"Achha" (pronounced ah-cha) is a versatile word that you’ll hear used often and in a variety of different ways. It takes on a number of meanings, depending on the intonation it’s given and where it’s positioned in a sentence. If you only learn one word of Hindi, make sure it’s this one!
In testament to the word's popularity, accha now appears in the Oxford dictionary. Accha also appears in, and is used in, the Urdu language in a similar manner. This is because Hindi and Urdu have the same origins, both being derived from Sanskrit.
This is the literal meaning of the word "achha". It’s used in a similar way as the word "good" is used in English. For example, when asked how you’re feeling, you could reply “bahut achha hai” to convey that you’re feeling very good. Achha is also used in a similar context to indicate that something is good. “Yeh kitab achha hai” (This book is good).
Surprise -- Oh? Really?
When expressed in a tone of voice that rises sharply at the end, achha can be used as a statement of surprise. “My phone got stolen.” “Achha?” (Oh? Really?).
As you can imagine, it's very important to pay attention to the intonation of whoever is speaking, so as to understand the right meaning of the word achha. It would be terrible to mistakenly think that someone was replying "good" in response to a phone being stolen, when in fact they were expressing surprise!
Acknowledgement -- I See, I Understand
When achha is said in a neutral tone at intervals during a conversation, it’s a way of acknowledging what the other person is saying. “I’m late for work today because I had so many problems along the way”. “Achha”. “Firstly, I left my wallet at home.” “Achha”. “After I went home and got it, I missed my train”. “Achha”.
Agreement -- Okay
When achha is repeated in quick succession during a conversation, it means that the person is agreeing with what’s being said. In this situation, "achha" sounds more like “achhchhachha”. “I’’ll be in the city next week and we should catch up. How about we go to dinner and see a movie? I can meet you at 7 p.m.” “Achhchhachha” (Okay, okay).
Note that Indians have a habit of repeating words to add emphasis to them. More often than not, when okay is said in agreement to something, it will be said not once but two or three times in a row! You can add a head wobble for further agreement and effect.
Question -- Listen up
You’ll also hear achha said in a rising tone of voice at the start of a sentence as a way of attracting someone’s attention, particularly when a question is to follow or some information is being sought. “Achha, so tell me…” (Listen up, tell me…).
Exclamation -- Oh! Well, Well!
In addition, achha can be used at the beginning of a sentence in a falling tone of voice as a sign of exclamation and reproof. “Achha! You’re still sleeping.” (Oh! You’re still sleeping, you should be out of bed by now). “Achha! Today’s your birthday”. (Well, well! Today’s your birthday, why didn’t you say so).