Tag Archives: Pronoun

Pronouns as Objects (And Compound-Vowel Sandhi)

Yesterday we got our first look at Nouns as Objects.  Now lets look at how Sanskrit uses Pronouns as Objects. Here’s a table, along with a reminder about the same Pronouns as Subjects:

First Person (“I”)
मद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) अहम्



Case 2 (object) माम्



Second Person (“You”)
त्वद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) त्वम्



Case 2 (object) त्वाम्



Third Person masculine (“he”)
तद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) सः



Case 2 (object) तम्




So, what do you notice about all of it? Well, one thing is:

  • Just like with nouns, there’s no difference between Subject and Object inflection when the case is dual.
  • One more thing: except for third person singular and dual, all the Object pronouns have the final vowel as “ā”

Another little observation is that third person masculine object pronouns have the same exact endings as masculine object nouns.

  • gajam (“to the elephant”) | tam (“to him”)
  • gajau (“to two elephants”) | tau (“to those two guys”)
  • gajān (“to the elephants”) | tān (“to those guys”)

Compound-Vowel Sandhi

“Compound vowels” are “ai” and “au.” The rule is:

The second vowel becomes a semi-vowel (“v”, “y”, or “r”)

For example:

अश्वौ इच्छति → अश्चविच्छति

aśvau icchati → aśvav icchati {“He wants the two horses”}

That’s simple, but “e” and “o” are also compound vowels (this comes from an older form of Sanskrit, pre-classical). So let’s first get straight what vowels are what.

Vowel Treated as Example
e ai -e + i- → -ay i-
ai āi -ai + i- → -āy i-
o au -o + i- → -av i-
au āu -au + i- → -āv i-

Remember that “ai” is a stronger form of “e”, and “au” is a stronger form of “o”, and this wont seem arbitrary.

The case of “e” above has some special rule to it (because e is phonetically a very strong sound):

Like all compound vowels “e” changes to a stronger form (“ai”) before applying sandhi. But unlike other compound vowels, the second vowel just disappears rather than change into a semi-vowel.

Here is an example:

ते इच्छन्ति → त इच्छन्ति

te icchanti → ta icchanti


  1. The “e” in “te” becomes “ai” – so the sound is now “tai”
  2. The e is stronger than most vowels so it obliterates the second vowel rather than merely change it. So the “i” disappears from “tai” and you’re left with “ta”
  3. No further sandhi applies.

One more special note about this “e” business:

If the next words starts with a, that a will also disappear.

A is the most basic, subliminal sound, that’s why it’s so easy to make it disappear when next to the strongest sound, “e.”  So, for example:

ते अश्वाः = ते ऽश्वाः

te aṣvāh = te ‘śvāḥ



More Sanskrit Pronoun Exercise

You hit / attack

The word for hit/attach is tuda. The inflection for “you” is -si. And the pronoun for “you” is tvaṁ. So: त्वं तुदसि (tvaṁ tudasi).

The two of us ask

The word for ask is pṛccha. The inflection for “two of us” is -avaḥ. The pronoun is āvām. So: आवाम्पृच्छावाः (āvām pṛcchāvaḥ).

They walk

The word for walk is gaccha. The inflection for “they” is -anti. The pronoun is te. So: ते गाच्छान्ति (te gacchānti). But this is more about movement in general. To be more specific about walking, use the word cara. So: ते चरन्ति (te caranti).

You speak

The word for speak is bhāṣa. The inflection is -si, but speaking is seen as something benefiting the actor, so it’s -se. The pronoun is tvaṁ. So: त्वं भाषसे (tvaṁ bhāṣase).

We are confused

The word for confusion is muhya. The inflection for “we” is –amaḥ. The pronoun is vayam. So: वयम्मुह्यामः (vayam muhyāmaḥ).

They ask.

The word for ask is pṛccha. The inflection for “they” is -nti. The pronoun is te. So: ते पृच्छन्ति (te pṛcchanti).

I release

The word for “release” is sṛja. The inflection for “I” is -ami. The pronoun is ahaṁ. So: अहं सृजामि (ahaṁ sṛjāmi).

You find

The word for “find” is vinda. The inflection is -si. The pronoun is tvaṁ. So: त्वं विन्दसि (tvaṁ vindasi).

I enjoy

A word for “enjoy” is rama. The inflection, since it is self serving, is “e” replacing the final vowel. The pronoun is ahaṁ. So: अहं रमे (ahaṁ rame).

The two of us are born

The word for “born” is jaya. The inflection is -avaḥ. The pronoun is āvām. So: आवाम्जयावः (āvām jayāvaḥ). But this word “born” is self-serving, so we should use the self-serving inflection, which, basically, adds an “e”. So: आवाम् जयावहे (vāyām jayāvahe)

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.