I met John yesterday. John was very tired because John had just come from a long marathon. John and I talked only for a little moment because John had to soon go meet up with John’s friends.
The above paragraph is what a language without pronouns would look like. Each repetition of ‘John’ is redundant because you know what the speaker is talking about. Instead of using the noun itself to represent a person/entity, it would be better if we used a different word to refer to that participant. Those words that do this function are called pronouns.
Pronouns are basically words that take the place of a noun that is participating in a conversation. With pronouns, we can reduce the sentence to much-needed breivity. Pronouns can refer to people, objects, locations, unknown objects etc. Examples in English include: I, we, they, it, that, who etc. Pronouns are called सर्वनाम (sarwanām) in Nepali, with nām referring to ‘noun’.
In Nepali, pronouns have no inherent gender unless the context is clear. This means, the word itself has no gender. For example, ‘she’ is clearly feminine, but ‘they’ does not have gender. In Nepali, all pronouns are like ‘they’ i.e. lacking gender.
Before we move on to personal pronouns, it is important to understand what a grammatical person is. It isn’t a real person like you and me, but rather, grammatical person refers to the perspective of the speaker. Basically, a conversation has three members:
- The first person, or the speaker, who is referred to as ‘I/ We/ Self’
- The second person, or the adressee/listener, who is referred to as ‘You’
- The third person, or the others, who is referred to as ‘He/ She/ They/ It etc.’
The verb you use highly depends on the perspective used in a conversation, thus it is important to recognize it while forming a sentence. For example, in English:
I eat the food.
He eats the food.
Notice how the inflection (verb) changes according to the perspective. Nepali does the same, thus it should be clear what perspective refers to later on.
Pronouns that refer to human beings in a conversation.
Note that inflections are not listed and are listed according to dictionary form. For example, ‘him’ is not listed because it is an inflection of ‘he’. Also, note that there are three tiers of respect used while addressing the listener (and sometimes the third party, but never the speaker). Much like the French tu and vous, Nepali uses different pronouns depending on the formality needed and the level of respect that is commanded by the speaker. This system is also known as honorifics.
|You (Low Respect)||तँ (tam̐)|
|You (Medium Respect)||तिमी (timī)|
|You (High Respect)||तपाईँ (tapāīm̐)|
|He/ She (Neutral Respect)||ऊ (ū) [no plural]|
|He/ She (Medium Respect)||उनी (unī)|
|He/ She (High Respect)||उहाँ (uhām̐)|
To make plural forms of second and third person pronouns, concatenate हरू (harū) to the end of the pronoun. First person pronouns cannot be pluralized. For example:
तिमी (timi) + हरू (harū) = तिमीहरू(timiharū)
The conjugations for the plurals are the same as for their singular counterpart. For example, timī-harū has the same conjugation rules as for timī.
Note: Do not pronounce m̐ as it is a nasaliser not a character; nasalise the word instead.
Pronouns that help identify the object based on their proximity to the speaker.
Pronouns used to refer to the unknown subject as part of a question.
Pronoun that refers to itself.
|Oneself||आफू (āphū)/ आफैँ (āphaim̐)|
While English has possessive pronouns like my, your etc., Nepali does not in the sense of a pronoun. There are no true pronouns in the possessive sense in Nepali, because pronouns are inflected with a case marker to show possession instead. As this changes the form of the pronoun, we will look more into this later. I will list some common ones below for reference purposes only and should not be treated as true pronouns in a Nepali sense.
Note that the case marker used to inflect the pronoun does inflect for gender and number as well. The ones listed below are in singular, neutral/masculine form. Possessive pronouns behave like adjectives.
|Your (Low Respect)||तेरो (tero)|
|Your (Medium Respect)||तिम्रो (timro)|
|Your (High Respect)||तपाईँको (tapāīm̐-ko)|
|His/ Her (Neutral Respect)||उसको (usko)|
|His/ Her (Medium Respect)||उनको (unko)|
|His/ Her (High Respect)||उहाँको (uhām̐-ko)|
म जन हो (ma jan ho)
[I + John + am]
= I am John.
तपाईँ जन हो (tapāīm̐ jan ho)
[You (respect) + John + are]
= You are John. (respectful)
ऊ घर आयो (ū ghar āyo)
[He + house + came]
= He came home.
यो स्याउ हो (yo syāu ho)
[This + apple + is]
= This is (an) apple.
को जन हो? (ko jan ho)
[Who + John + is]
= Who is John?
मेरो नाम जन हो (mero nām jan ho)
[My + name + John + is]
= My name is John.
- Pronouns are words that represent nouns and refers to either the participants or other things in the conversation.
- Grammatical person is a concept that describes the proximity of something relative to the speaker. Has three perspectives: First person, second person, third person.
- Nepali has three tiers of respect when using certain pronouns, whose use depends on the social context. These are called honorifics.
- In Nepali, possessive pronouns do not exist in the English sense. Rather, they are case marker-modified pronouns, and can indicate gender and number. Possessive pronouns behave like adjectives.
A. FILL IN THE FOLLOWING WITH THE APPROPRIATE PERSONAL PRONOUNS (NEPALI)
1. __ ate the food yesterday. (First person, singular)
2. John said __ were out of gas. (First person, plural)
3. I love __ all. (Second person, plural, medium respect)
4. John met his professor yesterday. __ was on the parking lot. (Third person, singular, high respect)
5. __ work on the latest project of Tokyo electronics. (Third person, plural, medium respect)
B. CHOOSE THE CORRECT PRONOUN THAT CORRESPONDS TO THE BOLD WORD
1. You (low respect) eat rather slowly. (hāmī, timī, tam̐)
2. I am very tired. (ma, ko, hāmī)
3. What is the answer to this riddle? (tyī, tapāīm̐, ke)
4. The road goes this way. (tyo, yo, yī)
5. Those apples are rotting in the basket. (yo, tam̐, tī)
C. MATCH THE CORRECT POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS THAT CORRESPONDS TO THE BOLD WORD (CONTAINS SUPERFLUOUS OPTIONS)
(tapāīm̐-ko, hāmro, tero, usko, mero,timro, uhām̐-ko)
1. Our country of origin is Germany.
2. My dog is very energetic.
3. Did he meet your (medium respect) Grandfather?
4. The cake is his creation.
5. Your (high respect) apples are delicious.
A.1. म (ma)
A.2. हामी (hamī)
A.3. तिमीहरू (timīharū)
A.4. उहाँ (uhām̐)
A.5. उनीहरू (unīharū)