Basic Kannada for Travelers

ಕನ್ನಡ ವ್ಯಾಕರಣ

This is a brief introduction to Kannada, a south Indian language spoken in the Karnataka state of India. This introduction provides basic instruction about pronunciation and important words and phrases. Kannada is one of the official languages of India, predominantly spoken in the state of Karnataka, including the city of Bangalore. During your stay in Karnataka, the ability to communicate in Kannada will greatly enhance your experience. Even if you do not plan on studying the language in-dept, we strongly suggest learning and using the basic greetings and phrases. The locals will greatly appreciate your efforts and will be all the more welcoming to you during your stay.


Kannada is written in the Kannada script, which is also used to write some of the other native languages of Karnataka: Tulu, Kodava, Takk, and Konkani. The script has forty-nine characters; however different characters can be combined to form compound characters. In this guide we will not use the Kannada script, but a list of the Kannada characters can be found at the end of this document.

Kannada has thirteen vowel sounds:


aa / A

‘u’ as in bud

‘a’ as in father



‘a’ as in play

‘e’ as in hey


ee / I


oo / U

‘y’ as in happy

‘ea’ as in bead

‘oo’ as in good

‘oo’ as in food




au /ou

‘ai’ as in buy / high

‘o’ as in row

‘o’ as in row

‘au’ as in how / pout


‘r’ as in hurting

Kannada has 21 consonants:

b c


‘b’ as in bed

‘s’ as in supper

‘k’ as in kid

‘d’ as in dog


q r

‘p’ as in pig

‘q’ as in quest

‘r’ as in row

‘r’ as in feather



‘ph’ as in phone

‘g’ as in go


‘ss’ as in hiss

‘z’ as in haze

‘j’ as in jello


‘t’ as in top


j k

‘h’ as in help

‘dg’ as in edge

‘c’ as in cat


w x

‘v’ as in victory

‘w’ as in weight

‘cks’ as in kicks

‘z’ as in haze


‘l’ as in love

‘ie’ as in pie

‘ee’ as in flee


‘y’ as in yes



‘m’ as in mother

‘n’ as in nice

There are also two characters that are called yogavaahac, which are part-vowel and part-consonant. They are the anusvara (am) and the visarga (ah).


Hello                     –            Namaskara

How are you?      –            Neevu Chennaagidira

I am fine.             –             Naanu chennagiddene

Fine, thank you.  –            Chennagiddene. Dhanyavaada

Goodbye               –             Hogibitt barthene


What is your name?      –       Nimma hessarenu?

My name is…                  –       Nanna hesaru

Nice to meet you.           –   Nimmannu nodi santhoshavaythu.


Please               –            Dayavit.t.u.

Thank you       –             Vandenegalo

You’re Welcome  –       Tamage suswagatha

Yes                    –            Havdu

No                     –             Illa

Excuse me (getting attention) –    Illinodi

Excuse me (begging pardon)   –   K-shamisi

I’m Sorry        –             Nannindha thappaihu


Mother          –       Amma / taayi

Father            –      Appa / tande

Son                 –       Maga

Daughter       –       magaLu

Elder Brother –     aNNa

Younger Brother  –  Tamma

Elder Sister   –       Akka

Younger Sister  –   Tangi

Grandfather   –      Ajja / taata

Grandmother –      Ajji

Husband        –        ganDa

Wife                –        henDathi

Children        –         makkaLu

Child              –        magu

Food and Drinks

Breakfast     –       Thindi

Lunch           –       Oota

Eggs              –       Motte

Rice                –      Anna

Coffee           –      Kaapi

Water           –      Neeru

Beans           –      huraLikaayi

Potato          –      Aaloo geDDe

Apple           –      sEbu

Orange        –      kittaLe

Vegetables   –     Tarakaarigalu

Salad            –      kOsaMbari

Butter          –      beNNe

Milk              –     Haalu

Sugar            –      Sakkare

Tea                –      Chaa


How much is this?   –     Idhakke yeshtu

I don’t want it.          –     Nanige beda.

Expensive                  –      Dhubaari

Time of Day

Now     –     Iga

Later   –     Amele

Before –     Modalu

Morning  – Beligge

Afternoon   –  Madhyana

Evening   –   Samje

Night     –      Ratri

Useful Words and Phrases

I can’t speak Kannada (well).   –     Nanage Kannada barodilla.

Do you speak English?               –      Nimage English baruththaa?

Help!                                              –      Sahaaya maadi

Look out!                                       –      Jopaana

I don’t understand                       –      Nanage artha vaguthilla

Where is the toilet?                     –       Shouchalaya

Police!                                            –       Arakshaka

I need your help                          –        Nimma sahaya bekagidhe.

I’m lost.                                        –        Nanage daari thappide.

I lost my bag.                              –        Nanna cheela kaledu hoyithu.

I need a doctor                           –        Nanage doctor beku.

Who?                                           –         Yaaru

Where?                                       –         Elli

When?                                         –        Yaavaga

Why?                                           –        Yaake/Eke

What?                                         –         Enu

Which?                                       –         Yaava/yavudu

I don’t know.                            –         Gottilla

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