Hindi Language Blog

HindiVAALE! Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Hindi Language, Uncategorized

While learning Hindi, you may have noticed the ubiquitous presence of the vaala/vaale/vaali (वाला/वाले/वाली) suffixes––by the way, a suffix is any word or particle that comes AFTER another word and changes its meaning. From Merchant and Ivory’s film Shakespeare-Wallah (or “Vala”) to the chaivaala (चायवाला) on the street corner who brews up just what you need to get you through the afternoon, “vaala/vaale/vaalis” are everywhere. One of the many wonderful things about Hindi is that it contains in its repertoire a plethora of particles and short words that can convey subtle shades of meaning quite simply, even for new learners.

Image by Shabbir Siraj on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

With all languages that have gender, including Hindi, it is important to be mindful of the masculine or feminine designations of nouns and pronouns in a sentence. The gender (masculine singular: vaala/वाला, masculine plural: vaale/वाले, feminine singular and plural: vaali/वाली) of the noun that the “vaala” suffix is modifying will dictate which gender designation you apply to this suffix.

Let’s learn through a few examples:

परसों, चायवाले* ने मुझसे कहा कि आज वह अपनी बहन की शादी के लिए अपने गाँव जा रहा है ।

(Parson, chaayvaale ne mujhe kahaa ki aaj voh apni behen ki shaadi ke liye apne gaav jaa rahaa hai)

The day before yesterday, the tea-maker told me that he is going to his village today for his sister’s wedding.

*Vaala/वाला here indicates someone whose profession is to make tea and could mean “tea-maker” or “tea-man” in English. Adding “vaala” to the noun “chai” here is just a simple way of conveying that this person makes tea for a living.

कुछ हिंदीवाले* चाहते हैं कि हिंदी इंडिया की राष्ट्रभाषा बन जाये ।

(Kuch Hindi-vaale chahte hain ki Hindi India ki rashtra-bhaashaa ban jaaye)

Some Hindi (speaking) people want Hindi to become India’s national language.

*Here, vaale/वाले (identifying a large group of people, so masculine plural is the default gender) does not identify a profession so much as a group of people ASSOCIATED with Hindi or, as we would say in English, Hindi-speaking people. But, instead of saying the much longer “हिंदी बोलने वाले लोग” we can simply say “हिंदी वाले” and convey the same meaning!

ऐसा लगता है कि मौसम बदलनेवाला* है ।

(Aisa lagtaa hai ki mausam badalnevaala hai)

It seems that the weather is about to change.

*Another amazing usage of “vaala/vaale/vaali” is to convey the sense of “about to.” For this usage, you merely use the infinitive verb (in this case, badalna/बदलना or “to change”), change its final “a” to an “e” to convey the oblique case and add a “vaala/vaale/vaali” to the end to match the gender and number of the you are modifying the masculine, singular noun “mausam/मौसम”)

An auto-rickshaw or simply “auto” in Agra, Uttar Pradesh; image by Lian Chang on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

रिक्शेवाले* हमेशा विदेशियों से बहुत ज़्यादा पैसा माँगते हैं ।

(Rikshevaale hameshaa videshiyon se bahut zyaadaa paisa maangte hain)

Rickshaw drivers always demand way too much money from foreigners.

*Again, this is a usage of “vaala” that connotes someone associated with or performing a particular profession, as in “rickshaw drivers.” Usually when nouns (such as “rickshaw” here) end in a long -aa sound, you change them to an –e to reflect the oblique case and then add the “vaala,” changed according to the number and gender of the noun you’re describing (rickshaw drivers here are masculine, plural so therefore vala changes to a similarly masculine plural “vaale”).

घर साफ़ करने वाली* महिला महिने के पहले दिन अपना पैसा चाहती है ।

(Ghar saaf karne vaali mahilaa mahine ke pehle din apnaa paisaa chahti hai)

The lady who cleans the house wants her money on the first (day) of the month.

*This is, again, a description of someone who performs a profession. This can be translated into English as “the cleaning lady” or “the lady who cleans the house,” more literally, but it is a bit wordier and more complicated than the Hindi, which specifies exactly what you want to say: घर साफ़ करने वाली/ghar saaf karne vaali; you don’t even need to add “महिला/mahilaa” or lady. If you had more than one cleaning lady, for example, you would still say “घर साफ़ करने वाली” because the feminine singular and plural of “vaala” is the same.

कुछ लोग कहते हैं कि दिल्लीवाले* (लोग) हमेशा बहुत व्यस्त रहते हैं ।

(Kuch log kehte hain ki Dillivaale (log) hameshaa bahut vyast rehte hain)

Some people say that Delhites (people from Delhi) always stay very busy/are always very busy.  

*This is a usage of “vaala” that is also very common in which “vaala” is attached to the name of a place (in this case the capital of India, sometimes known as दिल्ली/Dilli or नई दिल्ली/Nayi Dilli) and the suffix changes to match the gender and number of the noun it is modifying (in this case, the unsaid word “लोग/log” or people, which is masculine plural). Another way to use this would be to ask someone, आप कहाँ के रहनेवाले/वाली हैं/तुम कहाँ के रहनेवाले/वाली हो?, which translates roughly to “Where do you live/where are you from?” in which, again, you have an infinitive verb (रहना/rehnaa=to live or stay) whose ending –aa is transformed to an –e to reflect the oblique case and to which a वाला is added at the end and changed to reflect the gender/number of the person/people you are addressing.

A tailor or “darzi” working at his craft in Delhi; image by flowcomm on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

मैंने दुकानदार से कहा कि मुझे छोटीवाली* (कमीज़) चाहिए ।

(Maine dukaandaar se kahaa ki mujhe chotivaali kameez chahiye)

I told the shopkeeper that I want the small shirt/tunic. 

*In this final usage of “vaala” we have this suffix affixed to an adjective (छोटी/choti or small) to mean something like “the small one.” In this usage, you do not even need to use the word “कमीज़/kameez” unless the person to whom you’re speaking really doesn’t know what you’re referring to. Usually, just saying “the small one” (छोटीवाली) is enough with both the adjective and “vaala” changed to reflect the number and gender of the noun being referred to (in this case, the feminine singular कमीज़ or shirt/tunic).

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About the Author: Rachael

नमस्ते, मेरा नाम रेचल है/السلام علیکم، میرا نام ریچل ہے۔ Hello, my name is Rachael, but I also on occasion go by Richa––an interesting story for another time :) My two great loves are Hindi and Urdu. I first traveled to India (Jaipur, Rajasthan) in college on a Hindi study abroad program. A little over a year later, I returned to the same city to study Hindi in a yearlong program. I've also spent a summer in Kolkata, West Bengal learning Bengali, and I studied Urdu at the University of California, Berkeley, where I was a graduate student in South Asian Studies. I hope to share with you the fascinating world of Hindi and Urdu literature, society, culture and film through my blogs!


  1. Kathleen:

    This is still one of my favorite things about Hindi! Such a useful little word! I stick it into my English now too. 😀

    • Rachael:

      @Kathleen मैं आपसे बिल्कुल सहमत हूँ ! 🙂