Tag Archives: Adjective

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


Sanskrit Adjectives – “The horse sees that beloved, beautiful Krishna.”

Adjectives are words that describe nouns.

Adjectives are inflected just like the noun they modify.

सुन्दरा (sundara) {“beautiful”} is an adjective. Here are some examples how to use it:

सुन्दरो नरो ऽश्वं गच्छति
sundaro naro ‘śvaṁ gacchati
“The beautiful man goes to the horse”

सुन्दरं नरो ऽश्वं गच्छति
sundaraṁ naro ‘śvaṁ gacchati
“The man goes to the beautiful horse.”

There are four words in these sentences:

  1. sundara {“beautiful”}
  2. nara {“man/human”}
  3. aśva {“horse”}
  4. gaccha {“goes”}

The words are inflected, of course, so they have specific endings. All the words except sundara have the same inflection in both sentences, so let’s look at those words first:

  1. naraḥ {singular – “a / the man” – as the subject of the sentence}
  2. aśvam {singular – “a/the horse” – as the object of the sentence}
  3. gacchati {third person singular verb – “he goes”}

[The above three words blend together by the rules of sandhi to become “naro ‘śvaṁ gacchati.”]

So we know that the sentence is talking about a man going to/towards a horse. Now we’ve got to consider the fourth word, sundara. In the first sentence it’s inflected as sundaraḥ (which becomes sundaro by blending/sandhi). It is inflected with the ending you give to nouns that are subjects (see, it matches naraḥ, the subject of the sentence?). So this is the key to knowing which one is “beautiful,” the man or the horse. In this case, since the inflection of the word “beautiful” (sundaraḥ) matches the inflection of the word “man” (naraḥ) we know that the man, not the horse, is being described as beautiful. So the first sentence means, “The beautiful man goes to the horse.”

In the second sentence the word order is exactly the same, but notice that the ending of the adjective “beautiful” (sundara) is different. This time it’s not sundaraḥ, it’s sundaram. Here it’s not inflected like a subject-noun, it’s inflected like an object noun. Thus it matches the inflection of the object-noun in the sentence (aśvam – “to the horse”). So in this sentence, the meaning is, “The man goes to the beautiful horse.”

Here are a few more details about Sanskrit adjectives:

  • You can use multiple adjectives to define one noun, like in English, “the beautiful, graceful, shy lady.”
  • You can even simply state an adjective without specifying a noun! In English too, like “Beautiful!” But in saskrit the inflection of the stand alone adjective gives a strong hint as to what “beautiful!” is directed towards.
  • Pronouns can be used like adjectives, and they then come to mean “this” or “that” – referencing back towards some previously spoken or unspoken instance of conversation.
  • If there’s a sentence where there’s confusion about which noun an adjective modifies, it should usually be the noun closest to the adjective by word order in the sentence.

Here’s an example of a relatively elaborate Sanskrit sentence (relative to our current level):

कृष्णं स प्रियो ऽश्वं पश्यति सुन्दरम्
kṛṣṇaṁ sa priyo ‘śvaṁ paśyati sundaram

The subject of the sentence is “beloved” (priyaḥ, which became priyo due to blending with the next word). How do I know? Because the -ḥ ending on a noun indicates a singular subject. 

What “beloved”? saḥ priyaḥ (“sa priyo” when the words blend together). Sa is the pronoun “he”, but here it’s used as an adjective for priya. So it’s like “him, my beloved.” Or “this beloved man.”

What is the object doing? For this, you must find the verb. The verb in this sentence is paśya (inflected as paśyati to match the third person singular noun, priyaḥ) – “see.” So, “This beloved man sees…”

Sees what? For that, you must find the object of the sentence. In this sentence the object could be either Kṛṣṇa {“The All-Attractive”} or Aśva {“the horse”} since both of them are nouns and both are inflected with “-m” indicating that they are the object of the sentence. Unfortunately for those of us who are kind of addicted to hearing about Krishna, the All-Attractive, he is not the object of this sentence. We know this because the word kṛṣṇa can be a noun, but most often is an adjective. The meaning of the word is “black.” Black is the color that attracts all light, so this adjective is used as a noun to give a proper name to the All-Attractive Supreme Being, Krishna. “Horse” on the other hand, is a noun, and can’t very well be used as an adjective. It’s just a noun. So the sentence will only be sensible if “horse” (aśva) is the object and “black” (kṛṣṇa) is the adjective.

So, “That beloved man sees the horse.” What kind of horse? A “black horse.”

There’s one more word in the sentence, it’s sundara, “beautiful.” So, who is beautiful, the beloved or the horse? Well the inflection of sundara here is sundaram which matches kṛṣṇam and aśvam. We’ve already determined that aśvam {“horse”} is the noun, and kṛṣṇam {“black”} is the adjective. Now we have a second adjective describing the horse, sundaram. So:

That beloved man sees the beautiful, black horse.

Since we are so let down by the failure of this sentence to live up to it’s potential, let’s try to fix it to be what we wanted.

What we want to say is “The horse sees that beautiful, beloved Krishna.”

So we will start by inflecting aśva as the subjectaśvaḥ.

The verb can stay like it was before, paśyati since the new subject, aśvaḥ is still third person and singular.

Now we need to change the previous subject, priyaḥ into an object-adjective, priyam. And we need to move the pronoun-adjective saḥ so that it modifies our object, Krishna.


saḥ kṛṣṇam priyam aśvaḥ paśyati sundaram

And when we blend the words together:

स कृष्णं प्रियो ऽश्वं पश्यति सुन्दरम्
sa kṛṣṇaṁ priyaṁ aśvaḥ paśyati sundaram

“The horse sees that beloved, beautiful Krishna.”