Emphasis or interjectory words are part of everyday speech in Nepali. If you are not interjecting an “active listening word”, it will seem like you aren’t listening or don’t understand! These phrases or words are similar to the English “uh huhs, sures, yeah yeahs, oks, ohs, etc.” These particles are very important to learn and actively use when speaking and listening in Nepali. These words don’t necessarily have a meaning by themselves, but give meaning or emphasis to the sentence.
अँ (a) – Affirmative, Yes: A nasal ‘ah’ is a little bit yes, a little bit affirmative, and that you understand what someone is saying. Interjecting when someone is speaking with the nasal ‘Ah’ to show you agree/understand is also appropriate.
तपाई रामको बारेमा सुन्नुभयो? – Tapai ramko barema hunnubhayo? – Did you hear about Ram?
अँ मा सुनेँ – Ahn, ma sune. – Ah, I heard.
तपाई भोली जानुहुन्छ – Tapai bholi januhunchha? – Will you go tomorrow?
अँ, म भोलि जान्छु – Ahn, ma bholi janchu – Yes, I will go tomorrow
आ (aa) – Ugh. Objection/Disapproval: Nasals are important! The non-nasal aa shows the opposite of the nasal Ah. It is longer and shows disapproval.
आ, कस्तो पोहोरि ! – Ahh, kasto pohori! – Ahh, what a mess!
त (ta) – Emphasis on what you are talking about: This is one of the most used interjectory words. Instead of an inflection in your tone, you say ta after a word or phrase to put emphasis on it. It is also used to agree or affirm a previous statement.
उहाँको आचार पिरो त छ। – Wahako aachar piro ta chha – Their sauce IS spicy.
त्यो कुरा त ठूलो छ – Tyo kura ta thulo cha. – That thing IS big.
हामी भोलि काठमाडौँ त जाने नि! – Hami bholi Kathmandu ta jane ni! – Tomorrow we ARE going to Kathmandu.
यो मिथै त मिठो रहेछ – Yo mithai ta mitho rahechha – THIS SWEET is tasty (didn’t expect it).
यो मिथै त राम्रो त छ! – Yo ta ramro ta cha – This sweet IS good (see?).
कि (ki) – Question mark? Or? Unsure: Ki is used to show doubt or questioning something. Think of it as the word form of a question mark/questioning inflection.
तपाई आउनु हुन्छ कि – Tapai aunu hunchha ki? – You are coming?
पानी पर्छ कि ? – Pani parcha ki – Will it rain?
यो पिरो छ कि – Yo piro chha ki – This is spicy?
खै (khai) or खोइ (khoi) – Dissatisfaction/ Frustration / What? – A little difficult to explain as it has no literal meaning. It is used before a word or phrase to indicate frustration or dissatisfaction. Khoi is also used to say (frustratedly) “WHERE?” Again, no literal translation, but rather a tone.
खै आएको – Khai aaeko- Why didn’t you come?!
हामी खोइ – Hami khoi?! – Where ARE we?!
खै ! त्यो मैले भनेको होइन -Khai! Tyo maile bhaneko hoina – No! That isn’t what I said.
न (na) – Polite insistence: Used at the end of a sentence, ‘na’ indicates ‘please’ with insistence.
यहाँ आउनुस न – Yaha aunus na – Please come here (please).
राम्रो संग जानुस न – Ramro sanga janus na – Please go with good (please) – This is a common polite phrase to say to someone as they are leaving or getting ready to travel. Its akin to “Safe travels”.
राम्रो सँग नबस्नुहोस् न – Ramro sanga basnus na – Please sit with good (please) – Akin to ‘rest well’.
नि (ni) – It is true: ‘Ni’ emphases an answer. Used at the end of a sentence, it is like saying ‘its true/you see.’
हो नि / हुन्छ नि – Ho ni! / Hunchha ni – It is !
यो हो नि ? – Yo ho ni – This is the one (you see).
राम्रो छ नि – Ramro chha ni – It is good (you see).
है (hai) – Right? Okay?: Used at the end of sentences to insist something.
भोली हामी जाऔँ है – Bholi hami jaao hai ? – Tomorrow we will go, ok?
ठिक छ है? – Thik chha hai? – Its ok, right?
ल (la) – Affirmative/ I Understand/ Yes, Yes/ Ok, Ok? – Another very common and diversely used emphasis particle, ‘la’ is either an emphasis particle, a request, or a Nepali telephone goodbye. Use it at the beginning or to interject in a sentence, it means ‘I understand/I agree’. At the end of a sentence, it is a request. If it is repeated ‘la la la, lah-‘ It’s likely the end of your phone call or Nepali goodbye.
ल, म गर्छु – La, ma garchhu – Ok, I will do it.
कम सिद्देपछी आउनु ल – Kam siddepachhi aunu la – After work, come, ok? (request)
ल, ल, ल, होस्, ल – La la la, huss, la – Ok, ok, ok, got it, ok. – Telephone conversations in Nepal cost money. Someone may cut a conversation short and show they understand what you said by saying something like this before hanging up. La, la, with a side head nod, also shows you understand.