The word “که” is a particularly important word in Persian grammar. Knowing its different meanings and usages is essential. The easy thing to learn is that it means “that” and “so that”. In practice, however, this word covers a broad area of meanings:
We are already familiar with the word “که” meaning “that”. As it was mentioned, the noun phrase which is going to be explained about by “که” gets a “ی” suffix. The “ی” suffix is no longer an indefinite article in this case.
ایمیلی که فرستادی خالی بود.
کیفِ بزرگی که خریدی گم شد.
The email that you sent was empty.
The big bag you bought was lost.
Look at the examples again. In the first sentence, the explaining phrase (the phrase starting with “که”) is showing to us which email the sentence is exactly talking about. In the second sentence, the phrase starting with “که” is telling us which big bag is being talked about.
There are cases, however, that we want to explain something about the noun phrase, but the noun phrase itself is already known (definite). In such cases, we are not introducing it, but rather just giving some additional information about it. The use of the suffix “ی” is prohibited then.
هیتلر که منظور چرچیل را میدانست، قبول نکرد.
Hitler, who knew Churchill’s intention, didn’t accept.
We also learned that the word “که” can mean “who”. This particular form of the word “که” changes into “کی” in colloquial Persian.
با که حرف میزنی؟
Who are you talking to?
Sometimes, we want to say that an incident happened right after another incident or as an aftermath of it. The easier-to-learn way of saying this is by using one of the following structures:
وقتی تانکها را دیدم، ترسیدم.
وقتی که تانکها را دیدم، ترسیدم.
When I saw the tanks, I panicked.
This, however, is not the most common way for saying this, especially in spoken language. Usually, the word “که” alone is employed to mean “when”.
تانکها را که دیدم، ترسیدم.
When I saw the tanks, I panicked.
This might look strange, especially because of the position of “که” in the sentence. As a general rule, it can be said that “که” follows the noun phrase to which the main stress of the sentence belongs. (If it is the object of the sentence, “که” follows the object marker, as in the above example.) Here are some examples:
زهرا که آمد، با او حرف بزن.
شب که بشود، صبا خودش میترسد و بر میگردد.
آماده که شدی، بگو.
برف که میآید، شهر سفید میشود.
حسین که کارش را تمام کرد، رفتند.
حسین کارش را که تمام کرد، رفت.
پیر که بشوید، میفهمید.
به مشهد که رسیدی، به من زنگ بزن.
باران که بیاید همه عاشق هستند.*
Talk to Zahra when she came.
When the night falls down, Saba will be scared and will come back herself.
Say [it] when you became ready.
The city becomes white when it snows.
They left as soon as Hossein finished his job.
Hossein left as soon as he finished his job.
You [plu.] will understand when you become old.
Call me when you got to Mashhad.
When it rains, everyone is in love.
Again meaning “when”, the word “که” can also come right between two separate sentences:
نزدیکِ ظهر بود که اوّلین بمب را انداختند.
داشتم به تو فکر میکردم که زنگ زدی.
هنوز آتش انقلاب خاموش نشده بود که جنگ شروع شد.
It was near noon when they dropped the first bomb.
I was thinking of you when you called.
The fire of the revolution was still burning (lit.had not been extinguished) when the war started.
The word “که” can be used after a noun phrase to put emphasis on the fact that the sentence is not a general one and is only talking about the mentioned noun phrase.
پول که ندارم، ولی طلا اگر بخواهی دارم.
حسن که مریض است، ولی علی میتواند کمک کند.
محمد که از نمرهها راضی است.
خودت را که نمیتوانی گول بزنی!
I don’t have money, but I do have gold if you want.
Hassan is sick, but Ali can help.
(At least) Mohammad is happy with the marks.
You can’t fool yourself! (even if you fool others)
The word “که” can be used to express surprise. Nothing particular about the noun phrase preceding it is conveyed in this usage. In fact, “که” in this usage can usually come at the end of the sentence, after the verb itself.
باز که آمدی!
هنوز اینجایی که!
این که کار نمیکند!
سلام، تو که گفته بودی نمیآیی!
You came again! (you weren’t supposed to come.)
You are still here! (You aren’t supposed to be.)
[but] this doesn’t work! (It was supposed to work.)
Hi, [but] you had said you won’t come!
“که” can come to simply suggest the obviousness of a sentence.
تفنگ که داری؟
سیگار که نمیکشی؟
این که معلوم است!
من که گفتم تشنهام! چرا آب نیاوردی؟
فقط گفتم نمیتوانم. دروغ نگفتم که!
You do have a gun, don’t you?
You don’t smoke cigarettes, do you?
[but] this is obvious!
[but] I told you I’m thirsty! Why didn’t you bring [some] water?
I only said I couldn’t (lit. can’t). I didn’t lie!
The word “که” used between two sentences can mean “that”.
فهمیدم که هیچکس خبر ندارد.
میدانم که میآیی.
I found out that nobody is informed.
I know that you will come.
It can also come in this way as a synonym of “تا”, to mean “so that”.
بلند حرف میزنم که پدربزرگ هم بشنود.
امیر درس میخواند که بتواند از ایران برود.
I talk loudly so that grandfather hears [me] as well.