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Language Lab - Articles

Indian English Vs British English


“…Coming back to Miss Pushpa

she is most popular lady 

with men also and ladies also. 

Whenever I asked her to do anything,

she was saying, 'Just now only

I will do it.' That is showing

good spirit. I am always 

appreciating the good spirit. 

Pushpa Miss is never saying no.

Whatever I or anybody is asking

she is always saying yes...” 

-Nissim Ezekiel


This is an excerpt from the poem Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S, penned by Nissim Ezekiel, one of the most renowned names in modern Indo-anglean poetry. Besides being a farcical poem that brutally ridicules Indian way of English Expression, it gives deep insights for us Indians, especially the way we speak this beautiful Germanic Language, i.e. English!

Let’s admit this… it’s high time that we scrutinize the ways we and native speakers speak English (The world media won’t stop humiliating and stereotyping Indians anyway). When we look more closely, our pronunciations and nuances are miles different from that of a native language speaker. It’s been perfectly portrayed in this poem. A native speaker would most probably fall into fits of laughter reading this excerpt alone!!


When one analyses the differences that distinct Indian English with British Received Pronunciation, he or she stumbles across many discrepancies, some of them being:


  • The unnecessary and inauspicious usage of “ Present Progressive Tense”
  • Chutnification
  • Excessive mother tongue influence


We Indians have this unbeknownst-the-origin tendency to use “Present Progressive Tense/ Present Continuous Tense” in the places where other tenses like simple present and present perfect should be. For example,


Pushpa Miss is never saying no.

Whatever I or anybody is asking

she is always saying yes...” 


This creates a clear ambiguity and absurdity. Hence this bent should be stopped in order not to make a fool out of others and yourself.


Next is the Chutnification which is the worst of all dooms. It just amalgamates beautiful Indian words which are charming on their own with the posh English words. Example, Pajamas, Goondas, Phirangis ( when Indian nouns combined with English suffixes) Auntiji, Sirji etc. ( when English nouns are combined with Indian way of addressing).


Most Indians fall under the next category- Mother tongue influence in English, especially Keralites. The presence of retroflex consonants in Malayalam ( the curling of tongue to hit the roof of the mouth when one says the /t/ in time (/taim/))


Likely it’s a common misjudgement of meaning when someone asks “May I know your good name, sir?” it is nothing but the word by word translation of the hindi phrase “Apka shubh naam kya hai?”. This is a common error made by the Hindi speaking community.

The word order of English language sentences – Subject-verb-object  - is often transformed into the word order of most Indian Languages i.e. Subject-object- verb.

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