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Vedic Sanskrit grammar

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Vedic Sanskrit grammar

Vedic Sanskrit grammar is the oldest attested full case and tense system grammar of a language from the Indo-European language family.


Comparing with Classical Sanskrit, Vedic Sanskrit had a subjunctive mood absent in Pāṇini's grammar and generally believed to have disappeared by then at least in common sentence constructions. All tenses could be conjugated in the subjunctive and optative moods, in contrast to Classical Sanskrit, with no subjunctive and only a present optative. However, the old first-person subjunctive forms were used to complete the Classical Sanskrit imperative. The three synthetic past tenses (imperfect, perfect and aorist) were still clearly distinguished semantically in (at least the earliest) Vedic. A fifth mood, the injunctive, also existed.

Long-i stems differentiate the Devi and Vrkis feminines, a difference lost in Classical Sanskrit.

  • The subjunctive mood of Vedic Sanskrit was also lost in Classical Sanskrit. Also, there was no fixed rule about the use of various tenses (luṇ, laṇ and liṭ).
  • There were more than 12 ways of forming infinitives in Vedic Sanskrit, of which Classical Sanskrit retained only one form.
  • Nominal declinations and verbal conjugation also changed pronunciation, although the spelling was mostly retained in Classical Sanskrit. E.g., along with the Classical Sanskrit's declension of deva- as devasdevaudevās, Vedic Sanskrit additionally allowed the forms daivasdaivādaivāsas. Similarly Vedic Sanskrit has declined forms such as asmai, tvai, yuṣmai, tvā, etc. for the first and second person pronouns, not found in Classical Sanskrit. The obvious reason is the attempt of Classical Sanskrit to regularize and standardize its grammar, which simultaneously led to a purge of older Proto-Indo-European forms.
  • To emphasize that Proto-Indo-European and its immediate daughters were essentially end-inflected languages, both Proto-Indo-European and Vedic Sanskrit had independent prefix-morphemes. Such prefixes (especially for verbs) could come anywhere in the sentence, but in Classical Sanskrit, it became mandatory to attach them immediately before the verb.


Vedic Sanskrit differs from Classical Sanskrit to an extent comparable to the difference between Homeric Greek and Classical Greek. Tiwari ([1955] 2005) lists the following principal differences between the two:

  • Vedic Sanskrit had a voiceless bilabial fricative ([ɸ], called upadhmānīya) and a voiceless velar fricative ([x], called jihvāmūlīya)—which used to occur when the breath visarga (अः) appeared before voiceless labial and velar consonants respectively. Both of them were lost in Classical Sanskrit to give way to the simple visarga - upadhmaniya occurs before p and ph, jihvamuliya before k and kh.
  • Vedic Sanskrit had a retroflex lateral approximant ([ ɭ ]) as well as its aspirated counterpart [ɭʰ] (ळ्ह), which were lost in Classical Sanskrit, to be replaced with the corresponding plosives [ɖ] (ड) and [ɖʱ] (ढ). (Varies by region; vedic pronunciations are still in common use in some regions, e.g. southern India, including Maharashtra.)
    Vedic also had a separate symbol for retroflex l, an intervocalic allophone of , transliterated as or ḷh. In order to disambiguate vocalic l from retroflex l, vocalic l is sometimes transliterated with a ring below the letter, ; when this is done, vocalic r is also represented with a ring, , for consistency (c.f. ISO 15919).
  • The pronunciations of syllabic [r̩] (ऋ), [l̩] (लृ) and their long counterparts no longer retained their pure pronunciations, but had started to be pronounced as short and long [ɽi] (रि) and [li] (ल्रि). (Varies by region; vedic pronunciations are still in common use in some regions, e.g. southern India, including Maharashtra)
  • The vowels e (ए) and o (ओ) were actually realized in Vedic Sanskrit as diphthongs [ai] and [au], but they became pure monophthongs [eː] and [oː] in Classical Sanskrit. In this article these diphthongs are written in the original pronunciation, i. e., ai and au.
  • The vowels ai (ऐ) and au (औ) were actually realized in Vedic Sanskrit as long diphthongs [aːi] (आइ) and [aːu] (आउ), but they became short diphthongs [ai] (अइ) and [au] (अउ) in Classical Sanskrit. In this article these diphthongs are written in the original pronunciation, i. e., āi and āu.
  • The Prātishākhyas claim that the dental consonants were articulated from the root of the teeth (dantamūlīya), but they became pure dentals later. This included the [r], which later became retroflex.
  • Vedic Sanskrit had a pitch accent which could even change the meaning of the words, and was still in use in Panini's time, as we can infer by his use of devices to indicate its position. At some latter time, this was replaced by a stress accent limited to the second to fourth syllables from the end. Today, the pitch accent can be heard only in the traditional Vedic chantings.
    Since a small number of words in the late pronunciation of Vedic carry the so-called "independent svarita" on a short vowel, one can argue that late Vedic was marginally a tonal language. Note however that in the metrically restored versions of the Rig Veda almost all of the syllables carrying an independent svarita must revert to a sequence of two syllables, the first of which carries an udātta and the second a (so called) dependent svarita. Early Vedic was thus definitely not a tone language but a pitch accent language. See Vedic accent.
    Pitch accent was not restricted to Vedic: early Sanskrit grammarian Panini gives (1) accent rules for the spoken language of his (post-Vedic) time and (2) the differences of Vedic accent. We have, however, no extant post-Vedic text with accents.
  • The pluti vowels (trimoraic vowels) were on the verge of becoming phonological during middle Vedic, but disappeared again.
  • Vedic Sanskrit often allowed two like vowels to come together without merger during Sandhi.



Vedic Sanskrit is a highly inflected language with three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) and three numbers (singular, plural, dual). It has eight cases: nominative, vocative, accusative, instrumental, dative, ablative, genitive, and locative.

In this article nouns are divided into five declensions. The declension which a noun belongs to is determined largely by form.

The basic declension suffix scheme for nouns and adjectives

The basic scheme is given in the table below — valid for almost all nouns and adjectives. However, according to the gender and the ending consonant/vowel of the uninflected word-stem, there are predetermined rules of compulsory sandhi which would then give the final inflected word. The parentheses give the case-terminations for the neuter gender, the rest are for masculine and feminine gender. When two or three forms are given, the first is masculine (and neuter), but the second and third - feminine.

Singular Dual Plural
Nominative -s (-m) -āu, -ī, -ū ( -nī) -as ( -ni)
Vocative -s (-) -āu, -ī, -ū (-nī) -as ( -ni)
Accusative -am (-m) -āu, -ī, -ū (-nī) -n, -as ( -ni)
Instrumental -nā, -yā -bhyām -bhis
Dative -ai -bhyām -bhyas
Ablative -as -bhyām -bhyas
Genitive -as -aus -nām
Locative -i, -ām -aus -su


A-stems ([a] and [ɑː]) comprise the largest class of nouns. As a rule, nouns belonging to this class, with the uninflected stem ending in short-a ([a]), are either masculine or neuter. Nouns ending in long-ā ([ɑː]) are almost always feminine. A-stem adjectives take the masculine and neuter in short-a ([a]), and feminine in long-ā ([ɑː]) in their stems. This class is so big because it also comprises the Proto-Indo-European o-stems.

Masculine (vīra 'man, husband') Neuter (dina 'day') Feminine (bhāryā 'woman, wife')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative vīras vīrāu vīrās(as) dinam dinai dināni bhāryā bhāryai bhāryās
Vocative vīra! vīrāu! vīrās(as)! dina! dinai! dināni! bhāryai! bhāryai! bhāryās!
Accusative vīram vīrāu vīrān dinam dinai dināni bhāryām bhāryai bhāryās
Instrumental vīrainā vīrābhyām vīrāis dinainā dinābhyām dināis bhāryāyā bhāryābhyām bhāryābhis
Dative vīrāya(i) vīrābhyām vīraibhyas dināya(i) dinābhyām dinaibhyas bhāryāyāi bhāryābhyām bhāryābhyas
Ablative vīrāt vīrābhyām vīraibhyas dināt dinābhyām dinaibhyas bhāryāyās bhāryābhyām bhāryābhyas
Genitive vīrasya(s) vīrayaus vīrānām dinasya(s) dinayaus dinānām bhāryāyās bhāryayaus bhāryānām
Locative vīrai vīrayaus vīraiṣu dinai dinayaus dinaiṣu bhāryāyām bhāryayaus bhāryāsu

i- and u-stems

Masc. (pati 'host, husband') Neuter (vāri 'water') Fem. (mati 'thought')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative patis patī patayas vāri vāriṇī vārīṇi matis matī matayas
Vocative patai! patī! patayas! vāri, vārai! vāriṇī! vārīṇi! matai! matī! matayas!
Accusative patim patī patīn vāri vāriṇī vārīṇi matim matī matīs
Instrumental patinā patibhyām patibhis vāriṇā vāribhyām vāribhis matyā matibhyām matibhis
Dative patayai patibhyām patibhyas vāriṇai vāribhyām vāribhyas matyāi matibhyām matibhyas
Ablative patais patibhyām patibhyas vāriṇas vāribhyām vāribhyas matyās matibhyām matibhyas
Genitive patais patyaus patīnām vāriṇas vāriṇaus vāriṇām matyās matyaus matīnām
Locative patāu patyaus patiṣu vāriṇi vāriṇaus vāriṣu matyām matyaus matiṣu
Masc. (vāyu 'wind') Neuter (madhu 'honey') Fem. (śatru 'she-enemy')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative vāyus vāyū vāyavas madhu madhunī madhūni śatrus śatrū śatravas
Vocative vāyau! vāyū! vāyavas! madhu! madhunī! madhūni! śatrau! śatrū! śatravas!
Accusative vāyum vāyū vāyūn madhu madhunī madhūni śatrum śatrū śatrūs
Instrumental vāyuṇā vāyubhyām vāyubhis madhunā madhubhyām madhubhis śatrvā śatrubhyām śatrubhis
Dative vāyavai vāyubhyām vāyubhyas madhunai madhubhyām madhubhyas śatrvāi śatrubhyām śatrubhyas
Ablative vāyaus vāyubhyām vāyubhyas madhunas madhubhyām madhubhyas śatrvās śatrubhyām śatrubhyas
Genitive vāyaus vāyvaus vāyūnām madhunas madhunaus madhūnām śatrvās śatrvaus śatrūṇām
Locative vāyāu vāyvaus vāyuṣu madhuni madhunaus madhuṣu śatrvām śatrvaus śatruṣu

ī- and ū -stems

Ī- and ū -stems are only feminine.
ī-stems (patnī 'hostess, wife') ū-stems (vadhū 'bride')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative patnī patnyāu patnyas vadhūs vadhvāu vadhvas
Vocative patni! patnyāu! patnyas! vadhu! vadhvāu! vadhvas!
Accusative patnīm patnyāu patnīs vadhūm vadhvāu vadhūs
Instrumental patnyā patnībhyām patnībhis vadhvā vadhūbhyām vadhūbhis
Dative patnyāi patnībhyām patnībhyas vadhvāi vadhūbhyām vadhūbhyas
Ablative patnyās patnībhyām patnībhyas vadhvās vadhūbhyām vadhūbhyas
Genitive patnyās patnyaus patnīnām vadhvās vadhvaus vadhūnām
Locative patnyām patnyaus patnīṣu vadhvām vadhvaus vadhūṣu

and -stems

-stems are predominantly agental derivatives like neut. dātṛ 'giver', though also include kinship terms like masc. pitṛ 'father', naptṛ 'nephew', and fem. mātṝ 'mother', duhitṝ 'daughter' and svasṝ 'sister'.
Masculine (pitṛ 'father') Neuter (dātṛ 'giver') Feminine (mātṝ 'mother')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative pita pitarāu pitaras dātṛ dātṛṇī dātṝṇi mātā mātārāu mātāras
Vocative pítar! pitarāu! pitaras! dātṛ! dātṛṇī! dātṝṇi! mātār! mātārāu! mātāras!
Accusative pitaram pitarāu pitṝn dātṛ dātṛṇī dātṝṇi mātāram mātārāu mātṝs
Instrumental pitrā pitṛbhyām pitṛbhis dātṛṇā dātṛbhyām dātṛbhis mātārā mātṝbhyām mātṝbhis
Dative pitrai pitṛbhyām pitṛbhyas dātṛṇai dātṛbhyām dātṛbhyas mātārai mātṝbhyām mātṝbhyas
Ablative pitur, pitras pitṛbhyām pitṛbhyas dātṛṇas dātṛbhyām dātṛbhyas mātāras mātṝbhyām mātṝbhyas
Genitive pitur, pitras pitraus pitṝṇām dātṛṇas dātṛṇaus dātṝṇām mātāras mātaraus mātṝṇām
Locative pitari pitraus pitṛṣu dātṛṇi dātṛṇaus dātṛṣu mātārām mātaraus mātṝṣu

Monosyllabic stems

Long vowel stems
ā-stems ( 'prodigy') ī-stems (strī 'woman, wife') ū-stems (bhū 'earth')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative jās jāu jās strīs striyāu striyas bhūs bhuvāu bhuvas
Vocative jās! jāu! jās! strīs! striyāu! striyas! bhūs! bhuvāu! bhuvas!
Accusative jām jāu jās, jas striyam striyāu striyas bhuvam bhuvāu bhuvas
Instrumental jābhyām jābhis striyā strībhyām strībhis bhuvā bhūbhyām bhūbhis
Dative jai jābhyām jābhyas striyai, striyāi strībhyām strībhyas bhuvai, bhuvāi bhūbhyām bhūbhyas
Ablative jas jābhyām jābhyas striyas, striyās strībhyām strībhyas bhuvas, bhuvās bhūbhyām bhūbhyas
Genitive jas jaus jānām, jām striyas, striyās striyaus striyām, strīnām bhuvas, bhuvās bhuvaus bhuvām, bhūnām
Locative ji, jām jaus jāsu striyi, striyām striyaus strīṣu bhuvi, bhuvām bhuvaus bhūṣu
Diphthong stems
āu-stems (nāu 'ship, boat') au-stems (gau 'cow, bull')
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative nāus nāvāu nāvas gaus gāvau gāvas
Vocative nāus! nāvāu! nāvas! gaus! gāvau! gāvas!
Accusative nāvam nāvāu nāvas gāvam, gām gāvau gāvas, gās
Instrumental nāvā nāubhyām nāubhis gavā gobhyām gobhis
Dative nāvai nāubhyām nāubhyas gave gobhyām gobhyas
Ablative nāvas nāubhyām nāubhyas gavas, gos gobhyām gobhyas
Genitive nāvas nāvaus nāvām gavas, gos gavos gavām
Locative nāvi, nāvām nāvaus nāuṣu gavi, gavām gavos goṣu


One other notable feature of the nominal system is the very common use of nominal compounds, which may be huge (10+ words) as in some modern languages such as German. Nominal compounds occur with various structures, however morphologically speaking they are essentially the same. Each noun (or adjective) is in its (weak) stem form, with only the final element receiving case inflection. Some examples of nominal compounds include:

Dvandva (co-ordinative)
These consist of two or more noun stems, connected in sense with 'and'. There are mainly two kinds of dvandva constructions in Sanskrit. The first is called itaraitara dvandva, an enumerative compound word, the meaning of which refers to all its constituent members. The resultant compound word is in the dual or plural number and takes the gender of the final member in the compound construction. e.g. rāma-lakṣmaṇāu – Rama and Lakshmana, or rāma-lakṣmaṇa-bharata-śatrughnāh – Rama, Lakshmana, Bharata and Satrughna. The second kind is called samāhāra dvandva, a collective compound word, the meaning of which refers to the collection of its constituent members. The resultant compound word is in the singular number and is always neuter in gender. e.g. pāṇipādam – limbs, literally hands and feet, from pāṇi 'hand' and pāda 'foot'. According to some grammarians, there is a third kind of dvandva, called aikaśaiṣa dvandva or residual compound, which takes the dual (or plural) form of only its final constituent member, e.g. pitarau for mātā + pitā, mother + father, i.e. parents. According to other grammarians, however, the aikaśaiṣa is not properly a compound at all.
Bahuvrīhi (possessive)
Bahuvrīhi, or "much-rice", denotes a rich person—one who has much rice. Bahuvrīhi compounds refer (by example) to a compound noun with no head -- a compound noun that refers to a thing which is itself not part of the compound. For example, "low-life" and "block-head" are bahuvrihi compounds, since a low-life is not a kind of life, and a block-head is not a kind of head. (And a much-rice is not a kind of rice.) Compare with more common, headed, compound nouns like "fly-ball" (a kind of ball) or "alley cat" (a kind of cat). Bahurvrīhis can often be translated by "possessing..." or "-ed"; for example, "possessing much rice", or "much riced".
Tatpuruṣa (determinative)
There are many tatpuruṣas (one for each of the nominal cases, and a few others besides); in a tatpuruṣa, the first component is in a case relationship with another. For example, a doghouse is a dative compound, a house for a dog. It would be called a "caturthitatpuruṣa" (caturthi refers to the fourth case—that is, the dative). Incidentally, "tatpuruṣa" is a tatpuruṣa ("his man"—meaning someone's agent), while "caturthitatpuruṣa" is a karmadhārya, being both dative, and a tatpuruṣa. An easy way to understand it is to look at English examples of tatpuruṣas: "battlefield", where there is a genitive relationship between "field" and "battle", "a field of battle"; other examples include instrumental relationships ("thunderstruck") and locative relationships ("towndwelling").
Karmadhāraya (descriptive)
The relation of the first member to the last is appositional, attributive or adverbial, e. g. uluka-yatu (owl+demon) is a demon in the shape of an owl.
Amraiḍita (iterative)
Repetition of a word expresses repetitiveness, e. g. dinai dinai 'day by day', 'day after day', 'daily'.

Personal pronouns and determiners

The first and second person pronouns are declined for the most part alike, having by analogy assimilated themselves with one another.

Note: Where two forms are given, the second is enclitic and an alternative form. Ablatives in singular and plural may be extended by the syllable -tas; thus mat or mattas, asmat or asmattas.
First Person Second Person Third Person
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular
Nominative aham āvām vayam (asmās) tvam yuvām yūyam (yuṣmās) svam
Accusative mām, mā āvām, nāu asmān, nas tvām, tvā yuvām, vām yuṣmān, vas svām, svā
Instrumental mayā āvābhyām asmābhis tvayā yuvābhyām yuṣmābhis svayā
Dative mahyam, mai āvābhyām, nāu asmabhyam (-s), nas tubhyam, tai yuvābhyām, vām yuṣmabhyam (-s), vas subhyam, sai
Ablative mat āvābhyām asmat (asmabhyas) tvat yuvābhyām yuṣmat (yuṣmabhyas) svat
Genitive mama, mai āvayaus, nāu asmākam, nas tava, tai yuvayaus, vām yuṣmākam, vas sava, sai
Locative mayi āvayaus asmāsu tvayi yuvayaus yuṣmāsu svayi
The demonstrative ta, declined below, also functions as the third person pronoun.
Masculine Neuter Feminine
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative tas, sas tāu tai tat tai tāni tā, sā tai tās
Accusative tam tāu tān tat tai tāni tām tai tās
Instrumental taina tābhyām taibhis, tāis taina tābhyām taibhis, tāis tayā tābhyām tābhis
Dative tasmāi tābhyām taibhyas tasmāi tābhyām taibhyas tasyāi tābhyām tābhyas
Ablative tasmāt tābhyām taibhyas tasmāt tābhyām taibhyas tasyās tābhyām tābhyas
Genitive tasya(s) tayaus taiṣām tasya(s) tayaus taiṣām tasyās tayaus tāsām
Locative tasmin tayaus taiṣu tasmin tayaus taiṣu tasyām tayaus tāsu

Interrogative pronoun ka 'what' is declined in the same way, except neuter Sg.Nom./Acc. having kim (also kam, kad) form.


Cardinal numbers

The cardinal numbers from one to ten are:

  1. aika
  2. d(u)vau
  3. tri
  4. catur
  5. pañca
  6. ṣaṣ
  7. sapta
  8. aṣṭāu
  9. nava
  10. daśa
The all numbers are declinable. Aika is declined like a pronominal adjective, though the dual form does not occur. D(u)vau appears only in the dual. Tri, catur and ṣaṣ are declined irregularly. The numbers from 5 to 19 do not have any difference in genders.
Three Four Six
Masculine Neuter Feminine Masculine Neuter Feminine M.N.F.
Nominative trayas trīṇi tisrás catvā́ ras catvā́ ri catasras ṣaṭ
Accusative trīn trīṇi tisrás catúras catvā́ ri catasras ṣaṭ
Instrumental tribhís tribhís tisṛ́ bhis catúrbhis catúrbhis catasṛ́ bhis ṣaḍbhis
Dative tribhyás tribhyás tisṛ́ bhyas catúrbhyas catúrbhyas catasṛ́ bhyas ṣaḍbhyas
Ablative tribhyás tribhyás tisṛ́ bhyas catúrbhyas catúrbhyas catasṛ́ bhyas ṣaḍbhyas
Genitive triyāṇā́ m triyāṇā́ m tisṛṇā́ m caturṇā́ m caturṇā́ m catasṛṇā́ m ṣaṇṇām
Locative triṣú triṣú tisṛ́ ṣu catúrṣu catúrṣu catasṛ́ ṣu ṣaṭsu

The numbers from 11 to 19 are:

aikādaśam, dvādaśam, trayaudaśam, caturdaśam, pañcadaśam, ṣauḍaśam, saptadaśam, aṣṭādaśam, navadaśam.

The tens from 20 to 90 are:

(d)viṃśati, triṃśat, catvāriṃśat, pañcāśat, ṣaṣṭi, saptati, aśīti, navati.

The joint numbers:

21 - aikaviṃśati, 22 - dvāviṃśati, 23 - trayauviṃśati, ..., 26 - ṣaḍviṃśati, ..., but 82 - dvāśīti, 83 - trayāśīti, 88 - aṣṭāśīti.

The hundreds are:

śatam, dvai śatai, trīṇi śatāni / tri śatam, etc.

1000 - sahasra.

Ordinal numbers

The ordinal numbers from one to ten are:

  1. prathamas, -ā
  2. dvitīyas, -ā
  3. tṛtīyas, -ā
  4. caturthas, -ī
  5. pañcamas, -ī
  6. ṣaṣṭhas, -ī
  7. saptamas, -ī
  8. aṣṭamas, -ī
  9. navamas, -ī
  10. daśamas, -ī

Other numbers:

11. - aikādaśas, ... 20. - viṃśatitamas (viṃśas), 30. - triṃśattamas (triṃśas), 40. - catvāriṃśattamas, 50. - pañcāśattamas, 60. - ṣaṣtitamas, 70. - saptatitamas, 80. - aśītitamas, 90. - navatitamas, 100. - śatatamas, 1000. - sahasratamas.


Classification of verbs

Sanskrit has ten classes of verbs divided into two broad groups: athematic and thematic. The thematic verbs are so called because an a, called the theme vowel, is inserted between the stem and the ending. This serves to make the thematic verbs generally more regular. Exponents used in verb conjugation include prefixes, suffixes, infixes, and reduplication. Every root has (not necessarily all distinct) zero, guṇa, and vṛddhi grades. If V is the vowel of the zero grade, the guṇa-grade vowel is traditionally thought of as a + V, and the vṛddhi-grade vowel as ā + V.

Vowel (zero) grade a, - i, ī u, ū ,
Short diphthong (Guṇa) grade a, ai ai au ar al
Long diphthong (Vṛddhi) grade ā, āi āi āu ār āl

Tense systems

The verbs gerunds and infinitives, and such creatures as intensives/frequentatives, desideratives, causatives, and benedictives derived from more basic forms) based on the different stem forms (derived from verbal roots) used in conjugation. There are four tense systems:

Present system

The present system includes the present tense, the imperfect, and the optative and imperative moods, as well as some of the remnant forms of the old subjunctive. The tense stem of the present system is formed in various ways. The numbers are the native grammarians' numbers for these classes.

For thematic verbs, the present tense stem may be formed through:

  • 1. Suffixation of the thematic vowel a with guṇa strengthening, for example, bháva- from bhū 'be', bhara- from bhṛ (guṇa form bhar-) 'bring'.
  • 6. Suffixation of the thematic vowel a with a shift of accent to this vowel, for example tudá- from tud 'thrust'.
  • 4. Suffixation of ya, for example dī́ vya- from div 'play', paśya- from 'see'.

For athematic verbs, the present tense stem may be formed through:

  • 2. No modification at all, for example ad- from ad 'eat'.
  • 3. Reduplication prefixed to the root, for example juhu- from hu 'sacrifice', dadhā- from dhā 'put'.
  • 7. Infixion of or n before the final root consonant (with appropriate sandhi changes), for example rundh- or ruṇadh- from rudh 'obstruct', yunaj- from yuj 'join' (yunakti 'he joins').
  • 5. Suffixation of nu (guṇa form náu), for example sunu- from su 'press out', stṛnau- from stṛ 'strew' (stṛnumaḥ 'we strew', stṛnvanti 'they strew').
  • 8. Suffixation of u (guṇa form au), for example tanu- from tan 'stretch'. For modern linguistic purposes it is better treated as a subclass of the 5th. tanu- derives from tnnu-, which is zero-grade for *tannu-, because in the Proto-Indo-European language [m] and [n] could be vowels (i.e. [am], [an]), which in Sanskrit (and Greek) change to [a]. Most members of the 8th class arose this way; kar- 'make, do' was 5th class in Vedic Sanskrit (krnauti 'he makes'), but shifted to the 8th class in Classical Sanskrit (karauti 'he makes')
  • 9. Suffixation of (zero-grade or n), for example krīṇa- or krīṇī- from krī 'buy', pūna- from 'clean'.
  • 10. This class described by native grammarians refers to a process which is derivational in nature, and thus not a true tense-stem formation. It is formed by suffixation of ya with guṇa or vṛddhi strengthening and lengthening of the root's last vowel, for example bhāvaya- (< bāu-a-ya-) from bhū 'be', pūjaya- from pūj 'honour', cauraya- from cur (guṇa form caur-) 'steal', dāvaya- from du (vṛddhi form dāv-) 'burn'.

The present system also differentiates strong and weak forms of the verb. The strong/weak opposition manifests itself differently depending on the class:

  • The root and reduplicating classes (2 & 3) are not modified in the weak forms, and receive guṇa in the strong forms.
  • The nasal class (7) is not modified in the weak form, extends the nasal to in the strong form.
  • The nu-class (5) has nu in the weak form and náu in the strong form.
  • The nā-class (9) has in the weak form and nā́ in the strong form. disappears before vocalic endings.
Perfect system

The perfect is only used in the indicative. The stem is formed with reduplication as with the present system.

The perfect system also produces separate "strong" and "weak" forms of the verb — the strong form is used with the singular active, and the weak form with the rest.

The perfect in the Sanskrit can be in form of the simple perfect and the periphrastic perfect. The only perfect is in the indicative. The simple perfect is the most common form and can be made from most of the roots. The simple perfect stem is made by reduplication and if necessary by stem lengthening. The conjugated form takes special perfect endings. The periphrastic perfect is used with causative, desiderative, denominative and roots with prosodic long anlauted vowel (except a/ā). Only few roots can form both the simple and the periphrastic perfect. These are bhṛ 'carry', uṣ 'burn', vid 'know', bhi 'to be afraid', hu 'sacrifice'.

Aorist system

The aorist system includes aorist proper (with past indicative meaning, e.g. abhūs 'you were') and some of the forms of the ancient injunctive (used almost exclusively with in prohibitions, e.g. mā bhūs 'don't be'). The principal distinction of the two is presence/absence of an augment – a- prefixed to the stem.

The aorist system stem actually has three different formations: the simple aorist, the reduplicating aorist (semantically related to the causative verb), and the sibilant aorist. The simple aorist is taken directly from the root stem (e.g. bhū-: a-bhū-t 'he was'). The reduplicating aorist involves reduplication as well as vowel reduction of the stem. The sibilant aorist is formed with the suffixation of s to the stem. The sibilant aorist by itself has four formations:

  • athematic s-aorist
  • athematic iṣ-aorist
  • athematic siṣ-aorist
  • thematic s-aorist
Future system

The future system is formed with the suffixation of -sya- or -iṣya- and guṇa, both in the simple future and conditional. There exists also so called periphrastic future, which is made by adding suffix tṝ to the stem and the short as 'to be' form.


Each verb has a grammatical voice, whether active, passive or middle. There is also an impersonal voice, which can be described as the passive voice of intransitive verbs. Sanskrit verbs have an indicative, an optative and an imperative mood. Older forms of the language had a subjunctive, though this had fallen out of use by the time of Classical Sanskrit.

Basic conjugational endings

Conjugational endings in Vedic Sanskrit convey person, number, and voice. Different forms of the endings are used depending on what tense stem and mood they are attached to. Verb stems or the endings themselves may be changed or obscured by sandhi.

Person Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Primary 1. -mi -vás -más -ái -váhai -máhai
2. -si -thás -thá -sái -ā́ thai, -áithai -dhvái
3. -ti -tás -ánti, -áti -tái -ā́ tai, -áitai -ántai, -átai
Secondary 1. -am -vá -má -í, -á, - ái -váhi -máhi
2. -s -tám -tá -thā́ s -ā́ thām, -áithām -dhvám
3. -t -tā́ m -án, -ús -tá -ā́ tām, -áitām -ánta, -áta, -rán
Perfect 1. -a -vá -má -ái -váhai -máhai
2. -tha -áthus -sái -ā́ thai, -áithai -dhvái
3. -a -átus -ús -ái -ā́ tai, -áitai -rái
Imperative 1. -āni -va -ma -āi -vahāi -mahāi
2. -dhí, -hí, – -tám -tá -svá -ā́ thām, -áithām -dhvám
3. -tu -tā́ m -ántu, -átu -tā́ m -ā́ tām, - áitām -ántām, -átām
Subjunctive 1. -ā, -āni -vá -má -āi -váhāi -máhāi, -máhai
2. -si, -s -thás -thá -sāi, -sái -ā́ithai -dhvā́i
3. -ti, -t -tás -(á)n -tāi, -tái -ā́itai -ántai, -ánta

Primary endings are used with present indicative and future forms. Secondary endings are used with the imperfect, conditional, aorist, and optative. Perfect, imperative and subjunctive endings are used with the perfect, imperative and subjunctive respectively.

In present and imperfect indicative singular active forms have the accent on the stem and take strong forms, while the other forms have the accent on the endings and take weak forms.

In imperative accent is variable and affects vowel quality. Forms which are end-accented trigger guṇa strengthening, and those with stem accent do not have the vowel affected.

The Passive voice forms for all tenses and moods are made by adding -ya- to the zero-grade stem and then adding the middle voice ending of appropriate tense and mood.

The Causative is made by adding the suffix aya to the vṛddhi form. For example, karauti 'he does/makes', and kārayati 'he lets do/make'.

The Desiderative is made by reduplication of the root and the suffix sa. For example, karauti 'he does, makes', and cikīrṣati 'he wishes to do/make'. It can be also combined with causative, e.g. kārayati 'he lets do' and cikārayiṣati 'he wishes to let to do'.

The Intensive (or sometimes called Frequentative) describes a repeated or particularly intensive activity. With verbs of the movement it means "back and forth". The intensive is formed by reduplication of the root and the suffix ya with middle endings for thematic stems, and without suffix and active endings for athematic stems. For example, bhramati 'it curves around', and baṃbhramyatai 'it curves cross and crosswise around'.

Examples of conjugation
bhū - 'to be'
The present indicative takes primary endings.
Present, Indicative
Person Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. bhavāmi bhavāvas(i) bhavāmas(i) bhav(ām)ai bhavāvahai bhavāmahai
2. bhavasi bhavathas bhavatha bhavasai bhavaithai bhavadhvai
3. bhavati bhavatas bhavanti bhavatai bhavaitai bhavantai
The imperfect takes secondary endings and adds augment a- before stem.
Imperfect, Indicative
Person Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. ábhavam ábhavāva ábhavāma ábhav(ām)ai ábhavāvahi ábhavāmahi
2. ábhavas ábhavatam ábhavata ábhavathās ábhavaithām ábhavadhvam
3. ábhavat ábhavatām ábhavan ábhavata ábhavaitām ábhavanta
The aorist takes secondary endings.
Aorist stems
Simple aorist Benedictive / Precative Injunctive / Prohibitive
abhū- bhūyā- (mā) bhū-
The perfect takes perfect endings.
Person Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. babhūva babhūviva babhūvima babhūvai babhūvivahai babhūvimahai
2. babhū(vi)tha babhūthus babhūva babhūsai babhūvaithai babhūvadhvai
3. babhūva babhūtus babhūvus babhūvai babhūvaitai babhūrai
The optative takes secondary endings. -ya- is added to the stem both in the active and the middle. In some forms the cluster ya is dropped out.
Person Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. bhavaiyām bhavai(yā)va bhavai(yā)ma bhavaiya(m) bhavai(yā)vahi bhavai(yā)mahi
2. bhavai(ya)s bhavai(ya)tam bhavai(ya)ta bhavai(ya)thās bhavaiyāthām bhavai(ya)dhvam
3. bhavai(yā)t bhavai(ya)tām bhavaiyus bhavai(ya)ta bhavaiyātām bhavairan
The imperative takes imperative endings.
Person Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. bhavāni, bhava bhavāva bhavāma bhav(ām)āi bhavāvahāi bhavāmahāi
2. bhava(hi), bhavatāt bhavatam bhavata bhavasva(m) bhavaithām bhavadhvam
3. bhavatu bhavatām bhavantu bhavatām bhavaitām bhavantām
The subjunctive takes subjunctive endings.
Person Active Middle
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. bhavā(ni) bhavāva bhavāma bhav(ām)āi bhavāvahāi bhavāmahāi
2. bhavas(i) bhavāthas bhavātha bhavāsāi bhavāithai bhavadhvāi
3. bhavat(i) bhavātas bhavān bhavātāi bhavāitai bhavanta(i)
The future takes primary endings. -iṣya- is added to the stem, both in the active and the middle/passive.
Future, Indicative
Person Active Middle/Passive
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. bhaviṣyāmi bhaviṣyāva bhaviṣyāma bhaviṣy(ām)ai bhaviṣyāvahai bhaviṣyāmahai
2. bhaviṣyasi bhaviṣyathas bhaviṣyatha bhaviṣyasai bhaviṣyaithai bhaviṣyadhvai
3. bhaviṣyati bhaviṣyatas bhaviṣyanti bhaviṣyatai bhaviṣyaitai bhaviṣyantai

The second or periphrastic future is made by adding suffix tṝ to the stem and the short as 'to be' form, except 3rd person, both singular and plural, having feminine -stem nominative endings, e.g., bhavi- + + asmi = bhavitāsmi, but bhavi- + tā/tārāu/tāras = bhavitā/bhavitārāu/bhavitāras. The passive forms are identical to the middle forms.

Periphrastic future
Person Active Middle/Passive
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. bhavitāsmi bhavitāsvas bhavitāsmas bhavitāsmai bhavitāsvahai bhavitāsmahai
2. bhavitāsi bhavitāsthas bhavitāstha bhavitāsai bhavitāsāthai bhavitā(sa)dhvai
3. bhavitā bhavitārāu bhavitāras bhavitā bhavitārāu bhavitāras
The conditional takes secondary endings. -iṣya- is added to the stem, both in the active and the middle/passive.
Person Active Middle/Passive
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. ábhaviṣyam ábhaviṣyāva ábhaviṣyāma ábhaviṣy(ām)ai ábhaviṣyāvahi ábhaviṣyāmahi
2. ábhaviṣyas ábhaviṣyatam ábhaviṣyata ábhaviṣyathās ábhaviṣyaithām ábhaviṣyadhvam
3. ábhaviṣyat ábhaviṣyatām ábhaviṣyan ábhaviṣyata ábhaviṣyaitām ábhaviṣyanta
The following stems can take all endings.
Other stems
Passive Causative Desiderative Intensive
bhūya- bhāvaya- bubhūṣa- baubhavī-
Present participle Past participle Future participle Gerund Perfect participle
Active Middle Passive Active Passive Active Passive Passive Active Middle
bhava(n)tas, -ī bhavāmānas, -ā bhūyamānas, -ā bhūtava(n)tas, -ī bhūtas, -ā bhaviṣya(n)tas, -ī bhavitavyas, -ā bhāvyas, -ā babhūvas, babhūṣī babhūvānas, -ā
Undeclinable forms
Infinitive Absolutive
bhūtum, bhavitum bhūtvā, -bhūya
as - 'to be'
The as 'to be' has the long and the short form. The long form is very rarely used.
Present, Indicative
Person Active Middle
Long form Short form Long form Short form
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. asāmi asāvas asāmas asmi svas smas as(ām)ai asāvahai asāmahai hai svahai smahai
2. asasi asathas asatha asi sthas stha asasai asāthai asadhvai sai sāthai dhvai
3. asati asatas asanti asti stas santi asatai asātai asantai stai sātai santai
Imperfect, Indicative
Person Active Middle
Long form Short form Long form Short form
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
1. āsam asāva āsāma āsam asva āsma āsāmai āsāvahi āsāmahi āsmai āsvahi āsmahi
2. āsīs āsatam āsata āsīs āstam āsta āsathās āsaihām āsadhvam āsthās āsaithām āsadhvam
3. āsīt āsatām āsan āsīt āstām āsan āsata āsaitām āsanta āsta āsaitām āsanta


Because of Vedic Sanskrit's complex declension system the word order is free (with tendency toward SOV).

See also


  • Ernst Wilhelm Oskar Windisch, Berthold Delbrück, Die altindische Wortfolge aus dem Catagathabrahmana [1]
  • Arthur Anthony Macdonell, Vedic Grammar (1910)
  • Arthur Anthony MacDonell, A Vedic Grammar for Students. Bombay, Oxford University Press. (1916/1975)
  • Bruno Lindner, 'Altindische Nominalbildung: Nach den S̆amhitas dargestellt (1878) [2]
  • Michael Witzel, Tracing the Vedic dialects in Dialectes dans les litteratures Indo-Aryennes ed. Caillat, Paris, 1989, 97–265.
  • Müller M., Sanskrit Grammatik, Leipzig (1868)
  • Renou L., Grammaire de la langue védique, Paris (1952)
  • William Dwight Whitney, Sanskrit Grammar. 5th edn. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. (1924) [1st ed. 1879]

External links


  • Charles Wikner "A Practical Sanskrit Introductory"
  • A vaishnava version of Pānini's grammar: Harivenu Dāsa "An Introductory Course based on Šrīla Jīva Gosvāmī's Grammar"


  • Vedic Accents
  • Frederik Kortlandt "Accent and ablaut in the Vedic verbs"
  • Melissa Frazier "Accent in Proto-Indo-European Athematic Nouns and Its Development in Vedic Sanskrit"
  • Arthur Anthony Macdonell "A Vedic Grammar for Students: Appendix II: Vedic Metre"


  • Julia Papke "Order and Meaning in Sanskrit Preverbs"
  • Paul Kiparsky "The Vedic Injunctive: Historical and Synchronic Implications"
  • Paul Kiparsky "Aspect and Event Structure in Vedic"
  • V. Swaminathan "Panini’s Understanding of Vedic Grammar"
  • Daniel Baum "The Imperative in the Rigveda"
  • "The «Virtually Unknown» Benedictive Middle in Classical Sanskrit"
  • The Sanskrit Heritage Site
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