Hindi Language Blog

The Hindi Particle “Hi” Explained Posted by on Jan 1, 2019 in Hindi Language

In my previous blog, I explained the Hindi particle “bhi.” In this blog, I will explain a related concept – the particle “hi.” Like “bhi,” this particle needs to be placed with care directly behind the word or phrase it is modifying. While “bhi” can mean “also, too, even, as well as,” “hi” lends a different shade of meaning – it can be roughly translated as “just” and “only” in some circumstances but is difficult to translate in other contexts. But, like “bhi,” “hi” conveys a sense of emphasis and sometimes restriction that lends more personality, meaning and intensity to a sentence. Let’s explore a few examples to understand the many facets of this fascinating little particle.

Image by AnandChowdhury0 on Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

  • इंडिया में रहते हुए हमें हिंदी ही बोलनी चाहिए । India me rehte hue hume Hindi hi bolni chahiye. While living in India, we should speak only Hindi.

In this example, remember the vital rule behind both “bhi” and “hi” – they modify the word or phrase that directly precedes them. So, in this sentence, “हिंदी ही” or “just Hindi/Hindi alone/only Hindi,” conveys a sense of emphasis in that you are stressing your goal to speak only Hindi as well as a sense of restriction in that you are restricting the number of languages you will allow yourself to speak to only one.

  • हालाँकि हमारा परिवार बहुत ही बड़ा है, हमारे पास एक ही गाड़ी है । Halaanki hamaaraa parivaar bahut hi baraa hai, hamaare paas ek hi gari hai. Even though our family is very big, we have only one car.

Here, you can appreciate two different uses of “hi.” In the first part of the sentence, you encountered a common phrase “बहुत ही” which clearly emphasizes the meaning of “बहुत” (“very,” in this case) to mean something like “extremely.” In the second part of the sentence, you encountered another meaning of “hi” to mean “just or only” – “एक ही” means something like “just one or only one” and emphasizes the number of cars – one.

  • वे बुधवार को ही आयेंगे/ve budhvaar ko hi aayenge vs. वे ही बुधवार को आयेंगे/ve hi budhvaar ko aayenge (They will come on Wednesday itself/on Wednesday only vs. They alone will come on Wednesday).

This example is similar to the contrasting pairs we had in our “bhi” blog. Now what, may you ask, is the difference between these two sentences? In the first sentence, “hi” follows the day, hence emphasizing that they will come only on that day, or on that day alone. This is a very common expression in Hindi that Hindi speakers will sometimes translate into English wholesale, although this expression is not common in American and British English. However, this expression is EXTREMELY common in Indian English, so you should become familiar with it. It is basically just a way of emphasizing a particular fact of this sentence (which is, in this case, that they will come on Wednesday itself and no other day). In the second sentence, “hi” follows “they” and therefore emphasizes the subject of the sentence – “they” – and restricts the subject to “they alone” thereby indicating that no one else, apart from this group of people will come on Wednesday.

And, keep in mind that when pronouns combine with “hi,” they change forms to become contractions, much like pronouns + the postposition को/ko we covered earlier:

मैं (main, I) + ही (hi) मुझी (mujhi)
तू (too, you, intimate) + ही (hi) तुझी (tujhi)
यह (yah, this/it/she/he) + ही (hi) यही (yahi)
वह (voh, that/it/she/he) + ही (hi) वही (vohi)
इस (oblique form of यह/yah) + ही (hi) इसी (isee)
उस (oblique form of वह/voh) + ही (hi) उसी (usee)
हम (hum, we) + ही (hi) हमीं (humee)
तुम (tum, you, informal) + ही (hi) तुम्हीं (tumhee)
इन (oblique form of ये/ye) + ही (hi) इन्हीं (inhee)
उन (oblique form of वे/ve) + ही (hi) उन्हीं (unhee)
  • तुम्हीं समय पर अपना काम करते हो – दूसरे छात्र तुम्हारे जैसे क्यों नहीं हो सकते? Tumhee samay par apnaa kaam karte ho – doosre chaatra tumhaare jaise kyoon nahin ho sakte? (You alone/only you/just you do your work on time – why can’t the other students be like you?)

In this example, तुम changes form when combined with the particle ही to become तुम्हीं, which lends the sense of “just you, only you, etc.” and restricts and emphasizes the people who “do their work on time” to “only you” (तुम + ही = तुम्हीं).

  • वही आदमी मुझे कुछ बेचने की कोशिश कर रहा था पहले – उसने आपको भी धोखा देने की कोशिश की ? Vohi aadmi mujhe kuch bechne ki koshish kar rahaa thaa pehle – usne aapko bhi dhokhaa dene ki koshish ki? (That same/the same man was trying to sell me something earlier – did he try to trick you too?)

Here, वह combines with ही to form “वही” which specifies the man as “the same man” who tried to sell something to someone else earlier – this is a way of emphasizing the fact that it was the same person who bothered another individual at an earlier time.

  • अभी (अभी) आओ, मेरी नानी के घर में आग लग गई है ! Abhi (abhi) aao, meri naani ke ghar me aag lag gayee hai (Come right now, a fire has started in my grandmother’s house)!

In this sentence, ही has been combined with अब (now) to form अभी (or for even more emphasis and urgency, you can say अभी अभी) which means “right now” or “this instant.” This is a good phrase to memorize as it is commonly used and may come in handy.

  • मैं यही सोच रही थी लेकिन उस समय कुछ केहना नहीं चाहती । Main yahi sochi rahi thi lekin us samay kuch kehnaa nahin chahti (I was thinking the same (this same) thing, but I did not want to say anything at the time (at that time)).

In this example, यह combines with ही to form यही to mean the “very same thing” or just “this same thing” emphasizing that the speaker of the sentence was thinking the same thing as their interlocutor.

In addition to combining with pronouns, ही also combines with adverbs to form some unique words that may prove useful:

यहाँ (yahaan, here) +ही यहीं (yaheen, right here)
वहाँ (vahaan, there) +ही वहीं (vaheen, right there)
अब (ab, now) +ही अभी (abhi, right now)
सब (sab, all) +ही सभी (sabhi, all, absolutely all)

*Be careful to distinguish between वही (that very same one) and यही (this very same one) and वहीं (right over there) and यहीं (right over here) – they are different words with different meanings and usages. It will help you to remember the differing meanings of वहीं and यहीं if you remember that the dot (बिंदु) that appears at the end of the word is a carry-over from the ordinary form of the words: वहाँ and यहाँ, which have a chandrabindu (चंद्रबिंदु) or, literally, a combination of a half moon and a dot to denote nasalization of the vowel.

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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!