"संतरा एक फल होता है।"
Translation:An orange is a fruit.
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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?
The Dutch royal House of Orange is a legacy of its former Spanish rulers. William of Orange (who went to England) and Willem of Orange (current Dutch king) are branches of that family tree. So on Queen's/King's Day the Dutch people celebrate with much orange-coloured clothing on display!
One assumes the single vowel sound difference was a big clue(!), but it is backed up by Wiktionary:
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....
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.
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.
Hindi strictly speaking doesn't have the फ़ fa sound, it appears in loanwords, since e.g. English and Persian do have that sound. So sometimes the dot will be omitted and it's written फ as you did, and also some speakers will approximate it as 'pha'.
(Just like in loanwords from Hindi to English we make similar approximations with the sounds we have - chutney, jodpur, and kedgeree for example.
होता is the masculine singular habitual form of होना 'to be', so like I might say:
मैं सेब खाता हूँ - I eat apples
we can also say:
सेब अच्छे होते हैं - apples are nice
in both cases the verb (खाता, होता) is in the 'habitual aspect' - because we're not just saying I ate a specific apple, or am eating one, or a certain apple in my hand is nice - but that in general, I habitually eat apples, apples are generally ('habitually' to personify them) nice.
It doesn't translate brilliantly because we don't use 'to be' in the habitual aspect in standard English ('apples be nice') - but just compare it to the same conjugation of a different verb, as above with खाना, and I think it's clearer.
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'.