Punjabi grammar

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The grammar of the Punjabi language is the study of the word order, case marking, verb conjugation, and other morphological and [syntactic structures of the Punjabi language, an Indo-Aryan language native to the region of Punjab region and spoken by the Punjabi people. This page discusses the grammar of Modern Standard Punjabi as defined by the relevant sources below.


In matters of script, Punjabi uses Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi. On this grammar page Punjabi is written in "standard orientalist" transcription as outlined in Template:Harvcoltxt. Being "primarily a system of transliteration from the Indian scripts, [and] based in turn upon Sanskrit" (cf. IAST), these are its salient features: subscript dots for retroflex consonants; macrons for etymologically, contrastively long vowels; h denoting aspirated stops. Tildes denote nasalized vowels, while grave and acute accents denote low and high tones respectively.

Vowels and consonants are outlined in the tables below. Hovering the mouse cursor over them will reveal the appropriate IPA symbol, while in the rest of the article hovering the mouse cursor over Template:H:title forms will reveal the appropriate English translation. See Punjabi language#Phonology for further clarification.



Punjabi distinguishes two genders, two numbers, and five cases of direct, oblique, vocative, ablative, and locative/instrumental. The latter two cases are essentially now vestigial: the ablative occurs only in the singular, in free variation with oblique case plus ablative postposition, and the locative/instrumental is confined to set adverbial expressions.[1] Nouns may be further divided into extended and unextended declensional subtypes, with the former characteristically consisting of masculines ending in unaccented and feminines in .

The below tables displays the suffix paradigms, as outlined in Template:Harvcoltxt. Regarding the masculine, "the [extended] case-morphemes, very similar to those of the unextended declension, are added to the obl. base -e-, which is shortened to -i- (phonetically []) before back vowels and is lost before front vowels."[2] The division between feminine unextendeds and extendeds ending in looks to be now merely an etymological consideration, as there is neither a distinct oblique base nor any morphophonemic considerations.

Dir. Obl. Voc. Abl. Loc./
unEx. Sg. +ā +õ +e
Pl. +ā̃ +o +ī̃
Ex. Sg. -ā -e - - -e
Pl. -e -iā̃ -io -ī̃
Dir. Obl. Voc. Abl. Loc./
Sg. +e +õ +e
Pl. +ā̃ +o +ī̃

The next table of noun declensions shows the above suffix paradigms in action. Words, from Template:Harvcoltxt: kòṛā "stallion", sakhī "girlfriend", kàr "house", gall "thing".

Dir. Obl. Voc. Abl. Loc./
Masc. Sg. kòṛā kòṛe kòṛiā kòṛiõ (kòṛe)
Pl. kòṛe kòṛiā̃ kòṛio
Fem. Sg. sakhī sakhīe
Pl. sakhīā̃ sakhīo
Dir. Obl. Voc. Abl. Loc./
Masc. Sg. kàr kàrā kàrõ kàre
Pl. kàr kàrā̃ kàro kàrī̃
Fem. Sg. gall (galle) gallõ galle
Pl. gallā̃ gallo gallī̃


Adjectives may be divided into declinable and indeclinable categories. Declinables are marked, through termination, for the gender, number, case of the nouns they qualify. The set of declinable adjective terminations is similar but greatly simplified in comparison to that of noun terminations[3]

Pl. Sg.
Declin. Masc. Dir. -ā -e
Obl. -e -e, -iā̃
Fem. -ī -īā̃

Indeclinable adjectives are completely invariable, and can end in either consonants or vowels (including ā and ī ). Dir. masc. sg. () is the citation form.

Declinable adjective caṅgā "good" in attributive use
Dir. Obl. Voc. Abl. Loc./
Masc. Sg. caṅgā kòṛā caṅge kòṛe caṅge kòṛiā caṅge kòṛiõ (caṅge kòṛe)
Pl. caṅge kòṛe caṅgiā̃ kòṛiā̃ caṅgiā̃ kòṛio
Fem. Sg. caṅgī sakhī caṅgī sakhīe
Pl. caṅgīā̃ sakhīā̃ caṅgīā̃ sakhīo
Dir. Obl. Voc. Abl. Loc./
Masc. Sg. caṅgā kàr caṅge kàr caṅge kàrā caṅge kàrõ caṅge kàre
Pl. caṅge kàr caṅgiā̃ kàrā̃ caṅgiā̃ kàro caṅgiā̃ kàrī̃
Fem. Sg. caṅgī gall (caṅgī galle) caṅgī gallõ caṅgī galle
Pl. caṅgīā̃ gallā̃ caṅgīā̃ gallo caṅgīā̃ gallī̃
Indeclinable adjective xarāb "bad" in attributive use
Dir. Obl. Voc. Abl. Loc./
Masc. Sg. xarāb kòṛā xarāb kòṛe xarāb kòṛiā xarāb kòṛiõ (xarāb kòṛe)
Pl. xarāb kòṛe xarāb kòṛiā̃ xarāb kòṛio
Fem. Sg. xarāb sakhī xarāb sakhīe
Pl. xarāb sakhīā̃ xarāb sakhīo
Dir. Obl. Voc. Abl. Loc./
Masc. Sg. xarāb kàr xarāb kàrā xarāb kàrõ xarāb kàre
Pl. xarāb kàr xarāb kàrā̃ xarāb kàro xarāb kàrī̃
Fem. Sg. xarāb gall (xarāb galle) xarāb gallõ xarāb galle
Pl. xarāb gallā̃ xarāb gallo xarāb gallī̃

All adjectives can be used either attributively, predicatively, or substantively. Substantively they are of course declined as nouns rather than adjectives. Finally, additional inflections are often marked in colloquial speech, e.g. fem. sg. voc. nī sóṇīe kuṛīe! "hey pretty girl!"[3].


The aforementioned inflectional case system only goes so far on its own, and rather serves as that upon which is built a system of agglutinative suffixes or particles known as postpositions, which parallel English's prepositions. It is their use with a noun or verb that is what necessitates the noun or verb taking the oblique case, and it is with them that the locus of grammatical function or "case-marking" then lies. Such core postpositions include:

Other postpositions are adverbs, following their obliqued targets either directly or with the inflected genitive linker de; e.g. kàr (de) vic "in the house", kòṛe (de) nāḷ "with the stallion". Many such adverbs (the ones locative in nature) also possess corresponding ablative forms[4]; e.g. vic "in" → viccõ "from in, among".



Punjabi has personal pronouns for the first and second persons, while for the third person demonstratives are used, which can be categorized deictically as near and remote. Pronouns do not distinguish gender.

The language has a T-V distinction in tū̃ and tusī̃. This latter "polite" form is also grammatically plural.

[5] 1st pn. 2nd pn.
Sg. Pl. Sg. Pl.
Direct mãĩ asī̃ tū̃ tusī̃
Ergative asā̃ tusā̃
Dative mainū̃ sānū̃ tainū̃ tuā̀nū̃
Ablative maithõ sāthõ taithõ tuā̀thõ
Genitive merā sāḍā terā tuā̀ḍā
3rd pn. Relative Interrogative
Near Remote
Sg. Pl. Sg. Pl. Sg. Pl. Sg. Pl.
Direct é ó jo Template:H:title, Template:H:title
Oblique é, is énā̃ ó, us ónā̃ jí, jis jinā̃ kí, kis kinā̃

kauṇ and jo are colloquially replaced by kéṛā "which?" jéṛā "which". Indefinites include koī (obl. kise) "some(one)" and kúj "some(thing)". The reflexive pronoun is āp, with a genitive of āpṇā. The pronominal obl. -nā̃ also occurs in ik, iknā̃ "some", hor, hornā̃ "others", sab, sabnā̃ "all".[6]



The Punjabi verbal system is largely structured around a combination of aspect and tense/mood. Like the nominal system, the Punjabi verb involves successive layers of (inflectional) elements to the right of the lexical base.[7]

Punjabi has two aspects in the perfective and the habitual, and possibly a third in the continuous, with each having overt morphological correlates. These are participle forms, inflecting for gender and number by way of vowel termination, like adjectives. The perfective, displaying a number of irregularities and morphophonemic adjustments, is formally the verb stem, followed by -i-, capped off by the agreement vowel. The habitual forms from the imperfective participle; verb stem, plus -d-, then vowel. The continuous forms periphrastically through compounding with the perfective of ráíṇā "to stay".

Derived from hoṇā "to be" are five copula forms: present, past, subjunctive, presumptive, contrafactual (aka "past conditional"). Used both in basic predicative/existential sentences and as verbal auxiliaries to aspectual forms, these constitute the basis of tense and mood.

Non-aspectual forms include the infinitive, the imperative, and the conjunctive. Mentioned morphological conditions such the subjunctive, "presumptive", etc. are applicable to both copula roots for auxiliary usage with aspectual forms and to non-copula roots directly for often unspecified (non-aspectual) finite forms.

Finite verbal agreement is with the nominative subject, except in the transitive perfective, where it can be with the direct object, with the erstwhile subject taking the ergative construction -ne (see postpositions above). The perfective aspect thus displays split ergativity.

Tabled below on the left are the paradigms for the major Gender and Number termination (GN), along the line of that introduced in the adjectives section. To the right are the paradigms for the Person and Number termination (PN), used by the subjunctive (which has 1st pl. -īe) and future (which has 1st pl. -ā̃).

(GN) Sg. Pl.
Masc. -ā -e
Fem. -ī -īā̃
(PN) 1st. 2nd. 3rd.
Sg. -ā̃ - -e
Pl. -ā̃/īe -o -aṇ


The sample verb is intransitive naccṇā "to dance", and the sample inflection is 3rd. masc. sg. (PN = e, GN = ā) where applicable.

Non-aspectual Aspectual
Root * Template:H:title
Dir. Infinitive/
*-ṇ-ā Template:H:title
Obl. Infinitive *-(a)ṇ naccaṇ
Abl. Infinitive *-ṇ-õ naccṇõ
Conjunctive *-ke Template:H:title
*-(a)ṇ-vāḷ-GN Template:H:title
Perfective *-GN ho-GN nacciā hoiā
Imperfective *-d-GN ho-GN Template:H:title
Adverbial. Obl. of adjectival.
Imperfective *-d-e, -d-iā̃ naccde, naccdiā̃
Contingent Future *-PN nacce
Definite Future *-PN-g-GN Template:H:title
Sg. Pl.
Present nácc nácco
Aorist naccī̃ naccī̃o
Aspectuals plotted against copulas.
Perfective Habitual Continuous
*-(i)-GN *-d-GN * ráí-GN
Present h-? Template:H:title Template:H:title Template:H:title
Past s-? Template:H:title Template:H:title Template:H:title
Subjunctive ho-v-PN nacciā hove naccdā hove
Presumptive Template:H:title Template:H:title Template:H:title
Contrafactual hun-d-GN Template:H:title Template:H:title
Unspecified Template:H:title naccdā

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