We begin with some simple verbs with which we can construct some very basic sentences.
Sanskrit has a dual tense which is occasionally used, so one should be familiar with the endings which define it.
The present tense is the easiest to understand.
|Present Tense of the Verb gaccha ‘to go’ (root - gam)|
|gacchāmi - ‘I go’||gacchāvah- ‘we two go’||gacchāmah - ‘we go’|
|gacchasi - ‘you go’||gacchathah - ‘you two go’||gacchatha- ‘you go’|
|gacchati - ‘he/she/it goes’||gacchatah - ‘those two go’||gacchanti - ‘they go’|
Do not worry about learning all this off by heart. You will quickly become disinterested and not get very far. We will now start to compile some simple sentences which will help to learn the language. This will be more interesting than reciting grammatical paradigms.
In order to construct a simple sentence we obviously need a noun. In sanskrit, like most other languages, nouns have case. We will use the first and second cases of the noun nagara ‘city or town’.
नगरः nagarah - 'the town' (as subject of verb)
नगरम् nagaram - 'the town' (as object of verb)
नगर सुन्दर भवति nagar sundar bhavati - 'the town becomes beautiful' (nagar is the subject)
नगरम् गछामि nagaram gacchāmi - 'I go to the town' (nagar is the object)
The normal syntax for sanskrit sentences is subject, object, verb.
When writing sanskrit into roman lettering, it is best to use the standard 'diacritical marks' which have long been used in dictionaries to indicate proper pronunciation. This is to ensure the spelling follows the intended pronunciation. The most important vowel symbols are:
ā - which is a long vowel as in ‘father’
ī - as in ‘cheese’
ū - like ‘choose’
For example, the transliteration of the above two sentences would be as follows:
‘nagar vishāl bhavati’ and ‘nagaram gachhāmi’
You can also have simple sentences without having a verb as in:
सूर्यः सः sūryah sah ‘that is the sun’
With these first simple sentences we have introduced two ‘thematic’ verbs, gaccha ‘go’ and bhava ‘become’. In the next lesson, we will have a closer look at verbs of this type and a typical table of ‘declension’ of the verb.
We have also seen two cases of a noun. We will look more at cases of nouns in lesson 3.
The personal pronoun ‘sah’ (normally meaning ‘he’) has also been introduced. The full paradigm for the nominative and accusative cases are shown in the following table.
|Personal Pronoun Singular - Nominative|
|First Person||Second Person||Third Person|
|aham ‘I’||tvam ‘you’||sah ‘he’||tat ‘it’||sā ‘she’|
|mām ‘me’||tvām ‘you’||tam ‘he’||tat ‘it’||tām ‘she’|
The nominative case represents the subject of the verb, whilst the accusative represents the object.
Back to our simple sentences.
नगरम् गछामी nagaram gacchāmi - 'I go to the town'
नगरम् गच्छसि nagaram gacchasi - 'You go to the town' (singular)
नगरम् गच्छति nagaram gacchati - 'He /she /it goes to the town'
If you want to say specifically ‘she goes to the town’, then add the personal pronoun sā
सा नगरम् गच्छति sā nagaram gacchati - 'She goes to the town'
|Present Tense of the Verb bhav ‘to become’|
|bhavāmi - ‘I become’||bhavāvah - ‘we two become’||bhavāmah - ‘we become’|
|bhavasi - ‘you become’||bhavathah - ‘you two become’||bhavatha - ‘you become’|
|bhavati - ‘he/she/it becomes’||bhavatah - ‘they two become’||bhavanti - ‘they become’|
सुखम् भवामि sukham bhavāmi - 'I become happy' (sukha)
सुखम् भवथः sukham bhavathah - 'You two become happy'
सुखम् भवन्ति sukham bhavanti - 'They become happy'
Now we can introduce च - ch ‘and’
Of course ch ‘and’ is used a little differently in sanskrit. Two items, or actions, are followed by ch, rather than being inserted in between. For example, ‘men and women’ would be ‘men women and’ so to speak.
सा नगरम् गच्छति सुखम् भवति च sā nagaram gacchati sukham bhavati cha - ‘She goes to the town and becomes happy’. Although technically it should probably be written as भवतिश्च whereby the final verb and conjunction are joined according to the rules of ‘sandhi’. More about sandhi (or ‘samdhi’) later.
सूर्य चन्द्र च becomes सूर्य चन्द्रश्च sūrya chandraścha (‘sun and moon’) through sandhi. The important thing to remember is that sanskrit words are pronounced exactly as they are spelt and therefore the spelling can change according to how words change in conjunction with other words. There are strict rules for sandhi, but it is pointless trying to remember them, you will only give yourself a headache. In time you will recognise and understand its usage through experience.
There are two basic types of verb in sanskrit:
Active Voice - parasmaipada (‘for another’)
This type of verb, which we have been using up to this point, is usually used for activity (such as go, come, ask) and where the verb is used with an object. The action is to or for another object. In theory an object is required.
नगरम् अगच्छति nagaram agacchati - 'he comes to the town'
Passive Voice - ātmanepada (‘for the self’)
Normally used when the result of the action goes to the self. The verb does not necessarily require an object.
मृयते mriyate - 'he dies'
|Passive Present Tense of the Verb labh ‘to obtain’|
|labhe - ‘I obtain’||labhāvahe - ‘we (2) obtain’||labhāmahe - ‘we obtain’|
|labhase - ‘you obtain’||labhethe - ‘you (2) obtain’||labhadhve - ‘you (pl) obtain’|
|labhate - ‘he/she obtains’||labhete - ‘those (2) obtain’||labhante - ‘they obtain’|
(adapted from Teach Yourself Sanskrit - Michael Coulson)
There may be some small errors in the sanskrit spelling due to keyboard limitations.
Class I - Root expanded to 'guna' grade
suc - सोचति socati ('he/she grieves')
ji - जयति jayati ('he conquers')
bhu - भवति bhavati ('he becomes')
Class IV - root + ya
nrt - नृत्यति nrtyati ('he dances')
Class VI - root remains the same
likh - लिखति likhati ('he writes')
prcch - पृछति prcchati ('he asks')
Class X - ay added to the root (often 'gunated')
cur - चोरयति corayati ('he robs')
tad - तादयति tādayati ('he beats)
These are causative verbs.
Of the ten classes of sanskrit verbs, the thematic classes are the least complicated. However, there are exeptions to the above rules.
gam - गछति gacchati ('he goes')
is - ईछति icchati ('he desires)
ranj - रज्यति rajyati ('he becomes red')
sic - सिंचति sincati ('he sprinkles')
stha - तिष्थति tiṣtḥati ('he stands')
It is advisable not to try and memorise all of the paradigms. Just become acquainted with the general principles.
These do not have the thematic ‘a’ vowel inserted before the endings. They are more complicated than thematic verbs (above). Again we shall only look at the present active tense to begin.
Class II - 'root' class. Endings added directly to root.
āp - अाप्नोति āpnoti ('he/she obtains')
sru - शृनोति srunoti ('he hears')
Class VII - root plus nasal infix n/na
bhuj - भुनक्ति bhunakti ('he enjoys')
yuj - युनक्ति yunakti ('he joins')
" - युण्जन्ति yunjanti ('they join')
Class VIII - root plus u/o (similar to class V)
kr - करोति karoti ('he does')
tan - तनोति tanoti ('he stretches')
Class IX - root plus nā/nī
grah - गृह्नोति grhnāti ('he seizes')
jna - जानाति jānāti ('he knows')
|Present Tense of the Verb ‘as’ ‘to be'|
|अस्मि asmi - ‘I am’||स्वः svah - ‘we two are’||स्मः smah - ‘we are’|
|असि asi - ‘you are’||स्थः sthah - ‘you two are’||स्थ stha - ‘you are’ (pl)|
|अस्ति asti - ‘he is’||स्तः stah - ‘those two are’||सन्ति santi - ‘they are’|
Formed by adding -ta, -ita, or -na to the unstrengthened root. For each verb only one of these endings may be used. Rules of internal sandhi apply.
सिक्त sikta ('moistened') from sic
दृष्त drsta ('seen') from drs
दुग्ध dugdha ('milked') from duh
Samprasarana occurs (ie a semi-vowel becomes a vowel and vice versa).
ऊक्त ukta ('spoken') from vac
ईष्ठ ista ('sacrificed') from yaj
पृष्ठ prsta ('asked') from pracch
Generally the structure of words change according to the changes in pronunciation that facilitate ease of speech.
Formed by adding -ita. Includes class 10 & causatives, ie those which make their present stem with -aya-
चोरित corita ('stolen') from cur
पीदित pidita ('afflicted') from pid
मरित marita ('killed') from mr
Some other verbs also make their past passive participles in -ita
लिखित likhita ('written') from likh
Formed by adding -na. Usually from roots ending in vowel.
म्लन mlana ('withered') from mlai
क्षिन ksina ('destroyed') from ksi
These express 'having ...' or 'after having ...'
In -tva, formed by substituting -ta or -na of past participle
ऊक्त्व uktva 'after saying'
दृष्त्व drstva 'after seeing'
-tva is not used with prefixed compounds.
-ya is used with prefixed compounds.
संदृष्य samdrsya 'after seeing'
अगम्य agamya 'after coming'
Roots ending in short vowel add -tya
अगत्य agatya 'after coming'
अजित्य ajitya 'after not having been conquered'
derivative verbs in -ayati
past participle in -ita
simple absolutive in -ayitva
करयित्व karayitva 'having caused to do'
भवयित्व bhavayitva 'having caused to be'
अगमय्य agamayya 'having caused to come'
The most common verbal prefixes and their primary meanings (many of the verbs here are past participles):
a - to, unto, at
eg अविक्षत avikshat - ‘whole, entire, not torn’ (root - kshat ‘torn, wounded’)
abhi - to, unto, against (often forcefully)
eg अभिघात: abhighātah - ‘striking, beating’ (root - ghāt ‘strike, kill, destroy’)
adhi - above, over, on, onto
eg अधिरोहः adhirohah - ‘mounting, ascending’
antar - between, among, within
eg अंतर्गत antargata - ‘gone into, between’ (root - gata ‘gone’)
anu - after, along, following, imitating
eg अनुगत anugata - ‘gone after, followed’ (root - gata ‘gone’)
apa - away, forth, off
eg अपगति: apagatih - ‘bad fate, misfortune’ (root - gata ‘gone’)
ati - across, beyond, past, over, to excess
eg अतिक्रमः atikramah - ‘travelled across/over’ (root - kram ‘move along’)
ava - down, off
eg अवक्रांति avakrānti - ‘descent’ (root - krānti ‘going, proceeding’)
du - bad, difficult, adverse (normally becomes dus or dur)
eg दुष्क्रत dushkrt - ‘ill-doing, misdeed’ (root - kr ‘do’)
ni - in, down, into
eg निक्षिप्त nikshipta - ‘thrown down, abandoned’ (root - kship ‘throw’)
nis - out, forth (also becomes nir)
eg निष्क्रमः niskramah - ‘going out, departing’ (root - kram ‘move along’)
para - away, forth, distant
eg पराक्रमः parākramah - ‘courage, marching against’ (root - kram ‘move along’)
pari - around, about
eg परिक्रमः parikramah - ‘roaming around/about’ (root - kram ‘move along’)
pra - forward, onward, forth
eg प्रख्यात prakhyāta - ‘famous, celebrated’ (root - khyāt ‘proclaimed’)
prati - against, reverse
eg प्रतिपक्षित pratipakshita - ‘contradicted’ (root - paksh ‘to side with’)
sam - with, together, along with
eg संतुष्त samtushta - ‘contented with’ (root - tush ‘to be contented’)
su - good, well
eg सुक्रत sukrt - ‘well-done’ (root - kr ‘do’)
ud - up, out, above
eg उद्गच्छति udgacchati - ‘move above’ (root - gam ‘to go’)
upa - to, toward
eg उपदिशति upadishati - ‘to teach’ (root - dish ‘to point out’)
vi - away, separated, apart
eg विक्षत vikshat - ‘torn asunder, wounded’ (root - kshat ‘torn, wounded’)
There are also many verbs which have two or more prefixes.