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what's the difference between श and ष ?

to me both श and ष sound like "sha"

someone said न and ण are usually the same in spoken Hindi, if it's another case like that it'd make sense?

or is there a real difference in ष and श that i'm not hearing?

what do they transliterate to in Urdu? i'd imagine both are َش or is one something else? [i have Urdu speaking friends i can Skype]

February 23, 2020



A lot of Hindi speakers today pronounce ष as श and ण as न. This is also true for the audio that this course uses.

The correct pronunciation of both these letters is to curl your tongue backwards (ie, they are retroflex consonants). This is the original Sanskrit pronunciation. However, over time, these letters went out of fashion in Hindustani and were replaced in words with न in ण's case or श/स in ष's case. As a result, they are both almost absent in Urdu and mostly exist in Hindi only in words that are relatively recent borrowings from Sanskrit.
Today, these letters are pronounced as retroflex in Hindi only by people who are exposed to Sanskrit or other Indian languages that still use their original pronunciations and others pronounce them as न and श.

AFAIK Urdu does not have unique characters for either ण or ष. So, ण would be written the same as न and ष the same as श.

Note: The sound for ण also occurs in Hindi when an anusvaar (ं) occurs before the letters ट, ठ, ड or ढ (as in ठंडा - 'cold' which is equivalent to ठण्डा). However, in this situation, it is naturally pronounced correctly.


thanks! i also had this doubt


They sound same, the difference actually is placement of tongue while speaking both the 'sha' With ष you roll and place your tounge's tip far away from teeth, towards your throat.

While श is spoken with the tip of tounge touching center of roof of your mouth.

And in स, tip of your tounge touches your teeths.


Thanks for asking - this was my question too - I cannot hear a difference

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