Let’s start learning Urdu by looking at the very first letter in the alphabet - ‘alif’ (Devanagari: अलिफ़ | IPA:  /əlɪf/ | Pronunciation: ).

  • alif
  • अलिफ़

Above: The letter ‘alif’

‘alif’ is a very versatile letter. It is used in a few different ways to denote different vowel sounds. Let’s start with the basics:

1.1: ‘alif’

This is the letter - 'alif' ( Devanagri: अलिफ़ | IPA: /əlɪf/ | Pronunciation:    ) .

 ‘alif’ always acts as a vowel.

'alif' denotes short-vowel sounds as well as long-vowel sounds. We
begin with alif as a long-vowel ‘aa’.



The Animation Viewers on this site have additional controls that you can use to watch videos, listen to audio related to the letter and more. Use them to improve your understanding of the letter.

1.2: ‘alif madd’

‘alif’ gives the long-vowel sound of ‘aa’ (आ | ) as in “army”, “art” or as in the Hindi/Urdu words - “प”, “गे” etc.

This is done by placing a symbol called madd  (मद | IPA: /məd̪/ | ) above the ‘alif’.

Above: The madd  symbol.


In order to depict the long-vowel ‘aa’ sound, the madd is used only when the ‘alif’ appears in the beginning of a word.

However, when ‘alif’ appears in the middle or at the end of a word, it always depicts the ‘aa’ sound and the madd is not used.

Well, congratulations! You just completed the first chapter of this journey.

Once again, ‘alif’ is a very versatile letter and is used to denote a few other sounds in addition to the two we’ve just seen. Let’s stick with ‘aa’ for now and move on to our first consonants. Shall we?