Indian English and "kindly"

You will kindly answer this question that I have.

In most correspondence I get from Indians (Asian, not Native American), the word “kindly” is always included as a replacement for “please” in instructions or as a preface for requests.

American English: “If you have any questions, please contact me.”
Indian English: “If you have any questions, kindly contact me.” or “Kindly contact me if you have any questions.”

I;ve even seen “Please kindly”, as if “kindly” alone wwasn’t polite enough.

I have also noticed “kindly” used even in a context where American English speakers wouldn’t use a formal “please”, like “Kindly look both ways before you cross the street” or “The taxi drive kindly drove me to the hotel.” I’m still clueless as to what “kindly do the needful” means.

What are the origins of Indian English speakers’ infatuation with “kindly”?

I reckon there’s a bunch of Indian-isms originating in centuries past that now seem quaint or misplaced to us.

The one I notice is instead of “question” they’ll say “doubt,” as in “I have a doubt.”

Nothing wrong with it at all, the usage just sounds funny if you aren’t used to it.

One that I get a lot at work (we “co-source” with an Indian company) is “kindly do the needful” to accomplish whatever it is that the writer wants done. Sort of jarring the first time or three, but you do indeed get used to it.

I imagine a lot of it is British usage - perhaps highly formal British used in administration - that’s no longer current in England but has remained in use in India.

Excalibre’s right. A lot of Indian eccentricities in speaking stem directly from 300 years of British rule.

We probably drink more tea than the Brits at this point.

Was tea not drunk in India before that?

I came in to comment on ‘kindly do the needful.’ I review incident reports from analysts in India all day and this still jumps out at me every time.

Not Indian, but close enough, my Sri Lankan friend, from an English-speaking family in Colombo, always used to call his watch his “timepiece”.

Reading The Hindu is also good for the odd gem of archaic English usage.


No. The British introduced tea to India from China in the 19th century, after a colonial chappie noticed that the hills in Darjeeling had the ideal climate to grow it. IIRC, all the tea in India came from propagating three plants that were carried on the deck of a ship from Hong Kong, and tended round the clock until they arrived. [/hijack]

Thanks, jjim. I wasn’t sure of the history myself.

Believe it or not, no (or at least, not widely). Large scale tea production and everyday tea drinking across the country is a product of the British tea plantation system- it was all pretty systematic involving lots of experiements with varieites, soils, etc. . The British began the plantations with cuttings from China, though they later discovered native tea plants.

Wikipedia has a good article on Indian English. The trick to remember is that English in India isn’t like the French you learned in high school- it’s a living breathing language that is often used in everyday settings, and as such has evolved on a unique path just like American English.

One of the analysts (from a Caribbean island) in my office always seems to use “kindly”, so I’ve also been wondering about it. The first time I read it in an e-mail, I was a bit confused. I can’t find a recent e-mail from her but I’m going to paraphrase: “Kindly respond to this e-mail if you need additional information.”

I thought to myself: Is she asking me to respond in a “kind” way? Don’t I always? Have I ever responded in an (opposite of kind) way? Then I realized that this was just the way she writes. I guess I just don’t understand what it really means.

“Kindly” is still used, to a certain extent, over here. It just means “please” in a formalised manner. Though in a UK context, it could be seen as a bit sarcastic.

People also write “kind regards” at the end of their letters/emails, which always looks weird to me.

Yes, as Jjimm says, it does come form British usage, but you should be wary of using it to British people, as it has come to have a rather narky, bossy tone over here - not always but sometimes.

The “Indian-English” usages quoted in the OP seem to bear no ill-intent though -just a language-changing thingy.

I didn’t know that thing about the history of tea. More trivia. :slight_smile: Lovely. :slight_smile:

That’s funny! What caught my eye in the title here was the word “kindly”. It’s not common here in my neck of the woods (California) but I have a boss who is older AND a transplant from back east. I swear to Og, he uses that word two or three times in one bloody sentence. All. The. Time. It’s gotten to the point where it’s making me hostile. I’m sure he doesn’t realize he’s doing it, and it sounds just like how the L.A. valley girls insert “like” a bazillion times into a sentence.

I come across a lot of this in emails and letters, but I’ve never actually heard anyone talk like that over here. I’d probably laugh if someone ever told me to ‘kindly to the needful’.

An Indian friend, upon hearing about my then-boyfriend’s father’s death, remarked “I did not know he had expired”. Even my boyfriend found it amusing.

I have several friends from the English speaking Caribbean who use what sound to me like archaic expressions like “I was so vexed”. Then again, some US English terms (gotten) are no longer used in UK English. It underwent an equivalent process to Indian English. Same goes for Latin American Spanish vs Iberian Spanish.

Kind regards,


My 70 year old father uses the word kindly on a regular basis, typically when saying thank you. He’s got it on his answering machine message, “Thank you kindly.” I always knew that most people didn’t use it but was always exposed to it from him. His parents spoke english as a second language after they emmigrated to Ontario (north of Minnesota) from the Ukraine just before WW1. I assume he picked up the usage from a school teacher. I’ll ask if he had any British teachers when he was growing up in the 1940s.

Never heard ‘kindly to the needful’.

Normally, the only time I ever hear this is with old people-shopowners, who tell me that “we thank you kindly” when I purchase something.

As there’s roughly twenty Indians for every Brit, I find this unsurprising. :stuck_out_tongue: