Pakistani English

This article is about the dialect of the English language. For English people of Pakistani descent, see British Pakistanis.

Pakistani English or Paklish is the group of English language varieties spoken and written in Pakistan.[1] It was first so recognised and designated in the 1970s and 1980s.[2] Pakistani English (PE) is slightly different in respect to vocabulary, syntax, accent, spellings of some words and other features. Approximately 49% of the Pakistani population is able to communicate at an intermediate level of English or higher.[3]


Although British rule in India lasted for almost two hundred years, the areas which lie in what is now Pakistan were amongst the last to be annexed: Sindh in 1843, Punjab (which initially included the North-West Frontier Province) in 1849, and parts of Baluchistan, including Quetta and the outer regions in 1879, while the rest of the Baluchistan region became a princely state within the British Indian Empire. As a result, English had less time to become part of local culture though it did become part of elitist culture as it was used in elite schools and in higher education, as in the rest of British India.[4] The colonial policies which made English a marker of elite status and the language of power—being used in such domains of power as the civil service, the officer corps of the armed forces, the higher judiciary, universities, prestigious newspapers, radio and entertainment—was due to British policies[5]:22–58 and the continuation of these policies by Pakistani governments.[4]:288–323 In 1947 upon Pakistan's establishment, English became the de facto official language, a position which was formalised in the Constitution of Pakistan of 1973. Together with Urdu, the two languages are concurrently the official languages of the country. English language continues as the language of power and is also the language with the maximum cultural capital of any language used in Pakistan.[6] It remains much in demand in higher education in Pakistan.[7]

Relationship with Indian English

See also: Indian English

Pakistani English (PE) shares many similarities with Indian English, but since the independence of Pakistan, there have been some very obvious differences. Rahman argues that PE is an interference variety of English created by the use of the features of Urdu, Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi and other languages spoken in Pakistan. He further divides PE into Anglicised English, which is very similar to the speech and writing of the speakers of British Standard English (BSE), acrolect PE, which is used by Pakistanis educated in English-medium schools, mesolectal PE, which is used by ordinary, Urdu-educated Pakistanis and basilect PE, which is used by people of little formal education, such as guides and waiters.[8]

Words and expressions of PE have been noted by a number of scholars,[9] including unique idioms and colloquial expressions as well as accents.[10] Foreign companies find accent neutralisation easier[10] in Pakistan than in India. However, like Indian English, Pakistani English has preserved many phrases that are now considered antiquated in Britain.[11]

Use in Pakistan

Urdu and English are Pakistan's official languages. But all government documents, street signs, many shop signs, business contracts and other activities use English. The language of the courts is also English.[12]

English is taught to all school-level Pakistani students, and in many cases the medium of instruction is also in English. Although there are also many Pakistani medium local schools, either with an emphasis of English as a second language or bilingually medium Pakistani Urdu which are all taught in both Pakistani Urdu and English on across all subjects and courses especially in standardised tests.[13] At college and university level, all instructions are in English and also bilingual as well.[14]

Pakistan boasts a large English language press and (more recently) media. All of Pakistan's major dailies are published in or have an edition in English, while DAWN News was a major English Language News Channel, before 15 May 2010 when it switched to its language to Urdu, Express 24/7 was another important English news channel, now defunct. Code-switching (the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety, in conversation) is common in Pakistan and almost all conversations in whatever language have a significant English component. The language of pleading in all courts of Pakistan is also English. The tutorial language in all universities is English and also bilingually (both Urdu and English together and sometimes both of medium of instructions are mixed and combined due to the importance of bilingualism )



The role of English within the complex multilingual society of Pakistan is far from straightforward: it is used across the country by speakers with various degrees of proficiency; the grammar and phraseology may mimic that of the speaker's first language. While Pakistani speakers of English use idioms peculiar to their homeland (often literal translations of words and phrases from their native languages), this is far less common in proficient speakers, and grammar tends to be quite close to that of Standard English but exhibiting some features of American English.


Pakistani English phonology follows that of British English. It may be rhotic or non-rhotic. Rahman provides a broad introduction to the phonology of Pakistani English.[8]:21–40


Pakistani English is heavily influenced by Pakistan's languages as well as the English of other nations. Many words or terms from Urdu, such as 'cummerbund', have entered the global language and are also found in Pakistan. In addition the area which is now Pakistan was home to the largest garrisons of the British Indian Army (such as Rawalpindi and Peshawar) and this, combined with the post-partition influence of the Pakistan Military, has ensured that many military terms have entered the local jargon.[8]:76–78

The type of English taught (and preferred) is British English. The heavy influence and penetration of American culture through television, films and other media has brought in great influences of American English.

Vocabulary and colloquialisms

Pakistani English contains many unique terms, as well as terms which are utilised somewhat differently in Pakistan.. For instance, "chips" is used for potato chips as well as for French fries and "lemon" is used for both lime and lemon.[8]:69–71

Words unique to (i.e. not generally well-known outside South Asia) and/or popular in Pakistan include those in the following by no means exhaustive list:

Words which are considered archaic in some varieties of English, but are still in use in Pakistani English:

Numbering system

The Pakistani numbering system is preferred for digit grouping. When written in words, or when spoken, numbers less than 100,000 are expressed just as they are in Standard English. Numbers including and beyond 100,000 are expressed in a subset of the Pakistani numbering system. Thus, the following scale is used:

In digits (Standard English) In digits (Pakistani English) In words (Standard English) In words (Pakistani English)
10 ten
100 one hundred
1,000 one thousand
10,000 ten thousand
100,000 1,00,000 one hundred thousand one lac/lakh (from lākh لاکھ)
1,000,000 10,00,000 one million ten lac/lakh (from lākh لاکھ)
10,000,000 1,00,00,000 ten million one crore (from karoṛ کروڑ)
1,000,000,000 1,00,00,00,000 one billion one Arab (from arab ارب)
100,000,000,000 1,00,00,00,00,000 one hundred billion one kharab (from kharab کھرب)

Larger numbers are generally expressed as multiples of the above.[21][22]

Medical terms

Often the cause of undesirable confusion.


See also


  1. McArthur, Tom, 1998. "Pakistani English." in Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language. Retrieved on 2009-06-06.
  2. Hashmi, Alamgir (1987) [1978]. Preface. Pakistani Literature: The Contemporary English Writers. New York / Islamabad: World University Service / Gulmohar Press.
  3. 6. PAKISTAN 6.1 MANAGEMENT SUMMARY PAKISTAN (Number of English speakers predicted to rise - 2nd Paragraph) PAGE 111. - Euromonitor International
  4. 1 2 Rahman, Tariq (2002). Language, Ideology and Power: Language-learning among the Muslims of Pakistan and North India. Karachi: Oxford University Press.
  5. Rahman, Tariq (1996). Language and Politics in Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press.
  6. Rahman, Tariq (2007). "The Role of English in Pakistan". In Tsui, Amy B.; Tollefson, James W. Language Policy, Culture, and Identity in Asian Contexts. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 219–239.
  7. Mansoor, Sabiha (2005). Language Planning in Higher Education: A Case Study of Pakistan. Karachi: Oxford University Press.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Rahman, Tariq (1990). Pakistani English: The linguistic description of a non-native variety of English. Islamabad: National Institute of Pakistan Studies.
  9. Baumgardner, Robert. "Utilising Pakistani Newspaper English to Teach Grammar". World Englishes. 6 (3): 241–252. doi:10.1111/j.1467-971x.1987.tb00204.x.
  10. 1 2 Pakistan Now a Hot Spot for IT Outsourcing
  11. How the Woosters captured Delhi - Shashi Tharoor
  12. A judgment of the Supreme Court.
  15. BBC. Also see the OED.
  16. dicky, dickey, n., Oxford English Dictionary, 2009, Accessed on 1 July 2009
  17. 1756 BURKE Subl. & B. IV. iii, "An unnatural tension of the nerves"
  18. multiply, v., Oxford English Dictionary, 2009, Accessed on 1 July 2009
  19. like, a., adv. (conj.), and n.2, Oxford English Dictionary, 2009, Accessed on 1 July 2009
  20., Accessed on 1 July 2009
  21. "Investors lose Rs 4.4 lakh crore in four days", Business Standard
  22. "Back Corporate chiefs getting crores in salaries: 100 and counting!",

Further reading

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