Tag Archives: Grammatical person

“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


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.


Rooting out the Meaning

Noun = Prefix(es) Root Suffix(es)
lābha labh a
Profit to gain
 māna man a
 Regard to think
 saṁtāra sam tar a
 Inclusively Surpassing to surpass
 nindana nind ana
 Defamy, censure to insult
 bhaga bhag a
 Opulence, Fortune to divide / share
 vartana vart ana
Motion to move
 bodhana bodh ana
 Comprehension to comprehend
 sthāna stha ana
 Place  to stand
 darśana dṛś ana
 Audience / Meeting to see
 ādarśa ā dṛś a
 Illustration / Display to see

English to Sanskrit

Let’s figure out how to say, “With his eye, the man sees the bliss of the village.

“Eye” can be akṣa or nayana or netra. Let’s use netra. We have to conjugate it in the “with” case. That’s case 3, and the ending is -ena, e replacing the a. So, netreṇa means “with his eye.”

The man is the subject: naraḥ.

The man sees: paśyati.

Bliss is ānanada. Village is grāma. We need village to be in the “of” case,  Case 6, where the ending is -sya. So, grāmasya. Now the two words form a pair, we’ll put the thing that possesses the other thing first. Villiage possesses bliss, so village first, followed by bliss: grāmasya+ānanda = grāmasyānanda. We have to make sure this is understood to be the object of the seeing, so the compound should get the inflection of an object, -m. So, grāmasyānandam

Put the words together: naraḥ netreṇa grāmasyānandam paśyati. Make considerations for Sandhi: naro netreṇa grāmasyānandaṁ paśyati. 

नरो नेत्रेण ग्रामस्यानन्दं पश्यति

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.”

Nouns As Objects

We looked at how nouns are inflected when used as the subject of a sentence. Now we’ll learn how they are inflected when used as the object of a sentence.

Let’s remind ourselves of the inflections for “case 1” nouns (subjects) and also show the new inflections for “case 2” nouns (objects). Both are limited to masculine words ending in a – for example गज (gaja) {“elephant”}

गज Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) गजः



Case 2 (object) गजम्



  • You’ll notice that gaja is inflected the same way for use as a subject or object, if there are two elephants (dual).
  • The telltale sign of plurality is the stronger vowel at the end, “ā”. If it’s “-ā” then its a plural subject. If it’s “-ān” it’s a plural object.
  • The telltale sign of the subject case is “ḥ”. If it’s “-āḥ” it’s plural subject. If it’s “aḥ” it’s singular subject.
  • The telltale sign of the object case is the nasal sound “m/n.” You can keep the same rule as above: If there’s a long vowel (“-ām”) before the nasal, it’s a plural object. If there’s a short vowel (“-an”) it’s singular object.

Here are two examples (w/out sandhi)

बालः नरान् तुदति

bālaḥ narān tudati

We know that bāla means child, and it’s masculine, so it means boy. And we know that nara means adult, human, and since it’s masculine, man. And we also know that tuda means “hit/attack.”

So, what does the sentence mean? Boy man attack? Boy attacks man? Man attacks boy? Boys attack men? Etc.

Well, we see tuda is expressed as tudanti, and we know that the -ti ending is 3rd person, singular. Tuda (“hit/attack”) is the action in the sentence, the verb. So whoever is doing the attacking is one person, singular.

Bālaḥ has the “ḥ” at the end, a telltale sign of being a subject. Narān has the nasal sound (“n” in this case) at the end, the telltale sign of being the object. Now we’ve sorted it out! Bālaḥ is the subject, doing tudati to the object: narān. Tudati is singular, so if it applies to bālaḥ, bālaḥ has to be singular too. Sure enough it is. The tell tale sign is the at the “a” before the “ḥ” is not “ā” – that’s how we know it’s singular. Similarly we know narān is plural because the “a” at the end is “ā”.

So: “The boy attacks the men.”

कृष्णः वीरम् पृच्छति

kṛṣṇaḥ vīram pṛcchati

Kṛṣṇa is the person named “Krishna.” We know that he’s the subject of the sentence because of the “ḥ” at the end of kṛṣṇaḥ. And we know there’s just one kṛṣṇa involved (singular) because the vowel before the “ḥ” is short (“a”), not long (“ā”). Vīram means “hero.” It ends in a nasal sound so we know it’s the object of the sentence. The vowel before the final nasal is short, so it’s singular. The verb is pṛcchati (inquire), which (being “-ti”) is third person singular.

So: “Krishna asks the hero.”

What’s an “object” anyway? It’s an entity to which / on which action is performed. “Krishna asks the hero.” The hero is the “object” because he’s the entity to which the action of asking is directed. “The boy attacks the men.” The men are the “object” because they are the entity to which the action of attacking is directed. So consider this example:

अर्जुनः अश्वम् गच्छति

arjunaḥ aśvam gacchati

The “-ḥ” gives away the subject, Arjuna. The nasal (‘-m’) gives away the object, a horse (aśvam, singular because the final vowel is short). The verb is also singular and third person, gacchati – “he goes.” So the object, being the entity to which action is directed, indicates the destination of movement, in this sentence:

“Arjuna goes to the horse.”


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).

Sanskrit Pronouns

Theoretically मद् (mad) is the root for the first-person pronoun (“I”), and त्वद् (tvad) the root for the second-person pronoun (“you”) – but the relation between the roots and the actual words used in speech are very irregular.

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

There are cognates to english. Yūyam is related to “you.” Tvam relates to “thou.” Vayam sounds like “we” and aham is remotely like “I.”

The third-person pronoun (“He / She / It”) has gender, so is more complicated. First let’s learn about the masculine gender.

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

Sandhi for -m

This is one of the easiest sandhi’s to remember:

If “m” finishes a word, and the next word starts with a cononant, the “m” will become “ṁ” – otherwise nothing changes.

अहम् पृच्छामि = अहं पृच्छामि
aham pṛcchāmi = aha pṛcchāmi
{“I ask”}

Sandhi for saḥ

It follows the regular “ḥ” rules except that if the word saḥ comes before another word that starts with a consonnant, only the “ḥ” goes away, not the whole “aḥ”

स पश्यति sa paśyati {“he sees”}

स गच्छति sa gacchati {“He goes”}

In these two examples, saḥ became sa because the next word began with a consonant.

सः इच्छति saḥ icchati {“he wants”}

In this example, saḥ remains as it is because the next word begins with a vowel.

सोऽश्वः so ‘śvaḥ {“he’s a horse”}

This looks weird but its following the “normal” rule for “aḥ” blending with “a”, the “aḥ” at the end of the first word changes to “o” and the “a” at the beginning of the next word disappears.