Thursday, 5 April 2012

You obviously know that Khasi is a language spoken in the state of Meghalaya in India if you have somehow managed to reach this page. Maybe you are planning to visit the beautiful Khasi hills and need to learn a few basic phrases or you are just searching if there is anything on the khasi language already posted.
Some friends who wanted to visit the Khasi hills told me that they could not find anything on the internet to help them. I'm not going to bore you with the petty details let's start with a few basic phrases.
Oh by the way I am a native khasi speaker, although I am not living in the beautiful Khasi Hills at the moment, it's always in my mind (Ri Khasi Ri Khasi...) by the way I am not a linguist I just speak the language so don't be too critical, any comments you have, to improve the learning experience for others will be more than welcome.

Khasi is written in the roman script but the khasi alphabet has a few minor differences and the pronounciation is different if you are going to read it in english.

Kumno? (kum no - two syllables) is the khasi equivalent of an informal 'hello' in english.

Travellers however, have tended to use the word 'Khublei' which Khasis use to express thanks, as a standard greeting.

Kumne (kum nay) is the informal response roughly equivalent to 'I am like this'.

Nga (here ng is combined together to bring out one sound combined with a it becomes ngah) it means 'me'

Phi (fee) this means 'you' it is a polite form of address and can be used for both males and females

Kumno? (Kum no?) this means 'how?'

How are you?
Kumno phi long? (kum no fee lung?) is 'how are you?' phi is pronounced as fee and long is lung

Nga bit nga biang (nga bit nga byang) means 'I am well and fine' this is a more formal response

What is your name?
Kaei ka kyrteng jong phi? (ka ei ka kyr teng jong fee?) means 'what is your name?'

Nga kyrteng U Philip (nga kyr teng oooh Philip) means 'my name is Philip'

U pronounced oooh (as the u in put) is used to refer to males and Ka is used to refer to females, so a female will respond as

Nga kyrteng Ka Mary (nga kyr teng kah Mary) it means 'my name is Mary'

kah is pronounced as the model KA car made by Ford (that's the only thing i can think of now).

Sngewbha (sngew bhaa - 'a' is pronounced as 'ah' as in 'amazon') this is the equivalent of  'please'

Thank you
Khublei (khu blei) means 'thank you'

Khublei shibun (khu blei she bone) means 'thanks a lot'

Map (maap) this means 'sorry'

Sngewbha map ia nga (sngew bhaa maap ya nga) means 'please forgive me'

Sngewthuh (sngew thuh) this means 'understand'

I don't understand
Ngam sngewthuh (ngam sngew thuh) this means 'I don't understand'

Ngam sngewthuh khasi (Ngam sngew thuh khasi) means 'I don't understand khasi'

How much?
Katno? (cat no?) this means 'how much?'

Katno kane? (cat no ca nay?) means 'how much is this?'

Katno kine? (cat no kee nay?) means 'how much are these?'

Shano? (Sha no?) means 'where'

Shano phin leit? (sha no fin leit?) means 'where are you going?'

Ngan leit sha iew (ngan leit sha yeaw) it means 'I am going to the market' the (word iew means market)

Ngan leit sha _______ I am going to _______

Lano? (La no?) this means 'when?'

Lano phin leit? (La no fin leit) means 'when are you going?'

Lano phin leit sha iew? (La no fin leit sha yeaw?) means 'when are you going to the market?'

Kumno phin leit sha iew? (kum no fin leit sha yeaw?) means 'how are you going to the market?'

Ngan leit da ka kali (ngan leit da ka ka lee) means 'I am going by car'

Ngan leit da ka bus (ngan leit da ka bus) means 'I am going by bus'

The Khasis also have a formal way of addressing a person like Mister or Miss, this is also used as a term or respect, but it is not used when addressing children.

Bah (bah) is the equivalent of 'mister' or 'sir'

Kumno phi long Bah John? (kum no fee lung bah john?) would translate to 'how are you Mr. John?'

Katno kane bah? (cat no ka nay bah?) translates to 'how much is this sir?'

Miss or Mrs
Kong (kong) this is the equivalent of 'miss' and it is used when addressing a female as a term of respect or even when you are addressing someone whose name you don't know.

Kumno phi long Kong? (kum no fee lung kong?) means 'how are you miss?'

Khasis also give masculine and feminine atrributes when addressing inanimate objects

The sun
Ka sngi (ka sngee) 'the sun' is given a feminine gender and the prefix ka is used when mentioning the sun

The moon
U bnai (oooh bhnye) 'the moon' is given a masculine gender and is used with the prefix u (pronounced oooh as in put)

So when you are buying anything and you are asking for the price you will be using in general the feminine gender for the object in question (objects being sold in shops are mostly 'kane' pronounced kah nay) in addition to using Bah or Kong when you address the shopkeeper. It also gets a little complicated here and 'kane' is used to refer to a single object, but, if you are asking the price of something bundled together you would have to use the plural form 'kine' pronounced 'kee nay'
for example 'katno kine ki marble?' (cat no kee nay kee marble?)'how much are these marbles? 'katno kane ka sopti?' (cat no ka nay ka sop tee?) 'how much is this shirt?'

What is the time now?
Katno baje mynta? (cat no ba jay min taa?) this means 'what is the time now?'

Katno baje mynta bah? (cat no ba jay min taa bah?) means  'what is the time now sir?'

Katno baje mynta kong? (cat no ba jay min taa kong?) means  'what is the time now miss?'

If you want to make it more formal it has to be preceded by asking 'can you tell me the time now sir?'

Phi lah ban iathuh ia nga ka dei katno baje mynta bah/kong? (fee lah ban ia thoah ia nga ka dei cat no ba jay myn taa bah/kong?) 'can you tell me what is the time now sir/miss?' if you are addressing a male you can use the word 'bah' and if you are addressing a female you can use the word 'kong'

What is the date today?
Katno tarik mynta ka sngi? (cat no taa rick myn taa kaa sngee?) this means 'what is the date today?'
use the same rule for what is the time now when addressing males or females

I am hungry
Nga lah thngan (nga lahh th-ngaan) this translates to 'I am hungry'

What is there to eat?
Don aiu ban bam? (done ayuu ban baam?) this literally translates to 'what is there to eat?'
If you are asking a female you will have to add the word 'Kong' at the end and if you are addressing a male, you add the word 'Bah' - Don aiu ban bam Kong? or Don aiu ban bam Bah?

I just arrived/reached today?
Nga dang shu wan mynta ka sngi (Nga dang shoo wan myn taa kaa sngee) Now you must already be comfortable with using the word 'Nga' so this means 'I just arrived/came today'  you can also say 'Nga dang shu poi mynta ka sngi'

I am leaving?
Ngan leit noh shwa (Ngan leit noh shuwa) means 'I am leaving now'

I am going back tomorrow
Ngan leit phai lashai (Ngan leit phai la shy) this means 'I am going back tomorrow'

This is a work in progress I will be updating it with more words whenever I get time please bear with me. If you have any comments please feel free to voice them on this page.
If there is any phrase or sentence you want to learn, please ask your question below in the comments section and I will answer/translate it to khasi for you. You can log in with your google account. Apologies for the inconvenience of having to log in to comment.

Khublei Shibun!


  1. can you add phrases like
    i am hungry, i just arrived, i am leaving tomorrow.

    1. I am Hungry
      Nga lah thngan

      I just arrived
      Nga dang shu poi

      I am leaving tomorrow
      Ngan leit noh lashai

  2. Thanks for the comment Marbha, but I had already updated the post if you had taken time to read.

  3. Can u please add about khasi numbers.... bah?

    1. Sure, I'll post another page on numbers and the alphabet when I get time, Thanks for the suggestion

  4. This is good blog.i lke it.
    would u pease explain how sngewbhaa is ponounced as its not quite clear to me as whether sn in sngew-bha would be pronounced as sun/san/sen or if s is silent or smthin else n how is gew pronounced - is it similar to dew or smtin else- sngewbha clear my doubts!

    1. Sngewbha, is a three syllable word that actually sounds like it has only two syllables, it can be broken down into, 's-ngew-bhaa' 's' is prounounced like in 'smile' where the 's' is dragged out just a bit like 'suh' but very fast this is combined together with 'ngew' 'ng' is a combination that I don't think has an english equivalent.
      You have to combine the two letters and try to make a sound, 'ew' is not like 'dew' its more like the 'e' in 'eh' ending up like 'eww'
      It ends up as a combination of three syllables 's-ngew-bhaa' with the first two pronounced very fast making them sound like one.
      I will try to put up a sound bite with the actual pronounciation, if you have any more doubts get in touch with me at and I can try to assist you.

  5. I love the blog! Thank you. I've been trying to learn Khasi for years. I'd love a kind of Pimsleur course where I can listen to it in the car. If anyone reading this would give Khasi lessons over Skype (for a reasonable fee) I'd be very interested!

    1. Me too. Did you manage to find anybody Claire?

  6. I will be sponsoring a World Vision child living in this area. Your website is so helpful. I will write to her using some of her native language phrases you have provided here. Thank you.

  7. Hi Cathy,
    Nice to hear that you are sponsoring a child there, if you require any assistance please don't hesitate to contact me at although I am not living in India I would be very happy to be of any assistance.
    Thank you.

  8. This is a really good blog post. DO you know if there are any teachers of Khasi in London or nearby?

  9. hai, i worked in umiam for 3.5 years & recently transferred to Hyderabad.We(wife & 2 kids) felt terribly sad and we miss umiam.we want to learn khasi properly.thank u for ur initiative

  10. hey!
    I'm a Delhi University student and as a project I along with 4 other students am working on a project involving stories from the Khasi tribe. We need some assistance regarding the stories.

    It'll be great if you could help us out!
    Thank you! :D

    1. Hi Shubhra, Apologies for the late response. What kind of stories are you looking for? I would suggest you get in touch with the Deptt of cultural and creative studies, North Eastern Hill University, at,
      they will be in a better position to help you. I am hard pressed for time and will not be able to assist you much. If you require any other info, you can mail me at

  11. I love Meghalaya. its land, its people.I liked this. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for taking time to read and comment.

  12. The english equivalent would be someone who is 'slow witted'. Hope this clarification doesn't lead to a fight :)

  13. thanks for your noble effort. have you thought about an AV version? lots of people would prefer that these days :-) that way they actually hear the pakka khasi accent.thanks again

  14. Hi! This is really amazing blog!! My would be wife is Khasi from Shillong and I am from Kutch, Gujarat so this really helps. She'll be surprised to see me speaking Khasi!! Not to mention, she speaks reasonably good Gujarati!! :) Thanks a ton again.


    Ph.D (Cell & Molecular Biology)

  15. I thing 'katno' is being pronounced as 'cut no'. Khublei!

    1. Hi Edel, it is not pronounced as 'cut' it is pronounced 'cat'
      Since there is no 'C' in the khasi alphabet 'K' is used instead and 'A' is pronounced as "aah"
      I hope this helps.

  16. Very helpful page.... will u help me a bit more? If u get time..... otherwise itz okkk. Khublei....:-)

    1. Please put up words you would like to learn and I can post the answer so others can also learn. I'm sorry I won't be able to help more than that.

  17. How to say "what are you doing ?" please..

    1. Phi leh aiu? (fee leh aahyou?)
      hope that helps.

  18. How to say how are you in khasi.
    How to say where are you?
    How to say had food? Plz translate it soon for me coz i really need to know. Khublei.

  19. why haven,t alphabet and pronunciation

  20. It would have been really helpful if you had put up some slangs along with the formal greetings.
    Your blog is a real hit, congratulations for that.
    And yeah, please add audio clips too... Like ngan, sngewbhaa etc.. U understand what I mean mo? I hope that's affirmative.

    Joshua Marbolo

  21. Hi Joshua,
    Will try to incorporate your suggestions, its just that I'm too bogged down with work haven't had time to check this blog in a long time. By the way 'ng' is pronounced as the 'ENG' in 'England' but more like an 'AENG' its one of the more tricky part of the Khasi and other Asian languages where you find this combination of letters.
    Khublei Shibun.

  22. Hello from Poland :-)
    Is it true that "In the Khasi language a tree is masculine, but when it is turned into wood, it becomes feminine. Generally in the Khasi language when something becomes useful, its gender becomes female."?

    1. Hi ekomania,
      This is an interesting question. I never realised it but yes it is true in a way. The prefix U (pronounced oooh)which is usually used as a prefix for a male, is used when referring to a tree like "U dieng kseh" translated to "a pine tree" dieng is the word for tree. This is when a standing tree is a single entity.
      Like you pointed out, when it is cut, the cut piece(s) are referred to as KA which is usually used as a prefix for a female.
      And definitely NO to your part of the question that when something becomes useful its gender also changes to female, this is not true, its just one of the peculiarities of an unstructured language where male and female characteristics are randomly attributed to inanimate objects based on vague customs and traditions.
      For example, if you are looking at a tree and you are asking what kind of a tree it is, you would normally ask "what kind of tree is this?" in khasi it translates to "U dieng aiu une?" if the answer is "this is a pine tree" it translates to "une u dei u dieng kseh"
      But if you look at, for example, pieces of planks or cut pieces of wood for making furniture, in english you would normally ask "what kind of wood is this?" in khasi you would have to ask "ka dieng aiu kane?" and if the answer is "it is pine wood" in khasi it will be "kane ka dei ka dieng kseh"
      I guess it has to do more with how khasis look at a tree as a singular entity.
      But it also gets a little complicated as a single stick is also referred to as 'u dieng" So it looks like the visual impact of a tree as a singular piece makes the Khasis refer to it as "U" similarly a single piece of stick (u dieng) or even a pole (not you :)) for example an electric pole/post, which used to be wooden till very recently has always been referred to as "U dieng post electric" but here it is just a stick i.e., u dieng, and no one is bothered what kind of dieng it is.
      I hope I have not confused you more. Shoot me an email to if you need more clarification.
      Thanks for reading and for the interesting question.

  23. Thank you very much for quick reaction and explanation! It is very interesting. And what about this "Generally in the Khasi language when something becomes useful, its gender becomes female", is it true? I think about it in the context of matrilineality at the Khasi's society, but it is hard to find any information about Khasi language (except your blog) to confirm or deny this statement.

    1. Hi Ekomania,
      The matrilineal custom of the khasis is something that many people/visitors/researchers find interesting and it has been subject to a lot of interpretations that suit the agenda of people who want to exagerrate/embellish this peculiarity to gain an audience for whatever they are working on in terms of research or newspaper and magazine articles. In fact, there have been a number of write-ups by people who visited the Khasi Hills for a few hours and became instant experts on the matrilineal system in practice there by talking to random people they meet in market places and such locations. This has been a constant source of irritation to the local population who find that they cannot stop people writing what they want to write and at the same time getting a clarification out that would reach the same audience is almost impossible after the damage has been done.
      I don't know the source of this sentence that you have quoted and in what context it was quoted, probably it is again some overzealous journalist visitor or casual writer who has just put down his thoughts based on some random observation to make his/her write-up sound more interesting and gain more visibility. In short, I would say that this is absolutely not true and the use of the language is definitely not linked to the matrilineal practice of the Khasis. One problem is that the ability to spread information through the internet without the need to authenticate/clarify/verify anything means that you are going to have observations that are not necessarily valid and that would not stand scrutiny, another problem is that this kind of hearsay-based information is then spread through different media to the extent that it ultimately seems to acquire legitimacy and validity just by the fact that is it widely present in different forums propagated by people who have no credibility as researchers or authorities on what they are talking about.
      I don't profess to be one to provide an authentic source of information for the Khasi language as I am not a researcher in linguistics and my specialisation lies elsewhere, but at least I can claim to be a little bit more aware of what the general characteristics of social life and practices in the Khasi Hills is, as I am a Khasi who was born and brought up there even though I am not living there now.
      So my advice would be, to take statements such as these with more than a pinch of salt. If you are a researcher interested in finding out more, please get in touch with me at I can link you up with other researchers who have more expertise in this field than I do. Any other interesting questions or doubts you have I would be more than happy to assist you.
      Thanks again for reading.

    2. Learning Khasi here.....I would love to learn more, maybe through Email

  24. Hi, hope you are well. I shifted to Shillong recently and started learning Khasi language as I plan to stay here for a long time. How do I tell a cab driver in khasi "please stop here"

  25. Hello sir, can you tell a website or app that can translate english to khasi and vice versa.
    Thanks in advance


Khublei Shibun for taking time to read and comment.