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Indian English Class 2 (This Is What I Am Telling)

Indian English Class 2 (This Is What I Am Telling)

October 13, 2010

Forget what your friends told about Indian English: This is where you'll learn all about the same.

Since the previous Indian English lesson brought a greater response than expected, The NRI has decided to schedule a second lesson – starting now. After the freeform approach of the first class, let's try and be a little more focused this time. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and make comments at the end of the lesson.

To get you back into the spirit, let's complete a brief exercise. In the following passage, there are a number of examples of Indian English we learned last time. Identify them.

Kind Madam/Sir, details of concerned products would be arriving in your mail today itself. Orders for Green Bay Packers Hand Glove should be filled at the earliest as product is likely to get over quickly due to demand. Deadline for all orders is by 3:00 PM Friday. Kindly do the needful.

Believe it or not, there are at least 10. Did you find them all? If so, you are truly an Indian English expert!

Now that we're once again thinking in Indian English, let's take a look at a few more common points of language.

  • Is that what he told? – The verbs 'to say' and 'to tell' are very frequently confused in Indian English. In this case, the question should be 'Is that what he said?', as 'say' is used to report or ask a question about someone's speech. 'Tell', on the other hand, is used to inform or instruct or to describe narration. Note that this error is not unique to India. Other examples of 'tell' being misused in Indian English include: 'This is what I am telling!' and 'She told that the Ayodhya verdict was a disgrace.'

(NB: A Singh pointed out in the previous lesson that business meetings in India often begin with one party saying, “So tell me...”; this, while also an error, is correct usage of 'tell'.)

  • Win upto 5 Lakhs! – Oh, those lottery advertisements, they break my heart. It is always such a shame to see when two little words, so happy and free when allowed to stand alone, are awkwardly shackled into a compound of sorrow. In this case, those words are 'up' and 'to'. While there are a number of examples of happy marriages between such words in British English – into, outside – in Indian English, it appears as though any two short words can acceptably be shoehorned into one. Other compounds of sorrow include:

    • atleast

    • infact

    • ofcourse

  • Please revert regarding the same – it was Mathew Mathew who brought this up during the previous lesson. In British English, 'to revert' means to go back to a previous state, or to turn 180° on a skateboard. In Indian English, 'to revert' means simply 'to reply'. Thousands of US and UK outsourcers have met with requests from India to 'revert', and all too many have enrolled in skateboarding lessons in the hope of communicating better with their Indian colleagues. Then there's 'the same', used frequently instead of 'it', as in the following example: 'I am confused as to the function of the Confederate Flag. Please revert regarding the same.'

  • I don't take stress – it is acceptable and even encouraged to 'take' (or not 'take') a great many things in Indian English that one might usually 'have', 'experience' or 'eat'. AussieDesi drew attention to this in the previous lesson with the oft-heard 'Have you taken your lunch?' Be warned – do NOT respond with 'Taken it where?' as many Indian English newbies do. This will only lead to mutual confusion. Instead, practise the following phrase: 'Yes, I took the same by 1:30.'

Again, I must point out that while I am ridiculing the above points as bizarre (and hilarious) to the casual Western linguist, in Indian English they are all absolutely correct, and have been for years. No insult is intended. I use them all myself from time to time, so please don't take offence (or stress).

The floor is now open for questions and comments. Please enter them below!


  • Hinglishtani Gora
    Hinglishtani Gora
    24.05.13 02:51 PM
    Hi Barnaby

    Your website/Blogg is so Bloody Funny
    I nearly Pi$$ed myself laughing hysterically especially other contributed links like Certainly has cheered me up on a bleek day. Keep up the good work and make us laugh even more. Laughter is the BEST MEDICINE.

  • Ayyappan Pillai
    Ayyappan Pillai
    13.10.11 12:00 PM
    When you use terms like "Please Revert" "to the same" in Official e-mails.. you earn brownie points for good communication skills..!!

    The Up side is, You also get to encounter gems within gems like "Kindly revert back to the same"

    Apart from "and all" I had to once endure a speaker for 6 hours in an orientation programme who completed every sentence with "and things like that" :x :|
  • poeticgooner
    03.10.11 02:44 PM
    One of the first things I had to do once I got out of school was, learn Indian English. I used to cringe at what we call #grammargandu...well now I am more than happy to abuse the language.

    Oh! and 'revert to the same'- 'the same' is used because apparently people get confused when you use it. I have had my reports and emails(in proper English) done away with or corrected by Indian English speaking souls simply because 'others won't understand'.
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    17.11.10 10:22 PM
    Great quote, ShoKC, thanks for sharing. In his case, I'm sure it was true!
  • ShoKC
    16.11.10 11:19 PM
    Folks Don't forget - Krishna Menon said when complimented by a well-meaning Englishwoman on the quality of his English. "My English, Madam," he said to the hapless lady, Brigid Brophy, "is better than yours. You merely picked it up: I learned it."
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    19.10.10 04:24 PM
    AussieDesi, some of those seem pretty normal to me. Does that mean I'm a bona fide Inglish speaker?

    Also, on Westerners butchering Indian words, my pronunciation of Gandhi rhymed with 'Mandy' until a couple of years ago. Shameful, I know.
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    16.10.10 01:42 PM

    They are seeing me driving my new Maruti. They are hating.
  • Slag
    16.10.10 01:05 AM
    Hinglish, mother-sahib. PLEASE. REVERT. AS. TO. WHETHER. YOU. ARE. SPEAKING. THE. SAME.
  • AussieDesi
    15.10.10 04:37 PM
    Another great post - thanks for the mention too! I think its important that you stated that these are not "criticisms" but merely amusing observations. Isabel's link also cites historical context (eg Victorian British settlers) to the way Indians speak now.

    Some further suggestions since your last post:

    1. "Some time back" = some time ago
    2. "Since many years back" = for a long time eg "I have been coming to this temple since many years back"
    3. "habituated" = used to
    4. "Too good" = really good
    5. "Do you stay in [insert foreign country]?" = Do you live in [foreign country]?

    I am sure linguists will point out (and as I found to my surprise) that "stay" is still used as "live" in Scotland today. Maybe that's where it came to India from?

    Strict legal writing still uses "revert" and "the same" - which just proves your point that these are formalised terms which have dropped out of colloquial use.

    Finally, I now challenge the Indians overseas to compile their own list - of inappropriate foreign pronunciation of Indian words. I'll start this off: Anyone a fan of "Poonjabi" music?

  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    15.10.10 11:52 AM
    Alfred Jones, a couple of those like pretty normal to me! But 'sim-simply'? How very odd.

    Daisy, thanks for the link - good to see a foreigner embracing Indian English norms. I can't quite do it wholeheartedly.

    Funny, absolutely right! In fact, I think some of the conventions of British English are ludicrous. The use of 'awfully' is a great example. Another one that is very common but seems strange is "Would you mind...?" like you're asking someone to be put out! Perhaps English is just a strange language, period.

    Nalini, argh that passive voice... I am hating that only.
  • Nalini Hebbar
    Nalini Hebbar
    15.10.10 08:06 AM
    There were great...I teach English to 15-16 year olds and have to suppress a grin every now and then...sometimes I tell them that they are murdering English!
    "I am having the English book."...and I think to myself 'Your English would have been better if you really had'.
    I make a joke out of it in class and ask them if it was for breakfast, lunch or dinner that they had this indigestible compilation of literature!
  • Funny
    14.10.10 11:26 PM
    First generation Indian immigrants to England used to tell me stories about all the funny things they used to encounter. These have happened in some form or another to many first-gen Indian immigrants. A few I can remember are :

    1) Upon telling a waiter at a restaurant that he was a vegetarian, the waiter promptly said "Oh, so you'll be having the fish then".
    2) Some of the names of the English towns were/ are hilarious! Here is a list of some of the funniest.
    3) Some of the English names were also quite funny to them. For example, De Ath!
    4) Another thing they found difficult to understand was when people in England would say "That's awfully good of you" - they weren't sure if they had done something good or bad in the eyes of the person they were speaking to!

    I'm sure there are alot more - if I think of them I will post them.
  • Daisy
    14.10.10 05:41 PM
    Every expat to India seems to have his/her own collection! :-)

    Here is another list -
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    14.10.10 03:40 PM
    @Barnaby: No worries, no offense taken here. I'm enjoying this very much. Here are a few more Inglish "items" I remembered:

    -Along the lines of hurry-burry, "sim-simply", or even better, "sim-simply and all".

    -The use of "simply" when you mean "do it now", e.g. "Simply do it I say!" (Ooh, I'd forgotten about our "I say.."s)

    -"I say, hopeless fellow!"

    -Another written Inglish gem, "Please intimate us as to your whereabouts on the day of...." (Dood, I'm flattered but I'm going to have to say no to that one.)

    -Another example of the very versatile "..and all" construct, "I would like to thank one and all..."

    (I don't know if this was intentional or just one of those lovely ironies, here's a lovely bit of Inglish I see after I post a comment here on

    -"Your comment is awaiting moderation"!

    (Barnaby, you put that one up on purpose didn't you?!)
  • Barnaby Haszard Morris
    Barnaby Haszard Morris
    14.10.10 09:55 AM
    funny: hope my article didn't cause offence! I am constantly amazed at my colleagues' English speaking ability, particularly those who were schooled in Malayalam. Some folks really work hard to speak English clearly and articulately. NZ Hindi... well, the way things are going in the world right now, it could soon be a reality!

    TinaMina: 'Do you take drink?' sounds potentially accusatory. How do you answer that one as a new entrant to Mumbai? And is it asked at the same time as 'do you want to go gyming'??

    Isabel: Thanks for your great links. You wrote a really good post, and the interview is illuminating... I've seen your blog address a few times around the interwebs but only just checked it out, great stuff! 'Updatation' cracked me up especially.
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    14.10.10 07:52 AM
    You think Inglish is funny, check out what the Far East can whip up:
  • Alfred Jones
    Alfred Jones
    14.10.10 07:47 AM
    Here are few more Inglish delights:

    -Thank you. "Mention not"

    -"Where is the luggage and all?"

    -Possible conv on a train, "Do you have reservation?", or, "I have reservation". (Really, where does it hurt?)

    -Impoverished college students at tea stall: "One, by two coffee please"

    -Last bit of how you get to Guru Sweet Mart, "..ultimately, make right and it will be there only."
  • Isabel
    13.10.10 10:27 PM
    And here's an interesting interview with Jyoti Sanyal who wrote a book on 'Indlish':
  • Isabel
    13.10.10 10:24 PM
    Thanks for a great post. Indian English is part of what makes India so charming! I wrote a similar post recently:
  • TinaMina
    13.10.10 05:08 PM
    I have arrived in India recently. Yesterday I was asked if I go gyming? I was asked this thrice!

    To add to your example above another favorite is - 'Do you take drink?' - this is an enquiry about whether you consume alcohol and is not an enquiry as to whether you would like a drink.

    Great post - I 'freaked out' when I read it.
  • funny
    13.10.10 04:59 PM
    Yes Indian English can be quite funny at times and a language all of its own. But, generally speaking, Indians speak and write English very well, especially at higher skilled job levels. That is why they are able to emigrate to English-speaking countries and succeed.

    As and aside, I'd love to hear the New Zealand version of Hindi - I bet it's a hoot, too.

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