A. Guide to pronunciation

The chart below explains the specialized system we’ve used for writing Urdu words in the Roman script. We’ve prioritized making the pronunciation clear and unambiguous, while also minimizing the number of different letters. Some sounds that are distinguished in Hindi script but not in Urdu script, like ष and ण, are absent. See Appendix B for the complete Urdu alphabet, together with formal transliterations.


Roman Hindi Sound Roman Hindi Sound Roman Hindi Sound Roman Hindi Sound Roman Hindi Sound
a up retroflex d, as in anā ‘egg’ ī seat o over th aspirated dental t, as in thālī ‘platter’
ā tall ḍh aspirated retroflex d, as in ḍhā’ī ‘two and a half’ j jet p spill retroflex t, as in
ai hat (sometimes also pronounced like ě or a‘i) e say jh aspirated j, as in jhūṭh ph aspirated p, as in pill or phal ṭh aspirated retroflex t, as in ṭhīk
au aur ě (written as either अ or ए) meh k scan q क़ voiceless uvular stop, as in qalam u look
b big f फ़ first kh aspirated k, as in can or khānā r rolled r, as in roṭī ū hoot
bh aspirated b, as in bhā’ī ‘brother’ g gift ḳh ख़ voiceless velar fricative, as in ḳharāb ‘bad’ or German Buch ड़ retroflex flap, as in baā v/w weevil (v and w are interchangeable)
ch change gh aspirated g, as in ghī l love ṛh ढ़ aspirated retroflex flap, as in ṛhā y yes
chh aspirated ch, as in chhěh ‘six’ ġh ग़ voiced velar fricative, as in ġh ‘garden’; similar to French rouge m mill s see z ज़ zebra
d dental d, as in dil ‘heart’ h hat n nail sh she zh garage
dh aspirated dental d, as in ādhā ‘half’ i sit ñ ◌ँ nasal vowel, as in donoñ ‘both’ or French maison t dental t, as in tīn ‘three’ (N/A) separates sounds, as in ka’ī ‘several’ or is’hāq ‘Isaac’


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