संतरा comes from the name of the Portuguese town of Sintra. Greeks call oranges 'Πορτοκάλι' too. The Portuguese use the Arabic root (laranja). The Arabs brought the orange to Spain from the Far East: al-naranj > naranja > an orange. (16thC English called them noranges!) Interestingly the Sanskrit for Orange was narang (नारंग) too. The Germans simply call it 'Apfelsine' - Chinese Apple, although Orange is becoming more common. Does anyone else have any other interesting Orange stories?
One assumes the single vowel sound difference was a big clue(!), but it is backed up by Wiktionary:
My interesting tidbit is actually debunking part of yours, I'm afraid!
It's a fun story that it was originally 'a norange' (and it really did happen for some other words, such as 'a nuncle' - not sure about 'aunt' though!) but oranges were always oranges, and came to us via French 'pomme d'orenge', which of course came from Spain and the rest of the root as ypu describe.
thanks for this tidbit :) a crucial bit of information i found -- the arabic 'naranj' was borrowed from the persian 'narang', which was borrowed from the sanskrit 'narangah', which ultimately comes from a dravidian language (possibly mayalayam, telugu, or tamil.) and as and if it couldn't get any better, arabic has another word for orange: 'al-burtuqaliu'. sound familiar? ;) the portuguese sure were proud of their fruit....
If you think about the grammar with other verbs, it should be clearer: 'the orange eats a fruit', for (nonsensical) example. It's sort of 'the orange bes [does be] a fruit'; not a construction we use in standard English.
It's similar to some dialectal English though, such as 'I be going now', 'orange be fruit'.
A statement where the verb is simply है, हैं, or हो talks about what is true right now without taking a stand on what is always true.
Prepending the auxiliary verb होता, होती, or होते to the है, हैं, or हो adds the "habitual" aspect to the statement, indicating that that's how things always are. You use this form to describe habits, which tend to not change, and to describe "immutable truths" which never change.
See the section headed with "होना - The Habitual Form" in the tips and notes for the "Animals" skill: https://forum.duolingo.com/comment/28223405.
In the current example, an orange is a fruit by definition, and that will never change. So you use the habitual aspect to say so. In one of the other questions you'll see, संतरा लाल है, is a reference to a specific orange that happens to be red. But oranges are not always red, so you don't use होता/होती/होते in that statement.
It's hard to get the tense right in an English translation, some dialects do use it, rendering as 'I be hungry' or similar (grammatical standard English would be 'I am hungry'), or phrases like 'I be going now' etc.
By far the easiest way to get it is to compare with another verb, I think - 'vah khaata hai', 'he eats [/'does eat']'; 'vah hota hai', 'he 'bes' [/'does be']'.