dental and the other retroflex. To the Indian ears, the English alveolar plosives sound more retroflex than dental. In the Devanagari script of Hindi, all alveolar plosives of English are transcribed as their retroflex counterparts. One good reason for this is that unlike most other native Indian languages, Hindi does not have true retroflex plosives (Tiwari, [1955] 2001). The so-called retroflexes in Hindi are actually articulated as apical post-alveolar
    Postalveolar consonant
    Postalveolar consonants are consonants articulated with the tongue near or touching the back of the alveolar ridge, further back in the mouth than the alveolar consonants, which are at the ridge itself, but not as far back as the hard palate...

     plosives, sometimes even with a tendency to come down to the alveolar region. So a Hindi speaker normally cannot distinguish the difference between their own apical post-alveolar plosives and English's alveolar plosives. However, languages such as Tamil have true retroflex plosives, wherein the articulation is done with the tongue curved upwards and backwards at the roof of the mouth
    Palate
    The palate is the roof of the mouth in humans and other mammals. It separates the oral cavity from the nasal cavity. A similar structure is found in crocodilians, but, in most other tetrapods, the oral and nasal cavities are not truly separate. The palate is divided into two parts, the anterior...

    . This also causes (in parts of Uttar Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh
    Uttar Pradesh abbreviation U.P. , is a state located in the northern part of India. With a population of over 200 million people, it is India's most populous state, as well as the world's most populous sub-national entity...

     and Madhya Pradesh) the /s/ preceding alveolar /t/ to allophonically change to [ ʃ ] ( /stɒp/ → / ʃʈap/). Mostly in south India, some speakers allophonically further change the voiced retroflex plosive to voiced retroflex flap, and the nasal /n/ to a nasalized retroflex flap.
  • Many Indians speaking English lack the voiced postalveolar fricative
    Voiced postalveolar fricative
    The voiced palato-alveolar fricative or voiced domed postalveolar fricative is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is Z. An alternative symbol used in some...

     (/ʒ/), the same as their native languages. Typically, /z/ or /dʒ/ is substituted, e.g. treasure /trɛ.zəːr/, and in the south Indian variants, with /ʃ/ as in <"sh'"ore>, e.g. treasure /trɛ.ʃər/.
  • All major native languages of India lack the dental fricatives (/θ/ and /ð/; spelled with th). Usually, the aspirated
    Aspiration (phonetics)
    In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents. To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of one's mouth, and say pin ...

     voiceless dental plosive
    Voiceless dental plosive
    The voiceless dental plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is t_d...

     [t̪ʰ] is substituted for /θ/ and the unaspirated voiced dental plosive
    Voiced dental plosive
    The voiced dental plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is...

     [d̪], or possibly the aspirated version [d̪ʱ]. is substituted for /ð/. For example, "thin" would be realized as [t̪ʰɪn] instead of /θɪn/.
  • South Indians tend to curl the tongue (retroflex accentuation) more for /l/ and /n/.
  • Most Indian languages (except Urdu variety) lack the voiced alveolar fricative
    Voiced alveolar fricative
    The voiced alveolar fricatives are consonantal sounds. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents these sounds depends on whether a sibilant or non-sibilant fricative is being described....

     /z/. While they do have its nearest equivalent: the unvoiced /s/, strangely, it is not used in substitution. Instead, /z/ is substituted with the voiced palatal affricate (or postalveolar) /dʒ/, just as with a Korean
    Korean language
    Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

     accent. This makes words such as and sound as [dʒiːro] and [roːdʒi:]. This replacement is equally true for Persian and Arabic loanwords into Hindi. The probable reason is the confusion created by the use of the devanagari
    Devanagari
    Devanagari |deva]]" and "nāgarī" ), also called Nagari , is an abugida alphabet of India and Nepal...

     grapheme < ज > (for /dʒ/) with a dot beneath it to represent the loaned /z/ (as < ज़ >). This is common among people without formal English education.
  • Many Indians with lower exposure to English also may pronounce / f / as aspirated voiceless bilabial plosive
    Voiceless bilabial plosive
    The voiceless bilabial plosive is a type of consonantal sound used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is p...

     [pʰ]. Again note that in Hindi (devanagari) the loaned / f / from Persian and Arabic is written by putting a dot beneath the grapheme for native [pʰ] < फ >: < फ़ >. This substitution is rarer than that for [z], and in fact in many Hindi-speaking areas /f/ is replacing /pʰ/ even in its native words.
  • Inability to pronounce certain (especially word-initial) consonant cluster
    Consonant cluster
    In linguistics, a consonant cluster is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word splits....

    s by people of rural backgrounds. This is usually dealt with by epenthesis
    Epenthesis
    In phonology, epenthesis is the addition of one or more sounds to a word, especially to the interior of a word. Epenthesis may be divided into two types: excrescence, for the addition of a consonant, and anaptyxis for the addition of a vowel....

    . e.g., school /is.kuːl/, similar to Spanish.
  • Sometimes, Indian speakers interchange /s/ and /z/, especially when plurals are being formed. Whereas in international varieties of English, [s] is used for pluralization of a word ending in a voiceless consonant, [z] for that ending in a voiced consonant or vowel, and [ɨz] for that ending in a sibilant.
  • Again, in dialects like Bhojpuri, all instances of /ʃ/ are spoken like [s], a phenomenon which is also apparent in their English. Exactly the opposite is seen for many Bengalis
    Bengali people
    The Bengali people are an ethnic community native to the historic region of Bengal in South Asia. They speak Bengali , which is an Indo-Aryan language of the eastern Indian subcontinent, evolved from the Magadhi Prakrit and Sanskrit languages. In their native language, they are referred to as বাঙালী...

    .
  • In case of the postalveolar affricates /tʃ/ /dʒ/, native languages like Hindi have corresponding affricates articulated from the palatal region, rather than postalveolar, and they have more of a stop component than fricative; this is reflected in their English.
  • While retaining /ŋ/ in the final position, Indian speakers usually include the [ɡ] after it. Hence /riŋ.iŋ/ → /riŋ.ɡiŋɡ/ (ringing).
  • Syllabic
    Syllabic
    Syllabic may refer to:*Canadian Aboriginal syllabics, a family of abugidas used to write a number of Aboriginal Canadian languages.*Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables...

     /l/, /m/ and /n/ are usually replaced by the VC clusters [əl], [əm] and [ən] (as in button /buʈ.ʈən/), or if a high vowel
    Close vowel
    A close vowel is a type of vowel sound used in many spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a close vowel is that the tongue is positioned as close as possible to the roof of the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant.This term is prescribed by the...

     precedes, by [il] (as in little /liʈ.ʈil/). Syllable nuclei in words with the spelling er (a schwa
    Schwa
    In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

     in RP and an r-colored schwa in GA
    General American
    General American , also known as Standard American English , is a major accent of American English. The accent is not restricted to the United States...

    ) are also replaced VC clusters. e.g., meter, /miːtər/ → /miːʈər/.
  • Indian English uses clear [l] in all instances like Irish English whereas other varieties use clear [l] in syllable-initial positions and dark [l] (velarized-L) in coda and syllabic positions.

Spelling pronunciation


A number of distinctive features of Indian English are due to "the vagaries of English spelling". Most Indian languages have a very phonetic pronunciation with respect to their script, and unlike English, the spelling of a word is a highly reliable guide to its modern pronunciation.
  • In words where the digraph represents a voiced velar plosive
    Voiced velar plosive
    The voiced velar plosive is a type of consonantal sound, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is , and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is g. Strictly, the IPA symbol is the so-called "opentail G" , though the "looptail G" is...

     (/ɡ/) in other accents, some Indian English speakers supply a murmured version [ɡʱ], for example [ɡʱoːst]. No other accent of English admits this voiced aspiration.
  • Similarly, the digraph may be aspirated as [ʋʱ] or [wʱ], resulting in realizations such as [ʋʱɪtʃ], found in no other English accent (except in certain parts of Scotland).
  • In unstressed syllables, native English varieties will mostly use the schwa
    Schwa
    In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

     while Indian English would use the spelling vowel, making sound as [sæ.ni.ti] instead of [sæ.nə.ti]. Similarly, and can be heard as [e.bʌv] and [e.go] instead of [ə.bʌv] and [ə.go].
  • English words ending in grapheme < a > almost always have the < a > being pronounced as schwa
    Schwa
    In linguistics, specifically phonetics and phonology, schwa can mean the following:*An unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound in some languages, often but not necessarily a mid-central vowel...

     /ə/ in native varieties (exceptions include words such as ). But in Indian English, the ending < a > is pronounced as the long open central unrounded vowel
    Open central unrounded vowel
    The open central unrounded vowel, or low central unrounded vowel, is a type of vowel sound, used in many spoken languages. The International Phonetic Alphabet officially has no dedicated letter for this sound between front and back...

     /aː/ (as in ) instead of schwa. So, is pronounced as /ɪn.ɖɪ.aː/ instead of /ɪn.dɪ.ə/, and as /soː.faː/ instead of /soʊ.fə/.
  • The word "of" is usually pronounced with a /f/ instead of a /v/ as in most other accents.
  • Use of [d] instead of [t] for the "-ed" ending of the past tense after voiceless consonants, for example "developed" may be [dɛʋləpd] instead of RP /dɪvɛləpt/.
  • Use of [s] instead of [z] for the "-s" ending of the plural after voiced consonants, for example may be [dɒɡs] instead of [dɒɡz].
  • Pronunciation of as [hauz] in both the noun and the verb, instead of [haus] as noun and [hauz] as verb.
  • The digraph is pronounced as [tz] or [tdʒ] instead of [ts] (voicing may be assimilated in the stop too), making sound like [sʋɪt.zər.lænd] instead of [swɪt.səɹ.lənd].
  • In RP, /r/ occurs only before a vowel. But many speakers of Indian English use /r/ in almost all positions in words as dictated by the spellings. The allophone used is a mild trill or a tap. Indian speakers do not typically use the retroflex approximant /ɻ/ for , which is common for American English speakers.
  • All consonants are distinctly doubled (lengthened) in General Indian English wherever the spelling suggests so. e.g., /dril.liŋɡ/.
  • English pronunciation of the grapheme < i > varies from [ɪ] to [aɪ] depending upon the dialect or accent. Indian English will invariably use the British dialect for it. Thus, would be pronounced as [tɛn.saɪl] like the British, rather than [tɛn.sɪl] like the American; would be pronounced as [æn.ti] like the British, rather than [æn.taɪ] like American.

Supra-segmental features


Any of the native varieties of English produce unique stresses on the language. English is a stress-timed language, and both syllable stress and word stress
Stress (linguistics)
In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or to certain words in a phrase or sentence. The term is also used for similar patterns of phonetic prominence inside syllables. The word accent is sometimes also used with this sense.The stress placed...

, where only certain words in a sentence or phrase are stressed, are important features of Received Pronunciation. Indian native languages are actually syllable-timed languages, like Latin and French. Indian-English speakers usually speak with a syllabic rhythm. Further, in some Indian languages, stress is associated with a low pitch, whereas in most English dialects, stressed syllables are generally pronounced with a higher pitch. Thus, when some Indian speakers speak, they appear to put the stress accents at the wrong syllables, or accentuate all the syllables of a long English word. Certain Indian accents are of a "sing-song" nature, a feature seen in a few English dialects in Britain, such as Scouse
Scouse
Scouse is an accent and dialect of English found primarily in the Metropolitan county of Merseyside, and closely associated with the city of Liverpool and the adjoining urban areas such as the boroughs of south Sefton, Knowsley and the Wirral...

 and Welsh English
Welsh English
Welsh English, Anglo-Welsh, or Wenglish refers to the dialects of English spoken in Wales by Welsh people. The dialects are significantly influenced by Welsh grammar and often include words derived from Welsh...

.

Vocabulary and colloquialisms


While Indian English is historically derived from British English, recent influences from American English can be found to have created its own idiosyncrasies. For instance, both "program" and "programme" can be found in Indian newspapers. Indians also continue to use phrases from British English that other English speakers now consider antiquated. Official letters include phrases such as "please do the needful
Do the needful
"Do the needful" is an archaic expression which means "do that which is necessary", with the respectful implication that the other party is trusted to understand what needs doing without being given detailed instruction....

" and "you will be intimated shortly".
  • Rubber - Pencil eraser
  • Flat
    Flat
    In music, flat, or Bemolle , means "lower in pitch"; the flat symbol lowers a note by a half step. Intonation may be flat, sharp, or both, successively or simultaneously...

    - 'Apartment' / 'Apartment house'
  • pant - 'Trousers'
  • Mess - A dining hall, especially used by students at a dormitory. 'Mess' is also used in reference to eateries catering primarily to a working class population. Originated from the military term of similar meaning.
  • Eve teasing
    Eve teasing
    Eve teasing is a euphemism used in India and sometimes Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal for public sexual harassment or molestation of women by men, with use of the word "Eve" being a reference to the biblical Eve....

    - 'Verbal sexual harassment of women'
  • Where are you put up? means 'Where are you currently staying'?.
  • Where do you stay? is the same as 'Where do you live?' or 'Where's your house?'. This is also used in Scottish and South African English.
  • to shift - to relocate (e.g. He shifted from Jaipur to Gurgaon).
  • Wheatish (complexion) - light, creamy brown, or having a light brown complexion.
  • "Out of station": "out of town". This phrase has its origins in the posting of army officers to particular 'stations' during the days of the East India Company
    East India Company
    The East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China...

    .
  • "acting pricey": playing "hard to get", being snobbish.
  • "pass out
    Passing out
    Passing out is a term used to describe the completion of a course by military and other service personnel. One such use of this expression is a soldier's passing out parade upon completion of a basic training course. Related is the expression to pass out....

    " is meant to graduate, as in "I passed out of the university in 1995". In American/British English, this usage is limited to graduating out of military academies.
  • "on the anvil" is used often in the Indian press to mean something is about to appear or happen. For example, a headline might read "New roads on the anvil".
  • "under scanner" is used often in the Indian press to mean something is being investigated by authorities. For example, a headline might read "Power Station under scanner for radiation".
  • "tight slap" to mean "hard slap".
  • Time-pass - 'Doing something for leisure but with no intention or target/satisfaction', procrastination, pastime.
  • Time-waste - Something that is a waste of time; procrastination. Presumably not even useful for leisure.
  • Dearness Allowance - Payment given to employees to compensate for the effects of inflation.
  • Pindrop silence - Extreme silence (quiet enough to hear a pin drop).
  • chargesheet n. formal charges filed in a court; v. to file charges against someone in court
  • redressal: n. redress, remedy, reparation
  • "Hill Station" - mountain resort.
  • "Railway Station" - Train station.
  • "stepney" refers to a spare tyre. The word is a genericized trademark
    Genericized trademark
    A genericized trademark is a trademark or brand name that has become the colloquial or generic description for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service, rather than as an indicator of source or affiliation as intended by the trademark's holder...

     originating from the Stepney Spare Motor Wheel, itself named after Stepney Street, in Llanelli
    Llanelli
    Llanelli , the largest town in both the county of Carmarthenshire and the preserved county of Dyfed , Wales, sits on the Loughor estuary on the West Wales coast, approximately west-north-west of Swansea and south-east of the county town, Carmarthen. The town is famous for its proud rugby...

    , Wales
    Wales
    Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

    .
  • "specs" means spectacles or glasses
    Glasses
    Glasses, also known as eyeglasses , spectacles or simply specs , are frames bearing lenses worn in front of the eyes. They are normally used for vision correction or eye protection. Safety glasses are a kind of eye protection against flying debris or against visible and near visible light or...

     (as in colloquial UK English).
  • Cooling glasses - Sunglasses
  • "cent per cent" - "100 per cent" as in "He got cent per cent in maths".
  • "loose motion" - diarrhoea
  • "expire" - To die, especially in reference to one's family member.
  • "prepone" - To bring something forward in time. As opposed to postpone.
  • "bunking" - To skip class without permission.
  • "carrying" - to be pregnant, as in "She is carrying".
  • "pressurize" - to put pressure on someone, to influence.
  • "non-vegetarian" or non-veg - Food that is not vegetarian; a person who eats such food.
  • "'club'" or "'clubbing'" - To merge or put two things together. "'Just club it together'"
  • "'cantonment'" - permanent military installation.

Numbering system


The Indian numbering system
Indian numbering system
The South Asian numbering system, used today in the Indian subcontinent , is based on grouping by two decimal places, rather than the three decimal places commonplace in most parts of the world. This system of measurement introduces separators into numbers in places appropriate to the two-digit...

 is preferred for digit grouping. When written in words, or when spoken,
numbers less than 100,000 are expressed just as they are in Standard English. Numbers including and beyond 100,000 are expressed in a subset of the Indian numbering system. Thus, the following scale is used:
In digits (Standard English) In digits (Indian English) In words (Standard English) In words (Indian English)
10 ten
100 one hundred
1,000 one thousand
10,000 ten thousand
100,000 1,00,000 one hundred thousand one lakh
Lakh
A lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand . It is widely used both in official and other contexts in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and is often used in Indian English.-Usage:...

1,000,000 10,00,000 one million ten lakh
Lakh
A lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand . It is widely used both in official and other contexts in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and is often used in Indian English.-Usage:...

10,000,000 1,00,00,000 ten million one crore
Crore
A crore is a unit in the Indian number system equal to ten million , or 100 lakhs. It is widely used in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Pakistan....



Larger numbers are generally expressed as multiples of the above.

Medical terms


Often the cause of undesirable confusion.
  • Viral Fever: influenza
    Influenza
    Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae , that affects birds and mammals...

  • Jaundice: Acute Hepatitis. While standard medical terminology uses jaundice for a symptom (yellow discolouration of skin), in India the term is used to refer to the illness in which this symptom is most common.
  • Allopathy, used by homeopaths to refer to conventional medicine.

Food

  • Brinjal : aubergines / eggplant
  • Capsicum
    Capsicum
    Capsicum is a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family, Solanaceae. Its species are native to the Americas where they have been cultivated for thousands of years, but they are now also cultivated worldwide, used as spices, vegetables, and medicines - and have become are a key element in...

    : called chili pepper, red or green pepper, or sweet pepper in the UK, capsicum in Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India, bell pepper
    Bell pepper
    Bell pepper, also known as sweet pepper or a pepper and capsicum , is a cultivar group of the species Capsicum annuum . Cultivars of the plant produce fruits in different colors, including red, yellow, orange and green. Bell peppers are sometimes grouped with less pungent pepper varieties as...

     in the US, Canada, and the Bahamas; paprika in some other countries
  • Curds : Yogurt
  • Sooji or Rava : Semolina
    Semolina
    Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat used in making pasta, and also used for breakfast cereals and puddings. Semolina is also used to designate coarse middlings from other varieties of wheat, and from other grains such as rice and corn.-Name:The term semolina derives from...

  • Pulses, dal
    Dal
    Dal is a preparation of pulses which have been stripped of their outer hulls and split. It also refers to the thick stew prepared from these, an important part of Indian, Nepali, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, and Bangladeshi cuisine...

    : pulses, e.g. lentils
  • Karahi, kadai : wok
  • Sago
    Sago
    Sago is a starch extracted in the spongy center or pith, of various tropical palm stems, Metroxylon sagu. It is a major staple food for the lowland peoples of New Guinea and the Moluccas, where it is called saksak and sagu. A type of flour, called sago flour, is made from sago. The largest supply...

    : tapioca
    Tapioca
    Tapioca is a starch extracted Manihot esculenta. This species, native to the Amazon, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and most of the West Indies, is now cultivated worldwide and has many names, including cassava, manioc, aipim,...

    , Yuca in US
  • Ladyfinger, bhindi : okra
    Okra
    Okra is a flowering plant in the mallow family. It is valued for its edible green seed pods. The geographical origin of okra is disputed, with supporters of South Asian, Ethiopian and West African origins...

  • Sabzi : greens, green vegetables

Addressing others


  • strangers or anyone meriting respect as "ji
    -ji
    Jī is an important honorific used as a suffix in Hindi-Urdu and many other languages of the Indian subcontinent. Its usage is similar, but not identical, to another subcontinental honorific, sāhab...

    "/"jee" ( used as a suffix) as in "Please call a taxi for Goyal-ji" (North, West and East India)
  • Use of prefixes "Shree"/"Shri" (Devanagari: श्री meaning Mister) or "Shreemati"/"Shrimati" (Devanagari: श्रीमती meaning Ms/Mrs): Shri Ravindra Patel or Shreemati Das Gupta. "Shreemati"/"Shrimati" is used for married women. "Kumari" (Devnagari: कुमारी literally meaning a virgin) can be used for unmarried (as opposed to single) women or girls. "Sushri" (Devnagari: सुश्री a more recent addition and appropriate translation of Ms where marital status cannot be determined or is unimportant)
  • In Telugu, either "Sree"-as a prefix or "Garu"-as a suffix are used in formal contexts.
  • Analogous titles "Thiru" and "Thirumathi" are used in Tamil.
  • As with Shree/Shreemati, use of suffixes "Saahib/Sāhab" (Mr) and "Begum" (Mrs)(Urdu) as in "Welcome to India
    India
    India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

    , Smith-saahib" or "Begum Sahib would like some tea".
  • Use of "mister" and "missus" as common nouns for wife/husband. For example, "Jyoti's mister stopped by yesterday" or "My missus is not feeling well".
  • "Master" is a common honorific
    Honorific
    An honorific is a word or expression with connotations conveying esteem or respect when used in addressing or referring to a person. Sometimes, the term is used not quite correctly to refer to an honorary title...

     for young boys (children, teenagers). e.g.: Master Kumar.
  • Use of honorifics (Mr, Mrs, Ms) with the first name
    Given name
    A given name, in Western contexts often referred to as a first name, is a personal name that specifies and differentiates between members of a group of individuals, especially in a family, all of whose members usually share the same family name...

    . For example, Swathi Ashok Kumar might be addressed as "Ms Swathi" instead of "Ms Kumar". This is the only possible correct usage in South India, especially in Tamil Nadu, where most people don't use a surname. (The trailing caste names have gone out of vogue).
  • Use of the English words 'uncle' and 'aunty' as suffixes when addressing people such as distant relatives, neighbours, acquaintances, even total strangers (like shopkeepers) who are significantly older than oneself. E.g., "Hello, Swathi aunty!" In fact, in Indian culture
    Culture of India
    India's languages, religions, dance, music, architecture, food and customs differ from place to place within the country, but nevertheless possess a commonality....

    , children or teenagers addressing their friends' parents as Mr Patel or Mrs Patel (etc.) is rare and may even be considered unacceptable or offensive (in the sense of referring to an elder person by name). A substitution of Sir/Ma'am, while common for addressing teachers/professors or any person in an official position, would be considered too formal to address parents of friends or any other unrelated (but known) elder persons. On the contrary, if the person is related, he/she will usually be addressed with the name of the relation in the vernacular Indian language, even while conversing in English. For example, if a woman is one's mother's sister, she would not be addressed (by a Hindi speaker) as "auntie" but as Mausi (by a Kannada speaker as Chikkamma Kannada: ಚಿಕ್ಕಮ್ಮ),(by a marathi speaker as "mavashi", Marathi: मावशी ). Calling one's friends' parents aunty and uncle was also very common in Great Britain in the 1960s and 70s but is much rarer today. The terms 'Uncle' and 'Aunty' with certain intonations can also connote a derogatory reference to the advanced age of an individual.
  • Use of Respected Sir while starting a formal letter instead of Dear Sir. Again, such letters are ended with non-standard greetings, such as "Yours respectfully", or "Yours obediently", rather than the standard "Yours sincerely/faithfully/truly".
  • Sharma sir is not here - same as Sharma-ji is not here, a respectful address. No knighthood suffix.

Divergent usage

  • "Uncle / Aunty" - Respectful way of addressing anyone who is significantly older than you. "Uncle, can I take your daughter Anouskha out on a date?"
  • Amount - a sum of money, such as "please refund the amount." or "the amount has been billed to your credit card."
  • Compulsorily - Mandatorily
  • Damn - used as an intensifier, especially a negative one, far more frequently and with far more emphatic effect, than in other dialects of English, as in "that was a damn good meal."
  • Dialogue - a line of dialogue in a movie. ("That was a great dialogue!" means "That was a great line!") "Dialogues" is used to mean "screenplay". In motion picture credits, the person who might in other countries be credited as the screenwriter in India is often credited with the term dialogues. Note the usage of British spelling.
  • Dress - (noun) is used to refer to clothing for men, women, and children alike, whereas in international varieties of English a dress is a woman's outer clothing with a bodice and a skirt as a single garment. The usage of dress as clothes does exist in international varieties but only in very rare occasions and in relevant context., e.g. schooldress. Young girls in India invariably wear a dress, which is commonly referred to as a frock in Indian English.
  • Elder - used as a comparative adjective in the sense of older. For example, "I am elder to you", instead of "I am older than you."
  • Engagement - not just an agreement between two people to marry, but a formal, public ceremony where the engagement is formalized with a ring and/or other local rituals. Indians will not speak of a couple as being engaged, until after the engagement ceremony has been performed. Similar to the use of term marriage, a person may say "I am going to attend my cousin's engagement next month". Afterwards, the betrothed is referred to as one's "would-be" wife or husband. In this case, "would be" is used to mean "will be" in contrast with the standard and American and British connotation of "wants to be (but may not be)".
  • Even - as well/also/too: "Even I didn't know how to do it." This usage of even is borrowed from native grammatical structure.
  • Graduation - completion of a bachelor's degree (as in the UK): "I did my graduation at Presidency College" ("I earned my bachelor's degree
    Bachelor's degree
    A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

     at Presidency College"), whereas in the United States it refers to completion of Highschool, Master's or PhD as well.
  • Hero - a male protagonist, especially of a movie; a person who is often a protagonist. Thus, "Look at Vik; he looks like a hero", meaning "he is as handsome as a movie star."
  • Kindly - please: "Kindly disregard the previous message."
  • Metro - large city (i.e. 'metros such as Mumbai and Delhi') This is a shortening of the term Metropolis
    Metropolis
    A metropolis is a very large city or urban area which is a significant economic, political and cultural center for a country or region, and an important hub for regional or international connections and communications...

    . This can be confusing for Europeans, who tend to use the word to describe underground urban rail networks. However, following the popularity of the Delhi Metro
    Delhi Metro
    Delhi Metro is a rapid transit system serving Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and Ghaziabad in the National Capital Region of India. It is one of the largest metro networks in the world. The network consists of six lines with a total length of with 142 stations of which 35 are underground...

    , the word Metro now tends to be used to describe both the metropolis and the underground rail network.
  • Music director - a music composer for movies.
  • Non-veg - (short for non-vegetarian) is used to mean food which contains flesh of any mammal, fish, bird, shellfish, etc. or eggs. Fish, seafood, and eggs are not treated as categories separate from "meat", especially when the question of vegetarianism
    Vegetarianism
    Vegetarianism encompasses the practice of following plant-based diets , with or without the inclusion of dairy products or eggs, and with the exclusion of meat...

     is at issue (milk and its products are always considered vegetarian). E.g., "We are having non-veg today for dinner", whereas the native varieties of English would have: "We are having meat today for dinner". Also note that a non-veg joke is regarded as a joke with mature content.
  • Paining - hurting would be more common in Standard American and British: "My head is paining."
  • Shirtings and suitings - the process of making such garments; a suffix in names of shops specializing in men's formal/business wear.
  • Solid - great or exceptional ("What a solid idea!" means "What a great idea!").
  • Timings - hours of operation; scheduled time, such as office timings or train timings, as opposed to the standard usage such as "The timing of his ball delivery is very good."
  • Gentry
    Gentry
    Gentry denotes "well-born and well-bred people" of high social class, especially in the past....

    - generalized term for social class - not specifically 'high social class'. The use of 'good', 'bad', 'high' and 'low' prefixed to 'gentry' is common.
  • mutton - goat meat
    Goat meat
    Goat meat is the meat of the domestic goat . It is often called chevon or mutton when the meat comes from adults, and cabrito or kid when from young animals...

     instead of sheep meat
    Lamb (food)
    Lamb, mutton, and hogget are the meat of domestic sheep. The meat of a sheep in its first year is lamb; that of a juvenile sheep older than 1 year is hogget; and the meat of an adult sheep is mutton....

    .
  • Although not mainstream, the insertion of as in describing a designation, where it would be omitted in Standard English: "Mahatma Gandhi is called as the father of the nation". This is similar to the American English
    American English
    American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

     usage of the phrase "different than", a form that would be considered erroneous in Britain.


Words unique to (i.e. not generally well-known outside South Asia
South Asia
South Asia, also known as Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent, which comprises the sub-Himalayan countries and, for some authorities , also includes the adjoining countries to the west and the east...

) and/or popular in India include those in the following by no means exhaustive list:
  • batchmate or batch-mate (Not classmate, but a schoolmate of the same grade)
  • "eggitarian" for a person who eats vegetarian food, milk and eggs but not meat; ovo lacto vegetarian.
  • compass box for a box holding mathematical instruments like compasses, divider, scale, protractor etc. Also widely referred to as a "geometry box".
  • cousin-brother (male first cousin
    Cousin chart
    In kinship terminology, a cousin is a relative with whom one shares one or more common ancestors. The term is rarely used when referring to a relative in one's immediate family where there is a more specific term . The term "blood relative" can be used synonymously and establishes the existence of...

    ) & cousin-sister (female first cousin)
  • foot overbridge (bridge meant for pedestrians)
  • flyover (overpass or an over-bridge over a section of road or train tracks)
  • godown (warehouse)
  • godman somewhat pejorative word for a person who claims to be divine or who claims to have supernatural powers
  • gully to mean a narrow lane or alley (from the Hindi word "gali" meaning the same).
  • long-cut (The "opposite" of short-cut, in other words, taking the longest route).
  • mugging or mugging up (memorising, usually referring to learning "by rote," and having nothing to do with street crime, what the word would mean in British/American English).
  • nose-screw (woman's nose-ring)
  • prepone (The "opposite" of postpone, that is to change a meeting to be earlier). Many dictionaries have added this word.
  • tiffin
    Tiffin
    Tiffin is lunch, or any light meal. It originated in British India, and is today found primarily in Indian English. The word originated when Indian custom superseded the British practice of an afternoon tea, leading to a new word for the afternoon meal. It is derived from the obsolete English slang...

     box
    for lunch box. The word is also commonly used to mean a between-meal snack.
  • BHK is real-estate terminology for "Bedroom, Hall and Kitchen", used almost exclusively in housing size categorization. "Hall" refers to the living room, which is highlighted separately from other rooms. For instance, a 2BHK apartment has a total of three rooms - two bedrooms and a living room.
    • co-brother indicates relationship between two men who are married to sisters, as in "He is my co-brother"
  • co-inlaws indicates relationship between two sets of parents whose son and daughter are married, as in "Our co-inlaws live in Delhi."
    • co-sister indicates relationship between two women who are married to brothers, as in "She is my co-sister"
  • boss is a term used to refer to a male stranger such as shopkeeper (Its a respect shown to the shopkeeper and not a derogatory remark pass to him/her. If later is the case he would have banged out the customer): " Boss, what is the cost of that pen?"
  • vote-bank is a term commonly used during the elections in India, implying a particular bloc or community of people inclined to cast their votes for a political party that promises to deliver policies favouring them.


Words which are considered archaic in some varieties of English, but are still in use in Indian English:
  • Curd - yoghurt
  • Dicky/dickey - the trunk of a car.
  • In tension - being concerned or nervous. Phrased another way, "He is taking too much tension". Found in eighteenth century British English.
  • Into - multiplied by, as in 2 into 2 equals 4, rather than 2 times 2 is 4, which is more common in other varieties of English. The use of into dates back to the fifteenth century, when it had been common in British English.
  • ragging
    Ragging
    Ragging is a practice in educational institutions in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka that involves existing students baiting or bullying new students. It is similar to the American phenomenon of hazing. It often takes a malignant form wherein the newcomers may be subjected to psychological or...

    - hazing
    Hazing
    Hazing is a term used to describe various ritual and other activities involving harassment, abuse or humiliation used as a way of initiating a person into a group....

    (US).
  • equals - is equal to (in calculations)
  • the same - the aforementioned, as in "I heard that you have written a document on .... Could you send me the same?"
  • Use of double and triple for numbers occurring twice or three times in succession, especially for a phone number. For example, a phone number 2233344 would be pronounced as double two, triple three, double four.
  • Use of thrice, meaning "three times", is common in Indian English.
  • Use of the phrases like nothing or like anything to express intensity. For example, "These people will cheat you like anything". Such usage was part of colloquial English language in seventeenth century Britain and America.
  • Word pairs "up to" and "in spite" compounded to "upto" and "inspite" respectively.

See also

  • Hindi English
  • Pakistani English
    Pakistani English
    Pakistani English is the term used to describe the English language as spoken in Pakistan. Pakistani English is slightly different in respect to accent and spellings of some words.-History:...

  • Indian English literature
    Indian English literature
    Indian English literature refers to the body of work by writers in India who write in the English language and whose native or co-native language could be one of the numerous languages of India. It is also associated with the works of members of the Indian diaspora, such as V.S...

  • Regional accents of English
  • Regional differences and dialects in Indian English
    Regional differences and dialects in Indian English
    Indian English has developed a number of dialects, distinct from the General/Standard Indian English that educators have attempted to establish and institutionalize, and it is possible to distinguish a person's sociolinguistic background from the dialect that they employ...

  • Indian numbering system
    Indian numbering system
    The South Asian numbering system, used today in the Indian subcontinent , is based on grouping by two decimal places, rather than the three decimal places commonplace in most parts of the world. This system of measurement introduces separators into numbers in places appropriate to the two-digit...

  • Languages with official status in India
  • Sri Lankan English
    Sri Lankan English
    Sri Lankan English is the English language as spoken in Sri Lanka.The earliest English speakers in present-day Sri Lanka date back to the days of the British Empire, the era of Royal Navy dominance, and the British colonial presence in South Asia....


External links