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Sanskrit Guide

learnsanskrit.org
November 25, 2012
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About
learnsanskrit.org
November 25, 2012
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Sanskrit
Seek Govinda, seek Govinda seek Govinda, you fool!
For when you've come to your final hour, grammar will not save you.
[1]
Sanskrit is a language of many faces. At one moment, it is the millennia-old language of the
authorless Vedas and all the texts in their tradition. At another, it is the supple verses of
Kalidasa and Bilhana, or the intricate puzzle boxes of Magha and Bharavi. And in between are
its meditations on nearly every part of human life: existence, reality, religion, love, duty,
marriage, war, sex, death, violence, laughter, beauty, perception, nature, anatomy, urbanity,
ritual, desire, food, purpose, meaning, language, and many more. At once, it is primordial and
strikingly modern.
So it is appropriate that Sanskrit itself has many names. It was just called "the language" once,
but this plain name gave way to loftier ones, like "perfected speech" and "the language of the
gods." "Sanskrit" is just one of these many names. The word has been translated in dozens of
ways, like "perfected" or "perfectly made" or "put together" or just "assembled." All of these
meanings are part of the word "Sanskrit."
And lurking in the word "Sanskrit" is the notion of something unnatural. For although
Sanskrit spent more than a thousand years as a fluid native language, it "froze" in the 5th
century BCE when the grammarian Panini formalized it. He described Sanskrit so
comprehensively that it has remained nearly the same for more than two thousand years. To
him, Sanskrit was just "the language" spoken by the learned men of his time. But to those that
followed him, Sanskrit was the "perfected" language forever protected from the fluidity of
human life.
When Sanskrit was formalized in this way, it lost some of the vitality that we find in other
languages. But in exchange, it became a timeless and placeless language unlike any other. It
speaks from a world that has long disappeared from the earth. By learning Sanskrit, we can
open our ears to that world and let some of its voices be heard once more.
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The Guide
Learning Sanskrit
This guide tries to make Sanskrit as easy, simple, and intuitive as possible. To understand
this approach, we should start from the beginning.
The hard way
When Panini set out to describe Sanskrit comprehensively, he formalized the language into
four thousand rules, known together as the Ashtadhyayi. The text is a complex algebraic
system with meta-rules, exceptions, counter-exceptions, and many other technical devices.
Together they form a complete algorithmic machine, with basic "chunks" of language for its
raw material and complete Sanskrit sentences for its results.
But although the Ashtadhyayi is clean and efficient, Sanskrit is not. It has plenty of
complicated forms, rare idioms, redundant phrases, and ambiguities. These things are
inherent to all natural languages. But they can make mastering Sanskrit a long and difficult
process.
Still, it is possible to master the language. Sanskrit writers had no choice but to do so. They
wrote for highly educated audiences who knew Sanskrit already, and in order to be taken
seriously, they had to have total mastery of the language. And the best way to gain that
mastery was to study the Ashtadhyayi in detail.
But if your goal is just to read Sanskrit texts, this approach is slow and wasteful. It's like
building a skyscraper from the top down.
The easy way
Today, most people who learn Sanskrit do not use the Ashtadhyayi. These days, there are
dozens of books and courses available, and to some extent, they all try to make it easier to
learn to read Sanskrit texts. But surprisingly, many of these resources have some of the same
problems as the Ashtadhyayi:

They assume a strong knowledge of grammar or linguistics.

They use unfamiliar technical terms when simpler terms are available.

They teach concepts in an unintuitive or sub-optimal order.

They illustrate patterns, but not always clearly.

They focus on Sanskrit by itself.

They teach Sanskrit grammar instead of Sanskrit itself.


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To some extent, each of these problems is unavoidable. But it is possible to lessen their effects
and make them less difficult. That is what this guide sets out to do:

The guide assumes almost no background knowledge. If you understand English,


you know enough to use this guide.

Wherever possible, the guide uses simple English terms to describe concepts. Many
of these concepts come with several examples.

The guide teaches the common and powerful parts of Sanskrit early on. Each of the
early lessons has a direct and significant impact on your ability to learn Sanskrit.

The guide explicitly identifies patterns wherever possible.

The guide has optional content of all kinds. Digressions, extra lessons, and a large
number of footnotes give you a break from Sanskrit while still connecting Sanskrit to a
larger universe of ideas and concepts.

The guide tries to treat Sanskrit as as a language, not a rule book. Many lessons
have examples from real Sanskrit texts to connect the material to something real and
illustrate Sanskrit concepts in an authentic context.
In this guide
In this guide, we will study the basic and intermediate parts of Sanskrit and learn enough of
the language to read texts like the Bhagavad Gita and the works of the poet Kalidasa. In the
future, this guide might also discuss the more advanced parts of Sanskrit and focus on more
difficult texts, like commentary and technical literature. In either case, the guide provides a
strong Sanskrit foundation that you can extend however you please.
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End matter
Footnotes
1.
^ Bhaja Govindam verse 1. This devotional song is attributed to the sage Adi Shankara.
The original text and a translation can be found here.
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Sounds
learnsanskrit.org
November 25, 2012
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a and
Almost any language resource will start by describing its language's sounds. This guide will do
the same. But unlike most other languages, Sanskrit requires total mastery of its different
sounds. They shift, blend, and transform constantly, and unless you are very familiar with
them, Sanskrit will be difficult to understand.
Fortunately, the Sanskrit sound system is easy to master. It has remained nearly the same for
thousands of years, and we know almost exactly how Sanskrit once sounded.
a
Let's start with the very first sound in the Sanskrit alphabet. It is a fundamental sound that we
can produce effortlessly:
When you produce this sound, let your breath flow cleanly through your mouth, without any
breaks or stops. Sounds produced in this way are called vowels.
As you learn the Sanskrit sounds, study the recordings carefully and consult the
knowledgeable people around you. Use the English approximations as a last resort.

To get the second sound of the alphabet, we make a twice as long as it was before. The sound
of the vowel changes slightly:
a is called short because it is not as long as . is called long because it is longer than a. As
you pronounce these vowels, try to make exactly twice as long as a.
a
"u" in "but"

"a" in "father"
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Blended sounds
Background
Some languages, such as English, have writing systems that do not match the sounds of the
language well. For example, the English word "enough" does not have a "g" sound, but a "g" is
added anyway.
Other languages, such as Spanish or Italian, have writing systems that match the sounds of the
language very well. Even if you do not know either of these languages, you can probably
pronounce words like plaza or numero fairly well.
But Sanskrit goes one step further. In almost every text, written Sanskrit is a perfect record of
the sounds that appear in spoken Sanskrit.
This might be confusing. Let's see some examples.
Examples
Here are two simple Sanskrit sentences:

blya ha
He speaks for the boy.
H
s pnoti
She obtains.
Try reading the first sentence out loud ten times.
As you might have noticed, it is tiresome to keep stopping after blya and keep starting again
at ha. That pause is difficult to pronounce, and it takes too much extra time. Because of these
pauses, speaking Sanskrit can feel hard and slow.
The earliest Sanskrit speakers solved this problemby blending words together. Blended words
are easier to say, and it takes much less time to say them. In blya ha, for example, it is so
much easier to blend a and into blyha.
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This is how Sanskrit is usually written down, too. Even if two words are supposed to be
separate, they are blended wherever possible:

blya ha blyha
He spoke for the boy.
H H
s pnoti spnoti
She obtains.
In the wild
This blending occurs almost everywhere. Try to blend the words in the sentences below:

*
pram eva avaiyate

~ 7
na anuocanti pait
~5 4 ~~U
nityaabdena atra anityatvasya abhva
These sentences are all from real Sanskrit texts, like the Upanishads:
( U

) *
(prasya pram dya) pramevvaiyate
(Taking the full from the full,) the full itself remains.
a Upaniad
the Bhagavad Gita:
(

~ 7
(gatsn agatsca) nnuocanti pait
The learned do not grieve (for the dead or the living).
Bhagavad Gita 1.11
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and technical works, like this logical treatise from the 6th century:
~5 4~~U ( )
nityaabdentrnityatvasybhva (ucyate)
By the word "permanent" here (is meant) the absence of impermanence.
Nyyapravea 2.3
So even though blending comes from spoken Sanskrit, it can appear in written Sanskrit as well.
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Simple Vowels
Sounds and letters
When most people think of written Sanskrit, they think of Devanagari:
~ ~

May our studies be glorious.


Upanishads (various)
But although Devanagari is standard now, it wasn't always. Historically, every Indian script
has been used to write Sanskrit:








This fact is deeply connected to the Sanskrit tradition, which has always valued speech over
writing. Even when writing was abundant and widely known, the Vedas and other important
texts were learned from the mouth of a teacher and memorized so that they could be taught
later on. And although it is weaker now, this tradition has survived to the present day. This
emphasis on speech over writing helps to explain why words are blended in so many Sanskrit
texts.
But it also leads to a more practical matter. If Sanskrit has no script of its own, we can choose
whatever script we like.
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Devanagari is an obvious choice. But Devanagari takes some time to learn, especially if you
have never learned another Indian script. Moreover, Devanagari was not built for Sanskrit,
and it can be awkward and clumsy when used to write it.
Instead, we could use romanized Sanskrit. It is almost as common as Devanagari, and it was
built to be easy to learn:
tejasvi nvadhtamastu
As a compromise, this guide will use romanized Sanskrit and switch to Devanagari over time.
With this approach, we can spend less time on reading and writing and more time on Sanskrit.
And speaking of Sanskrit, let us continue with the alphabet.
Seven vowels
Four of these vowels have English counterparts:
Three do not:
is extremely rare. Most texts do not have it, and it does not have a long form. Generally, you
can pronounce it however you like.
Short and long
We have studied 9 vowels so far. Of these, five are short:
and four are long:
i
"i" in "bit"

"ee" in "teeth"
u
"u" in "put"

"oo" in "mood"

(no match)

(no match)
(no match)
a i u

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Together, these nine vowels are called simple vowels.
Blending simple vowels
The simple vowels are easy to blend:

blya ha blyha
He spoke for the boy.
H H
s pnoti spnoti
She obtains.
= =
gacchati vara gacchatvara
The lord goes.
=

gacchati madhu udakam gacchati madhdakam


He goes to the sweet water.
In these sentences, the vowels that blend resemble each other. blends with , i blends with ,
u blends with u, and so on. In each case, the vowels are roughly the same, although they might
have different lengths.
Let's call such vowels similar. For example, is similar to and , but it is not similar to u.
In the wild
Try to blend the words in the phrases below:
F~
na anyadasti iti
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ea tu uddeata
These phrases are from the Bhagavad Gita:
F~
nnyadastti
(The unwise, who delight in the letter of the Vedas and proclaim) "there is
nothing else",
Bhagavad Gita 2.42

ea tddeata
(What I have declared) is just an example (of my many splendors.)
Bhagavad Gita 10.40
These two blends are common all throughout Sanskrit literature.
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Compound Vowels
Just as simple tin and copper can combine to make bronze, two vowels can combine to make a
compound vowel.
Compound vowels vowels are a crucial part of Sanskrit and are used in simple but powerful
ways. But for now, let us just pronounce them.
The vowels
Sanskrit has four compound vowels. Each is a long vowel. And each is made by a different
combination.
Since the compound vowels are combinations of two vowels, they are similar to nothing.
a/ + simple vowel
Consider the combinations a + i and a + u. These combine in an obvious way:
a + i ai
a + u au
But it can be tiresome to keep these two sounds separate. So, the early Sanskrit speakers
blended the two sounds into something a little easier:
The other combinations (a, i, , a, u, ) blend in the same way.
As you pronounce e and o, try to make the sound "flat" and constant. If you are a native
English speaker, this can be hard; English "e" sounds like Sanskrit ei and English "o" sounds
like Sanskrit ou.
For now, let's ignore combinations with and .
a/ + compound vowel
Consider the combinations a + e and a + o. These combinations are not obvious. But if we
remember that e comes from a + i and that o comes from a + u, they become easy:
a + ai i
e
"a" in "mane"
o
"o" in "go"
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a + au u
But it can be tiresome to spend so much time pronouncing a vowel. So, the early Sanskrit
speakers made the sound a little shorter:
The other combinations (e, o) blend in the same way.
Can we combine ai and au with anything? We can try:
a + ai i
a + au u
But they shorten back to ai and au, with no changes. The other combinations (+ai, +au) do
the same.
As you pronounce ai and au, try to make the "a" part of ai and au sound just like the vowel a.
The shorter it is, the better.
Blending compound vowels
When two vowels are similar, they blend easily:

blya ha blyha
He spoke for the boy.
= =
gacchati vara gacchatvara
The lord goes.
And if they are not similar, they still blend easily. a and combine like they do above:
= =
s icchati secchati
She wants.
ai
"i" in "fight"
au
"ow" in "cow"
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U

tasya udakam tasyodakam


his water
U

blasya odanam blasyaudanam


the boy's rice
U

tasya aivaryam tasyaivaryam


his power
In the last example, note that a + ai combine with no change. Also, remember that nothing is
similar to a compound vowel.
In the wild
Try to blend the words in the phrases below:
*

paya etm
~

hatv etn
~
sakh iti matv

ca oadh
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na asad sn na u sad st
These words blend as you would expect:
*

payaitm
Look at this (army of the Pandavas, O master).
Bhagavad Gita 1.3
~

hatvaitn
Having killed them,
Bhagavad Gita 1.36
~
sakheti matv
Thinking (of you) as a friend,
Bhagavad Gita 11.41

cauadh
And (I nourish all) the plants.
Bhagavad Gita 15.13

nsad sn no sad st
Then there was neither nothing nor anything.
Nsadya Skta
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Semivowels
How do two vowels blend together? If they are similar, they become long:

blya ha blyha
He spoke for the boy.
If they are not similar, the blend depends on the first vowel. a and , for example, combine to
create compound vowels:
= =
s icchati secchati
She wants.
But there are other combinations that are more puzzling:
=
gacchati ava
The horse goes.

~
sdhu ste
He sits well.
To blend the vowels in these sentences, we need a new kind of letter.
Semivowels
Consider the combinations i + a and u + a. These combine in an obvious way:
i + a ia
u + a ua
It can be tiresome to keep these two sounds separate. But these sounds do not blend easily.
They fight for space, like two wrestlers in the ring. And only one of them can remain.
Instead of blending, one of the sounds collapses and becomes shorter. Wherever possible, the
first sound is the one that shortens:
i + a ya
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u + a va
These shortened vowels are called semivowels. And apart from a and , every vowel has one:
Since semivowels can only exist around other vowels, they are all listed with the vowel a. As
you pronounce these letters, keep them as short as possible.
Blending vowels
When vowels cannot blend or combine, one of them becomes a semivowel:
= =~

gacchati ava gacchaty ava


The horse goes.

~ 7

~
sdhu ste sdhv ste
He sits well.
With compound vowels
This applies to compound vowels, too. We just have to remember where they come from. For
example, au comes from a + a + u, or u. So, we get:
= =

=
avau icchati avu icchati avv icchati
He wants the two horses.
In the wild
Try to blend the words in the phrases below:

bhavati iti anuuruma


na tu eva aha jtu na sam


ya
"y" in "yellow"
ra
(no match)
la
"l" in "loose"
va
"v" in "vase"
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~

tejasvi nau adhtam astu


*~
yadi api ete na payanti
These words blend as you would expect:
~

bhavatty anuuruma
(They dwell eternally in hell) so we have heard.
Bhagavad Gita 1.44
~

na tv evha jtu nsam


Never was I ever not.
Bhagavad Gita 2.12
~

tejasvi nv adhtam astu


May our studies be glorious.
Upanishads (various)
0

*~
yady apy ete na payanti
But even if they do not see,
Bhagavad Gita 1.38
Other sounds
We can now describe how the Sanskrit vowels blend and interact. This knowledge is highly
useful and will be especially important later on.
But there are still many other sounds to consider. Let's take a break from the vowels and see
what some of these sounds are. These sounds are much simpler, and they will be much easier
to learn.
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Stops and Nasals
Other sounds
In the Vedic tradition, the Vedas are divine and "otherworldly."
[1]
And as the language of the
Vedas, Sanskrit was seen this way, too. As a result, some saw Sanskrit as a metaphor for a
deeper divine truth. Thus Krishna says:
Of sounds I am a. Of compounds I am the dual.
I alone am unending time, the Founder facing every side.
Bhagavad Gita 10.33
To understand the metaphor, we must think about the vowel a. It is a simple and effortless
sound, and it is the sound we make when we breathe out. So when seen in this way, a is the
basis of all speech.
But we can take that metaphor and apply it to something more practical.
Vowels and semivowels
Picture the flow of air that makes the vowel a. It starts in the lungs, moves through the throat,
and flows cleanly through the mouth, like a river flowing straight.
By changing the shape of this flow, we change the sound of the vowel. This is what the tongue
does. It creates simple vowels like i and . And if we change from one flow to another, we get
the compound vowels, like ai and au.
By squeezing this flow tight, we change the sound again. This creates the semivowels, like ya
and va. Although the flow of air is pressed tight, it still flows cleanly through the mouth, with
no breaks or obstacles.
But we can alter this flow in more drastic ways.
Stops and nasals
Try pronouncing the vowel a. While pronouncing the vowel, stop the flow of air entirely, then
quickly let it flow again. This produces sounds like ka and ta and pa. We can call such sounds
stops, since they are made when the air flow stops.
Once more, try pronouncing the vowel a. While pronouncing the vowel, stop the flow of air
entirely then redirect it through your nose. Then let the air flow normally. This produces
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sounds like na and ma. We can call such sounds nasals, since they are made with help from
the nasal cavity.
Let us study these stops and nasals. They are much simpler than the vowels, so they will take
much less time.
But you might be wondering: do simple sounds like ka and na really need so much
introduction? Not quite. But by learning to become aware of how sounds are formed and why
they sound the way they do, you will have less trouble learning Sanskrit.
Stopping the flow of air
The mouth is a large cavern with a long roof. We can stop the flow of air at many points.
Sanskrit uses five of these points, and you can see them below:
In Sanskrit, the flow of air is stopped only in these five places.
These five points are:

The soft palate

The hard palate

The hard bump on the roof of the mouth

The base of the teeth


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The lips
Together, we can call these places points of sound. These five are used to create the stops and
nasals:
Soft palate
We start at the soft palate, at the back of the mouth:
Hard palate
Moving forward, we reach the hard palate:
ca looks and sounds similar to the English "ch" sound. But the two are distinct. The English
"ch" is pronounced near the teeth. ca is pronounced much further back. Getting this sound
right can take some practice.
Hard bump
Further still, we reach the hard bump on the roof of the mouth:
For convenience, let us say that these sounds are retroflexed. This word evokes a tongue that
has bent ("flex") backward ("retro") to produce the sound.
Retroflexed sounds do not exist in English. If you have trouble pronouncing them, try curling
your tongue further back.
Base of the teeth
A little further, we reach the base of the teeth:
ka
"k" in "skill"
a
"ng" in "lung"
ca
(no match)
a
(no match)
a
(no match)
a
(no match)
ta
"t" in "thumb"
na
"n" in "nose"
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This is the base of the teeth, not the tip. At the tip, you get the English "th". At the base, you
get the Sanskrit ta. The difference is small but still noticeable.
Lips
And finally, we reach the lips:
Blending stops and nasals
We have seen that vowels blend with each other in several ways. But stops and nasals are
much simpler.
Here are a few simple sentences:

tat na syam
That is not a mouth.

r nara
The king is a man.
Try reading the first sentence out loud ten times.
As you might have noticed, it is tiresome to shift fromt to n when pronouncing tat na. Because
of clustered sounds like these, speaking Sanskrit can feel hard and slow.
But as you might have guessed, the earliest Sanskrit speakers solved this problem by blending
stops and nasals together. Whenever a stop is in front of a nasal, it becomes nasal, too:

tat na syam tan nsyam


That is not a mouth.
pa
"p" in "spill"
ma
"m" in "mill"
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When a stop becomes nasal like this, it keeps its point of pronunciation. It is like a diamond
dropped in the mud; it may be dirty, but it is still a gem:

r nara r nara
The king is a man.
Still, too much blending can be a bad thing. Letters help to make one word distinct from
another. This is the main job of the stop letters. So, stops only blend between words, not
inside them.
In the wild
Try to blend the words in the phrases below:
H

tasmt na arh vaya hantum

yac chreya syt nicita brhi tat me


~~

tvatprasdt may acyuta


These phrases are from the Bhagavad Gita:
H

tasmn nrh vaya hantum


Thus it is not right that we kill
Bhagavad Gita 1.37

yac chreya syn nicita brhi tan me


Truly, tell me that which would be best.
Bhagavad Gita 2.7
~~

tvatprasdn maycyuta
My (delusion is gone, and I've come to wisdom,) by your favor, O Krishna.
Bhagavad Gita 18.73
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Voice and Aspiration
The stop letters are simple sounds produced in a simple way:
But as with many things in life, these letters become more interesting when they become more
complex. For one, we can make a stop voiced:
or unvoiced, like ka. These letters are in English, too. You can feel the difference between these
two letters by touching your windpipe while you produce them.
But Sanskrit complicates the stops letters in a second way. Recall that a stop is produced when
the flow of air stops then quickly resumes. In ka, this flow resumes normally, like water froma
tap. But this flow can also resume explosively, like water bursting through a dam:
Sounds like kha are aspirated ("breathy"), and sounds like ka are unaspirated ("not breathy").
And of course, these aspirated letters can be voiced, too:
The stops and nasals
Each of the five points of sound has four stops and one nasal. Together, these give us the
following 25 sounds:
ka
"k" in "skill"
ga
"g" in "gill"
kha
"k" in "kill"
gha
(no match)
ka
"k" in "skill"
kha
"k" in "kill"
ga
"g" in "gill"
gha
(no match)
a
"ng" in "lung"
ca
(no match)
cha
(no match)
ja
(no match)
jha
(no match)
a
(no match)
a
(no match)
ha
(no match)
a
(no match)
ha
(no match)
a
(no match)
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This arrangement is over 2800 years old. It stands at the beginning of the Indian linguistic
tradition.
varga
The word varga lets us create a shortcut to refer to certain groups of consonants. The stops and
nasals at the soft palate (ka, kha, ga, gha, a) are together called kavarga. And we have names
for the other groups of stops and nasals, too:
cavarga
ca, cha, ja, jha, a
avarga
a, ha, a, ha, a
tavarga
ta, tha, da, dha, na
pavarga
pa, pha, ba, bha, ma
We can also refer to the semivowels with the term yavarga.
Blending stops
Stops blend very easily, whether with nasals:

tat na syam
That is not a mouth.
ta
"th" in "thumb"
tha
(no match)
da
"th" in "this"
dha
(no match)
na
"n" in "nose"
pa
"p" in "spill"
pha
"p" in "pill"
ba
"b" in "bill"
bha
(no match)
ma
"m" in "mill"
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r nara
The king is a man.
or with most other letters. Stops become voiced in front of any voiced letter, including vowels:

tat asat tad asat


That is false.

vk eva vg eva
speech itself
semivowels:

= =
tat yacchati tad yacchati
He restrains it.
and other stops:

sa r bhavati sa r bhavati
He becomes a king.
but like a diamond in the mud, these stops keep their value: they use the same point of sound.
As before, stops only blend between words, not inside them. Otherwise, we would become
hopelessly confused:

tan mantram
That is a mantra.
30

tan mandram
That is charming.
In the wild
Try to blend the words in the phrases below:

na asat st na u sat st tadnm


~U

7
uta amtatvasya no yat annena atirohati
These are lines from various Vedic hymns:
[2]

nsad sn no sad st tadnm


Then there was neither nothing nor anything.
Nsadya Skta
~U 7
utmtatvasyeno yad annentirohati
And he is the lord of immortality, who grows further by food.
Purusha Sukta
The first example is fromone of the most popular Vedic hymns. The line had all of its blending
undone, but we were able to fully restore it.
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Other Consonants
Generally, any sound that is not a vowel is called a consonant. Sanskrit has 33 consonants in
all: the 25 stops and nasals, the 4 semivowels, and the 4 sounds that we will study in this
lesson.
The consonants
Like all Sanskrit consonants, these four use the following "points of sound":
In Sanskrit, the flow of air is stopped only in these five places.
As you pronounce these letters, be mindful of these five points.
"s" sounds
Once more, picture the flow of air that makes the vowel a. It starts in the lungs, moves through
the throat, and flows cleanly through the mouth, like a river flowing straight.
Normally, the air flows simply and straight. But when this air flow becomes turbulent, we get a
"hissing" sound, like the "s" in "snake" or the "sh" in "shore." For convenience, let us call these
sounds "s" sounds.
32
English has two "s" sounds: the "s" in "snake" and the "sh" in "shore." But Sanskrit has three:
a uses the hard palate. a is retroflexed. sa is just like the English "s".
ha
If you breathe out and make your breath voiced, you'll hear a sound like "haaa." That "h" is our
last consonant:
ha is the same breathy sound that you hear in gha, jha, ha, dha, and bha. ha is pronounced
with the soft palate, at the back of the mouth.
avarga
Together, these four sounds are called avarga.
Special combinations
Three consonant combinations are pronounced in a distinct way. ja is pronounced more like
ga. hma and hna are pronounced like mha and nha.
The history of these special pronunciations is uncertain. But this is how Sanskrit is
pronounced today.
A new convention
The a at the end of a consonant makes the consonant easy to pronounce. But this a can also be
confusing sometimes. So let us create a new convention. From now on, this guide will not
add a to the end of consonants.
Blending t
Of all consonants, t blends the most. Just as water spreads to fill its container, t changes to
blend with the letter after it.
a
(no match)
a
(no match)
sa
"s" in "snake"
ha
(no match)
33
Like other stops, t can become nasal:

tat na syam tan nsyam


That is not a mouth.

tat mantram tan mantram


That is a mantra.
and voiced:

tat asat tad asat


That is false.
We have seen these changes already.
But t can also change its point of sound. If the next sound is a stop that uses the tongue,
then it changes:

tat cpam tac cpam


That is a bow.

tat ksu ta ksu


That is in the commentaries.

tat tanoti
He spreads that.
even if those sounds are voiced:

tat jyate taj jyate


That is born.
34


tat amarau ta amarau
That is in the drum.


tat dahati tad dahati
That burns.
For other stops (kavarga and pavarga), the point of sound does not change:

tat kahoram
That is hard.

tat gurum tad gurum


That is heavy.

tat phalam
That is a fruit.

tat bjam tad bjam


That is a seed.
In the wild
Try to blend the words in the phrase below:

yat bhta yat ca bhavyam


This phrase is from the Purua Skta, one of the most popular Vedic hymns:

yad bhta yac ca bhavyam


(He is all of this) which has been and which is yet to be.
Purua Skta
35
Our Sanskrit alphabet is almost complete. Only two sounds remain.
36
Anusvra and Visarga
The two sounds here are fundamentally different from the others we have studied. They
appear only because of blending. They can be pronounced in multiple ways. They must follow
vowels. And although they seem to be consonants, the tradition calls them something else.
Each sound has its own special term.
anusvra
This sound is called the anusvra ("after-sound"). It is a "pure nasal" sound that appears only
in front of consonants.
It is difficult to pronounce a "pure nasal." But the anusvra is easy to pronounce. Generally, it
uses the same point of sound as the sound that follows it:
Written as Sounds like
akara akara
sajaya sajaya
saskta sanskta
sabuddha sambuddha
The anusvra in different contexts
Because of this behavior, saskta is spelled in English as "Sanskrit."
visarga
This sound is called the visarga ("release").
Originally, the visarga was probably just like the "h" in "house." We could think of it as an "s"
sound pronounced at the soft palate. But today, it is usually pronounced as an echo of the
vowel before it: a like aha, and i like ihi.
a
(no match)
a
(no match)
37
Blending the visarga
The visarga is a difficult sound. So wherever possible, it blends with the letters around it. In
front of unvoiced consonants, the visarga becomes the "s" sound with the same point of sound:

nara carati nara carati


The man walks.

nara tarati naras tarati


The man crosses.

t k t k
Those are commentaries.
This change also occurs in front of other "s" sounds, like and s. But surprisingly, the change
is rarely written out:
(

)
nara ocati (nara ocati)
The man grieves.
H (

H)
nara smarati (naras smarati)
The man remembers.
The Sanskrit alphabet
We have now studied every sound in the alphabet.. Unlike the English alphabet, the
Sanskrit alphabet is intuitive and easy to remember:
Vowels
We start with the thirteen vowels:
a
i
38
anusvra and visarga
The anusvra and visarga are not quite the same as normal consonants, so they are listed with
the vowels:
Stops and nasals
Next come the stops and nasals:
Semivowels
Then the semivowels:
"s" sounds and ha
And, finally, the "s" sounds and ha.
u

e ai
o au
a a
ka kha ga gha a
ca cha ja jha a
a ha a ha a
ta tha da dha na
pa pha ba bha ma
ya ra la va
a a sa ha
39
Syllables
We have now studied every sound in later Sanskrit (with one small exception). But although
real language is made of sounds chained together, we have studied these sounds in isolation. If
we cannot pronounce these sounds together, we will be like those musicians who can play
beautiful notes but no songs.
So let us spend our last lesson here on meter, the study of how sounds flow together. Even if
you can pronounce Sanskrit well already, a good knowledge of meter is vital to understanding
certain parts of how Sanskrit behaves.
Along with phonetics (ik), meter (chandas) is one of the six vedga, the "limbs" of the
Vedas that support the study of its contents. Four of the six vedga focus on language.
Definition
We start with the most basic part of meter: the syllable. Syllables are simple. They have
exactly one vowel:

nau

yo

he
they start with consonants wherever possible:

phalam pha-lam
40
-
iti i-ti
and they end with the anusvra and visarga wherever possible:
----
nara pacati na-ra-pa-ca-ti
---
ta carmi ta-ca-r-mi
Sometimes, however, a phrase can be divided in multiple ways:

-4,

-
putra pu-tra, put-ra
- ,

-
dharma dha-rma, dhar-ma
In these cases, you can divide the phrases however you like. Traditional grammar tries to make
syllables end in vowels (dha-rma). But this makes some parts of Sanskrit more difficult later
on. So let us make our own convention:
A syllable should end with a consonant if possible, without breaking the rules above.
With this convention, all phrases can be divided in only one way:

-
putra put-ra

-
dharma dhar-ma
Now we can split any Sanskrit phrase into syllables:
T

- --

-4---

anekavaktranayanam a-ne-ka-vak-tra-na-ya-nam
41
Light and heavy
A syllable that ends in a short vowel is light. All other syllables are called heavy. Heavy
syllables last exactly twice as long as light syllables. This is the key insight of this lesson.
Let's see some examples. In this sentence, every syllable here is heavy:
4

U~

R --

-
vddho vkas tihaty agre vd-dho-vk-as-ti-hat-yag-re
An ancient tree stands ahead.
Even though some of these syllables have short vowels, each syllable lasts the same amount of
time.
Here is another example. In this sentence, every syllable is light:

------
sa ukam api girati sa-u-ka-ma-pi-gi-ra-ti
It swallows the parrot, too.
Like the previous example, this example has eight syllables. But since every syllable here is
light, this example lasts exactly half as long.
Finally, consider this example:

-
arjuna ar-ju-na
Arjuna
"ar" and "juna" last for exactly the same amount of time, even though all of these vowels are
short.
As you read Sanskrit, try to be mindful of these light and heavy syllables. They do more than
control how Sanskrit is pronounced; they also give Sanskrit poetry some of its beauty and
power.
42
Review
And that is all! We have learned virtually everything we need to know about pronouncing
Sanskrit sounds correctly. We have also learned why and how sounds blend together. Finally,
we learned a bit about syllables and meter.
This knowledge is extremely useful, and it will make many parts of Sanskrit much easier.
In the next unit, we will finally start with real Sanskrit. We will create simple sentences,
learn how words are used together, and create new words of our own.
But before you go on, take a moment to review the material from this unit.
Sounds
Instead of just reviewing the alphabet, we can rearrange the sounds in a more meaningful way:
Vowels
Short Long
Soft palate
a
Hard palate
i e ai
Hard bump

Teeth

Lips
u o au
Consonants
Stops Nasals Semivowels "s" ha
Soft palate
ka kha ga gha a ha
Hard palate
ca cha ja jha a ya a
43
Hard bump
a ha a ha a ra a
Teeth
ta tha da dha na la sa
Lips
pa pha ba bha ma va
Blending
Sometimes, it can be tiresome to pronounce certain sounds next to each other. The earliest
Sanskrit speakers solved this problem by blending words together.
Blending vowels
It is easy to blend vowels. Simple vowels are the easiest:

blya ha blyha
He spoke for the boy.
H H
s pnoti spnoti
She obtains.
= =
gacchati vara gacchatvara
The lord goes.
=

gacchati madhu udakam gacchati madhdakam


He goes to the sweet water.
Otherwise, vowels can blend in several ways. They can combine:
= =
s icchati secchati
She wants.
44
U

tasya udakam tasyodakam


his water
U

blasya odanam blasyaudanam


the boy's rice
U

tasya aivaryam tasyaivaryam


his power
or one can become a semivowel:
= =~

gacchati ava gacchaty ava


The horse goes.

~ 7

~
sdhu ste sdhv ste
He sits well.
~

tejasvi nv adhtam astu


May our studies be glorious.
Upanishads (various)
Blending consonants
It is easy to blend consonants, too. Stops can become nasals:

tat na syam tan nsyam


That is not a mouth.
45

r nara r nara
The king is a man.
or they can just become voiced:

vk eva vg eva
speech itself

= =
tat yacchati tad yacchati
He restrains it.

sa r bhavati sa r bhavati
He becomes a king.

na asat st na u sat st tadnm nsad sn no sad st tadnm


Then there was neither nothing nor anything.
Nsadya Skta
t, especially, blends very easily:

tat cpam tac cpam


That is a bow.

tat ksu ta ksu


That is in the commentaries.

tat jyate taj jyate


That is born.
46


tat amarau ta amarau
That is in the drum.
Blending the visarga
Just like t, the visarga blends often and easily:

nara carati nara carati


The man walks.

nara tarati naras tarati


The man crosses.

t k t k
Those are commentaries.
Meter
We studied Sanskrit syllables and learned how they affect the way Sanskrit is spoken.
47
End matter
Footnotes
1.
^ alaukika "not of (this) world" or apaurueya "not of mankind".
2.
^ Like most all Vedic Sanskrit, the lines here are open to some interpretation.
48
Basics
learnsanskrit.org
November 25, 2012
49
How Sanskrit Works
Learning Sanskrit is like building a massive house. Our materials are the various Sanskrit
sounds, which we combine and blend to make new materials. Our techniques are the rules of
grammar, which start out quite simply but soon become much more subtle and interesting.
And our approach is a practical one: build a basic shelter before expanding further.
But without a steady foundation, the house cannot stand. If we have even a basic
understanding of how Sanskrit generally works, we can greatly reduce our problems later on.
Moreover, this basic understanding will also help us put Sanskrit's different parts in
perspective.
So before we begin with Sanskrit itself, let's quickly discuss what the language is like.
Word order
Here is a basic English sentence:
Elephants eat fruits.
Let's see how this sentence appears in Sanskrit:
~
gaj phalni khdanti
Elephants fruit eats. ("Elephants eat fruits.")
As you can see, the came concepts appear in different orders in both languages. But
surprisingly, the word order does not matter much in Sanskrit:
~
gaj khdanti phalni
Elephants eat fruits. ("Elephants eat fruits.")
~
phalni khdanti gaj
Fruits eat elephants. ("Elephants eat fruits.")
~
khdanti phalni gaj
Eat fruits elephants. ("Elephants eat fruits.")
50
Inflection
Sanskrit is so flexible because its words carry extra information with them. We take a basic
word, like gaja ("elephant"), and somehow mark it to show two things:

There are multiple elephants.

These elephants are eating (but the fruits are not).


And likewise for phala ("fruit"):

There are multiple fruits.

These fruits are being eaten (but the elephants are not).
We add this extra information by changing part of the word: gaja becomes gaj, and phala
becomes phalni. When we change a word to add information like this, we say that we inflect
the word.
Words are inflected in English, too, but not very much. For example, we say "I play" and "you
play," but we say "he plays," not "he play." If we see just the word "plays," we can guess that
the person doing the playing is "he" or "she," but probably not "I" or "you." This is because the
word has been inflected to show who is doing the playing.
As another example, we say "I play" and "I will play," but we say "I played." The word "play"
changes to show that the playing has already happened. We can work backward fromthe word
"played" and figure that out.
Sanskrit words are inflected much more than English words. Even complex ideas can be
represented as single words:
R

~
grmn blau jigamayianti
They want to make the two boys go to the villages.
There are also uninflected words, which always remain the same:
=
sa eva gacchati
Only he goes.
51
Making words
One of Sanskrit's richest and most rewarding features is the ability to make your own words
. Starting from basic sounds and syllables, we can quickly create words of great subtlety and
nuance:


bhaj bhaga bhagavat bhgavata
adore, love adoration, love glorious, fortunate; the blessed one, Lord
concerning the blessed Lord

yuj yoga yogin


connect, bind, prepare concentration, exertion (yoga) yogin
Just as many branches grow from the same trunk, many words can grow from the same basic
elements. By learning these elements and some basic rules, we can quickly understand
thousands of new words.
52
Present Tense Verbs
Actions
Generally, every Sanskrit sentence is just some action. The simplest sentences are just actions
and nothing else:
=
gacchati
He goes.
Words that describe actions are called verbs. gacchati is a verb. So is the word below:
=
gacchata
The two of them go.
gacchati and gacchata both start the same way, with gaccha. This part of the verb is called
the stem; just as many flowers bloom from the same plant stem, many verbs are formed from
the same verb stem. We add an ending to a stem to make a complete word:
= + =
gaccha + ti gacchati
He goes.
= + =
gaccha + ta gacchata
The two of them go.
= + ~ =~
gaccha + nti gacchanti
They go.
U + U
tiha + ti tihati
He stands.
U + U
tiha + ta tihata
The two of them stand.
53
U + ~ U~
tiha + nti tihanti
They stand.
* + *
paya + ti payati
He sees.
* + *
paya + ta payata
The two of them see.
* + ~ *~
paya + nti payanti
They see.
And of course, we can talk about other sorts of people. We can talk about you:
=
gacchasi
You go.
=
gacchatha
The two of you go.
=
gacchatha
You all go.
U
tihasi
You stand.
U
tihatha
The two of you stand.
54
U
tihatha
You all stand.
*
payasi
You see.
*
payatha
The two of you see.
*
payatha
You all see.
And we can talk about me:
=
gacchmi
I go.
=
gacchva
The two of us go.
=
gacchma
We all go.
U
tihmi
I stand.
U
tihva
The two of us stand.
55
U
tihma
We all stand.
*
paymi
I see.
*
payva
The two of us see.
*
payma
We all see.
In this way, Sanskrit lets us talk about some action and the people who perform it.
The present tense
The verbs above let us describe what is happening right now. In English, these verbs are
called present tense verbs.
=
gacchati
He goes.
*
payva
The two of us see.
U
tihasi
You stand.
*
payma
We all see.
56
=
gacchata
The two of them go.
U
tihatha
You all stand.
U
tihatha
The two of you stand.
=~
gacchanti
They go.
*
paymi
I see.
These Sanskrit verbs have a broader meaning than their English counterparts:
=
gacchati
He is going.
U
tihata
The two of them are standing.
*~
payanti
They are seeing.
And they have many others too. As much as possible, we should focus on Sanskrit words and
sentences, not their counterparts in English. The more we rely on English, the less we learn
about Sanskrit itself.
The forms of this verb are often presented in a table, like the one below:
57
[3s] [3d] [3p]
[2s] [2d] [2p]
[1s] [1d] [1p]
But we have seen all of these forms already, and there is no need to linger on a table like this.
In the wild
Our goal is to read Sanskrit texts. So along the way, we will study many examples of real
Sanskrit. As we read these examples, we see new concepts in a real setting. And we can
measure how much we have learned so far.
So consider the text below. We know enough to pronounce it correctly. But how much can we
understand?
97 4 9 =
aprpya yogasasiddhi k gati ka gacchati
If he has not attained perfection in yoga, Krishna, on which path does he go?
Bhagavad Gita 6.37
Focus on the highlighted words above; the rest of the example is too difficult right now. But
even this difficult example teaches us something about Sanskrit. Note that gacchati appears at
the end of the sentence. Most verbs do. Note, too, that the anusvra appears in
yogasasiddhim without a space after it. This indicates that the anusvra can appear within a
word, not just at the end of it.
We can also recognize some familiar words, like yoga and ka. These words appear
throughout the Bhagavad Gita, and we will see them many times.
58
tmanepada
The verbs we just studied are called parasmaipada verbs. The verbs we will study below are
called tmanepada verbs. But what makes one verb different from another? And just what do
parasmaipada and tmanepada mean, anyway?
Both questions have roughly the same answer. Traditionally, tmanepada verbs are used when
the action benefits the person who performs it (tmane, "for the self"; pada just means
"word"), and parasmaipada verbs are used everywhere else (parasmai, "for another"). We
show this difference in meaning by using different verb endings:

pacati
He cooks.

pacate
He cooks for himself. (He's cooking himself a meal.)

pacata
The two of them cook.

pacete
The two of them cook for themselves.
~
pacanti
They cook.
~
pacante
They cook for themselves.
The stem is the same, but the endings are different. Just as two different flowers can
sometimes grow from the same stalk, so too can parasmaipada and tmanepada forms grow
from the same verb stem.
59
Endings
The tmanepada endings are closely related to the parasmaipada endings. They follow similar
patterns:

pacati
He cooks.

pacate
He cooks for himself. (He's cooking himself a meal.)
~
pacanti
They cook.
~
pacante
They cook for themselves.

pacasi
You cook.

pacase
You cook for yourself.
Even when these patterns are not immediately clear:

pacata
The two of them cook.

pacete
The two of them cook for themselves.
60

pacatha
You two cook

pacethe
You two cook for yourselves.

pacva
The two of us cook.

pacvahe
The two of us cook for ourselves.

pacma
We all cook.

pacmahe
We all cook for ourselves.
But in two instances, there is no pattern at all:

pacatha
You all cook.
7
pacadhve
You all cook for yourselves.

pacmi
I cook.
61

pace
I cook for myself.
Weak distinctions
The distinction between parasmaipada and tmanepada is not always strong. Some
tmanepada verbs act just like the ones we have seen so far, without any strong sense of acting
"for the self":

labhate
He obtains.

labhete
The two of them obtain.
~
labhante
They obtain.

labhase
You obtain.

labhethe
The two of you obtain.
7
labhadhve
You all obtain.

labhe
I obtain.
62

labhvahe
The two of us obtain.

labhmahe
We all obtain.
But generally these verbs do describe things that affect us, like being born, enjoying
something, dying, or simply thinking:
F
manyate
He thinks.
F
manyvahe
The two of us think.
F7
manyadhve
You all think.
F
manyete
The two of them think.
F
manyethe
The two of you think.
F
manymahe
We all think.
F
manyase
You think.
63
F
manye
I think.
F~
manyante
They think.
Traditionally, verbs are presented in a table, like the one below:
[3s] [3d] [3p]
[2s] [2d] [2p]
[1s] [1d] [1p]
But we have already seen all of these forms, and there is no need to linger on a table like this.
64
Nouns in Case 1
Generally, every Sanskrit sentence is just some action. The simplest sentences are just actions
and nothing else:
*
payati
He sees.

labhethe
The two of you obtain.
F
manymahe
We all think.
U
tihasi
You stand.
Unfortunately, these sentences tell us very little. If we see just payati, how can we tell who
sees, or what is seen? And how and where does this "seeing" happen?
To fill these gaps, we use nouns. Nouns describe ideas as simple as elephants and fruits, and as
complex as places and concepts. Just like verbs, nouns are inflected:
*
gaja payati
The elephant sees.
*
gajau payata
The two elephants see.
*~
gaj payanti
The elephants see.
65
And just like verbs, nouns have a stem. Here, the stem is gaja. Just as many flowers bloom
from the same plant stem, many nouns are formed from the same noun stem. And as with
verbs, we add an ending to a noun to make a complete word:
*
gaja payati
The elephant sees.
*
gajau payata
The two elephants see.
*~
gaj payanti
The elephants see.

nara pacate
The man cooks for himself.

narau pacete
The two men cook for themselves.
~
nar pacante
The men cook for themselves.

U ( U)
avas tihati (ava tihati)
The horse stands.
U
avau tihata
The two horses stand.

U~ ( U~)
avs tihanti (av tihanti)
The horses stand.
66
Note the blending that occurs in avas tihati and avs tihati. Now that our sentences have
multiple words, we have to be mindful of how the sounds in the two words affect each other.
Noun roles
In each example above, the noun defines what performs the verb action. But nouns can define
other parts of the action, too. With payati, for example, we can define what is seen:
*

gaja payati naram


The elephant sees the man.
Or where the elephant sees:
R *
grme gaja payati
The elephant sees in the village.
Or what the elephant sees with:
*
nayanena gaja payati
The elephant sees with his eye.
Here, the role of the noun changes when we change the noun ending. So in addition to
showing the number of items involved, the noun ending shows the noun's role. Generally,
these roles are called cases. Still, roles and cases are not quite the same thing.
Case 1
Case 1 usually defines what performs the action:
*
gaja payati
The elephant sees.
*
gajau payata
The two elephants see.
67
*~
gaj payanti
The elephants see.
payati implies that only one thing sees. gaja implies that only one elephant performs the
action. Each word implies the same number of things (one), so they are used together. A verb
and a word in case 1 must always imply the same number of things.
Blended sounds
Recall that visarga blends with the sounds that follow it:

avacarati
The horse walks.

avau carata
The two horses walk.
~
avcaranti
The horses walk.
~U
gajastihati
The elephant stands.
U
gajau tihata
The two elephants stand.
68
~U~
gajstihanti
The elephants stand.
In these examples, the consonant that comes after the visarga is not voiced. What if the
consonant is voiced instead?

nara labhate
The man obtains.
~
nar labhante
The men obtain.
Try repeating these entences ten or twenty times. Eventually it will become tiresome to
transition between the unvoiced visarga in nara and nar and the voiced l in labhate and
labhante. It is much easier to blend the two words.
For the first sentence, this blending is against all of our intuitions. It is the sort of change we
must just accept.

nara labhate naro labhate
The man obtains.
The -a ending became o. This happens in front of voiced consonants of any kind.
For the second sentence, the blending is much more reasonable:
~ ~
nar labhante nar labhante
The men obtain.
69
Here the troublesome visarga is simply removed. Sometimes the best solution to a problem is
the easiest one.
With these changes in mind, we can now write many more sentences:
F
naro manyate
The man thinks.
*
narau payata
The two men see.
F~
nar manyante
The men think.

gajo labhate
The elephant obtains.

gajau labhete
The two elephants obtain.
~
gaj labhante
The elephants obtain.
=
avo gacchati
The horse goes.
U
avau tihata
The two horses stand.
=~
av gacchanti
The horses go.
70
Case 2
Using the Sanskrit we know already, we can write a variety of sentences:
U~
tihanti
They stand.
F
manye
I think.
7
pacadhve
You all cook.
By using nouns, we can describe the things involved with this action. We just learned about
case 1, which generally describes who performs the action:

gaja carati
The elephant walks.

narau labhete
The two men obtain.
=~
av gacchanti
The horses go.
Meanwhile, case 2 usually defines the "object" of the action:
7
gaja labhadhve
You all obtain an elephant.
(m blends with p to form .)
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*
gajau payasi
You see two elephants.
(gajau is the same in case 1 and case 2!)

*
gajn payatha
The two of you see elephants.
With verbs that imply movement (like "go" and "walk"), case 2 also defines the destination:
=
nara gacchatha
You all go to the man.

narau carmi
I walk to the two men.

=
avn gacchva
The two of us go to the horses.
And of course, we can use multiple cases at once:

vro gaja rakati
The hero protects the elephant.

=
vrau narn gacchata
The two heroes go to the men.
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vr
You see two elephants.
Ambiguity
Above, we saw that gajau appears in case 1 and case 2. This can create ambiguities in Sanskrit,
where multiple meanings are possible:

gajau labhete
(a) The two of them obtain the two elephants.
(b) The two elephants obtain.

vrau narau rakata
(a) The two heroes protect the two men.
(b) The two men protect the two heroes
These ambiguities disappear if we know more about this sentence's context. If we do not have
enough context, then there is nothing we can do. But fortunately, these sorts of ambiguities are
also quite rare. They go away if the verb changes even slightly:

gajau labhethe
The two of you obtain the two elephants.
~
gajau labhante
They obtain the two elephants.
Table of forms
No Sanskrit textbook is complete without putting the different noun forms in a table:
[1s] [1d] [1p]
[2s] [2d] [2p]
But we have already seen all of these forms, and there is no need to linger on a table like this.
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Cases 3 and 4
By using nouns, we can describe the things involved with an action. We have just learned
about case 1 and case 2
*
naro vra payati
The man sees the hero.
Case 1 and case 2 define very basic relationships between nouns and verbs. But the next few
cases are more interesting.
Case 3
Case 3 has two important senses. More commonly, case 3 defines how something is done:
[1]
= R

gajena gacchmi grmam


I go by means of the elephant to the village.
= R

gacchatho grmn avbhym


The two of you go by means of the two horses to the villages.
~
ava labhante narai
They obtain a horse by means of the men.
Less commonly, case 3 defines who is with the performer:
U
avena tihva
The two of us stand with the horse.
- F
vrbhy manyete
The two of them think with the two heroes.
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7
blai pacadhve
You all cook with the boys.
This second sense can be reinforced by using saha, an uninflected word:
= R

gajena saha gacchmi grmn


I go with the elephant to the villages.
- U~
sahvbhy tihanti
They stand with the two horses.
And it can be reversed by vin. It shows who is not with the performer:
=~
icchanti vin vrai
They want without the heroes.
saha and vin should be very close to the word in case 3. Usually, they appear right after.
Blended sounds
In the examples above, notice the visarga in narai, blai, and vrai. Each visarga follows a
vowel that is neither a nor . When this occurs, the visarga becomes r in front of voiced
sounds.
7

7
gajai labhadhve gajair labhadhve
You all obtain with the elephants.
=

=
vrai gacchata vrair gacchata
The two of them go with the heroes.
=

=
blai icchatha blair icchatha
You all want with the boys.
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This change is against all of our intuitions. It is the sort of change we must just accept. Note,
though, that the result sounds a little prettier than before.
In all other circumstances, these sorts of visargas act normally.

blai corayma
We steal with the boys.

U
gajais tihmi
I stand with the elephants.
*~
vrai payanti
We see with the heroes.
Case 4
Case 4 expresses two important ideas. The first is purpose, as in "I broke the coconut for
some water":
[2]

~
bla corayatyava narya
The boy steals the horse for the man.
= R -

gacchato narau grma gajbhym


The two men walk to the village for (two) elephants.
-
bla pacati gajebhya
The boy cooks for elephants.
The second defines the person meant to benefit fromthe cation, as in "I broke the coconut
for a friend" or "I gave the money to my brother":
*~
vr narya siha payanti
The heroes look at the lion for the man.
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-

ava blacorayati narbhym


The boy steals the horse for the two men.
R -
coraymi grmebhya
I steal for the villages.
Compared to the other noun cases, case 4 is uncommon.

blya gaja pace
I cook the elephant for the boy.
Oh, the poor elephant! But this is just an example sentence, not real life.
-

- R =
vrbhym avbhy grma gacchatha
The two of you go with (two) horses to the village for the two heroes.
- R =
siho narebhyo grma gacchati
The lion goes to the village for men.
Stem-ending blending: n to
Consider the examples below.

narena
with the man
77

vrena
with the hero
Try repeating the first word ten or twenty times. Eventually it will become tiresome to
pronounce the retroflex r right before shifting to the non-retroflex n. It is much easier to blend
the two sounds by using the same point of pronunciation for both:

narena narea
with the man

vrena vrea
with the hero
With this in mind, we can understand the sentences below:

*
saha narevn paymi
I see the horses with the man.
U
vrea vin tihasi
You stand without the hero.
=

nareecchati gajam
They want the elephant with the man.
Note the blending in the last example: narea cchati becomes narearcchati.
Ambiguities
Recall that gajau, narau, and other such words are ambiguous:

gajau labhete
(a) The two of them obtain the two elephants.
(b) The two elephants obtain.
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Words like gajbhym and narbhym are ambiguous, too:
- ~
narbhy pacanti
(a) They cook for the two men.
(b) They cook with the two men.
Usually, common sense is enough to tell what a word should mean.
- ~
gajbhy pacanti
They cook for the two elephants.
It is unlikely that an elephant would be cooking.
Table of forms
[1s] [1d] [1p]
[2s] [2d] [2p]
[3s] [3d] [3p]
[4s] [4d] [4p]
We have already seen all of these forms, and there is no need to linger on a table like this.
79
Cases 5 and 6
After studying case 1 and case 2, we studied two more interesting cases: case 3 and case 4. Now
let's study two more cases. After these two, there are two more to go!
Case 5
Case 5 represents the abstract idea of movement away from something.
[3]
R =

grmd gacchmi gham


I go from the village to the house.
R- =

grmbhy gacchasi ghn


You go from the two villages to the houses.
=~ R -
gacchanti nara grmebhy
They go from the villages to the man.
When used in verbless sentences, case 5 defines part of a comparison. If you like, you can
imagine that the noun in case 5 is left behind because it is less beautiful, less black, less white,
and so on.

nara siht sundara


The man is more beautiful than the lion.
- 9
avau gajbhy ka
The two horses are blacker than the two elephants.
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-
gaj avebhya vet
The elephants are whiter than the horses.
Case 5 is usually used for places and fixed objects:


ghc carati siha
The lion walks from the house.
- ~
narbhy caranti
They walk from the two men.
- R =
ghebhyo grma vrvcchata
The two heroes go from the houses to the village.
Note the many sandhi changes in the examples above. We have seen all of these before.
Case 6
Each of the cases we have seen so far define a part of the verb action:

naracarati
The man walks.

gaja carati
He walks to the elephant.

blaicarati
He walks with the boys.

vrya carati
He walks for the hero.
81
R

grmc carati
He walks from the village.
Case 6 does not. Instead, case 6 shows that there is a connection between one noun and
another:
U

U
narasya putras tihati
The man's son stands.
R

F
grmayor vrau manyete
The two heroes of the two villages think.

4
vrm putr bhavma
We are sons of heroes.
Note the sandhi change in vrm. vrnm becomes vrm for the same reason that vrena
becomes vrea because vr is easier to say.
Case 6 has a special meaning when used in a verbless sentence:
U

4
narasya putra
The man has a son.
R

~
grmayo sundar gaj vartante
The village has beautiful elephants.
9

~
k blnm av bhavanti
The boys have black horses.
Remember, verbless sentences optionally have verbs like vartante and bhavanti. Notice what
varte does in the second example.
82
Sandhi review
We have seen and used so many kinds of sandhi so far that the process is starting to feel more
natural. But sometimes it is good to review.
Review of visarga sandhi
Here we review only the changes involved for words like narayo and narai:
*
gajai payasi
You see with the elephants.

4
gajayo putro bhavati
The two elephants have a son.

blaicaratha
You all walk with the boys.

narayocoraymi gajn
I steal the two men's elephants.
~U
vraistihva
The two of us stand with the heroes.
~U

4
vrayostihata putrau
The sons of the two heroes stand.
=
avairgacchatha
The two of you go with the horses.
83

narayoravo vartate
The two men have a horse.
But remember what happens when the next word ends in r:

narai ramate
He enjoys with the men.
Review of t sandhi
This sandhi is easy. t matches the voice of the letter that comes next:
RI=
grmdcchasi
You go from the village.
And it matches the point of pronunciation, too:
R
grmccarmi
I walk from the village.
=~
avjjyante
They are born from the horse.
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Cases 7 and 8
Now we bring our study of the eight cases to a close, for the time being. The Sanskrit cases are
powerful and expressive, and we will learn more about them later on.
Case 7
Case 7 defines the location of the action.
R U~ -

grme tihanti gaj blbhym


The elephants stand with the two boys in the village.
R

~
grmayor bhavanti sih
Lions are in the two villages.
R

grmeu carantyav sundar


The beautiful horses walk in the villages.
When the case 1 noun refers to just one entity, the sense of case 7 changes slightly:

U~
ghayos tihanti rau
The two warriors stand in the two houses.

U
ghayos tihati ra
The warrior stands between the two houses.

U~
gheu tihanti r
The warriors stand in the houses.

U
gheu tihati ra
The warrior stands among the houses.
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e sandhi
The letter e is simple enough:
7
ghe pacadhve
You all cook for yourselves in the house
U

4
ghe jyete narasya putrau
The man's two sons are born in the house.
F
ghe manymahe
We are thinking in the house.
Still, what happens when e is near vowels? This, too, is familiar to us already: a sentence like
grme icchanti will become grmayicchanti. But when this blending occurred between two
words, Sanskrit speakers went one step further. They thought y was a tiresome letter to have to
say between these two words, so they removed it entirely:
R =~ R =~
grme icchanti grma icchanti
They want in the village.
R =~ R =~
grme cchanti grma cchanti
They go (while being) in the village.
But recall a sentence like ka ava, which becomes ko 'va. Just as a overwhelms the
a in ava and destroys it entirely, leaving the avagraha as a reminder of what used to be
there, e does the same.
R U~ R

U~
grme av tihanti grme 'vs tihanti
Horses stand in the village.
86

ghe ava bhavati ghe 'vo bhavati
A horse is in the house.
These changes make sense. But here is a devious change that is difficult to explain:
If the e is at the end of a word implying two things, no blending occurs.
R R

grme ava carati grme 'va carati


A horse walks in the village.

labhate avn labhate 'vn


He obtains horses.

labhete avn labhete avn


The two of them obtain horses.
This change is unusual and against our Sanskrit intuition. In part, it occurs because it reduces
ambiguity. We will see examples of this soon.
Case 8
Apart fromcase 6, the cases we have seen so far all define different parts of a given action. But
case 8 steps beyond this action and defines the person who hears the sentence. We could
also say that it defines the person we refer to with the word "you."

4
putra vro bhavasi
Son, you are a hero.
*
narau siha paymi
Oh you (two) men, I see a lion.
U R
bl rasya gajo grme carati
Oh boys, the warrior's elephant is walking in the village.
87
The forms of case 8 are largely identical to the forms of case 1. But instead of nara, we have
nara. This means that nara can blend with the words that follow it:

narva corayati
Hey man, he is stealing a horse.
The 24 forms of gaja
Over the course of the past few lessons, we have seen all of the forms of the nouns whose stems
end in a, like gaja, nara, and bla. These forms appear in eight cases. Apart from case 6 and
case 8, these cases define the roles that certain nouns play in the verb action:
=~

r gacchanti ghd avair grmn blya


The heroes go with their horses from the house to the villages for the boy.
Case 6 connects two nouns.
U

*
narasya gajam payma
We see the man's elephant.
And case 8 addresses the listener.
*

nara paymi blam


Hey man, I see a boy.
Usually, these forms are assembled in a table, like so:
[1s] [1d] [1p]
[2s] [2d] [2p]
[3s] [3d] [3p]
[4s] [4d] [4p]
[5s] [5d] [5p]
[6s] [6d] [6p]
[7s] [7d] [7p]
[8s] [8d] [8p]
88
You know all of these forms already. But for the sake of practice, learn to recite these forms in
order, fromgaja and gajau all the way to gaj in case 8. Doing so will fix these forms in your
mind.
Ambiguity
Tables are not a fun way to study Sanskrit, but they can make certain trends very clear. Here,
for example, we see all of the forms that are used multiple times:

gajau
(a) The two elephants (case 1)
(b) The two elephants (case 2)
(c) The two elephants (case 8)

gaj
(a) The elephants (case 1)
(b) The elephants (case 8)
-

gajbhym
(a) With the two elephants (case 3)
(b) For the two elephants (case 4)
(c) From the two elephants (case 5)
-
gajebhya
(a) For the elephants (case 4)
(b) From the elephants (case 5)
89

gajayo
(a) Of the two elephants (case 6)
(b) In the two elephants (case 7)
As always, we should rely on context and common sense to help us:
R =
grma cchati
He goes in the village.
It makes no sense for a village to "go", so it is likely that we are "in the village."
90
Neuter Nouns
91
Adding Emphasis
92
The tatpurua
93
Review
94
End matter
Footnotes
1.
^ Ashtadhyayi 1.4.42 : sdhakatama karaam "What is most useful is called karaa,"
or "instrument." This is one of the roles that case 3 expresses.
2.
^ Ashtadhyayi 1.4.32 : karma yam abhipraiti sa sapradnam "What the agent has in
mind when performing the action is called sapradna," or "presentation." This is one
of the roles that case 4 expresses.
3.
^ Ashtadhyayi 1.4.24 : dhruvam apye 'pdnam "When moving away, the fixed point is
called apdna," or "separation." This is the most important role of case 5.
95