Indian English Expressions



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Let us see few Indian English Expressions.

A FRIEND from the United Kingdom, who visited India recently, sent me an email in which she narrates an interesting experience.

"During my visit to Chennai in April, I went through the advertisements in the matrimonial column of an Indian English newspaper. I found these two ads very interesting:

  • Girl, 29, convent-educated, single and innocent, wheatish complexion, software professional seeks a suitable boy. Caste and creed no bar.

  • Boy, 31, Malayalee, foreign-returned, IT professional seeks a homely girl.


  • The underlined terms in the ads are not Standard English expressions. Are these terms commonly used in India? What do these expressions mean?"

    Yes, the terms
    convent-educated, wheatish complexion, foreign-returned and homely are not Standard English expressions. They are typical Indian English expressions. They are commonly used by Indians who speak English. Non-Indians who are not familiar with these expressions cannot understand the meanings intended by the users of the terms.

    What does the expression
    convent-educated mean? A convent is a place where catholic nuns stay. In India, schools run by nuns are called convent schools. In most of these schools the medium of instruction is English and students are trained to speak impeccable English. The schools are also known for quality education and discipline. Now any school run by Christians is called a convent school. It is incorrect to use the terms convent educated or convent school, but even many educated Indians use the terms.

    The term
    wheatish complexion means neither dark skinned nor light-skinned. Most men in India prefer light skinned women to dark-skinned women. As the term dark skinned has a negative connotation, women use the term wheatish complexion to describe their skin colour.

    I have never come across the term
    single and innocent.

    The intended meaning of the term
    innocent in the phrase is that the girl is a virgin. The advertiser wants to convey the message that she is not married and is a virgin. The expression sounds funny.

    A number of Indians use the term
    foreign-returned.

    The word foreign is an adjective but it is used incorrectly as a noun in India.

    Look at these sentences which use Indian English Expressions:

  • My brother is in foreign.

  • We are going to visit foreign in December.


  • The sentences should be rewritten as:

  • My brother is in a foreign country.

  • We are going to visit a foreign country in December.


  • The term
    homely girl is used to refer to a girl who is traditional-looking, simple and humble. It is opposed to a woman who is modern and Western-costumed. It has a positive connotation, but Indian feminists are of the opinion that the term is used by male chauvinists to describe a typical house wife who is very submissive and supports male domination.

    Look at these sentences:

  • Come with your near and dear to my wedding.

  • The L TTE committed a Himalayan blunder by killing our former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

  • The Congress (I) high command does not want him to contest the general election.

  • What is your good name?

  • We suspect a foreign hand in the recent bomb blast in Bangalore.

  • I bought a new iron box for two thousand rupees.

  • My cousin-brother is in Australia.

  • Let's go to the station by auto.

  • A new cinema is going to be released tomorrow.

  • Ragging is a criminal offence.


  • In the sentences, the highlighted terms/words/phrases are typical Indian English expressions.

    The term
    near and dear is used to refer to friends and family.

  • Come with your friends and family to my wedding.


  • The term
    Himalayan blunder means big mistake.

  • The LTTE committed a big mistake by killing our former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.


  • High Command means the top leader or President of a political party.

  • The Congress (I) President does not want him to contest the general election.


  • The term
    good name is a literal translation of shub naam (Hindi).

  • What is your name?


  • Foreign hand refers to involvement of a foreign organization or individual.

  • We suspect the involvement of some foreigners or a foreign organisation in the recent bomb blast in Bangalore.


  • The word
    iron is used by native speakers of English, but in India we use the term iron box.

  • I bought a new iron for two thousand rupees.


  • There is no
    cousin brother or cousin sister in English. Your cousin is your uncle's or aunt's son or daughter.

    Look at these examples:

  • Jane is my cousin.

  • John is also my cousin.

  • My cousin is in Australia.


  • The
    auto is to mean auto-ricksaw.

  • Let's go to the station by auto-ricksaw.

  • The actual meaning of the word cinema is a place where we films / movies are screened.

  • A new movie is going to be released tomorrow.


  • In Indian English Expressions, the term
    ragging means harassment of new students by seniors in educational institutions. In Britain, the word rag means a series of amusing events and activities organized by college students once a year to collect money for charity.



    NOTE : This is written by Mr. Albert P. Robert : An ELT resource person. Thanks to him.







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