Word endings are absolutely super important in Sanskrit!
In English I would say
He ran home with the money.
In Sanskrit all I have to say is
Ran home money.
Its the way I end the words that tells you “(He) ran home (with the) money.” If I end the words differently, the same words could mean all sorts of different things: They ran home to the money; she ran home for money; we run from the money in our home, etc.
What’s really cool is that you can put the words in any order you like, the meaning doesn’t change. This is fantastic for making rhymes and beautiful cadence. Sanskrit is a poet’s dream come true.
Before becoming a poet, though, the important thing for now is to realize that Sanskrit has no little words like “with”, “to”, “in” etc. These little words are incorporated into the endings of the big, important words. Sanskrit does have pronouns (he, she, it, they, we, etc), but you don’t have to use them unless you specifically want to, because they also get incorporated into the ending of the word.
Sanskrit endings incorporate “case” “number” and “gender”. I’ll introduce you to each, now.
Case: What’s Going On?
The most confusing yet important thing the word endings do is tell you what the word is doing. Is he running to the house? or from it? or with it? etc. There are eight different things a word can do, these are called the eight cases.
A word can be:
- The agent
- The agent’s objective
- The instrument the agent uses to attain the objective
- The recipient of the objective
- The starting point of movement
- The location in which everything transpires
- The possessor of something
- An invoked name
The underlined words below are examples to illustrate which case would be used to end the Sanskrit word.
The agent: “John is cool.”
The objective: “Sam fixed the schoolhouse.”
The instrument: “Sam fixed the schoolhouse with a hammer.”
The recipient: “Give Sam the hammer.”
The starting point: “The leaf falls from the tree.”
The location: “The Sun is in Scorpio.”
The possessor: “Janet’s fingers.”
The invoked: “That’s cool, John.”
Not sure if you noticed, but all of the underlined words in the examples are nouns. That’s no coincidence. These eight cases apply to nouns. Here are the bookworm terms for these eight cases, in case you need to coordinate your study with bookish sources:
|Official Linguistic term||My Term|
Sanskrit word endings also tell you how many things are involved. We have this in English, too. If one thing is involved, its singular (“cat”). If more than one thing is involved, its plural (“cats”). Sanskrit, though, has another distinction:
- Singular – one thing
- Dual – two things
- Plural – three or more things
So, each of the eight cases has three numerical formats too. So that means there are 24 different ways to end a Sanskrit noun! “But wait, there’s more!”
Are You a Boy or a Girl?
Sanskrit words also have gender, three genders:
So we might have as many as 72 different ways to end a Sanskrit noun! That’s a lot to memorize, so don’t expect to learn it in a week. In upcoming posts I’ll give you tables that you should keep handy whenever you use Sanskrit, for as long as you need. The next posts will start using real Sanskrit, so stay tuned!