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Indian English: “reach”

Overheard (frequently) in India:

“When will we be there?” “We will reach in a few hours.”

Eh? In America, the verb “to reach” always takes an object. “We will reach our destination in a few hours”. Is this usage limited to the subcontinent, or is it used in the UK as well?

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My guess is it is a feature of Indian English. It's certainly not British English.

dave January 29, 2005, 9:28pm

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Let me guess, you're frequently in India?

Maybe they think reach means arrive.

lysdexia January 30, 2005, 6:02pm

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I can think of at least one case in which American English speakers don't use an object with the verb "reach":

"Reach over and I'll hand you your coffee."
"I'm trying, but I can't reach."

In the second quote, there's an implied object (as if it said "...I can't reach it"), but in the first, there appears to truly be no object.

I remember hearing, one day at work, a manager from India use "reach" in the way you describe. I though at first it was just imperfect English, but apparently it's a perfectly acceptable construction in the English spoken in India.

speedwell2 January 31, 2005, 4:13am

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You are allowed to say, "We will reach our destination (soon/in a bit/ in 3 hours/etc)"

The Indian usage is just poor English.

"When will we be there?"
"We will reach (it) in a few hours." is better, but still off.

"How long until we get to Delhi?"

"We'll reach it in an hour." Is fine, it's just not all that commonly used since there are other ways to say the same thing.

Guy January 31, 2005, 8:35pm

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"The Indian usage is just poor English."

No, not poor English. Just Indian English.

dave February 1, 2005, 12:28am

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I wander if it started with someone "directly" translating the word from Hindi or Urdu language and/or dialect. Just a thought.

Unggit Tjitradjaja February 2, 2005, 7:08am

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I don't know if it helps, but West Indian speakers of English also use the phrase "We will reach in a few hours".

I'm sure this phrase is found in other corners of the world as well.

rayinasia February 2, 2005, 10:18am

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"Reach" can be both intransitive (to extend, stretch) and transitive (to grasp for) in English. Most reliable dictionaries will include both senses.

winner February 4, 2005, 7:36am

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I think it may be derived from old English. For example, there are plenty of phrases and words that seem anitquated but are used by West Indians and are completely proper. Usage of the word "vex" comes to mind. :-) West Indians frequently use "reach" in place of "arrive" as in "Don't worry, we will soon reach."

Luis February 17, 2005, 2:55am

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Here in the Turks 7 Caicos Islands, British West Indies, in the Caribbean, people use "reach" to mean "arrive." Also, with the local grammar of sorts, it is usually spoken of in past tense like this: "I done already reach." If I say "No, he didn't come here yet," old people will always "correct" me and say "You ain't say that... you say 'No, he ain't done already reach.'"

Pretty ungrammatical to standard English but it sure gets the point across!

indonicaicosian February 20, 2005, 1:50pm

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It is indeed a literal translation. Pace Dave, I have no trouble calling such usages "incorrect." They stem mainly from unfamiliarity with prepositions, which Hindi usually avoids.

The verb "pahunchna" in Hindi is "to arrive at." A similar elision occurs with the verb "milna," or "to be available"; you may have heard people "availing lunch" when they're actually availing <i>themselves of</i> lunch.

Two differences I wouldn't call "incorrect" but which you'd never hear in American English:

1) "to gift." Hindi has this verb too. Could its appearance in British English be a back formation?

2) In Hindi, the world "means" works backwards, so Indians would likely say " 'reach' means 'milna' " rather than the other way around.

I could rant for hours, but...

mdaniels March 13, 2005, 1:17pm

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