Exercises with Sanskrit Pronouns

Sanskrit to English

स पश्यति

What do you think that means? How about if I put it in a more familiar alphabet:

sa paśyati

What do you think it means?

When two words come together their sounds blend. That’s why we need to learn sandhi – the rules of blending. In this case, the unblended words are:

saḥ paśyati

Saḥ means “he” and paśyati means “he sees.” As you can see, it’s not necessary to even say “Saḥ” because paśyati already contains the information “he.” That’s why pronouns are seldom used in Sanskrit, compared to how frequently other languages use them. We’ll use them in Sanskrit when they add some emphasis or fill out some poetic meter, or, rarely, clarify something complicated.

Here’s another one:

सो ऽहम्

What’s that? You’ve not been studying your devanāgarī alphabets!? OK, in a more familiar script:

so ‘ham

Any idea what it means? First undo the blending. It is saḥ + aham. This is a sentence of two pronouns and nothing else! Again, saḥ means “he.” Aham means “I.” So, what do you think it means?

“I am him.” or “He is me.”

This is a famous “mantra” of people who are trying to realize oneness with divinity.

Sanskrit to English

Let’s translate these with pronouns, even though it’s not necessary.

“You think”

How would you say that in Sanskrit? Well, what’s the word for think? It’s मन् (man). Now, how would we inflect this root so that it expresses “you think”? Well, we need to remember some stuff, so let’s break out or notes on the inflection table for this type of word:

FIRST PERSON -e (as a replacement) -avahe -amaḥe

We want to say you think. You is “second person, singular” So the ending would be -se. The root man becomes a stem by becoming manya. So the way we say you think is मन्यसे (manyase). The pronoun for you is त्वं (tvaṁ). So:

त्वं मन्यसे (tvaṁ manyase) is how you say “you think.”

How about this:

I become confused

The word for confused is मोह् (moh) which becomes usable as the stem मुह्य (muhya). We need our inflection table for this type of word:

FIRST PERSON -ami -avaḥ -amaḥ

“I” is “first-person, singular” – so add “-ami” to the end of muhya and you get muhyāmi (मुह्यामि). Now add the pronoun for “I”:

अहं मुह्यामि (ahaṁ muhyāmi)

I suppose you could also make “become” more explicit and say ahaṁ muhyāmi bhavāmi. But in truth, if you just say muhyāmi you communicate the whole content of “I become confused.”

He asks

Take the word pṛccha and put it in third-person, singular (for “he”) and you get pṛcchati. Then add the pronoun saḥ and do the blending correctly: स पृच्छति (sa pṛcchati).

You go

Put the word gaccha in p2s (shorthand for Second-person singular) and you get gacchasi. Add the pronoun tvaṁ: त्वं गच्छसि (tvaṁ gacchasi).

The two of use hit/attack

Put the word tuda in p1d (first person dual) and you get tuda+avaḥ = tudāvaḥ. Now add the p1d pronoun. I’ve forgotten what it is, so here’s the table:

1 2 >2
1st अहम्
āvām“We Two”
2nd त्वम्
yūvām“You Two”
yūyam“All of You”


1 2 >2
3rd सः
tau“Those Two” (m)
te“They” (m)

So, the p1d pronoun is āvām. Thus: आवाम्तुदावः (āvām tudāvaḥ)

They are born

OK, put the word jāya into p3p (third person plural) and you get jāyanti. But we want it in the self-serving sense (since birth is something that affects the subject) so it should be jāyante. Add the pronoun for “they”: te jāyanti ते जायन्ते

We adore

The word for adore is bhaja. Put it in p1p: bhajāmaḥ would be serving the object, and bhajāmahe would be serving the self. The concept in Sanskrit culture is that love actually benefits the person lover more than the beloved. So it is used in the self-serving sense: bhajāmahe. Add the right pronoun: वयम्भजामहे (vayam bhajāmahe)

We speak

The word for “speak” is bhāṣa. It is also thought of as self-serving. So the p1p inflection is the same as for “we adore”, bhāṣāmahe. With the right pronoun: वयम्भाषामहे (vayam bhāṣāmahe).

They gain

Gain is self-serving. The word is labha, in p3p it’s labhante. So: ते लभन्ते (te labhante).

You illuminate

I’m not sure why illumination is grammatically “self-serving” but apparently it is. The word is kāśa, which becomes kāśase in p2s (second person singular). So: त्वं काशसे (tvaṁ kāśase).

I criticize

Ninda in p1s in nindāmi. So: अहं निन्दामि (ahaṁ nindāmi).

He speaks

It’s tempting to say सः भाषसे (saḥ bhāṣase) but remember the rules of blending. The “ḥ” will disappear in front of a voiced consonant like b/bh. So, it’s स भाषसे (sa bhāṣase).


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