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Credits:

This tutorial doesn’t claim any “originality” of the articles in it! There are so many Sanskrit grammar books and web sites out there. All the articles in this website are inspired from various resources; some are even copy-pasted into our format! We earnestly thank all those who have walked ahead of us and have left the trail so that we could pick & choose from their labour of love and compile this tutorial into this fashion. All credits to all else!

Introduction:

This is a tutorial on basic Sanskrit⇒ just enough to read and understand Sanskrit. The primary objective of this tutorial is to comprehend Holy Bible in Sanskrit language (सत्यवेदं). Hence the tutorial is organized in such a way as to make the language concepts used in the Holy Bible clear to the reader.

Benefits of learning Sanskrit via Holy Bible.

  • It’s Holy!
  • Holy Bible is written in simple language; easy to read and comprehend.
  • Holy Bible is already available in most of the world languages. Hence the student could easily compare and understand the Sanskrit text in his/her own mother tongue or whichever languages he/she prefer.
  • There are prose and poetry within the Holy Bible; thus providing enough resources to learn various aspects of the Sanskrit language.
  • Holy Bible was originally written in Ancient Hebrew and Ancient Greek. Coming from the same Indo-European family of languages and being philosophically oriented languages, Sanskrit could emulate the peculiar linguistic characteristics of these original Biblical languages much more than any other languages in the world.
  • Reading Holy Bible in Sanskrit would equip the student with enough language skills to open the doors to a vast plethora of Sanskrit literature.

Hence, as a supplementary tool to this study, the student is advised to start reading the Holy Bible in Sanskrit language. Please visit this section of SanskritBible.in to read Gospel of John with a word to word meaning section attached to each verse. Provisions are added for you to easily compare the verses with translation in any language you prefer. You can also read Sanskrit in any language script you prefer. Options are there to download these texts (even along with verse-by-verse translations in other language/s and transliteration to your comfortable script) for offline use. Keep reading these Bible portions regularly along with learning from this tutorial. Your brain will capture the patterns by itself to a great extant.

Before you begin.

This section you are reading now is a brief of the tutorial!
The student is encouraged to read through this brief in totality (it would hardly take an hour or so!). The brief is divided into various section and each section has got links to further explanations of that concept.

During your first reading of this tutorial, don’t try to learn anything and don’t worry about not understanding any concept! Human brain is an amazing blob of fat. From this initial reading, your brain will automatically gain an overview on Sanskrit language and how it is organized vis-à-vis English (or your own mother tongue). Such an understanding will further help you in learning the Sanskrit grammar properly. Gaining this overview is the very purpose of this ‘tutorial brief’. So just read on…

After your initial read.

After reading this tutorial brief once in full, you could then go into each of these sections one by one and learn them in detail. There are enough navigation links in every page to keep you connected within the tutorial sections. After your initial reading you should start the learning process:
  • Relax
  • Take some time to read each portion
  • Take much effort in understanding the concepts
  • Compare the Sanskrit grammar concepts with your own mother tongue.
  • Make your own personal notes and diagrams
  • Make your own flash cards
  • Take some break
  • Revisit the concepts that are yet to get clear
  • Revise as required
Rather than spending many hours together in a day, it would be better to spend few hours regularly each day; but regularly. Every one of us has a different pace and pattern of learning. All that we are suggesting is to explore your very own comfortable and most efficient learning methodology and follow it passionately. Patience and perseverance is the key to unlock Sanskrit language.

Medium of instruction

We would be using the medium of English language as a comparative tool to understand Sanskrit grammatical concepts. Rather than mugging up charts, we would try to understand the concepts behind the grammar rules in very simple terms. Comparative learning using one’s own mother tongue is the best way to learn any new language. For reaching a wider audience we have used English here. Therefore, the student is further encouraged to compare the various grammatical concepts with those in his/her own mother tongue.

Pros & Cons of Using English as the Comparative Medium

Pros:
We are already familiar with the grammar concepts in English. English being a universal language, comparing with English grammar and understanding the limits of both the languages vis-à-vis each other gives us a better overview of Sanskrit and its usages.
Cons:
Sanskrit is a fiercely independent language with its own well-structured grammar system. In fact, Sanskrit would be one of the first languages in the world to develop / codify its grammar system, that too independently. So it already has a very distinct set of grammar rules and methodology to classify various aspects within the grammar in its own way. In many cases, these classifications does not quite match with the approach of English grammar. Some of these concepts are not even there in English at all! Hence, we would face many overlaps and exceptions when using English grammar as a comparison tool. The student needs to keep in mind this limitation.

Language & Grammar

Lord Jesus Christ made an interesting observation during His public ministry on Earth: “law is made for man, not man for law”. Same is the case with grammar & language. It is not that language is made based on grammar rules. Grammar is just a tool which got formulated at a very later stage of language development only to describe that language.

It is said that, the pulse of the universe is in mathematics. If you analyse closely, just about everything in our life follows a pattern; whether it be music, art, astronomy or even language. A grammarian observes these various patterns in a language and codifies them. That is all he does. However, just as there are exceptions of patterns in every aspect of human life, so is the case with languages too.

All of Sanskrit grammar revolves around the works of one great grammarian: पाणिनि Pāṇini. He did his codification works and wrote a book called Aṣṭādhyāyī अष्टाध्यायी (literally: Eight Chapters) circa 500BC. That doesn’t mean that Pāṇini was the first Sanskrit grammarian ever. Pāṇini himself gives homage to the grammarians who have walked ahead of him. However Pāṇini’s grammar rules served as the basic foundation for all further grammarians. We are thus indebted to him.

तस्मै पाणिनाये नमः। Homage to you Pāṇini.

When we say Pāṇini, we also remember (and are thankful) to all those grammarians who walked before and after him till date. It would be worth mentioning about महाभाष्य Mahābhāṣya⇒ a commentary on Pāṇini’s Aṣṭādhyāyī. This book was written circa 150BC and is attributed to पतञ्जलि Patañjali (may or may not be the same sage who authored Yogasutras). It is generally understood that with Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya the Indian tradition of language scholarship reached its definite form.

From where to start.

We start with the understanding that all languages are the same!
As per Bible, it was at the Tower of Babel in Mesopotamia that God ‘gifted’ (so to say) men with the ability of talking in various languages. Till then everyone was talking in the very same language!
As per the modern linguistic studies also, all the languages in the world (some 7,000 or so in number!) are now understood as having a common ancestor, or more precisely, a family of ancestors. Sanskrit belongs to the Indo-European family; where English also belongs to. {read more...}

आदौ वाद आसीत्। (In the beginning was the Word.)

The Word (वादः) mentioned here is The Living Word (i.e. a conversation).
As per Christian theology, Jesus Christ is this Living Word (i.e. God Himself); who came in the form of a man to give himself as a ransom for mankind and thus save them from eternal destruction. {read more...}

In a very literal interpretation also, the phrase आदौ वाद आसीत्। is true to its core. The spoken words (let’s call it sounds) are the basic building blocks of any language. Much before the written script got invented in any language, people started speaking that language.

Every language ever used by humans (as mentioned, we have some 7,000 or so!) follows the very same steps to create a sentence:
  • Stage 1: Find the base words (i.e. the nouns and verbs)
  • Stage 2: Modify the base words to give it the desired meanings.
  • Stage 3: Filter it through the language specific filters.
That’s it! And there, you get a meaningful sentence!
Let’s see how this sentence came into being: “Boy plays.”
Stages Description English Malayalam Hindi Sanskrit
Stage 1: Find base words boy(noun) + play(verb) boy + play ബാലന്‍ + കളി लड़का + खेल बाल + क्रीड्
Stage 2: Modify base words boy(Nominative Case-3rd Person-Singular-Male) + play(Simple Present Tense-3rd Person-Singular-Male) boy + plays ബാലന്‍ + കളിയ്ക്കുന്നു लड़का + खेलता है बालः + क्रीडति
Stage 3: Language Filter Each language has it's own set of filters. Boy (capitalize the first word of a sentence) + plays. ('.' is used to end a sentence) ബാലന്‍ + കളിയ്ക്കുന്നു. ('.' is used to end a sentence) लड़का + खेलता है। ('।' is used to end a sentence) बालः + क्रीडति। ('।' is used to end a sentence)
Final sentence Boy plays. ബാലന്‍ കളിയ്ക്കുന്നു. लड़का खेलता है। बालः क्रीडति।
Look! How simple and straight forward this is!..:)

As you could notice, each languages modifies the base words (nouns and verbs) in various degrees. In the above sentence: “Boy Plays”, the following changes happened to the base words:
Language Noun Verb Remark
English Boy ⇒ Boy Play ⇒ Plays Noun⇒ no modifications.
Verb – suffix “s” was added.
Hindi लड़का ⇒ लड़का खेल ⇒ खेलता है Noun⇒ no modifications.
Verb – suffix “ता” and "है" was added.
Malayalam ബാലന്‍ ⇒ ബാലന്‍ കളി ⇒ കളിക്കുന്നു Noun⇒ no modifications.
Verb – suffix “ക്കുന്നു” was added.
Sanskrit बालबालः क्रीडक्रीडति Noun⇒ suffix “” was added.
Verb – suffix “ति” was added.
This act of modifying the base words (i.e. the nouns and verbs) is called Inflection.
Inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, and mood. The inflection of verbs is called conjugation, and the inflection of nouns as declension. An inflection can be effected with a prefix, suffix or infix, or another internal modification such as a vowel change.
Inflexion is very moderate in modern day languages. Ancient languages (like Sanskrit, Greek, Hebrew, Old English, etc.) are highly inflected languages. As the languages evolved into its modern forms, prepositions (of, from, in, etc.) were increasingly used instead of inflexion.
The realization that every language follows the same pattern of sentence creation, would encourage you to read further and learn Sanskrit.

The History of Sanskrit

Along with one of the many influxes of exoduses (migrations) that happened to the Indian subcontinent (Indus river bank in particular), sometime during the pre-recorded historic time (circa 1800 BC?), came the early forms of the Sanskrit language. This early form is know as Prakrit. That which is refined out of Prakrit is called Sanskrit. In fact the very meaning of the word संस्कृतं (saṁskṛtaṁ) is “refined”.

However Prakrit as a language didn’t cease to exist soon after Sanskrit was refined out of it! This is what is postulated to happen :-
From Prakrit, the Acharyas (great teachers) distilled/refined/purified Sanskrit. But Sanskrit being a structured and organized language with well written grammar codes and usage instructions, one had to properly learn Sanskrit from a guru (teacher) in order to use it correctly; which obviously could be attained only by dedicated students.
Thus Sanskrit remained the language of the learned, used by the intellectual mass and flourished through their innumerous writings, and of course as a liturgical language. The common mass continued to use Prakrit for their daily communication needs. Both these languages (Sanskrit & Prakrit) co-existed for a very long time and the speakers of the respective languages were even able to understand each other well.
In ancient Sanskrit dramas we can see both Prakrit and Sanskrit being employed. For eg: in अभिज्ञानशकुन्तलम् (abhijñānaśakuntalam) of Kalidasa: Dushyantan, Kanvan, etc. talks in Sanskrit while Shakuntala, Maids, Fisherman etc. talks in Prakrit. They are able to communicate with each other as well.

Sanskrit, as it was a well codified language, remained unchanged for the last 2,000 odd years. Isn’t that cool! The Sanskrit we say/read/write today is the very same Sanskrit they said some 2,000 odd years back!
On the other hand Prakrit evolved, split again and evolved separately again into various regional languages like Assamese, Bengali, Oriya, Hindi, Marati, Gujarati, Panjabi, Kashmiri, etc. By then, the Prakrit language vanished off.

The Script of Sanskrit

Communication is interpreted through our sense organs. Humans seem to have 5 sense organs. The fact is that we can device a language to communicate through any of these sense organs; of course with varied complexity! Out of the 5, the ears and eyes are the primary sense organs for our day-to-day communication needs. Thus languages developed targeting these two.
  • For ears: language is expressed by sound modulations.
  • For eyes: language is expressed using scripts. i.e a set of symbols that denotes a particular sound modulation.

Today when we say language, we are referring to a particular set of sound modulation; maybe except for sign languages & Hieroglyphics!
Some languages have its own native script; like Malayalam, Tamil, Chinese etc. Many languages don’t have or have lost its own native script; like English (which uses Latin or Roman script), Hindi (which uses Devanagari) etc. Sanskrit also don’t have a native script. Even the earliest known writings are in a script called Brahmi, which was the native script of Prakrit language. But it is long lost and is not in use anymore! As a matter of fact any languages can be written in any script. The process of writing a language in its non-native script is called transliteration.

As time progressed, Sanskrit came to be written in a wide variety of regional scripts, like:
  • Indian Sub-Continent
    • Bengali
    • Devanagari
    • Gujarati
    • Tibetan
    • Oriya
    • Telegu
    • Kannada
    • Sinhala
    • Malayalam
    • Tamil
  • Southeast Asia
    • Burmese
    • Khmer
    • Thai
    • Lao
    • Balinese
    • Javanese
    • Lontara
  • Modern (Latin alphabet)
    • IAST
    • ITRANS
    • Harvard-Kyoto
    • Hunterian system
    • ISO 15919
Now-a-days, Devanagari has gained popularity in the Indian subcontinent and I.A.S.T. (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration) among the international community. With the advancement of technology, now it doesn’t matter which script the Sanskrit text is written, you can easily transliterate it to any script of your choice [as you could do in this webpage; try the script dropdown button on the side menu bar.]

Classifications of Sanskrit

Chronological classification of Sanskrit literary works is still mired in controversies. Keeping away from the debates; we will just try to see how things came into being!
Sanskrit literary works are broadly classified into two:
  • Vedic i.e वैदिक (vaidika)
  • Post-Vedic : named as Classic i.e लौकिक (laukika).
This division is vaguely pivoted around the codification process of Sanskrit into a well organised language by sages like Panini, generally believed to happen around circa 500 BC(?).
All we know for sure is that Vedic Sanskrit is very different from Classic Sanskrit.
However after the Vedic period (and the codification works), all Sanskrit literature (including liturgical ones) were produced in Classic Sanskrit and still continues to be the Sanskrit we use today. This tutorial is for Classic Sanskrit.

Sanskrit Alphabets

As discussed above, Sanskrit dont have its own native script. So it is better to understand Sanskrit alphabets as a set of sound modulations that could be represented in writing using any language script of your choice (as long as your chose script has a specific symbol to denote that particular sound modulation).

For keeping things simple, we would be primarily considering Devanagari scripts here. [The same script that Hindi uses.] Rather than reinventing the wheel, I will redirect your attention to this website: Hindi Script Tutor
The author there has taken pains in explaining the letters, their sounds, their formation and so on.

If you prefer to gain knowledge in I.A.S.T. script pelase refer to these resources:

Discrepancies in Devanagari Script
Devanagari is not a perfect script; nor is any script for that matter! There are two types of confusions that could arise while reading Sanskrit in Devanagari:
  • Letters that look similar
  • Two different sounds for the very same letter.
A. Letters that look similar
Tip: The best practical solution to get over this difficulty is a lot of reading practice and trying to connect these sounds to some words in your own mother tongue.

Nb: this issue is inherent with many scripts. For e.g. in Malayalam ക്യ and കൃ might look the very same. But ക്യ is kya and കൃ is kru [notice the presence or absence of a subtle gap in the signs]. A non-native Malayalam speaker might find it tough to even distinguish them!

B. Two different sounds for the very same letter.

This difficulty is actually the other way round! That is, the Devanagari script don’t have any particular symbol to accurately denote some of the Sanskrit sounds. Thus, they ended up using the same symbol to represent two different and very distinct Sanskrit sounds.

While this may look odd, the practical situation was that the typical Devanagari script users could not anyway reproduce/pronounce certain Sanskrit sounds and thus ended up substituting their familiar sound instead of the non-pronounceable sound. That shortcut solved their problem from both sides: not able to pronounce that sound properly and not able to depict it in writing! However, in scripts like Malayalam there are different symbols to depict all sounds in Sanskrit language.

Tip: here also there is no straightforward tip as such. The only practical solution is a lot of reading practice. However, if these sound differences are not available in your own mother tongue (for e.g. the different la and la is not there in Hindi), then it might be difficult for you to pronounce and even identify these sound differences correctly. That does not mean you cannot pronounce them correctly; but only that knowing this difficulty you should put some extra effort.

How a Sentence is Conceived (The Thought Process)?

Every meaningful sentence is created in order to explain an activity.
• This activity is called as a verb (क्रियः): eat, laugh, play, sleep, this, be, etc.
• Someone has to do this activity. This ‘someone’ is called as a noun (कर्तः): boy, girl, Jesus, God, guru, etc.

So we could say that every sentence starts with a verb. Rest of the words in the sentence are the answers for various questions asked to this verb in order to make it a fully meaningful sentence.

Consider the scenario where ‘boys laugh’. You saw this activity and want to convey what you have seen to another person. Let’s analyse how you would do this:

The first task is to find the activity.
Question: what is the activity?
Answer:
laugh | हस् | हसना | ചിരി

Here ‘laugh’ is the verb. The rest of the questions are asked to this verb (till you get a meaningful sentence).
The word “laugh” alone does not make a fully meaningful sentence. Because, this verb is mandatorily demanding someone to ‘do this action’.
Q: who is laughing?
A:
boys | बालाः | लड़के | ആണ്‍കുട്ടികള്‍

Here “boys” is the noun.

Now our sentence has become:
boys laughs | बालाः हास्यति। | लड़के हसते है। | ആണ്‍കുട്ടികള്‍ ചിരിക്കുന്നു.
This sentence has become a full meaningful sentence; because this verb is NOT mandatorily demanding anything more.
Consider another scenario where ‘boys eat fruits’. Let’s analyse how you would convey this activity:

Question: what is the activity?
Answer:
eat | खा | खा | കഴിക്കുക

Here ‘eat’ is the verb. The rest of the questions are asked to this verb (till you get a meaningful sentence).
The word “eat” alone does not make a full meaningful sentence. Because this verb is mandatorily demanding someone to ‘do this action’.
Q: who is eating?
A: boys

Here “boys” is the noun.
Now our sentence has become:
Boys eat. बालाः खादति। लड़के खा रहे हैं। ബാലന്‍മാര്‍ കഴിക്കുന്നു.
But this sentence is also not a fully meaningful sentence. Because this verb is mandatorily demanding someone / something to ‘do this action’ on. This ‘someone / something’ is called as an object (कर्मः), which is also a noun.
Q: what is the boy eating?
A: fruits.

Now our sentence has become:
Boys eat fruits. बालाः फलम् खादति। लड़के फल खा रहे हैं। ബാലന്‍മാര്‍ പഴങ്ങൾ കഴിക്കുന്നു.

Here “fruits” is the object.
Now our sentence has become a full meaningful sentence. Because this verb is NOT mandatorily demanding anything more.
Such verbs which can ONLY be satisfied by two nouns (‘who is doing?’ and ‘on whom it is being done?’) are called as transitive verbs सकर्मक क्रियाः. E.g.: eat, read, beat, etc.
The first kind of verbs which could be satisfied by just one noun (‘who is doing?’) are called as intransitive verbs अकर्मक क्रियाः. E.g.: laugh, sleep, cry, etc.

In other words:
  • Transitive verbs सकर्मक क्रियाः
    A verb which CAN satisfactorily (sensibly) answer the question: ‘on whom the action is being done?’
  • Intransitive verbs अकर्मक क्रियाः
    A verb which CANNOT satisfactorily (sensibly) answer the question: ‘on whom the action is being done?’
After getting this minimum meaningful sentence (i.e. after meeting the mandatory demands of the verb), you could further ask more questions to the verb and noun to add more and more meanings to this sentence.
For an example lets consider a simple sentance: boy laughs.

Questions to the noun:
Q: which boy is laughing?
A: the handsome boy.
The handsome boy laughs.

Here “handsome” is called the adjective (i.e. words that further describes a noun)

You could endlessly continue adding adjectives to the noun: the strong handsome little boy…


Questions to the verb:
Q: how is the boy laughing?
A: loudly.
The handsome boy laughs loudly.

Here “loudly” is called the adverb (i.e. words that further describes a verb)

You could endlessly continue adding adverbs to the verb: hysterically loudly animatedly laughs…


Further questions to add more details:
You could ask any number of questions to this sentence to further add details and meanings.

Q. Where is the handsome boy loudly laughing?
A: in the park
The handsome boy loudly laughs in the park

Here “in the park” is called as a clause.

Q. Why is the handsome boy loudly laughing in the park?
A: because he is saw a funny incident
The handsome boy loudly laughs in the park as he saw a funny incident.

Here “as” is a connector word (known as conjunction) that will explain the 'reason clause'. [Commonly used conjunction are: and, or, but, so, because, although, etc.]

Q. What was the funny incident the boy saw?
A: a cat chasing a dog.
The handsome boy loudly laughs in the park as he saw a funny incident of a cat chasing a dog.

You must have got the “idea” by now. In order to further explain the scenario in much more detail, you could:
  • Add any number of clauses using connector words (and, or, but, so, because, although, etc.) and punctuation marks (comma ‘,’, semicolon ’;’, colon ‘:’, etc.)
  • Add any number of adjectives to each of the nouns (both to the subjects and objects) in these clauses
  • Add any number of adverbs to each of the verbs in these clauses

For e.g.: Our simple sentence ‘the boy laughs’ could be turned into:
The strong handsome little boy hysterically, loudly and animatedly laughs in the central park as he saw a very funny incident of a small white cat, that was calmly sleeping till then, violently chasing a big black spotted dog that was barking at an old man selling orange stripped hydrogen filled balloons under the big old banyan tree at twilight.

While grammatically correct, making such long and complicated sentence is NOT an advisable thing to do. Simple sentences are always the best to comprehend. We did this exercise just to explain how an activity (in its full complexity) could be conveyed using language.

To brief up, this is how a sentence is formed stage by stage:
  1. In the beginning, there is the activity: verb
  2. Someone / something is doing this activity: noun (subject)
  3. This activity is done on someone / something: noun (object)
  4. The description of the noun: adjective
  5. The description of the verb: adverb
  6. Providing additional information (like where, when, etc.): clause
And what's more, this thought process is the same across all human languages.

Types of Sentances

[Different types of sentence creation to convey the very same meaning.]

As languages evolved, the poetic minded people wanted to say things poetically.
So the sentence ‘The boy eats fruits.’ could also be said as ‘Fruits are eaten by the boy.’

The first type of sentences gives stress to the subject | कर्तः (the noun who is doing the action) and are called Active Voice | कर्तरि प्रयोगः
The boy eats fruits. बालः फलानि खादति। लड़के फल खा रहे हैं। ബാലന്‍മാര്‍ പഴങ്ങൾ കഴിക്കുന്നു.

The second type of sentences gives stress to the object | कर्मः (the noun on whom the action is being done) and are called Passive Voice | कर्मणि प्रयोगः
Fruits are eaten by the boy. फलानि बालेन खाद्यते। लड़के द्वारा फलों को खाया जाता है। പഴങ്ങള്‍ ബാലന്‍മാരാല്‍ കഴിക്കപ്പെടുന്നു.

So what about sentences where there is no object (i.e. sentences having intransitive verb), like: Boy laughs, Peter sleeps, etc.
In English language (and also in most modern languages including Hindi, Malayalam, etc.) you just CANNOT say such a sentence in Passive Voice. That is, an intransitive verb cannot be expressed in Passive Voice.
BUT in Sanskrit you CAN!
A Passive Voice construction without an object is termed as Passive Impersonal Voice | भावे प्रयोगः
The boy laughs | हास्यते बालेन।
Peter sleeps | निद्र्यते पितरेन। {!!}

However when you have to translate such sentences into English (and such languages which don’t have the Passive Impersonal Voice), you will be forced to use Active Voice only (thus taking away the charm of the poetic flow that is in Sanskrit!).

Nb: as you would’ve already understood, we uses Active voice construction in our common day conversations and in most literature. However, Sanskrit have vastly made use of passive voice constructions as well. So gaining a grip on it is essential.

Word Order in Sentences

In most languages there is a generally accepted order of placing the Subject, Verb and Object.

In English it is the SVO order (i.e. Subject⇒ Verb – Object):
The Boy eats fruits.

In Hindi (and most other Indian and world languages) it is the SOV order (i.e. Subject – Object⇒ Verb):
Hindi ⇒ लड़का फल खाती है।
Malayalam ⇒ ബാലന്‍ ഫലങ്ങള്‍ തിന്നുന്നു.

If you mess with this order, the sentence will look awkward, gives a very different meaning and might not be grammatically correct.
i.e. you cannot say the sentence ‘The Boy eats fruits’ as ‘Fruit eats the boy’ or ‘Eats fruits the boy’ or ‘Fruits the boy eats’ or ‘The boy fruits eats’!
Similarly in Hindi you cannot say the sentence ‘लड़का फल खाती है। ‘as फल लड़का खाती है। or खाती लड़का फल है। or खाती फल है लड़का।

However in Sanskrit the word order is of absolutely NO significance!
So the sentence ‘The boy eats fruits.’ Could be said as:
बालः फलानि खादति।
फलानि बालः खादति।
खादति बालः फलानि।
बालः खादति फलानि।
फलानि खादति बालः।
खादति फलानि बालः।

Note that all the above sentences are in active voice construction itself. The same sentence is passive voice [‘Fruits are eaten by the boy.’] could be said as:
फलानि बालेन खाद्यते।
बालेन फलानि खाद्यते।
खाद्यते फलानि बालेन।
फलानि खाद्यते बालेन।
बालेन खाद्यते फलानि।
खाद्यते बालेन फलानि।
In Sanskrit, the words of sentences are often arranged for their emphasis, rather than in accordance with a pattern like that of the English Subject-Verb-Object (SVO) order. When learning and reading Sanskrit this aspect is very important to be kept in mind.
As you would have observed, Sanskrit attains this extreme flexibility by making use of the concept of inflexion and agreement (between verbs and nouns).

While the SVO word order is strictly followed in English, in other languages there are some kind of flexibility in this, especially in their poetic constructions.
For e.g.: in Malayalam, the sentence ബാലന്‍മാര്‍ പഴങ്ങൾ കഴിക്കുന്നു might also be said as ബാലന്‍മാര്‍ കഴിക്കുന്നു പഴങ്ങൾ or കഴിക്കുന്നു പഴങ്ങൾ ബാലന്‍മാര്‍ and so on (But ideally with poetic licence!)

The Langauge Mine

Just 2,012 word-roots and the WHOLE of Sanskrit is yours!!
When sage Panini codified Sanskrit, he literally got into the very root of it! He stipulated that ALL words, whatsoever, in Sanskrit could be traced back to one or more of the 2,012 word-roots (धातुः)!

That is, all the thousands of words that are already in Sanskrit and that could be infinitely further derived from them to refer to anything whatsoever could be traced back to one of the just 2,012 word-roots (and their combinations).

And this is a fixed set of word-roots! There cannot be any more word-roots possible than this magic number of 2,012!

And even of this 2,012 word-roots, the majority of the words that are in common use could be derived from a pool of just 800 word-roots!!

For eg. Kr (कृ) is a word-root (धातुः) which means to do. There are many words that are derived from this धातुः:
  • Karman (कर्मन्) means deed
  • Kriya (क्रीय) means action
  • Karma (कर्म) means noun (the one who does the action)
  • Prakriya (प्रक्रिय) means process
  • Sakriya (सक्रिय) means being active
  • and so on...
A comprehensive list of the kru words could be read at this link here.

Any kind of words like nouns, verbs or inclinables could be created from from a word-root.

In fact, it could be said that learning Sanskrit grammar is all about learning these word-roots and how they gets inflected to create new words.

Students of the Holy Bible would be familer with the concept of the meaning of a person’s name. Every name mentioned in the Bible has a word meaning.
For example: The name Naomi means “pleasantness” as it comes from the Hebrew word-root related with “pleasant”. The name Jesus means “deliverer” as it comes from the Hebrew word-root related with "rescue, deliver". The name Abraham means "father of many" and comes from the Hebrew word-roots related with “father” and “many”.

Exaclty same is the case with Sanskrit. As mentioned above, there is absolutely NO word in Sanskrit which cannot be traced back to a word-root and thus have a related meaning.
For example: The name कृष्णः (kṛṣṇaḥ) means “the one who is black” and comes from the Sanskrit word-root related with “black, dark”. The name अर्जुनः (arjunaḥ) means “the one who is white” and comes from the Sanskrit word-root related with “white, clear”. Let’s consider ten common names attributed to Krishna to see how they came into usage.

  • ऋषिकेशः (ṛṣikeśaḥ) = 'Lord of all the senses'
  • केशवः (keśavaḥ) = 'the one who has long black matted hair'
  • मुरलीमनोहरः (muralīmanoharaḥ) = 'the one who looks beautiful with a flute'
  • रणछोड़ः (raṇachor̤aḥ) = 'the one who runs away from the battlefield'
  • गोपालः (gopālaḥ) = 'the one who tends cows'
  • द्वारकाधीशः (dvārakādhīśaḥ) = 'the Lord of Dwarka'
  • नन्दकुमारः (nandakumāraḥ) = 'the son of Nanda'
  • मधुसूदनः (madhusūdanaḥ) = 'the slayer of the demon Madhu'
  • नवनितचोरः (navanitacoraḥ) = 'the stealer of butter'
  • पार्थसारथीः (pārthasārathīḥ) = 'the charioteer of Partha (Arjuna)'
This peculiarity of Sanskrit nouns (having a specific meaning) is the reason why the God of the Bible could be address using any of the generalised Sanskrit names for the universal God.
  • जगन्नाथः (jagannāthaḥ) = ’the Lord of the universe’
  • ईश्वरः (īśvaraḥ) = ‘Lord’
  • देवः (devaḥ) = ‘God’
  • देवदेवः (devadevaḥ) = ‘God of gods’
  • महेश्वरः (Maheshvaraḥ) = ‘the Great Lord’
  • परब्रह्मः (Parabrahmaḥ) = ‘the supreme being’
  • परमात्माः (Paramathmaḥ) = ‘the supreme self’
  • परमपितः (Paramapitaḥ) = ‘the supreme father’
  • परमेश्वरः (parameśvaraḥ) = ‘the supreme god’
  • मानवेन्द्रः (mānavendraḥ) = ‘king of men’
  • सकलेश्वरः (sakaleśvaraḥ) = ‘God of all’
  • पावनात्मः (pāvanātmaḥ) = ‘Holy Soul’

…and you can go on coining new names as you wish! For example, you could address Jesus as मरियसुतः (mariyasutaḥ) meaning ‘son of Mary’ or even पञ्चक्षतः (pañcakṣataḥ) meaning ‘one with five wounds’ and so on…

Parts of Speech vs. Word-Root

English grammar revolves around the concept called Parts of Speech (POS). POS is a classification method by which words are categorised in accordance with its syntactic (i.e. linguistic) functions. There are basically eight Parts of Speech in English grammar⇒ Noun, Verb, Pronoun, Adjective, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, and Interjection.
However, the grammar of Sanskrit takes a different approch and is organized around the word-roots and its various derivations.

The Paninian sutra for word creation (धातुनिरूपणं or धातुरूपणं) is: तिप्तस्झिसिप्थस्थमिब्वस्मस्तातांझथासाथांध्वमिड्वहिमहिङ्॥
{This sutra / code is a conjoined string of various suffixes that could be added to the word-root in order to create new words serving specific purposes.}
This is the traditional way of learning Sanskrit and is also the best method for clarity of thoughts. But it is way too complicated for “simple-minded” people like ourselves!

Hence, in this tutorial we would resort to learn Sanskrit based on Parts of Speech (POS) approach of the English grammar.

Please keep in mind that there could be some short comings and overlaps in such an approach; but POS is nevertheless an easy method for gaining a basic grasp of Sanskrit.

The Linguistic Attributes of Nouns

We already saw that: a noun is a word that identifies a person, animal, place, thing, or idea.
In every language nouns are given some linguistic attributes like:
  • Person
  • Number
  • Gender

Verbs in themselves don’t have these linguistic attributes. However the attributes of the noun could influence the inflexions of the related verb (i.e. verb forms).

Person [पुरुषः]

All our conversations require three basic ingredients:
  • The person who is talking
  • The person to whom it is talked to
  • The person/thing/event about which it is talked of
In a broad sense, these three are the three grammatical persons.
Person Sanskrit Name In English In Sanskrit
First Person उत्तमपुरुषः I, We अहम् (I), आवाम् (we two), वयम् (we all)
Second Person मध्यमपुरुषः You त्वं (you), यूयम् (you all)
Third Person प्रथमपुरुषः All other nouns, whatsoever.
(He, She, It, They, Jesus, God, Peter, etc.)
स:, सा, तत्, तानि, यीशुः, ईश्वरः, पितरः इत्यादि।
[इत्यादि = like these]

Please note that here the Sanskrit words are not a direct translation of the English words. What is called as First Person in English grammar is उत्तमपुरुषः is Sanskrit and what is called as प्रथमपुरुषः (literally meaning ‘First Person’!) in Sanskrit is Third Person in English. The order here is upside down!

Number [वचनः]

Grammatical number expresses count distinctions (such as "one", "two", or "three or more"). In most languages, including English, there are only two numbers: Singular and Plural. Sanskrit (and some other Indo-European languages like Ancient Greek) has one more number category called dual (द्विवचनः), i.e. a group of two. [We are not considering the dual form in this tutorial in order to keep things simple. Only singular & plural forms and considered.]

Singular nouns: When a noun means only one, it is said to be singular (एकवचनः).
Person English Sanskrit
1st I (masculine, feminine & neutral) अहम्
2nd You (m, f & n) त्वम्
3rd He (m) सः
She (f) सा
It (n) तत्
Jesus, God, Peter, tree, ball, etc. यीशुः, ईश्वरः, पितरः, वृक्षः, कन्दुक इत्यादि।
Plural nouns: When a noun means more than one, it is said to be plural (बहुवचनः).
Person English Sanskrit
1st We (m, f & n) वयम्
2nd You (m, f & n) यूयम्
3rd They (m) ते
They (f) ताः
They (n) तानि
Boys, Trees, etc. बालाः वृक्षानि इत्यादि।
Nb:
1. Except the above mentioned words belonging to 1st and 2nd persons, every other noun belongs to the 3rd person. Please note this point clearly.
2. Punctuation marks were never a part of Sanskrit, maybe except the vertical bar (।) that is used to end a sentence. (Even that practice started to be in use only by 17th century!). So is the case with every other Indian languages also. However for the sake of better comprehension, we would be using punctuation marks in our Sanskrit sentences; just as every other Indian languages are also using them now!

Gender [लिङ्गः]

In many languages nouns are considered as having a gender: masculine, feminine or neuter.

In most languages, this classification is not always based on biological sex. Many nouns may belong to a gender category that contrasts with their meaning!
कलत्रं means wife; and is in neuter gender.
दाराः also means wife; and is in masculine gender and also plural in form (though it means just one wife!).
मित्रं means friend; and is in neuter gender.

These are all peculiarities of languages!

In modern English this concept of grammatical gender is minimal (and, when applicable, is purely based on biological sex).
• The third person singular personal pronouns: he (male), she (female), and it (object, abstraction, or animal), and their other inflected forms (him, his, her, its).
• Forms like god – goddesses, lion – lioness, etc.
These are the only two categories where grammatical gender could be considered in English.
In Sanskrit the concept of grammatical gender is very strong. Every noun will fall in one of the three categories:
  1. Masculine (पुल्लिङ्गः pulliṅga)
  2. Feminine (स्त्रीलिङ्गः strīliṅga)
  3. Neuter (नपुंसकलिङ्गः napuṃsakaliṅga)

Hindi don’t have the concept of neuter gender. In Hindi, every noun will be either masculine or feminine. Also while in Hindi, the verbs are directly influenced by the gender of the noun (subject), in Sanskrit, verbs are not influenced by the gender of the noun in any way.

Like English and unlike Hindi, The same verb form is used in all three genders of Sanskrit.
Gender English Hindi Sanskrit
Masculine Boy goes लड़का जाता है। बालः गच्छति।
Feminine Girl goes लड़की जाती है। कन्या गच्छति।
Neuter It goes -no neuter- तत् गच्छति।

How Will We Determine the Gender of a Noun in Sanskrit?
As mentioned, the gender of a noun is not always dependent on the actual gender (biological sex) of the object that noun represents; it might or might not be so.
That brings us to the crucial question: How to figure out the gender of a noun?
Ah! How we wish we knew the answer!!

While there are certain broad assumptions that could be made in determining the gender of a Sanskrit word, to be brutally honest, it is a guess work! At the very best, determining the gender of a word in Sanskrit is purely based on past usages by learned men in their writings and a general good feeling!

Having said that, there are certain assumptions that are fool proof. For example:
  • All words ending in अ would definitely be masculine or neuter and those ending in आ, ई and ऊ would definitely be feminine.
  • The biological sex is followed in many cases [not always though!].
Everything else is anybody’s guess!
Don’t worry about this very much. You will get a hang of the gender as you read more and more Sanskrit.

The Linguistic Attributes of Verbs

As observed earlier, verbs in themselves don’t have any of the above linguistic attributes mentioned for nouns: person, number or gender. However the attributes of the noun would influence the inflexions of the related verb.
This influence (of a noun on the verb) is languages specific.
  • In Sanskrit a verb is influenced by the person and number of the noun and not by its gender.
  • In Hindi a verb is influenced by the gender and number of the noun and not by its person.
  • In English a verb is influenced by the number of the noun alone.
  • In Malayalam a verb is not influenced by the noun at all.
  • Thus, every language could have such differing peculiarities.
Take some time and go through the below table in various languages. You could add other languages you know to this list and compare further. This exercise would give you a comparative understanding.

Person

Gender

English

Sanskrit

Hindi

Malayalam

 

 

Sin.

Plu.

Sin.

Plu.

Sin.

Plu.

Sin.

Plu.

3rd Person

M

Boy plays.

Boys play.

बालः क्रीडति।

बालाः क्रीडन्ति।

लड़का खेलता है।

लड़के खेलते हैं।

ആണ്‍കുട്ടി കളിക്കുന്നു.

ആണ്‍കുട്ടികള്‍ കളിക്കുന്നു.

F

Girl plays.

Girls play.

कन्या क्रीडति।

कन्याः क्रीडन्ति।

लड़की खेलती है।

लड़कियां खेलती हैं।

പെണ്‍കുട്ടി കളിക്കുന്നു.

പെണ്‍കുട്ടികള്‍ കളിക്കുന്നു.

N

It plays.

They (n) play.

तत् क्रीडति।

तानि क्रीडन्ति।

no neuter in Hindi.

അതു കളിക്കുന്നു.

അതുങ്ങള്‍ കളിക്കുന്നു.

2nd Person

M

You play.

You all play.

त्वम् क्रीडसि।

यूयम् क्रीडथ।

तू/तुम/आप खेलता है।

वे खेलते हैं।

നീ കളിക്കുന്നു.

നിങ്ങള്‍ കളിക്കുന്നു.

F

तू/तुम/आप खेलती है।

वे खेलती हैं।

N

no neuter in Hindi.

3rd Person

M

I play.

We play.

अहम् क्रीडामि।

वयम् क्रीडामः।

मैं खेलता हूँ।

हम खेलते हैं।

ഞാന്‍ കളിക്കുന്നു.

ഞങ്ങള്‍ കളിക്കുന്നു.

F

मैं खेलती हूँ।

हम खेलती हैं।

N

no neuter in Hindi.

As you would've noticed, the Sanskrit verb forms change with person and number; but not with gender.

However, Sanskrit verbs have a peculiar linguistic attribute called type.
Type is the classification of verb-roots into two classes: parasmaipada(परस्मैपदः) and ātmanepada(आत्मनेयपदः) verb-roots.
The scholars have a generalised opinion that आत्मनेयपदः, as the name suggests, are verbs whose "fruit of action" (i.e the result), goes to the one who acts (i.e the subject-noun). All other verbs are classified as परस्मैपदः.
However this is not always the case and the underlying implication is so blurred that the “type” classification should rather be taken as a fact of the language.

There are certain words which belongs to both the above groups! They are called ubhayapada(उभयपदः) and could be conjugated (inflected) either way.

So putting things together, the verb-conjugation is based on:
  1. The person of the subject-noun (first / second / third)
  2. The number of the subject-noun (singular / dual / plural) and
  3. The type of that particular verb-root (parasmaipada / ātmanepada)
Some verbs in their 3rd person singular simple present tense form:
परस्मैपदः आत्मनेयपदः उभयपदः
पठति (reads)वन्तते (salutes)पचति / पचते (cooks)
चलति (walks)याचते (begs)भजति / भजते (prays)
वदति (talks)शोभते (shines)वपति / वपते (sows)
लिखति (writes)मोदते (rejoices)वहति / वहते (carries)
नमति (bows)भाषते (says)ह्वयति / ह्वयते (calls)
हसति (laughs)यतते (toils)वयति / वयते (weaves)
पतति (falls)सहते (suffers)यजति / यजते (sacrifices)
क्रीडति (plays)वेपते (trembles)भावति / भावते (runs)
खादति (eats)वर्तते (works)नयति / नयते (leads)

Classification of Words

In Sanskrit, words could be broadly classified into three kinds:
  1. Nouns (शब्दाः)
  2. Verbs (क्रियाः)
  3. Indeclinables (अव्ययाः)

As we briefly saw, nouns and verbs would get modified (inflected) into various noun-forms and verb-forms depending up on various linguistic attributes. However there are certain words which will not get modified irrespective of whatever the situation is! Such words are called Indeclinables (अव्ययाः) in Sanskrit.

Indeclinables (अव्ययाः) is not a peculiarity of Sanskrit alone. It is there in every language. Only that sage Panini classified them into a special category in Sanskrit. In English the concept of inflection of nouns or verbs is very limited (except for some reminiscent words from old English, like: mine, his, her, was, teeth, feet, etc.). Hence, in the literal sense, all words in English are avyayas! However in its practical sense, all words that are not a noun or verb could be considered as an avyaya in English. Words like: because, and, indeed, moreover, etc. In Hindi, words like जब, तब, अभी, और, etc. are avyayas. In Malayalam, words like പിന്നെ, വീണ്ടും, കൂടെ, etc. are avyayas.

Nouns (शब्दाः)

Noun is the word that represents someone or something in a sentence. Noun normally refers to person, place, thing, state, quality etc.
Sanskrit nouns are also known as सुबन्तपदः [meaning words ending with सुप् (sup) suffix.]
Each noun has a different inflexion based on:
  • the ending letter
  • gender
  • number and
  • case
  • (in that order)
The inflected forms of a noun are called declensions.
We have already looked at the concept of gender and number of a noun.
Case refers to how nouns are used in relation to the other words in a sentence. I.e. the case of a noun tells us about the position of that noun in a sentence.
There are only three cases in modern English:
  1. Subjective or Nominative (he): used as the subject of the sentence
  2. Objective or Accusative (him): used as a direct object or an indirect object
  3. Possessive or Genitive (his): used to show ownership of an object

It is only in the case of pronouns that there is inflexion in English. In regard to proper nouns, English has largely lost its case system.

That is the FULL list of the case inflexions in English language! Nothing more!!
Nominative: I, you, he, she, it, we, they, who, whoever
Objective: me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, whomever
Possessive: my, mine; your, yours; his; her, hers; its; our, ours; their, theirs; whose; whosever
Now, consider the above three cases using a proper noun: "Jesus"
  1. Nominative: Jesus loves you.
  2. Subjective: You love Jesus.
  3. Possessive: The love of Jesus is perfect.
In all the above cases, the noun Jesus doesn't undergo any inflection.
The only possible exception could be the ‘Possessive case’, where we can also say the above sentence as "Jesus's love is perfect". Here the suffix “’s” is added to the noun to give it a meaning of possession. This again, is a remnant from Old English.

The flexibility of English is that the desired case meaning could be attained by the use of certain prepositions (like: of, with, from, in, because, etc.) without making any changes to the noun.

Sentence in the Case Purpose of the Case Name of the Case
Jesus loves you. Jesus is ‘doing the action’. Nominative
I love Jesus. Something is ‘done to/on Jesus’. Accusative
I live because of Jesus. Jesus is ‘the instrument’ by which the subject (I) accomplishes an action (live). Instrumental
You should submit your life to Jesus. Something is ‘given to’ Jesus. Dative
You would get salvation from Jesus. Something (salvation) is ‘derived out of’ Jesus. Ablative
The love of Jesus is perfect. Jesus is ‘the possessor’ of another noun (love). Genitive / Possessive
I believe in Jesus. Something (my belief) is ‘located in’ Jesus. Locative
Oh! Jesus, save me. Jesus is ‘being addressed’. Vocative
In all the above different cases, the noun Jesus remained unchanged (i.e. uninflected); however we attained the desired modification of meaning by using various prepositions. Thus, we can manipulate English using prepositions to impart the meaning of any case; not even those that are normally used in English!

Trivia:
The above eight cases were discussed because those are the cases we use in Sanskrit. The number of cases differs between languages: For eg. the Esperanto language has only two cases, while Tsez language has got a whooping sixty-four cases!
So let's be happy that Sanskrit has just eight cases only!

Unlike English, Sanskrit achives the case meanings by modifying (inflecting) the noun into its respective case forms (called as declensions).
# Case (विभक्तिः) Sanskrit English Malayalam
1st Case Nominative
(प्रदम)
एतत् यीशुः अस्ति।
बालः क्रीडति।
This is Jesus.
The boy plays.
ഇത് യേശു ആകുന്നു.
ബാലന്‍ കളിക്കുന്നു.
2nd Case Accusative
(द्विदीय)
अहं बालं पश्यामि।
अहं बालं वदामि।
वनं रक्षति।
मासं शिशिरम् अस्ति।
स एकं बालं वदति।
I saw a boy.
I talked to a boy.
Save the forest.
The whole month is cold.
He talked about a boy.
ഞാന്‍ ബാലനെ കണ്ടു.
ഞാന്‍ ബാലനോടു സംസാരിച്ചു.
വനത്തെ രക്ഷിക്കുന്നു.
മാസം മുഴുവനും തണുപ്പാണു.
അവന്‍ ഒരു ബാലനെക്കുറിച്ചു പറഞ്ഞു.
3rd Case Instrumental
(तृतीय)
बालेन अहं पश्यामि।
बाणेन पशु मृगति।
बालेन पुस्तकं पठति।
बालेन यीशुः अस्ति।
स वनेन जच्छति।
I see because of the boy.
The animal dies by the arrow.
The book is read by the boy.
Jesus is with the boy.
He walks through the forest.
ഞാന്‍ ബാലനാല്‍ കാണുന്നു.
അമ്പിനാല്‍ മൃഗം ചാകുന്നു.
ബാലനാല്‍ പുസ്തകം വായിക്കപ്പെടുന്നു.
ബാലനോടുകൂടെ യേശുവുണ്ട്.
അവന്‍ വനത്തിലൂടെ നടക്കുന്നു.
4th Case Dative
(चतुर्थी)
जनकः बालाय पुतकं ददति।
जनकः बालाय पुतकं त्रीणति।
Father give book to the boy.
Father buys book for the boy.
പിതാവ് ബാലനു പുസ്തകം കൊടുക്കുന്നു.
പിതാവ് ബാലനുവേണ്ടി പുസ്തകം വാങ്ങുന്നു.
5th Case Ablative
(पञ्चमी)
स वनात् मधुः लभति।
बाला बालात् स्रेष्टतमम्।
वयं पुण्यात् जीवामः।
He gets honey from the forest.
Girl is better than boy.
We live because of punyam.
അവനു വനത്തില്‍നിന്നും തേന്‍ ലഭിക്കുന്നു.
ബാലിക ബാലനേക്കാള്‍ മിടുക്കിയാണു.
നാം പുണ്യംകൊണ്ടു ജീവിക്കുന്നു.
6th Case Genitive /Possessive
(षष्ठी)
मम पुस्तकः।
तस्य गृहम्।
बालस्य पुतकः।
बालानां पितरः स्रेष्टतमम्।
My book.
His house.
Boy’s book.
Among the boys Peter is better.
എന്‍റെ പുസ്തകം.
അവന്‍റെ വീട്.
ബാലന്‍റെ പുസ്തകം.
ബാലന്മാരില്‍ പത്രോസ് മിടുക്കനാണു.
7th Case Locative
(सप्तमी)
यीशौ गृहम् अस्ति।
बाले पितरः स्रेष्टतमम्।
मोक्षे यीशुं विश्वसेत्।
Jesus is in the house.
In between the boys, Peter is better.
In the subject of moksha, believe in Jesus.
യേശു വീട്ടില്‍ ഉണ്ട്.
ബാലന്മാരില്‍ പത്രോസ് മിടുക്കനാണു.
മോക്ഷവിഷയത്തില്‍ യേശുവിനെ വിശ്വസിക്കുക.
8th Case Vocative
(सम्बोधन)
भो यीशो (हे यीशो) अहं रक्षतु। Oh! Jesus, save me. യേശുവേ! എന്നെ രക്ഷിച്ചാലും.
Just to give you a mild linguistic shock! Consider this glimpse of permutations that are possible in noun declensions:

As mentioned, each noun has a different declension based on the "ending letter", "gender", "number"" and "case"" (in that order) of the noun.
That is a whooping: ending letter(46) X gender(3) X number(3) X case(7) = 2,898 noun form (declension) possibilities!

But don’t worry! A very simple chart (of suffixes) would help us to ‘master’ all these possible declensions!! {read more...}

Adjectives (विशेषणाः)

To add more details to nouns, we could add descriptive words like "happy", "sad", "beautiful", "strong", etc. These words are called adjectives.
The man.

The young man.

The handsome young man.
Here handsome and young are adjective of the noun (subject): man.

The boy eats an apple.

The little boy eats a green apple.
Here little is the adjective of the subject-noun: boy and green is the adjective of the object-noun: apple.

How do we know which adjective is associated with which noun?
In English, this knowledge is provided by the word order. The adjective of a noun will always be placed right in front of it. If there are more adjective, they are placed one after another following the generally agreed order of: Quantity or number, Quality or opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Colour, Proper adjective (often nationality, other place of origin, or material) and Purpose or qualifier.
e.g: He is one smart handsome twenty years old black brave young Indian man.

In Sanskrit, we have already learned that the word order is of NO significance! Hence we identify which adjective is connected with which noun purely based on the agreement (inflexion similarity) of the adjective with the noun.

An adjective in itself don’t have any linguistic properties like person, number, gender, etc. [Just like in any other language, for e.g. “happy” in English].
However the Sanskrit adjective will perfectly imitate all the linguistic traits of the connected noun including: the noun’s person, gender, number and declension.
This is the only rule to keep in mind when using adjectives in Sanskrit. An adjective agrees with its noun in person, number, gender and grammatical case. Whatever inflexions the noun is having the adjective will also have the very same inflexions.

Observe how the adjective सुन्दर (beautiful / handsome) gets inflected based on its noun’s situation:
Case Masculine Singular Sanskrit English
Nominativeसुन्दरः बालः सः सुन्दरः बालः अस्ति।He is the handsome boy.
Accusativeसुन्दरं बालं अहं सुन्दरं बालं पश्यामि।I saw the handsome boy.
Instrumentalसुन्दरेन बालेन सः सुन्दरेन बालेन जच्छति।He walks because of the handsome boy
Dativeसुन्दराय बालाय सा सुन्दराय बालाय पुस्तकं ददति।She gives book to the handsome boy.
Possessiveसुन्दरात् बालात् सा सुन्दरात् बालात् पुस्तकं लभति।See gets book from the handsome boy.
Locativeसुन्दरस्य बालस्यतत् सुन्दरस्य बालस्य पुस्तकं अस्ति।That book is of the handsome boy
Vocativeसुन्दरे बाले सुन्दरे बाले शान्ति अस्न्ति।There is peace in the handsome boy
Nominativeहे सुन्दर बाल हे सुन्दर बाल मां अवतु।Oh! Handsome boy, save me.

This concept of adjective-noun agreement is very important in understanding Sanskrit sentences. Especially as there is no strict word order in Sanskrit, this is the only way you can make sense of the sentence. {read more...}

Verbs (क्रीयाः)

Verb is a word used to describe an action, state, or occurrence.
As we have seen earlier, a sentance is formed around the verb; (i.e to describe the verb.)
We were already using verbs in the Sanskrit sentences above. However all of them were in simple present tense. There is much more to Sanskrit Verbs!

In Sanskrit, a verb could be used to express:
  1. Time (i.e when the the action happens):
    1. Past Tense⇒ the action has already happened.
      Jesus loved you. यीशुः त्वयि अस्नेह्यत्।
    2. Present Tense⇒ the action is happening now.
      Jesus loves you. यीशुः त्वयि स्नेह्यति।
    3. Future Tense⇒ the action will happen later.
      Jesus will love you. यीशुः त्वयि स्नेहिष्यति।
  2. Mood (i.e how (manner in which) the action is intented to happen):
    1. Imperative Mood: expresses command, prohibition, request, or advice.
      Believe in Jesus. यीशौ व्यश्वसतु।
    2. Potential mood:⇒ verbs that let us state what we could do, should do, or would do.
      You should believe in Jesus. त्वं यीशौ व्यश्वसेत्।
    3. Conditional mood:⇒ verbs that tells us what would have happened if certain conditions were met. Please note that the event never happened!
      If you would have believed in Jesus you would have been saved. यदि त्वं यीशौ अव्यश्वष्यन् तदा त्राणो ऽभविष्यम्।
    4. Benedictine mood: verbs used to bless.
      Talk truth, talk in love (Talk truth in love). सत्यं ब्रूयात् प्रियं ब्रूयात्।
The above verb forms are called lakaras (लकाराः) as the Sanskrit names for all of them stars with la (ल).

In fact there are a total of ten such lakaras. Two more past tense forms (denoting long past and very long past) and one more future tense form (denoting far away future). However they are not much in common use nowadays.

The verb forms that are conjugated as per the above lakara forms (लकाराः) are called तिङन्तपदः
Apart from तिङन्तपदः, there are five more types of verb forms: कृदन्तपदः, णिजन्तः, सन्नन्तः, यङ्न्तः and नामाधातु. However we majorly uses तिङन्तपदः and कृदन्तपदः forms only.

Again, as we briefly discussed earlier, Sanskrit word-roots (and thus verb-roots), are grouped into ten houses, i.e ganas (गणाः). Of them, the majority of the commonly used verbs belong to the house of bhavatigana (भवतिगणः). Hence भवतिगणः alone is considered in our tutorial.
As you would have gussed by now, we are only addressing a small slice of verb-forms in this tutorial. However this small slice itself is so big and would enable us to get going.
Sanskrit Verbs are conjugated based on:
  1. The person of the subject-noun (first / second / third)
  2. The number of the subject-noun (singular / dual / plural) and
  3. The type of that particular verb-root (parasmaipada / ātmanepada)

Creating these verb forms is quite simple. We just add certain specific suffixes to the verb-root for each of the desired verb-form.

Even though we keep calling them as verb-root, they are actually verb-stem! Certain sounds / letters (विकरणप्रत्ययः) are suffixed to the actual word-root (धातुः) to obtain the verb-stem, which serves as the basic building block for conjugations of that particular verb.
Consider the verb पठति (= read, which is in 3rd person singular simple present tense).
This is how पठति verb-form got created:

The धातुः of पठति is पठ् which belongs to भवतिगणः and is a पारस्मैपदः

The rule is: धातुः + विकरणप्रत्ययः + तिङ्प्रत्ययः = तिङन्तम् (i.e. the verb-form we require)
[verb-stem + verb-house suffix + conjugation-suffix = verb conjugation]

  • Stage 1: धातुः + विकरणप्रत्ययः ⇒ अङ्गः
    [root + verb-house suffix = stem]

    The विकरणप्रत्ययः (also known as गणचिह्नः) for भवतिगणः is
    so, पठ् + अ ⇒ पठ
    Thus पठ is the अङ्गः (stem)

  • Stage 2: अङ्गः + तिङ्प्रत्ययः ⇒ क्रीया विभक्ति
    [stem + conjugation-suffix = verb conjugation]

    The तिङ्प्रत्ययः of 3rd person singular simple present tense for a परस्मैपदः that belongs to भवतिगणः is ति
    so, पठ + ति ⇒ पठति
    Thus पठति is the verb-form to be used with 3rd person simple present tense.
    eg: बालः पठति। (The boy reads.)

The very same methodology is followed for every lakaara (लकाराः) verb-form creation. We just need to know the suffix for each case. {read more...}

Adverbs (क्रियाविशेशणाः)

Words that let us describe the verb are called adverbs. Most Sanskrit adverbs come directly from adjectives. The Neuter Singular Accusative form (नपुम्सकः एकवचनः द्विदीयः विभक्तिः) of any adjective is a complete adverb.

Adverbs are treated like uninflected words. That means, adverbs (unlike adjectives) are NOT affected by the person, number and type of the verb that it is connected to, but is a standalone word (just like an avyaya).

सुन्दरं नरो गच्छति।
(without sandhi tweaking: सुन्दरं नरः गच्छति।)
The man goes beautifully.

Please note that if the sentence was said as:
सुन्दरो नरो गच्छति।
(without sandhi tweaking: सुन्दरः नरः गच्छति।)
Then here सुन्दरः is an adjective tied with नरः
The beautiful man goes.

[Ah! The beauty and complexity of Sanskrit]

Adverbs can appear anywhere in the sentence, but they usually appears near the beginning of the sentence.

Indeclinables (अव्यायाः)

As the name suggests, avyaya (अव्यायाः) are words that will not change with persons, genders, numbers, cases, tenses, moods, etc.

While Sanskrit and most Indian languages uses अव्यायाः extensively, English don't have this concept at all! Hence it is a bit difficult to find an exact comparison for अव्यायाः from English grammar. When translating अव्यायाः into English, certain adverbs are mostly made use of.

In the Sanskrit Bible you would find the words like अनन्तरं (=again), अपि (=also), कोपि (=no one), किमपि (= somewhat), किन्तु (=but), तर्हि (=then), (=and), etc. being used in many verses. Similarly in many Sanskrit poems (hymns), the word तु (=indeed), अपि (=also), हि(=indeed), etc. could be seen being used heavily. These are all अव्यायाः.
The best thing about avyaya (अव्यायाः) is that we have to learn just one form. It will not change at all in any kind of usages; except when affected by sandhi rules.
While there are so many avyayas, we could attempt certain grouping / classifications.
[Yet there are many more that will not fall into any of these groups though!]
  1. The ending त्र indicates PLACE.
  2. The ending तः gives you SOURCE-origin, (time place) etc.
  3. The ending दा indicates TIME
  4. The ending थम् / था is an adverb of manner
  1. Place:
    • अत्र⇒ here
    • यत्र⇒ where; in which place
    • तत्र ⇒ there
    • कुत्र⇒ where?
    • अन्यत्र⇒ somewhere else
    • सर्वत्र⇒ everywhere
  2. Source:
    • कुतः⇒ whence? why?
    • ततः⇒ from that, therefore
    • यतः⇒ since, from the point that
    • इतः⇒ from this, from here
  3. Time:
    • कदा⇒ when?
    • यदा⇒ when; Repeated twice (यदा यदा) it means whenever
    • तदा – then
    • सदा⇒ always
  4. Manner:
    • कथम् ⇒ how, in what way, in what manner?
    • यथा⇒ just as, in the manner mentioned
    • तथा⇒ thus, in that way
  5. Relative-Correlative Correspondences:
    • यदि⇒ तर्हि (if⇒ then)
    • यावत्⇒ तावत् (as long as, so long)

The adverbial endings we saw above can be added to noun and pronoun stems to form adverbs with the same general meaning:

  • अन्यथा⇒ otherwise
  • सर्वथा⇒ every which way
  • अन्यतः⇒ from another source
  • एकतः⇒ from one side, on the one hand
  • सर्वतः⇒ from all sides
  • अन्यदा⇒ another time
  • एकदा⇒ one time, once
  • अन्यत्र⇒ else where
  • एकत्र⇒ in one place
  • परत्र⇒ in another place (often means in the next world)

Then there are many miscellaneous avyayas that do not belong to any particular classification. Many of them are frequently used. {read more...}

Sandhi (सन्धिः)

In simple terms, sandhi is the sound modification that happens with the ending sound of a word and the beginning sound of another word when they come together next to next in a sentence.

The ONLY rule for this sound modulation is that the reading of these words together should sound “nice” to the ears of the native speaker!

For eg: when we read तस्मिन् नगरे। (=in that town) in a sentence, the native speakers felt that it would sound better if we remove the pause in between and joined these two words as one: तस्मिन्नगरे।

Now you can easily deduct that whenever a word that ended in न् and another word that started in would come together, they would follow a similar pattern. So is the rule with all situations where the first word ends in the half note of a sound and the next word start with that same sound. [Only consonents have this half note sound. Swaras (vowels) cannot have half notes.]

Consider another case: नरः गच्छति। (=man goes). Here the native speakers felt that it would sound better if we modified रः into रो as it is followed by a word staring with . Thus they preferred saying the sentence as नरो गच्छति।

However, the same native speakers also felt that in the case of नरः स्मरति (=man remembers), there is no need to modify रः into anything else as the next word starts with स् and that word combination is already sounding good to their ears.
And so on…

On very simple terms, this is how sandhi rules got formulated!
Sandhi rules influences the ending sound of the first word and beginning sound of the next word whether we prefer to write them in a joined form or not.
Sandhi rules are calssified broadly into Vowel Sandhi, Visarga Sandhi and Consonant Sandhi.
Consider some of these words:
without sandhi after sandhi meaning
दग्ध अरण्य दग्धारण्यBurned forest.
राज इन्द्रःराजेन्द्रःLord Indra.
महा ऋषिःमहर्षिःGreat sage.
हित उपदेशःहितोपदेशःGood advice.
इति आहइत्याहNow here.
गच्छतः अश्वौगच्छतः ऽश्वौGoing horse.
नरः इच्छतिनर इच्छतिMan desires.
नरः गच्छतिनरो गच्छतिMan goes.
नरः यच्छतिनरो यच्छतिMan gives.
नरः स्मरतिनरः स्मरतिMan remembers.
नरः चरतिनरश्चरतिMan walks.
नरः तिष्ठतिनरस्तिष्ठतिMan stays.
नराः गच्छन्तिनरा गच्छन्तिMen goes.
सः अहम्सो ऽहम्That is me.
वनात् गच्छामिवनाद्गच्छामिI go through the forest.
जगत् नाथजगन्नाथLord of the world.
वनात् चरामिवनाच्चरामिI walk through the forest.
तत् जानामितज्जानामिI know that.

While the technicalities of the Sandhi rules are way too complicated, we would benefit much from simply observing how these various sandhi possibilities behave from examples. {read more...}

Samaasam (समासं)⇒ Compound Words

Samasam is the process by which two words join together to produce another word. This concept is there is all languages.
In English grammar, there are three types of compound words:
  • Closed form: Two words are joined together to create a new meaning.
    (firefly, softball, redhead, keyboard, makeup, notebook, etc.)
  • Hyphenated form: Words are joined together by a hyphen.
    (daughter-in-law, over-the-counter, six-year-old, etc.)
  • Open form: Words are open but when read together, a new meaning is formed.
    (post office, real estate, full moon, etc.)
  • We knowingly and unknowingly use a lot many compound words in our day-to-day life.

Sanskrit also uses many compound words. However these are all closed forms and the classification is based on the final meaning of the compound word.

On a practical level, Samasam don’t have any specific rules as such!
The sandhi rules themselves are used in the merging of words. Samasam is better understood as various classifications. Consider some of them below:

  1. Avyayībhāva (अव्ययीभाव)
    The first member of this type of nominal compound is an avyaya, to which another word is added so that the new compound also becomes avyaya. The first member has primacy.
    यथा + शक्ति ⇒ यथाशक्ति (according to power)
    तस्मिन् + नगरे ⇒ तस्मिन्नगरे (in that toun)
  2. Tatpuruṣa (तत्पुरुष)
    Here the second member has primacy.
    [english words like: doghouse (a house for dog), battlefield (a field of battle), thunderstruck (struck by a thunder), etc.]
    तस्य + पुरुषः ⇒ तत्पुरुषः (his servant)
    नरः + सिंहः ⇒ नरसिंहः (man-lion; lion in the form of man)
    उलूक + यातु ⇒ उलूकयातु (owl-demon; demon in shape of owl)
    शास्त्रम् + ज्ञा ⇒ शास्त्रज्ञ (learned person)
  3. Dvandva (द्वन्द्व)
    These consist of two or more noun stems, connected in sense with 'and'. Here all the words in the compound has equal status (i.e there is no primacy for any particular word).
    धातुश्च लकारश्च पुरुषश्च वचनं च ⇒ धातुलकारपुरुषवचनानि (roots, conjugations, person and number. This talks about verb conjugations.)
    पाणी च पादौ च ⇒ पाणिपादम् (two hands and two feet)
    माता च पिता च ⇒ पितरौ (mother and father0
  4. Bahuvrīhi (बहुव्रीहि) – possessive
    बहुव्रीहि, (lit. "much-rice"), denotes a rich person⇒ one who has much rice.
    Bahuvrīhi compounds refers to a thing which is itself not part of the compound.
    For example, the english compound words: "low-life" is not a kind of life and "block-head" is not a kind of head. (And a much-rice is not a kind of rice.)
  5. Āmreḍita (आम्रेडित) – iterative
    A compound consisting of the same word repeated so as to express repetitiveness.
    दिवे दिवे (day after day, daily)
    देवंदेवं (god after god).
    पुनःपुनः (again and again)
    मुहुर्मुहु (again and again)

There are further sub classifications to some of the above groups. {read more...}

Noun Factory

Every langauges has special apparatus to generate new innovative nouns from other nouns or verbs.
• ‘Indian’ is a noun derived from another noun, ‘India’ and refers to the citizens of India.
• ‘Dancer’ is a noun derived from the verb, ‘dance’ and referes to a person who dances.

Sanskrit also has a very big collection of such derived nouns. As usual, this is achived by adding certain suffixes to the root noun or verb.

  • The nouns derived from nouns are called तद्धितपद and the suffixes are called तद्धित प्रत्ययाः (or more technically तिप् प्रत्ययाः) [apart from nouns, avyyas could also be used to derive nouns and further avyayas.]
  • The nouns deried from verbs are called कृदन्तपद and the suffixes are called कृदन्त प्रत्ययाः। (or more technically कृत् प्रत्ययाः)

Noun Derivaties (तद्धिताः)

These are nouns (and adjectives) derived from nouns [or avyayas derived from avyayas] by adding the suffix: तिप्
Let's leave aside the technicalities, are consider some commonly used Noun Derivaties (तद्धिताः)

Noun derivaties could convey meanings such as:
Description Sanskrit noun Meaning
Descendentपाण्डु ⇒ पाण्डवःDescendants of Pandu
Related with somethingशरीर ⇒ शारीरःRelated with body
Knowing somethingज्योतिषं ⇒ ज्योतिषिकःKnower of stars
A group of somethingजन ⇒ जनताGroup of people
Dative (4th case) meaningइह ⇒ इहत्यः Person living here
Time relatedवर्ष ⇒ वार्षिकःHappening in a year
Based on somethingपाणिनी ⇒ पाणिनीयंBy Paanini
Made with somethingहिरण् ⇒ हिरण्मय Made with gold
Highlighting own meaningमनुष्य ⇒ मनुष्यत्वम् State of being human
Possessing somethingधन ⇒ धनवान्Possessing wealth = wealthy
Comparative degreesपडुः - पडुतरः - पडुतमः Cleaver – cleverer – cleverest
Ablative (5th case) meaningसर्व ⇒ सर्वतः From all places
Locative (7th case) meaningसर्व ⇒ सर्वत्र In all places
Imparting time senseसर्व ⇒ सर्वदा At all times

For more examples of the above noun derivates {read more...}

Verbal Derivatives (कृदन्ताः)

Now, this is interesting! Verbal Derivatives are much more than just nouns (and adjectives) derived from verbs by adding the suffix: कृत्. They comes very handy as Participles, Infinitives, Gerunds, Gerundives, etc.

In simple terms, these are modification of a verb so as to impart meanings like:
Description कृदन्तपदः Sanskrit sentance English sentance
"by gaining" / “on gaining” लब्ध्वालाभं लब्ध्वा वणिजः धनिकः भवति।Merchant becomes wealthy by earning profit.
“for gaining”लब्धुम्धनं लब्धुं वणिजस्य व्यापारः।Merchant does trading to earn wealth.
"gaining"लाभम्कथं चलति व्यापारः? लाभम्।How is the trade? It is gainful.
“gained”लब्धवणिजेन लाभः लब्धः।Profit was earned by the merchant.
“one, who is gaining”लब्धवत्वणिजः लाभं लब्धवान्।Merchant earned profit.
“one in the act of gaining”लभमानलाभं लभमानः वणिजः।Merchant is earning profit.
“can be gained”लभ्यवणिजेन लाभः लभ्यः।Merchant can earn profit.
“must be gained” लब्धव्यवणिजेन लाभः लब्धव्यः।Merchant should earn profit.
“advisable to gain”लम्भनीयवणिजेन लाभः लम्भनीयः।(Advisably) merchant should earn profit.
“one, who facilitates gaining”लंभकव्यापारः लाभ-लम्भकः।Trade is profit-maker.
“gainer”लब्धृवणिजः स्वभावतः लाभ लब्धृ।Merchant is by nature profit-maker.
“one, that may be gained”लभ्यमानलाभः लभ्यमानः व्यापारे।Trade is profit-worthy.

As you could have rightly guessed, Verbal Derivatives are a great resource to Sanskrit and helps us to really 'spice up' the language. They could be even used as alternatives to the usual verbal forms (लकाराः) that we considered earlier.
Like any good Sanskrit literary work, Sanskrit Bible also makes use of Verbal Derivatives extensively. {read more...}

Some Special Cases on Usage Purity.

We looked at the noun cases and their usage patterns. For eg: When you need to say “I saw the boy”, you need to use the Accusative case (and not the nominative case) and say: अहं बालं पश्यामि।
When you need to say “The fruits falls from the tree”, you need to use the Ablative case: वृक्षात् फलं पतति।
And so on...

But sanskit is a language of exceptions (and a lot of them as well!).
Consider the sentence: “I love you.”
Here I (subject) is in nominal case, you (object) is in Accusative case.

In Hindi the sentence would be: मैं तुमसे प्रेम करता हूँ।
In Malayalam: ഞാന്‍ നിന്നെ സ്നേഹിക്കുന്നു.

So with that logic, in Sanskrit the sentence should have been: अहं त्वाम् स्निह्यामि।
But this sentence is wrong!!

The rules demand that when the verb-root स्नेह् (love) is used, then the object should be in Locative (7th case).
So the proper Sanskrit sentence is: अहं त्वयि स्निह्यामि। = lit. I in_you love. = I love you.
माता पुत्रेषु स्निह्यति। = lit. Mother in_sons love. = Mother love the sons.

Now, if you want to say “I like you”, again the rules demand that when the verb-root रुच् (like) is used the subject should be in Dative (4th case) and object should be in Nominative (1st case).
त्वं मह्यं रोचते। = lit. you for_me like = I like you.
एतेषु के पुस्तकाः तस्मै रोचन्ते? = lit. These which books for_you like? = Among these books, which one do you like?

[Don't look for logic here. This again, is a peculiarity of the langauge!]

There are many verbs like the above that demands a case change for its subject or object. {read more...}

Conclusion.

As the tital suggests, this tutorial is just a brief; just enough to give you an idea about how Sanskrit grammar is organized.

Most importantly, this brief was to explain the fun of learning Sanskrit!
We trust that we made you a जिज्ञासु (one curious to know more) by now.

Since Sanskrit is a “foreign” language to all of us (irrespective of your geological location!), we need to read these concepts again and again till we get a grip on them.
And even later we need to continue revisiting these concepts once in a while! There is no other way anyway!

So, to rephrase what we mentioned in the 'after your initial read' section:
Now that you have read this tutorial brief once in full, you could check out the {read more...} section of each topic to learn them in detail. A tentative plan could be as below:
  • Relax
  • Take some time to read each portion
  • Take much effort in understanding the concepts
  • Make your own personal notes and diagrams
  • Make your own flash cards
  • Take some break
  • Revisit the concepts that are yet to get clear
  • Revise as required

Rather than spending many hours together in a day, it would be better to spend few hours regularly each day; but regularly.

Every one of us has a different pace and pattern of learning. All that we are suggesting is to explore your very own comfortable and most efficient learning methodology and follow it passionately.
Patience and perseverance is the key to unlock Sanskrit language.
Happy Learning..:)

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