Pakistani English
Native toPakistan
RegionIndian Subcontinent
Native speakers
108 million (2022)[1]
Total English speakers in Pakistan: L2: 200 million
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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Pakistani English (also known as Paklish or Pinglish[2][3]) is the group of English language varieties spoken and written in Pakistan.[4] It was first so recognised and designated in the 1970s and 1980s.[5] Pakistani English (PE), similar and related to British English, is slightly different from other dialects of English in respect to vocabulary, syntax, accent, spellings of some words and other features.

While English is not a common native language and spoken by only a small percentage of the population in Pakistan,[6] it is commonly used in education, commerce, and the legal and judicial systems.[7]


Although British rule in the Subcontinent lasted for almost two hundred years, the areas which lie in what is now Pakistan were amongst the last to be annexed: Sindh in 1842, Punjab (which initially included the North-West Frontier Province) in 1849, and parts of Baluchistan, including Quetta and the outer regions in 1879, while the rest of the Baluchistan region became a princely state within the British Empire. As a result, British English had less time to become part of local culture though it did become part of elite culture as it was used in elite schools and in higher education, as in the rest of Subcontinent.[8] The colonial policies which made English a marker of elite status and the language of power—being used in such domains of power as the civil service, the officer corps of the armed forces, the higher judiciary, universities, prestigious newspapers, radio and entertainment—was due to British policies[9]: 22–58  and the continuation of these policies by Pakistani Governments.[8]: 288–323  The roots of Pinglish in Pakistan can be traced back to the 19th century, when Sir Syed Ahmad Khan encouraged the Muslims to learn English and utilize it as a medium of resistance against the British.[10] In 1947 upon Pakistan's establishment, English became the de facto official language, a position which was formalised in the Constitution of Pakistan of 1973. Together with Urdu, the two languages are concurrently the official languages of the country. English language continues as the language of power and is also the language with the maximum cultural capital of any language used in Pakistan.[11] It remains much in demand in higher education in Pakistan.[12]

The term Pinglish was first recorded in 1999, being a blend of the words Pakistani and English, with the 'e' changed to 'i' to better represent pronunciation. Another colloquial portmanteau word is Paklish (recorded from 1997).[13]

Relationship with Indian English

See also: Indian English

Pakistani English (PE) shares many similarities with Indian English, but since the Partition of India, there have been some very obvious differences. Rahman argues that PE is an interference variety of English created by the use of the features of Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and other languages spoken in Pakistan. He further divides PE into Anglicised English, which is very similar to the speech and writing of the speakers of British Standard English (BSE), acrolect PE, which is used by Pakistanis educated in English-medium schools, mesolectal PE, which is used by ordinary, Urdu-educated Pakistanis and basilect PE, which is used by people of little formal education, such as guides and waiters.[14]

Words and expressions of PE have been noted by a number of scholars,[15] including unique idioms and colloquial expressions as well as accents. Also, like Indian English, Pakistani English has preserved many phrases that are now considered antiquated in Britain.[16][failed verification]

Use in Pakistan

Urdu and English are Pakistan's official languages. Many street signs, shop signs, business contracts and other activities use English. All documents used by government and court also include English,[17] despite a 2015 order by Pakistan's Supreme Court to replace English at an official level with Urdu.[18]

English is most taught to Pakistani students in private schools, and in many cases the medium of instruction is also in English. Although there are also many public schools that teach in the local languages and Urdu,[19] there is a huge emphasis on English as a second language especially in standardised testing.[20] At college and university level, all instructions are typically in English.[21]

Pakistan boasts a large English language press and (more recently) media. All of Pakistan's major dailies are published in or have an edition in English. State-run PTV World is a major English Language News Channel in the country, while previously Dawn News and Tribune 24/7 were other Englishlanguage news channels with one later switching its language to Urdu and the other was shut down. Indus News is now another major English language news channel in Pakistan. Code-switching (the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety, in conversation) is common in Pakistan and almost all conversations in whatever language have a significant English component. The language of pleading in all courts of Pakistan is also English.


Main article: Pakistani English literature


The role of English within the complex multilingual society of Pakistan is far from straightforward: it is used across the country by speakers with various degrees of proficiency; the grammar and phraseology may mimic that of the speaker's first language. While Pakistani speakers of English use idioms peculiar to their homeland (often literal translations of words and phrases from their native languages), this is far less common in proficient speakers, and grammar tends to be quite close to that of Standard English but exhibiting some features of American English.


Pakistani English phonology follows that of British English. It may be rhotic or non-rhotic. Rahman provides a broad introduction to the phonology of Pakistani English.[14]: 21–40 

Some common features of PE are:


Vowels and diphthongs


Pakistani English is heavily influenced by Pakistan's languages as well as the English of other nations. Many words or terms from Urdu, such as 'cummerbund', have entered the global language and are also found in Pakistan. In addition the area which is now Pakistan was home to the largest garrisons of the British Indian Army (such as Rawalpindi and Peshawar) and this, combined with the post-partition influence of the Pakistan Military, has ensured that many military terms have entered the local jargon.[14]: 76–78 

The type of English taught (and preferred) is British English. The heavy influence and penetration of American culture through television, films and other media has brought in great influences of American English.

Vocabulary and colloquialisms

This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources in this section. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Pakistani English" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (June 2022) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Pakistani English contains many unique terms,[citation needed] as well as terms which are utilised somewhat differently in Pakistan. For instance, "chips" is used for potato chips as well as for French fries (usage of these terms is common in the UK) and "lemon" is used for both lime and lemon.[14]: 69–71 

Words unique to (i.e. not generally well known outside South Asia) and/or popular in Pakistan include those in the following by no means exhaustive list:

Words which are considered archaic in some varieties of English, but are still in use in Pakistani English:

Numbering system

The Indian numbering system is preferred for digit grouping, although the Western grouping system is far more widely used in Pakistan. 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 Pakistani numbering system. Thus, the following scale is used:

In digits (Western system) In digits (Indian system) In words (Standard English) In words (Pakistani English)
10 ten
100 one hundred
1,000 one thousand
10,000 ten thousand
100,000 1,00,000 one hundred thousand one lac/lakh (from lākh لاکھ)
1,000,000 10,00,000 one million ten lac/lakh (from lākh لاکھ)
10,000,000 1,00,00,000 ten million one crore (from karoṛ کروڑ)
1,000,000,000 1,00,00,00,000 one billion one arab (from arab ارب)
100,000,000,000 1,00,00,00,00,000 one hundred billion one kharab (from kharab کھرب)

Larger numbers are generally expressed as multiples of the above.[30][31]

Medical terms

Often the cause of undesirable confusion.


See also


  1. ^ Pakistan in Eberhard, David M.; Simons, Gary F.; Fennig, Charles D., eds. (2022). Ethnologue: Languages of the World (25th ed.). Dallas, Texas: SIL International.
  2. ^ "Tongue-in-cheek: Not in my backside". Dawn. 21 February 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  3. ^ "English as lingua franca: A linguistic imperialism?". Dawn. 14 July 2013. Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  4. ^ McArthur, Tom, 1998. "Pakistani English." in Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. Retrieved 6 June 2009.
  5. ^ Hashmi, Alamgir (1987) [1978]. Preface. Pakistani Literature: The Contemporary English Writers. New York / Islamabad: World University Service / Gulmohar Press.
  6. ^ "Pakistan - People | Britannica". Retrieved 13 April 2023. With the exception of this educated elite, English is spoken fluently by only a small percentage of the population.
  7. ^ Mariam, Durrani (2012). "Banishing Colonial Specters: Language Ideology and Education Policy in Pakistan". University of Pennsylvania.
  8. ^ a b Rahman, Tariq (2002). Language, Ideology and Power: Language-learning among the Muslims of Pakistan and North India. Karachi: Oxford University Press.
  9. ^ Rahman, Tariq (1996). Language and Politics in Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press.
  10. ^ "English Words Used in Urdu". Blog. 13 May 2021. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  11. ^ Rahman, Tariq (2007). "The Role of English in Pakistan". In Tsui, Amy B.; Tollefson, James W. (eds.). Language Policy, Culture, and Identity in Asian Contexts. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 219–239.
  12. ^ Mansoor, Sabiha (2005). Language Planning in Higher Education: A Case Study of Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press.
  13. ^ Lambert, James. 2018. A multitude of ‘lishes’: The nomenclature of hybridity. English World-wide, 39(1): 29. DOI: 10.1075/eww.38.3.04lam
  14. ^ a b c d Rahman, Tariq (1990). Pakistani English: The linguistic description of a non-native variety of English. Islamabad: National Institute of Pakistan Studies.
  15. ^ Baumgardner, Robert (1987). "Utilising Pakistani Newspaper English to Teach Grammar". World Englishes. 6 (3): 241–252. doi:10.1111/j.1467-971x.1987.tb00204.x.
  16. ^ Tharoor, Shashi (20 July 2002). "How the Woosters captured Delhi". The Guardian. London.
  17. ^ A judgment of the Supreme Court. Archived 20 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ "Why Pakistan Is Replacing English With Urdu". Time. 28 July 2015. Retrieved 18 May 2023.
  19. ^ "EDUCATION SYSTEM PROFILES Education in Pakistan". World Education Services. 25 February 2020. English has been the main language of instruction at the elementary and secondary levels since colonial times. It remains the predominant language of instruction in private schools but has been increasingly replaced with Urdu in public schools. Punjab province, for example, recently announced that it will begin to use Urdu as the exclusive medium of instruction in schools beginning in 2020. Depending on the location and predominantly in rural areas, regional languages are used as well, particularly in elementary education. The language of instruction in higher education is mostly English, but some programs and institutions teach in Urdu.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Archived 10 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ "Indians use 'Aunty' and 'Uncle' as terms of respect all over the world". Stabroek News. 13 February 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  23. ^ "Why is job seeking too much difficult in Pakistan?".
  24. ^ "Walter Davies". BBC. Archived from the original on 15 February 2012.
  25. ^ dicky, dickey, n., Oxford English Dictionary, 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009
  26. ^ 1756 BURKE Subl. & B. IV. iii, "An unnatural tension of the nerves"
  27. ^ multiply, v., Oxford English Dictionary, 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009
  28. ^ like, a., adv. (conj.), and n.2, Oxford English Dictionary, 2009. Retrieved 1 July 2009
  29. ^ Retrieved 1 July 2009
  30. ^ "Investors lose Rs 4.4 lakh crore in four days" Archived 16 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, Business Standard
  31. ^ "Back Corporate chiefs getting crores in salaries: 100 and counting!",

Further reading