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Indian English
Native speakers
L2 speakers: 83 million
L3 speakers: 46 million
128 million total speakers (2011)
Early forms
Latin (English alphabet)
Unified English Braille
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-1en
ISO 639-2eng
ISO 639-3eng
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Indian English (IE) is a group of English dialects spoken in the Republic of India and among the Indian diaspora.[4] English is used by the Indian government for communication, along with Modern Standard Hindi, as enshrined in the Constitution of India.[5] English is also an official language in seven states and seven union territories of India, and the additional official language in seven other states and one union territory. Furthermore, English is the sole official language of the Indian Judiciary, unless the state governor or legislature mandates the use of a regional language, or if the President of India has given approval for the use of regional languages in courts.[6]

Before the dissolution of the British Empire on the Indian subcontinent, Indian English referred broadly to South Asian English, also called British Indian English.


After gaining independence from the British Raj in 1947, English remained an official language of the new Dominion of India and later the Republic of India. After the partition of India, Pakistani English and Bangladeshi English were considered separate from Indian English.

Today, only a few hundred thousand Indians, or less than 0.1% of the total population, speak English as their first language,[7][8][9][10] and around 30% of the Indian population can speak English to some extent.[11]

According to the 2001 Census, 12.18% of Indians knew English at that time. Of those, approximately 200,000 reported that it was their first language, 86 million reported that it was their second, and 39 million reported that it was their third.[12]

According to the 2005 India Human Development Survey,[13] of 41,554 surveyed, households reported that 72% of men (29,918) spoke no English, 28% of them (11,635) spoke at least some English, and 5% of them (2,077, roughly 17.9% of those who spoke at least some English) spoke fluent English. Among women, 83% (34,489) spoke no English, 17% (7,064) spoke at least some English, and 3% (1,246, roughly 17.6% of those who spoke at least some English) spoke English fluently.[14] According to statistics from the District Information System for Education (DISE) of the National University of Educational Planning and Administration under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, enrollment in English-medium schools increased by 50% between 2008–09 and 2013–14. The number of English-medium school students in India increased from over 15 million in 2008–09 to 29 million by 2013–14.[15]

According to the 2011 Census, 129 million Indians (10.6%) spoke English. 259,678 (0.02%) Indians spoke English as their first language.[1] It concluded that approximately 83 million Indians (6.8%) reported English as their second language, and 46 million (3.8%) reported it as their third language, making English the second-most spoken language in India.[2]

India ranks 52 out of 111 countries in the 2022 EF English Proficiency Index published by the EF Education First. The index gives the country a score of 496 indicating "moderate proficiency". India ranks 6th out of 24 Asian countries included in the index.[16]

As a multilingual country, English is the lingua franca among different regions of India.[17] Writing for The New York Times, journalist Manu Joseph stated in 2011 that, due to the prominence and usage of the language and the desire for English-language education, "English is the de facto national language of India. It is a bitter truth."[18] In his book, In Search of Indian English: History, Politics and Indigenisation, Ranjan Kumar Auddy shows that the history of the rise of Indian nationalism and the history of the emergence of Indian English are deeply inter-related.[19]

Court language

Under the Indian Constitution, English is the language of India's Supreme Court and of all the high courts of India.[6] However, as allowed by the Constitution, Hindi is also used in courts in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan by virtue of special presidential approval.[20] As of 2018, the high courts of Punjab and Haryana were also awaiting presidential approval to use Hindi alongside English,[21] and the Madras High Court has been taking steps to use Tamil alongside English.[22]


The first occurrence of the term Indian English dates from 1696,[23] though the term did not become common until the 19th century. In the colonial era, the most common terms in use were Anglo-Indian English, or simply Anglo-Indian, both dating from 1860. Other less common terms in use were Indo-Anglian (dating from 1897) and Indo-English (1912).[24] An item of Anglo-Indian English was known as an Anglo-Indianism from 1851.[24]

In the modern era, a range of colloquial portmanteau words for Indian English have been used. The earliest of these is Indlish (recorded from 1962), and others include Indiglish (1974), Indenglish (1979), Indglish (1984), Indish (1984), Inglish (1985) and Indianlish (2007).[25]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (December 2019)

Indian English generally uses the Indian numbering system. Idiomatic forms derived from Indian literary languages and vernaculars have been absorbed into Indian English. Nevertheless, there remains general homogeneity in phonetics, vocabulary, and phraseology among various dialects of Indian English.[26][27][28][29]

Formal written publications in English in India tend to use lakh/crore for Indian currency and Western numbering for foreign currencies like dollars and pounds, although lakh and crore are also used to refer to other large numbers such as population sizes.[30] These terms are not used by other English-speakers, who have to learn what they mean in order to read Indian English news articles.


See also: Glossary of the British Raj

British India

The English language established a foothold on the Indian subcontinent with the granting of the East India Company charter by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600 and the subsequent establishment of trading ports in coastal cities such as Surat, Mumbai (called Bombay before 1995), Madras (called Chennai since 1996), and Kolkata (called Calcutta before 2001).

English-language public instruction began in the subcontinent in the 1830s during the rule of the British East India Company. In 1835, English replaced Persian as the official language of the East India Company. Lord Macaulay played a major role in introducing English and Western concepts into educational institutions in British-India. He supported the replacement of Persian by English as the official language, the use of English as the medium of instruction in all schools, and the training of English-speaking Indians as teachers.[31] Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, primary, middle, and high schools were opened in many districts of British India, with most high schools offering English language instruction in some subjects. In 1857, just before the end of East India Company rule, universities that were modeled on the University of London and used English as the medium of instruction were established in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras. During the British Raj (1858 to 1947), English-language penetration increased throughout the subcontinent. This was driven in part by the gradually increasing hiring of Indians in the civil services. At the time of Indian independence in 1947, English was the only functional lingua franca in the region.

Republic of India

After the independence and Partition of British India, Modern Standard Hindi was declared the first official language in the new Indian Republic, and attempts were made to declare Hindi the sole national language. Due to protests from Tamil Nadu and other non-Hindi-speaking states, it was decided to temporarily retain English for official purposes until at least 1965. By the end of this period, however, opposition from non-Hindi states was still too strong to have Hindi declared the sole language. With this in mind, the English Language Amendment Bill declared English to be an associate language "until such time as all non-Hindi States had agreed to its being dropped."[32] This has not yet occurred, and English is still widely used. For instance, it is the only reliable means of day-to-day communication between the central government and the non-Hindi states.

The view of the English language among many Indians has changed over time. It used to be associated primarily with colonialism; it is now primarily associated with economic progress, and English continues to be an official language of India.[33]

While there is an assumption that English is readily available in India, studies show that its usage is actually restricted to the elite,[34] because of inadequate education to large parts of the Indian population. The use of outdated teaching methods and the poor grasp of English exhibited by the authors of many guidebooks disadvantage students who rely on these books, giving India only a moderate proficiency in English.[35]

In addition, many features of Indian English were imported into Bhutan due to the dominance of Indian-style education and teachers in the country after it withdrew from its isolation in the 1960s.[36][37]

Hinglish and other hybrid languages

Main articles: Hinglish, Tenglish, and Tanglish

The term Hinglish is a portmanteau of the languages English and Hindi. This typically refers to the macaronic hybrid use of Hindustani and English. It is often the growing preferred language of the urban and semi-urban educated Indian youth, as well as the Indian diaspora abroad.[38] The Hindi film industry, more popularly known as Bollywood, incorporates considerable amounts of Hinglish as well.[39] Many internet platforms and voice commands on Google also recognise Hinglish.[38] When HindiUrdu is viewed as a single language called Hindustani, the portmanteaus Hinglish and Urdish mean the same code-mixed tongue, where the former term is used predominantly in modern India and the latter term predominantly in Pakistan.

Other macaronic hybrids such as Minglish (Marathi and English), Banglish (Bengali and English), Manglish (Malayalam and English), Kanglish (Kannada and English), Tenglish (Telugu and English), and Tanglish or Tamglish (Tamil and English) exist in South India.[40]



In general, Indian English has fewer peculiarities in its vowel sounds than the consonants, especially as spoken by native speakers of languages like Hindi, the vowel phoneme system having some similarities with that of English. Among the distinctive features of the vowel-sounds employed by some Indian English speakers:

The following are some variations in Indian English resulting from not distinguishing a few vowels:


The following are the characteristics of dialect of Indian English most similar to RP:

The following are the variations in Indian English:

The following are variations in Indian English due to language contact with Indian languages:

Spelling pronunciation

A number of distinctive features of Indian English are due to "the vagaries of English spelling".[51] Most Indian languages, unlike English, have a nearly phonetic spelling, so the spelling of a word is a highly reliable guide to its modern pronunciation. Indians' tendency to pronounce English phonetically as well can cause divergence from British English. This phenomenon is known as spelling pronunciation.

Supra-segmental features

English is a stress-timed language. Both syllable stress and word stress (where only certain words in a sentence or phrase are stressed) are important features of Received Pronunciation. Indian native languages are actually syllable-timed languages, like French. Indian-English speakers usually speak with a syllabic rhythm.[58] Further, in some Indian languages, stress is associated with a low pitch,[59] whereas in most English dialects, stressed syllables are generally pronounced with a higher pitch. Thus, when some Indian speakers speak, they appear to put the stress accents at the wrong syllables, or accentuate all the syllables of a long English word. Certain Indian accents possess a "sing-song" quality, a feature seen in a few English dialects of Britain, such as Scouse and Welsh English.[60]

Numbering system

The Indian numbering system is preferred for digit grouping.[61] When written in words, or when spoken, numbers less than 100,000 are expressed just as they are in Standard English. Numbers including and beyond 100,000 are expressed in a subset of the Indian numbering system. Thus, the following scale is used:

In digits (International system) In digits (Indian system) In words (short scales) In words (Indian system) (Only in Hindustani language)
10 ten
100 hundred
1,000 one thousand
10,000 ten thousand
100,000 1,00,000 one hundred thousand one lakh (from lākh लाख)
1,000,000 10,00,000 one million ten lakh (from lākh लाख)
10,000,000 1,00,00,000 ten million one crore (from karoṛ करोड़)
100,000,000 10,00,00,000 hundred million ten crore
1,000,000,000 1,00,00,00,000 one billion one hundred crore
one arab
10,000,000,000 10,00,00,00,000 ten billion one thousand crore
ten arab
100,000,000,000 1,00,00,00,00,000 hundred billion ten thousand crore
one kharab

(arab and kharab are not commonly used today)

Larger numbers are generally expressed as multiples of the above (for example, one lakh crores for one trillion).[62][63]


Further information: Glossary of the British Raj

Indian English includes many political, sociological, and administrative terms, such as dharna, hartal, eve-teasing, vote bank, swaraj, swadeshi, scheduled caste, scheduled tribe, and NRI. It incorporates some Anglo-Indian words such as tiffin, hill station, gymkhana, along with slang.[64][65]

Indian English, like some other World Englishes, is notable for its treatment of English mass and count nouns. Words that are treated as mass nouns in native forms of English, such as evidence, equipment, or training, are frequently treated as count nouns in Indian English.[66]

Some examples of words and phrases unique to, or chiefly used in, standard written Indian English include:


Spelling practices in Indian English generally follow the British style, e.g., using travelling, litre, practise (as a verb), anaesthesia, fulfil, catalogue and colour, rather than the American style.[85]


The most famous dictionary of Indian English is Yule and Brunell's Hobson-Jobson, originally published in 1886 with an expanded edition edited by William Crooke in 1903, widely available in reprint since the 1960s.

Numerous other dictionaries ostensibly covering Indian English, though for the most part being merely collections of administratively-useful words from local languages, include (chronologically): Rousseau A Dictionary of Words used in the East Indies (1804), Wilkins Glossary to the Fifth Report (1813), Stocqueler The Oriental Interpreter and Treasury of East Indian Knowledge (1844), Elliot A Supplement to the Glossary of Indian Terms: A-J (1845), Brown The Zillah Dictionary in the Roman Character (1852), Carnegy Kutcherry Technicalities (1853) and its second edition Kachahri Technicalities (1877), Wilson Glossary of Judicial and Revenue Terms (1855), Giles A Glossary of Reference, on Subjects connected with the Far East (1878), Whitworth Anglo-Indian Dictionary (1885), Temple A Glossary of Indian Terms relating to Religion, Customs, Government, Land (1897), and Crooke Things India: Being Discursive Notes on Various Subjects connected with India (1906).

The first dictionary of Indian English to be published after independence was Hawkins Common Indian Words in English (1984). Other efforts include (chronologically): Lewis Sahibs, Nabobs and Boxwallahs (1991), Muthiah Words in Indian English (1991), Sengupta's Indian English supplement to the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (1996) and Hankin Hanklyn-Janklin (2003). Nihalani et al. Indian and British English: A Handbook of Usage and Pronunciation (2004) delineates how Indian English differs from British English for a large number of specific lexical items. The Macmillan publishing company also produced a range of synchronic general dictionaries for the Indian market, such as the Macmillan Comprehensive Dictionary (2006).

The most recent dictionary is Carls A Dictionary of Indian English, with a Supplement on Word-formation Patterns (2017).[needs update]

See also


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Further reading