4. Chhoṭī he, do-chashmī he, chhoṭī ye, baṛī ye, and punctuation

Chhoṭī he

Small or chhoṭī he sounds like h or ह. (There’s also a less common letter, large or baṛī he, which appears in Chapter 6.) The various forms of chhoṭī he differ more from each other than in other letters. The initial and medial forms dip down to make a small divot, and below there’s a mark shaped somewhat like a number 6 (occasionally omitted in the medial form). Meanwhile, the independent form looks like an oval or a teardrop, and the final form looks simply like a small curve or squiggle going up and then down:

Note the different forms in these words:


āh ‘sigh’


ham ‘us’


mahātmā ‘mahatma, great soul’

A final chhoṭī he will often be pronounced as a short a or long ā, and transliterated in Hindi as ā आ or sometimes simply as h ह:


bachcha बच्चा ‘child’


pata / patā पता ‘address, knowledge’


jaga जगह ‘place’

Chhoṭī he often influences the short vowels before and after it. A pesh will often be pronounced as o (or au); in Hindi script, these vowels may be written as either u उ or o ओ:


bahut / bahot बहुत ‘much’


mohlat मोहलत ‘delay’

Similarly, chhoṭī he often turns a zer or zabar into a short ě sound (as in “meh”). In Hindi, these vowels are usually written as either a अ or e ए:


pěhlā पहला ‘first’


Měhtā मेहता ‘Mehta’


There are a few common words that end with a chhoṭī he pronounced as ě or another short vowel, with no h sound:


पे ‘on’


ki / kě कि ‘that’

In Hindi script, these words may be spelled with a short vowel, as in کہ / कि, or a long vowel, as in پہ / पे.

A few words end with a double chhoṭī he, which indicates that the final h sound is pronounced:


kěh ‘say’


ki / kě ‘that’


běh ‘flow’


ba ‘with’

Aspiration with do-chashmī he

In Hindi script, aspirated sounds like bh भ, th थ, and kh ख are considered unique consonants and are written with different letters than their unaspirated counterparts like b ब, t त, and k क. In Urdu script, by contrast, these sounds are written by combining the unaspirated consonant with an aspirating letter called do-chashmī he. It’s called that because it has two “eyes” (chashm):

Notice that your pen stops and reverses direction when writing the medial and final forms.

To aspirate any consonant, you just write a do-chashmī he after it:


hāth ‘hand’


khā ‘eat!’


kahā ‘said’

Although there are two separate letters involved, a consonant combined with a do-chashmī he is often interpreted (and alphabetized) as a single unit. Diacritics are normally written over the consonant, rather than the do-chashmī he:


khulā ‘open’


achchhā ‘good’


Historically, do-chashmī he was simply an alternate form of chhoṭī he. In older texts, and occasionally today, you will see the two used interchangeably. The poetic couplet on this Pakistani truck uses do-chashmī he both as aspiration and as a regular h:

Source unknown.

Chhoṭī ye and baṛī ye

The letter ye is a bit of a trickster. It can represent the consonant y, as well as the vowels ī, e, and ai. In the initial and medial forms, it looks like a be-series letter with two dots below the line:



(chhoṭī and baṛī) ye
(छोटी और बड़ी) ये
ī e ai y
ई ए ऐ य

In the independent and final forms, ye has two different shapes. Chhoṭī ye makes an ī sound and curves in an S shape:

Baṛī ye makes the remaining sounds and folds backward underneath the preceding letters:

Marking the previous letter with a zer forces the ye to sound like ī, while a zabar forces it to sound like ai. There’s no way to specify an e vowel:


mīl ‘mile’


mela ‘fair’


mailā ‘dirty’

As always, these diacritics are usually left out.

A chhoṭī ye at the end of the word will always make an ī sound, while a baṛī ye can be an e or, less commonly, an ai:




he ‘hey’


hai ‘is’

If a ye occurs at the beginning of a word or is followed by a vowel, then it must be the consonant y:




pyāla ‘cup’


‘this, these’


In Hindi script, the spelling यह is used for singular ‘this,’ and ये is used for plural ‘these’ (and, increasingly, for the singular too). In Urdu, is always spelled یہ in both singular and plural.

The vowel following ye can even be another ye. We use two yes instead of a tashdīd because one ye is a consonant but the other is a vowel:


miliye ‘please meet’

As we discussed in Chapter 2, an alif at the beginning of a word signals that the word starts with a vowel, but it doesn’t specify which one. If the alif is followed by a ye, then it can sound like any ye vowel:


ek ‘one’


īkh ‘sugarcane’


aipal ‘apple’

It’s also possible (though rare) for a ye to be a consonant following an initial alif:


ayyām ‘days’


Now that we can read and write words like ہے and تھی, we’re ready for full sentences. Because Urdu script is already full of dots, we don’t use a period, but rather a short horizontal line along the baseline. This mark is called a ḳhatma, but often simply referred to as a “full stop.” It is somewhat more versatile than the English period, and is often used where a colon, dash, or other marks might be used in English. The other punctuation marks resemble their English counterparts, but are rotated or reversed to match Urdu’s right-to-left reading direction:

Urdu English
۔ .
، ,
؛ ;
؟ ?
! !
”“ “”

Now we can put these punctuation marks to work for us:

یہ کیا ہے؟ یہ آپ کا پہلا جُملہ ہے۔ بہُت اچّھا!

Yě kyā hai? Yě āp kā pěhlā jumla hai. Bahot achchhā!

What’s this? This is your first sentence. Very good!


In Hindi script, when pronouns like āp and tum are followed by postpositions like and se, they are often combined into one word and written as आपका, तुमसे, etc. In Urdu script, the words are normally kept separate.


Chhoṭī he sounds like h, while do-chashmī he is normally used to show aspiration.

Ye can sound like ī, eai, or y. In the independent and final forms, chhoṭī ye represents ī and baṛī ye represents the remaining sounds.

In this chapter, we introduced these letters and punctuation marks:

Letter or mark


Sound or equivalent


chhoṭī he छोटी हे

h ह


do-chashmī he दो-चश्मी हे



chhoṭī ye छोटी ये

ī ई


baṛī ye बड़ी ये

e ai y ए ऐ य


period / full stop









question mark



exclamation mark



quotation marks







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