Category Archives: Sentences

Whaddaya Tawki’na’bowt? Intro to Sanskrit Noun Use

Sanskrit recognizes eight ways to use a noun. We tend to call them “cases.” In Sanskrit they are called विभक्ति (vibhakti), and are referred to by number (“first”, “second”, “third”, etc). For some reason, perhaps showing the influence of Western Indology, most people use confusing Latin names for the cases.

I will now introduce the cases, and try to make the Latin names easier to handle and remember.

Using the cases involves “declination” – which means changing the ending of the word. Exactly how you change the word’s ending depends on many things: the case you want to use; whether the word is singular, plural or dual; whether it is masculine, feminine, or neuter; and its natural ending. For the examples here, I will use simply use singular, masculine nouns ending naturally in -a.

The eight cases are:

  1. Subject (“Nominative”)
  2. Objective (“Accusative”)
  3. Method (“Instrumental”) “by”
  4. Purpose (“Dative”) “for”
  5. Origin (“Ablative”) “from”
  6. Possession (“Genitive”) “of”
  7. Location (“Locative”) “in”
  8. Evoking (“Vocative”) “hey”

Cases 2-7 show how the subject relates to the object. Let’s go case by case.

Case 1: The Subject — “Nominative”

The Latin here is easy, because “nominative” is the base of our English word “name” and that’s what the case does, it names the subject of the sentence.

कृष्णो वनं गच्छति

kṛṣṇo vanaṁ gacchati

Krishna goes to the forest

Here the word “Krishna” is in the first case (nominative), as kṛṣṇaḥ (which changes to kṛṣṇo due to sandhi). This shows Krishna is the subject of the sentence.

Case 2: The Objective / Cause of Action— “Accusative” 

The Latin here is a little weird. It sounds like “accuse.” When we accuse someone we claim that they are the cause of something (“he is accused of murder”), and that’s what this case does: it identifies the cause / objective of the subject’s action. (If you look carefully, you can see the word “cause” (cuse) in accusative.)

कृष्णो वनं गच्छति

kṛṣṇo vanaṁ gacchati

Krishna goes to the forest

Here the word “forest” (vana) is in the second case (accusative), as vanam, to show that it is the objective of Krishna’s movement. The forest is the motivator that causes  his movement.

Case 3: The Method to Accomplish the Objective — “Instrumental”

The Latin here is easy. An instrument is the tool we use to accomplish an objective, and that’s what this case is for: it indicates how the subject accomplishes its objective. In English we usually what this case accomplishes by using the words by (“I’ll go by car”) or with (“I drink with a straw”), or sometimes using on (“I will get there on a bike”).

कृष्णो पादेन वनं गच्छति

kṛṣṇo pādena vanaṁ gacchati

Krishna goes to the forest on foot.

Here the word “foot” (pāda) is in the third case (instrumental), as pādena, to show that his feet are the instrument Krishna uses to go to the forest. 

Case 4: Purpose of the Objective — “Dative”

This Latin is particularly difficult, because it sounds like “date,” which misleads me into thinking this is a case for describing time. In Latin, however, date means “what will be obtained,” and that’s what the case does – it shows what the subject hopes to gain from the objective. In English, we usually accomplish this with the words for (“I work for money”) or to (“I work to make money”).

कृष्णो वनमानन्दाय गच्छति

kṛṣṇo vanam ānandāya gacchati

Krishna goes to the forest for joy.

Here the word “joy” (ānanda) is in the fourth case (dative), as ānandāya, to show that joy is what the Krishna hopes to gain by going to the forest.

Case 5: Origin of the Objective — “Ablative”

The Latin here is also difficult. It conveys the sense of something “abating” (going away). This case lets us show where something comes from – literally or conceptually. Conceptual movement from one thing towards another is how Sanskrit shows causality and also how it makes comparisons. 

In English, we usually accomplish this using words like from (“I come from New York”), and out of (“He overeats out of stress.”). We can also use because of and due to for accomplishing the conceptual-conceptual sense of this case.

कृष्णो ग्रामात्चरति

kṛṣṇo grāmāt carati

Krishna walks from the village.

Here the word “village” (grāma) is in the fifth case (ablative), as grāmāt, to show Krishna’s movement brings him from the village. This is an example using the case literally.

भ्रमन्ति सुखात्

bhramanti sukhāt

They wander due to happiness.

Here the word “happiness” (sukha) is in the fifth case (ablative), as sukhāt, to show that they wander as a result of their happiness. This is an example using the case conceptually, to show causality.

कृष्णो चन्द्रात्सुन्दरः

kṛṣṇo candrāt sundaraḥ

Krishna is more beautiful than the moon.

Here the word “moon” (candra) is in the fifth, ablative case (candrāt) to show that beauty moves away from the moon, towards Krishna. This conceptual movement is how Sanskrit makes a comparison expressing that Krishna is more beautiful than the Moon. 

Case 6: Possessive — “Genitive”

The Latin word for this has to do with producing (and therefore owning) something. Parents, for example, are progenitors, who give us their genes. In English we use “-’s” or “of” to accomplish what this case does.

कृष्णस्य शक्तिः

kṛṣṇasya śaktiḥ

Krishna’s potency. -or- The potency of Krishna.

Here the word kṛṣṇa is in the sixth case (genitive), as kṛṣṇasya, to show that Krishna is the producer, and thus the possessor, of the śakti.

Case 7: Location — “Locative”

The Latin here is mercifully simple. We use this case to express a position in either space or time. In English we accomplish this using words like “in”, “on”, “at”, and so on.

मनः कृष्णे निवेशयेत्

manaḥ kṛṣṇe niveśayet

Invest your mind in Krishna. -or- Set your mind on Krishna.

Here, the word kṛṣṇa is in the seventh case (locative), as kṛṣṇe. It therefore signifies the location upon which / in which the mind’s thoughts and emotions should exist.

Case 8: Evoking — “Vocative”

Here, too, the Latin is mercifully easy. We use this case to call to (“evoke”) someone, or directly address them by name. In English we just use a person’s name without modification, but we can make our evocation more explicit by by using hey, as in, “Hey John” or “Hey you!” In older English they used O, as in “O Lord.”

हरे कृष्ण

Hare Kṛṣṇa

Hey Hara! Hey Krishna!

In Sanskrit too, this case involves little change to the original names. With kṛṣna (a male noun ending in “a”) the eighth case (vocative) involves no change at all. With hara (a female noun ending in “a”) the eighth case (vocative) changes it slightly, to hare.

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The lionlike hero is dispassionate

Thats a pretty cool sentence, don’t you think? To me, it means that a truly brave hero is one that is not too ferocious. In other words, barking and growling isn’t the real mark of a valiant hero. Another thing this sentence means to me is that real valor is to conquer ones own passions.

How to say it in Sanskrit?

OK, hero is obviously the subject of the sentence. The word for hero is vīra. There’s only one of them, singular. The ending for singular subjects is -ḥ – so the right word to use in this sentence is vīraḥ.

Now, lionlike… to say that in Sanskrit start with the word for “lion” – siṁha. Now, apply a suffix that will gave the sense of “from, of,” – its a little messy to explain this from English to Sanskrit, but the suffix we’re looking for is -a. When we add -a to siṁha (you may have to review this) it becomes saiṁha (the first vowel in the root “strengthened”). So this means “of a lion” aka “leonine” aka “lionlike.”

Now, to use this word as an adjective we just make sure it has the same ending type as the word its supposed to describe. “lionlike” is an adjective describing the hero, so we configure the ending of saiṁha to match the ending of the word “hero” in this sentence (vīraḥ) – so we should use saiṁhaḥ.

Now we need a word for dispassionate. The word will start from the root, passion: raja. We can make this mean dispassionate by adding a prefix, like the English prefix “dis-“. That prefix in Sanskrit is vi- (meaning “separate/ distinct from”). So the word for dispassionate is viraja. Now, we are using this word like a verb –  is dispassionate. So we just need to configure it like a verb, to match the subject – in other words to be in 3rd person singular, that’s -ti. So the word is virajati.

With these three words we can form our sentence, “The lionlike hero is dispassionate.” saiṁhaḥ vīraḥ virajati. 

One last thing left to do is make it flow easy when spoken (sandhi rules), so it becomes saiṁho vīro virajati – सैंहो वीरो विरजति

“The Boy Ignorantly Derides the City’s Heroes”

“The boy ignorantly derides the city’s heroes.”

OK, how do we say that in Sanskrit? I’ll figure it out. If I make errors I’ll correct them at the end.

First let’s assemble the basic vocabulary we need.

  • Boy = bāla
  • Derision / insult = ninda
  • City = nagara
  • Hero = vīra
  • Ignorance. There’s a few ways we might say this. We could use a prefix to negate a word meaning “knowledge” – but why don’t we stick with the vocabulary we’ve been learning in this series. We know the word moh means “confusion” and “bewilderment,” so that will do. Just make it a noun by adding the -a suffix: moha.

Now we need to figure out how to organize and inflect the basic vocabulary words.

I think the real question here is, How do we say “ignorantly derides”? As translators to and from any language will be familiar with, we have to… you know, like they say in math, “set two dissimilar fractions to a common denominator.” Similarly in translation, we often have to revert the original language into a structure that is more similar to the structure of the language we are translating into. So, “ignorantly derides” is fairly complex and sophisticated English. Revert it to a more basic form. The -ly suffix can be removed and the meaning of that suffix can be more clearly stated. Thus: “derides with ignorance.” Or, “derides as a result of ignorance.”

Now we can more easily see that its a question of choosing the right noun case for the word moha. What are our options? “with, for, from, of, and in” are the options (cases 3-7 respectively). So, I think, the “with” or “from” cases translate the concept effectively. But the “with” case is “instrumental” – in other words the noun in that case is the instrument of an action. That’s not entirely wrong for our translation, but I think the “from” case is better. In other words, I think it’s better to translate it as “As a result of (from) ignorance, the boy derides” instead of “The body derides with ignorance.”

That settles it then. The case will be Case 3, “with” – in which the ending is -ena. So moha will be used as mohena.

The next compound phrase to figure out is “city’s heroes.” It’s much easier than “ignorantly derides” because its obviously the “of” case, Case 6 (ending in -sya). So nagara will be used as nagarasya.

Thats the end of the tough stuff. The rest is simple. The subject is the boy, the object is the city. Here we go, first try at the basic assembly of the sentence (no sandhi, first):

mohena balaḥ nagarasya vīram nindati

With sandhi:

mohena balo nagarasya vīraṁ nindati
मोहेन बलो नगरस्यवीरं निन्दति

Corrections

OK, now lets check it for errors…

This is what the teacher suggests as a good translation:

बालो संमोहेन नगराणां वीरान् निन्दति
bālo saṁmohena nagarāṇāṁ vīran nindati

The first thing I notice is that I forgot that the heroes were plural. I translated, “The boy ignorantly derides the city’s hero.” But I ws supposed to translate, “The boy ignorantly derides the city’s heroes.” I did it singular. I inflected vīra as vīram (singular object), when it should have been vīrān (plural object)

So, the same mistake affects the word for city (nagara). I inflected it in Case 6 Singular (-sya), but I should have done it in Case 6 plural (-anām). So the word should have been nagarāṇām.

You might ask why City’s should be in plural, after all theres nothing specifying that the heroes come from more than one city. Maybe all the heroes being insulted by the boy come from the same city. That’s ok, its still plural, because its an adjective of hero, so it has to attach itself to hero by sharing the same grammatical foundation. Since the noun “heroes” is plural, the adjective of this noun “city’s” has to be plural too.

The teacher used the prefix sam- on the word moha. This makes it more clear that the boy is not just insulting them by mistake, out of confusion, but really out of more significant bewilderment and delusion.

The teacher wrote it as bālaḥ saṁmohena, whereas my word order is saṁmohena balaḥ. I think this is just a question of taste. Word order is not very important in Sanskrit.

Sanskrit Translation Practice

The Boy Strikes the Lion with his Hand

Boy = bāla

Strike = tuda

Lion = siṁha

Hand = hasta

Boy is the subject, Lion is the object, Hand has to be in the right case to communicate “with” – that’s Case 3 (see the Noun Inflections in the Reference menu at the top of the page, below the header graphic).

bālaḥ hastena siṁham tudati

With sandhi: bālo hastena siṁhaṁ tudati  – बलो हस्तेन सिंहं तुदति

In the city, the man strikes the elephants with his foot

City = nagara

Man = nara

Elephant = gaja

Foot = pāda

Strike = tuda

The man is the subject, his foot is the instrument (case 3, “with”), the action is striking, the elephant is the object of the action. City has to be in Case 7 (“in”).

nagare naraḥ pādena gajān tudati

With sandhi: nagare naro pādena gajāms tudati – नगरे नरो पादेन गजाम्स्तुदति

You smile with your mouth

“You” is not really required, if we want to include it for special effect, the corrrect pronoun is singular subject, second person: tvam.

Smile = hasa

Mouth = mukha

tvaṁ mukhena hasasi   त्वं मुखेन हससि

The two of us are born in the villiage

Two of us = dual, first person pronoun as the subject: āvām

Born = jāya

Villiage = grāma (in case 7, “in”)

āvāṁ grāme jāyāvahe  आवां ग्रामे जायावहे

The hero thinks with his belly

Hero = vīra

Thinks = manya

belly = udara (case 3, “with”)

vīra udareṇa manyate  वीर ऊदरेण मन्यते

Vīraḥ became vīra because the next word starts with a vowel. The “n” at the end of udareṇa became “ṇ” because there was an “r” in the word not blocked by a consonnant. It’s manyate  instead of manyati because thinking is self-serving.

The sun goes from the village to the white sky

Sun = sūrya

Goes = gaccha

Village = grāma

White = śveta

Sky = gagana

Sun is the subject, so sūryaḥ. The action is performed by the sun, a singular third person entity, so gacchati. It is from the village, so use Case 5, so grāmāt. White is an adjective of sky, which is the object of the sentence, so śvetaṁ gaganaṁ

sūryaḥ śvetaṁ gaganaṁ grāmād gacchati. सूर्यः श्वेतं गगनं ग्रामाद्गच्छति

The moon crosses the black sky

Moon = candra

Cross = tara

Black = kṛṣṇa

Sky = gagana

candraḥ kṛṣṇaṁ gaganaṁ tarati  चन्द्रः कृष्णं गगनं तरति

Wolves walk from the goose to the rabbits

Wolves = vṛka (subject)

Walk = cara

Goose = haṁsa (case 5)

Rabbit = śaśa (object)

vṛkā haṁsāc śaśaṁś caranti  वृका हंसाच्शशंश्चरन्ति

Krishna sees the black horse

kṛṣṇaḥ kṛṣṇam aśvaṁ paśyati कृष्णः कृष्णमश्वं पश्यति

Arjuna asks Krishna

arjunaḥ kṛṣṇaṁ pṛcchati अर्जुनः कृष्णं पृच्छति

“Of” (Case 6 for Nouns, “Genitive”)

If we want to say “The teacher’s son goes to the forest” we need to inflect the noun “son” in a way that lets the hearer know that the son belongs to the teacher. We need an inflection will say “teacher’s” not just “teacher”.

This is accomplished by using “Case 6” inflections for the noun.

Here they are (for masculine nouns):

Case 6 (“of”) -sya -yoḥ -anām

The teacher’s son goes to the forest

So, to say “The teacher’s son goes to the forest” – take the word for teacher, ācārya, and give it the singular case 6 inflection -sya, so you wind up with ācāryasya.

The word for son is putra. He is the subject of the sentence, so the inflection is case 1 singualr: putraḥ. 

The word for forest is vana. It’s the object of the sentence and singular, so the inflection is -m: vanam. 

The word for “goes” is gaccha. And it should be inflected to match the subject, which means 3rd person singular, -ti: gacchati.

So you get the sentence: ācāryasya putraḥ vanam gacchati,   which blends together to become: आचार्यस्य पुत्रो वनं गच्छति ācāryasya putro vanaṁ gacchati.

The son of the heroes stands

  • son = putra
  • hero = vīra
  • stand = tiṣṭha

Son is the subject, so it’s putraḥ. Hero needs to be plural and needs to be in the “of” case, case 6 (heroes’ / of the heroes). Plural case 6 influection is –anām, so: vīrānām. The verb is third person singular to match the subject, so tiṣṭhati. With sandhi you get:

पुत्र वीरानां तिष्ठति
putro vīrānaṁ tiṣṭhati

They go to the elephants’ forest

You don’t need to explicitly state the pronoun “they” – the inflection of the verb “go” will include it. Forest is the object, they is the unspoken subject.

  • they go = gacchanti
  • elephants’ = gajānām
  • forest = vanam

गगानां वनं गच्छन्ति
gajānāṁ vanaṁ gacchanti

The hero has a black horse

The way you say it in Sanskrit is simply “The hero’s black horse.”

वीरस्य कृष्णो ऽश्वः
vīrasya kṛṣṇo ‘śvaḥ

Case 6 Pronouns

Case 6 (“of:)
First Person (M) तस्य

tasya
तयोः

tayoḥ
तेषाम्

teṣām
Second Person तव

tava
युवयोः

yuvayoḥ
युष्माकम्

yuṣmākam
First Person मम

mama
आवयोः

āvayoḥ
अस्माकम्

asmākam

Working with Neuter Nouns

Vocabulary

Masculine Nouns

सूर्य sūrya – sun

चन्द्र candra – moon

वृक्ष vṛkṣa – tree

ग्राम grāma – village

Neuter Nouns

नगर nagara – city

फल phala – fruit

पत्त्र patra – leaf / plume

वन vana – forest

जल jala – water

निमित्त nimitta – cause / omen

English to Sanskrit

“That is the beautiful black lion”

First figure out the words you need.

  • lion – siṁha
  • black – kṛṣṇa (adjective of lion)
  • beautiful – sundara (adjective of lion)
  • that – saḥ

Now inflect the words the right way (see the reference tables link in the menu bar if you need). “Lion” is the subject of the sentence.

  • lion – siṁhaḥ
  • black – kṛṣṇaḥ
  • beautiful – sundaraḥ
  • that – saḥ

Put it together: saḥ siṁhaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sundaraḥ

Blend the words: sa siṁhaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ sundaraḥ

That is the Sun

sa sūryaḥ

That is the fruit

tat phalam

The pronoun is “tat” not “sa” because the subject is neuter, so the pronoun must be neuter. The neuter noun gets a neuter p3s inflection.

I see the white sun

The subject is “I” (aham). The action is seeing (paśya, inflected as paśyāmi). The object is the sun (sūrya, inflected as sūryam), which is described as white (śveta, inflected as śvetam).

Putting this all together: aham śvetam sūryam paśyāmi.

With sandhi: ahaṁ śvetaṁ sūryaṁ paśyāmi

He sees the beautiful moons

Subject: he (saḥ)

Action: sees (paśya : paśyati)

Object: moons (candra : candrān), which are beautiful (sundara : sundarān)

saḥ sundarān candrān paśyati

With sandhi: sa sundarāṁś candran paśyati

He wants them (n)

Subject: he (saḥ)

Action: wants (iccha : icchati)

Object: them, neuter (tāni)

saḥ tāni icchati : sa tāny icchati

Note that the neuter pronoun resisted “mating” fully with the next word during sandhi.

The elephants strike the black trees

Subject: elephants (gaja : gajān)

Action: strike (tuda : tudanti)

Object: trees (vṛkṣa : vṛkṣān) which are black (kṛṣṇa : kṛṣṇān).

gajān kṛṣṇān vṛkṣān tudanti : gajān kṛṣṇān vṛkṣāms tudanti

The hero grieves for the forest

S: Hero (vīraḥ). A: grieves (śocati). O: forest (vanam)

vīraḥ vanam śocati : vīro vanaṁ śocati

They (m) conquer the men

S: they, masculine (te). A: conquer (jayanti). O: men (narān)

te narān jayanti : te narāñ jayanti

 

Sanskrit Practice

विषया विनिवर्तन्ते
viṣayā vinivartante {“turn away from the sense objects”}

रामः सीतां विन्दति
rāmaḥ sītāṁ vindati {“Rāma finds Sīta”}

भवान् भिष्मश्च कर्णश्च
bhavān, bhiṣmaś ca karṇaś ca  {“You, Bhiṣma, and Karṇa”}

द्रुपदो द्रौपदेयश्च
drupado draupadeyaś ca  {“Drupada and Draupadī”}

चरणपद्मौ नमामि विष्णो
caraṇa-padmau namāmi viṣṇo  {“I revere the two lotus feet of Viṣṇu”}

शं नो मित्रः शं वरुणः । शं नो भवत्वर्यमा
śaṁ no mitraḥ śaṁ varuṇaḥ. śaṁ no bhavatv aryamā
{“Bless us Mitra. Bless us Varuṇa. Bless us Aryamā.”}

शं नो विष्णुरुरुक्रमः
śaṁ no viṣṇur urukramaḥ
{“Bless us, wide-stepping Viṣṇu”}

नमस्ते वयो । त्वमेव प्रत्यक्षमसि
namas te vayo. tvam eva pratyakṣam asi
{“Salutations to Vayu. You are certainly directly perceptible.”}

सत्यं वदिष्यामि
satyaṁ vadiṣyāmi
{“I will speak the truth.”}

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
auṁ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ śāntiḥ
{“Oṁ. Peace. Peace. Peace.”}