Verbs in Hindi can be put into 3 aspects (habitual, progressive, perfective), 5 moods (indicative, presumptive, contrafactual, subjunctive, imperative), and 3 tenses (present, past, future). The copular verb "to be" होना (honā) in Hindi makes a distinction between the perfect and the imperfect past as well, while all the other verbs only have the perfect past.

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Hindi uses compound verbs to mark the aspect and the mood. In such compound constructions the aspectual participle acts as the aspect marker and the copular verb as the common mood/tense marker. Hence, unlike many other indo-european languages, the aspects and the moods which the verbs are in can be clearly demarkated.

Also, Hindi has a couple of verbs besides होना (honā) [to be] that can act as the copula. Those copular verbs are रहना (rêhnā) [to stay], आना (ānā) [to come], जाना (jānā) [to go], and करना (karnā) [to do]. These could be called the secondary copulas, while होना (honā) [to be] is the primary copula.

Grammatical moods


The verbs in Hindi as discussed above can be put into different grammatical moods and aspects. For now we will stick to the grammatical moods and will later discuss the grammatical aspects. For now, just know that there is a base verb होना [to be] (aka copula verb) that helps us construct all the grammatical aspects of Hindi. This copula is the only verb in Hindi that has certain conjugations for some grammatical moods that the rest of the verbs do not have. A list of the grammatical moods that only the copula होना [to be] has is:

  1. Indicative mood
    • Present tense
    • Past imperfect tense
  2. Presumptive mood
  3. Subjunctive mood
    • Present tense

The verb होना


The conjugations of the copula होना (honā) [to be] for all the 5 moods and the 3 tenses are shown in the table below. These are the non-aspectual conjugations, or the simple aspect conjugations. However, beside the meaning "to be" of होना (honā), depending on the context of usage it can also be translated into English as "to be/exist", "to have/possess", "to happen", and "to become". The meaning of "to happen" when used with animate nouns, can also possibly mean "to be born". Also, in the third person the present indicative conjugations है and हैं can be translated to "there is" and "there are" respectively. Similarly, the indicative past imperfect था and थी could be translates to "there was" while थे and थीं to "there were" respectively. And, similarly the future indicative (the future presumptive as well) in the 3rd person can be translated as "there will be".

Conjugations of होना
mood tense singular plural
1P - मैं 2P - तुम 3P - यह/ये , वह/वो 1P - हम
2P - आप
2P - तू 3P - ये, वे/वो
indicative present हूँ हो है हैं
perfect हुआ हुई हुए हुई हुआ हुई हुए हुईं
imperfect था थी थे थी था थी थे थीं
future होऊँगा होऊँगी होओगे होओगी होएगा होएगी होएँगे होएँगी
presumptive present हूँगा हूँगी होगे होगी होगा होगी होंगे होंगी
subjunctive present हूँ हो हो हों
future होऊँ होओ होए होएँ
contrafactual past होता होती होते होती होता होती होते होतीं
imperative present होओ हो होइए
future होना होइयो होइयेगा

The rest of the verbs


Using the verb करना [to do] as an example to show what conjugations the rest fo the verbs have.

conjugations of "करना [to do]"
mood tense singular plural
1P - मैं 2P - तुम 3P - यह /ये , वह /वो 1P - हम
2P - आप
2P - तू 3P - ये , वे /वो
indicative perfect किया की किये की किया की किये कीं
future करूँगा करूँगी करोगे करोगी करेगा करेगी करेंगे करेंगी
subjunctive future करूँ करो करे करें
contrafactual past करता करती करते करती करता करती करते करतीं
imperative present करो कर करिये
future करना करियो करियेगा

Comparing this table for करना [to do] with the previous conjugation table for होना [to be] it can be seen that करना [to do] (and the rest of the verbs) have a lot few conjugations.

Indicative mood


The indicative mood conveys factual information. It can be translated into English the following way:

Present Past Imperfect Past Perfect Future
1. मैं हूँ I am मैं था I was मैं हुआ I became मैं होऊँगा I will become
2. तू है thou art तू था thou wast तू हुआ thou becamest तू होएगी thou wilt become
3. तुम हो you are तुम थे you were तुम हुए you became तुम होओगी you will become
4. वो हैं they are वो थे they were वो हुए they became वो होएँगे they will become

It must be noted that these present indicative forms only exist for the verb होना [to be]. No other verb in Hindi has the present indicative conjuguations. A little linguistic fact: Historically, Hindi used to have the present indicative forms but eventually they somehow changed their meaning from the present indicative to the future subjunctive. So, all the conjugations that once represented the present indicative mood now represennt the future subjunctive mood in Hindi.

Also, keep in mind that it is only the simple verbal aspect in which the rest of the verbs don't have the indicative mood forms. The other aspects which are the habitual aspect, the perfective aspect, and the progressive aspect do have indicative mood forms for all the verbs. We will learn about them soon!

Presumptive mood


The presumptive mood conveys presumption about something, it could also convey the nuance of indifference to things. It is not easy (if not impossible) to translate this mood into English.

In Hindi, the present, past, and the future conjugations of the presumptive mood is the same. Also, only the verb होना [to be] has the presumptive mood conjugations. For the other verbs, the preseumtive mood forms are constructed using the aspectual participles.

They presumptive mood could roughly be translated in the following way:

  1. वो होगा/होगी — (s)he/it must be, it must be true that (s)he/it is, (s)he/it might be
  2. तुम होगे/होगी — you must be, it must be true that you are, you might be
  3. होंगे तुम्हारे पास 1000 रुपये पर मुझे फ़र्क नहीं पड़ता। — It could/might be true that you have ₹1000 but I don't care. [The sentence conveys that the speaker is indifferent to the fact that the listener has ₹1000 even without using the expression फ़र्क नहीं पड़ता (don't/doesn't care)]

Subjunctive Mood


The subjunctive mood of the verbs express desire, wish, or want.

Subjunctive triggering words


It is always subjunctive form of verbs that are used with certain verbs or phrasal words, that is certain verbs and desire expressing expressions trigger the subjunctive. Using any other mood with such verbs or phrases will make the sentencec grammatically wrong. For example:

  1. चाहना [to want, to love, to like]
    • मैं चाहता हूँ कि वो करे। — I want that (s)he do.
    • मैं चाहता हूँ कि वो करेगा। — [ungrammatical sentence] (the future subjunctive when switched with future indicative mood makes the sentence ungrammatical)
  2. काश [wish, hope, I wish]
    • काश ऐसा हो। — (I) Wish that it is like that.
    • काश ऐसा है। — [ungrammatical sentence] (the present subjunctive when switched with present indicative mood makes the sentence ungrammatical)

However, note that subjunctive can be used with the sentences like the first example above if non-subjunctive triggering verbs are used as well, but in such cases the indicative mood can also used in the sentence, for example:

  1. बोलना [to tell, to say]
    • मैंने उसे बोला कि वो आये। — "I told him that he come."
    • मैंने उसे बोला कि वो आएगा। — "I told him that he will come". (which is equivalent to saying — I told him: "You will come.")

The first sentence above expresses the same as what the 1st sentence in the first example expressed, a wish or desire through the subjunctive verb आये. The second sentence is the indirect reporting of the what you said to somone. It's the indirect speech form. The pronoun वो in the sentence may or may not refer to the same person who is represented by pronoun उसे. So, both these sentences express two different gramamrical ideas.

Conveying a past event


Another type of sentence when the subjunctive is used is when you are conveying someone a past event. Let's say that a friend of yours asked you to give him money and you are narrating this event to someone else at a later time, your sentence could be one of the two sentences below:

  1. मेरा दोस्त बोला कि मैं उसे पैसे दूँ। — My friend asked me to give him money.
  2. मेरा दोस्त चाहता था कि मैं उसे पैसे दूँ। — My friend wanted that I give him money.

In the first exammple sentence, the verb दूँ is the subjunctive form of the verb देना [to give] and बोला is the past perfective form of the verb बोलना [to tell, to say]. The second sentence uses the verb चाहना [to want] to convey the same.

Seeking approval


Historically, in Hindi, the subjunctive form of the verbs used to be the present indicative form of verbs (that is why no verbs in Hindi with an exception of the verb होना [to be] have present indicative forms), so subjunctives in some cases also convey what the present indicative would have roughly conveyed, for example the subjuntive form of verbs when turned into a question in the first person (i.e. only with the pronoun मैं) translates with the word "shall" added to the question, this form of question is used to ask another person permission or seeking for approval to do something. For example:

  1. करना [to do]
    • मैं करूँ? — Shall I do?
  2. आना [to come]
    • मैं आऊँ? — Shall I come?

Also, note that in the eastern dialects of Hindi the pronoun मैं is not used, but instead the pronoun हम is used as the 1st person singular (as well as the plural) pronoun. So, it's possible hearing people हम and its subjunctive conjugugation for seeking approval.

  1. करना [to do]
    • हम करें? — Shall I do?
  2. आना [to come]
    • हम आएँ? — Shall I come?

Contrafactual mood


The name contrafactual is made up of two constituents, "contra" (means 'against') and "factual" (means 'truth'). So, as the name suggests this mood is used when you want to talk about things that are not true, that are not factual, things that could been been but did not, things if they were true but are not. From its usage you will notice that this mood is very similar to the subjunctive mood in the sense that both convey some kind of wish or desire. The only difference being that the contrafactual mood looks back into the past, while the subjunctive mood into the future.

You will see that there are a two different usages of the contrafactual mood. It is used as the past subjunctive and the past conditional mood both.

Conveying unreal past

  1. काश ऐसा होता। — (I) wish it were true.
  2. काश बोलते कुछ उसे तुम। — (I) wish you had told something to him/her.

Past conditional sentences


These sentences are equivalent to the English construction of "If ____, then _____." For example: "If he were hungry, I would have given him bread." Such sentences talk about hypothetical situations in the past. In English you would notice that the first part of the sentence "I he were hungry..." uses the past subjunctive mood and the second part of the sentence "I would have given him bread" uses the conditional mood.

Now, as we discussed above in Hindi, the past conditional and the past subjunctive mood both are represented as the same contrafacutual mood. It is also important to keep in mind that the verbs in contrafactual mood agree with the number and gender of the noun (either the subject or the direct object) in the sentence. When the subject is in the dative or ergative case then the verb agrees with the object in the sentence and in any other case the verb agrees with the subject of the sentence. Examples of contrafactual mood to form past conditional sentences are given below:

  • When nominative case is used:
  1. अगर मैं उसे ये बात बोलता तो वो सबको बता देता। — If I (masc.) had told him this thing, he would have told it to everyone.
  2. अगर मैं उसे ये बात बोलती तो वो सबको बता देता। — If I (fem.) had told him this thing, he would have told it to everyone.

In the first part of the sentence, the subject (the pronoun मैं) is in the nominative case so the verb in contrafactual mood will agree with the pronoun मैं in gender and number. If मैं refers to a female use the feminine conjugation (बोलती) (ी ending shows its feminine) and when it refers to a male, use the masculine conjugation (बोलता). The same happens in the second part of the senetnce, the pronoun वो is in the nominative case and hence the verb in contrafactual mood agrees with the gender of the person referred using वो.

  • When dative case is used:
  1. अगर उसे भूख होती तो मैं उसे ब्रॅड दे देता। — If (s)he were hungry, I (masc.) would have given him/her bread.
  2. अगर उसे भूख होती तो मैं उसे ब्रॅड दे देती। — If (s)he were hungry, I (fem.) would have given him/her bread.

The noun (object) भूख (hunger) is feminine and it it's used with hence it goes with उसे (to him/her) [dative case], so agreeing with भूख, the contrafactual verb होती (ी ending shows its feminine) is used. In the second part, मैं (I) is the nominative case, and so the gender/number agreement will be with the subject. If मैं (I) is used by a female, the verb would have been देती instead of देता.