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When I was chatting with my friend, as a part of our conversation I used a phrase. "You have laptop nah." He replied, first try to change your English, it sounds ridiculous, using words nah, right.

To give a brief insight of the context, here is the conversation between me (A) and my friend (B).

A: Hi, is your headset working, the other day you had a problem.

B: I found, that the problem was with my system. I tried with the new headset on the same system and it still had voice issues.

A: I think, you have laptop nah.

B: First, stop using words like nah, right. That sounds stupid. No offense.

I have two questions here:

  • Am I wrong in the above conversation?
  • When to use nah, right in the sentences?
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2  
Forming a question with "Nah" is a Hindi construction. Is this question about English, or the Hindi word "Nahi" shortened to "Nah"? –  Andrew Leach Dec 3 '12 at 15:55
    
andrew leach : I found the meaning in wordweb for nah:"Nah, I don't want any" –  srk Dec 3 '12 at 16:07
    
But that doesn't go on the other end, usually. "You have the laptop, no?" is not a native English construction; and to make that into "Nah" is a very rare thing indeed. –  Andrew Leach Dec 3 '12 at 16:12
6  
The usage of , na(h) at the end of sentences is an Indianism, and is almost teen slang. It's a literal carry-down from Hindi. –  Kris Dec 4 '12 at 5:37

3 Answers 3

up vote 11 down vote accepted

According to Some Aspects of the History of Modern Hindi "Nahîn" "No", "Not" by L. A. Schwarzschild, the Hindi interjection nahîn (and Marathi nahi, Gujerati nahi(m), etc.):

is used as an equivalent of "no" (though it may serve also as a negative adverb), and it represents an enlargement of the old Indo-European negative particile, Sanskrit na.

The question asker's name, Raghav, is of Sanskrit origin, so he and his friend are probably Indian. I've not heard nah used in this way, and it sounds like colloquial Indian English. If so, this nah may be well understood when talking to other Indians but not in other countries. It may be that your friend thinks it is too informal and isn't appropriate to be used in a professional context.

You can ask your friend exactly what he thinks, there may be some acceptable uses. I would advise against using it internationally, because it may be misunderstood.


An answer on Yahoo! Anwsers! explains appending "na" turns a statement into a question, and is Hinglish (or colloquial Hindi English), and can also be used like the English "right?":

Adding na in the ending of any statement makes it a question. eg

Statement: "Tu Calcutta se hai" Question: "Tu Calcutta se hai na ?"

Translation Statement :"You are from Calcutta" Question: "You are from Calcutta na ?"

I use it many times when I chat Hinglish. But be aware using it formally since this is informal spoken form and not expected to be practiced in written form except IM's chats etc.

English equivalent for na would be "right"

Eg " You are from Calcutta right ?"

In the statement "Sorry na" speaker expects the reply or an attention from you "sorry na"could be explained in many ways.

eg.

  1. I'm sorry, Is that ok?
  2. I'm sorry, are you alright now ?
  3. I'm sorry, Is it fine with you now ?
  4. I'm sorry, are you happy now ?

According to a blogpost called Indian English – Read it, na! says na finds its way to the end of many Indian English sentences:

Isn’t the genesis or the logic behind Indian English fascinating “na”? Tell me “no”.. My all time favorite is the linguistic interchangeability of no and na and how it discreetly finds its place at the end of each sentence. Did you laugh, na? Amazing, na? I meant our Indian English.


Jason Baldridge wrote in Linguistic and Social Characteristics of Indian English :

When Indians use English, it is often a mixture of English, Hindi, and other languages. B.C., A.S., and S.Singh called this way of speaking kichiri (2.2.3). Kichiri is a meal which is composed of several random ingredients -- a rather accurate description of the way Indians often talk to one another. Even in "pure" Indian English, many Indian terms slip in frequently. Some expressions such as general mai (in general) and ek minute (one minute) are prevalent in Indian English. N.G. mentions the Gujarati expression take care karje (do take care) in 1.1.5. These mixtures come quite naturally when one is acquainted with two or more languages. ... Her use of nahi (no) in 1.1.2, and S.Singh's use of kya (what) in 2.1.1 are typical of the sorts of ways Hindi terms are employed.

...

He says, "Yeah, like this guy Gotham felt like when he went back, no?" This use of no (and the expression isn't it in the same manner) stems from the use of na in Hindi, which is exemplified by N.G. in 1.1.6, "...take care karje appli ker hai na?" This could be roughly translated as "...take care karje can be applied, can't it?"

Some more discussion can be found in Google Books, and here's an example in literature.

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Exactly my point in the question comments. "You have the laptop, no?" is a Hindi method of constructing a question, and so substituting the Hindi "nah" for "no" is entirely possible. That it is similar to the English "no" makes it even more likely; but it also makes the question off-topic. –  Andrew Leach Dec 3 '12 at 16:21
    
@AndrewLeach: It could be argued this is a valid part of Indian English, where English is an official language. –  Hugo Dec 3 '12 at 16:26
    
"Indian-English" is a valid tag the OP has not chosen to use. –  Andrew Leach Dec 3 '12 at 16:27

"Nah" is a colloquial form of the word "no". As in: "Do you need a pencil?" "Nah, I've already got one."

It's fine to use it in conversation. It is not acceptable in formal writing.

It doesn't make sense to me in the context that you used it above.

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The reference in OP's context is to usage different from this. See Hugo's answer and my comment @OP. –  Kris Dec 4 '12 at 5:40
    
@Kris That was the point of my last sentence: that this is the only meaning of the word that I know in English, and it didn't fit in context. –  Jay Dec 4 '12 at 15:38
    
Indian English is now well recognized. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_English) It's a Tag on ELU as well. The version of English you are familiar with could be AmE or BrE; there are many other variants. –  Kris Dec 5 '12 at 7:10
    
@Kris (shrug) Maybe I'm misreading your comment. I'm not disputing the existence or "validity" of Indian English. My knowledge of Indian English is limited and nothing in the original question indicated that this was specifically about Indian English so I answered on the basis of my knowledge of English in general. If as Hugo says, this is an Indianism that I was not aware of, ok, sorry. If you mean that I shouldn't have posted an answer because I am not intimately familiar with all variants and dialects of English, well, I think that standard would preclude almost everyone from posting. :-) –  Jay Dec 5 '12 at 17:26

You'd do better asking your friend. I have no idea what "laptop nah" is, so if I read that, I'd be unhappy because I'd be forced to ask what it means. There are no rules for personal conversations other than what you and your friends are comfortable with. If they can't make themselves write clearly enough to communicate, then I'd wonder why, if I were you, but now we're in the realm of Dear Prudence and not English Usage. Maybe you can find something about this in a past Miss Manners column.

[EDIT: Check out Dilbert for December 4, 2012, in which the CEO uses "Nah".]

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