Lesson 1 – Introduction, conjugation

aiunThis is the first in a series of what i hope to be fifty or so lessons. I hope you will benefit from this course of lessons.

I have uploaded a video verision of this on YouTube here.

I will use both the Roman script and the Devanagari script in my lessons. If you are not familiar with either of these please refer to the Alphabet where I have given these two scripts. You can also refer to some standard textbook for this.

I have also given the Pronunciation of Sanskrit Letters  for people not familiar with Indian sounds.

Some of the standard reference materials are given here.

Let us start with a sentence. रामः कृष्णं पश्यति (rāmaḥ kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyati ) . ” Rama sees Krishna”.

The first thing to note is the word order.

In Sanskrit the word normal order is subject, object, verb. This is similar to the other Indian languages like Hindi. However, in English the word order is subject, verb, object. So in Sanskrit we say “Rama Krishna sees”.

The second thing to note is how subject and object are determined in Sanskrit.

In English who sees whom is determined by the position of the word in the sentence. From the sentence “Rama sees Krishna” we know that it is Rama who is doing the seeing and it is Krishna who is being seen. In Sanskrit the subject and object of a sentence is rendered differently. राम when rendered as a subject becomes रामः. Similarly, कृष्ण when used as an object becomes कृष्णम्. So even if we said कृष्णं रामः पश्यति the meaning would not change. It would still mean Rama sees Krishna.

If we wanted to say Krishna sees Rama we would say कृष्णः रामं पश्यति.

The third thing to note is sandhi.

In Sanskrit, word sounds change according to the environment in which they occur. Both vowels and consonants change in this fashion. This is true of other languages also. In English, “a” becomes “an” in front of a vowel sound.

In this lesson we will learn two sandhis of Sanskrit.

Final “s” and “r” become the visarga (:) at the end of a word.

Final “m” in front of another word becomes the anusvara indicated by a dot on top of the last syllable.

So रामः is actually रामस्. It becomes रामः in sandhi.

And रामं is actually रामम्. It becomes  रामं in sandhi

In my lessons and references the visarga normally represents “s”. If it etymologically represents an “r”, I will specifically mention it.

We will look at other sandhis in later lessons. Please see Sandhis for details on all Sandhis.

The last thing to note is the verb.

In Sanskrit, all words are derived from basic elements called roots (indicated with a square root sign in the beginning. This is only a convention). These roots are normally single syllable entities. For example, the word ayana अयन  (going)  is derived from the root √i √इ  (which means to go.) through a series of modifications. We will learn about this through later lessons.

The root is also used to generate verb stems to which personal endings are added to form the complete verb as is used in a sentence. In our example the verb पश्यति is derived from the root √ पश् by adding य to form the verb stem पश्य. To this stem is added the personal ending ति.

[Edit: Grammarians classify the forms पश्यति etc. under the root दृश् (dr̥ś). The root दृश् (dr̥ś) is deficient in some cases and the the root √ पश् mentioned here supplies forms like पश्यति for the root  दृश् (dr̥ś) also. Thanks to a reader for pointing this out. I have used √ पश् in my lessons for easy understanding.]

Roots have been divided into ten different classes by Sanskrit grammarians. Each class of root undergoes a different modification to create the verb stem. The root √ पश् is of class 4. Roots of this class add a य to the unchanged root before adding the personal ending.

We will discuss all the other root classes through the coming lessons.

Let us now discuss conjugation.

Conjugation is the variation of the form of a verb in an inflected language such as Sanskrit, by which the voice, mood, tense, number, and person are identified. In English there are only two forms “see” and “sees”

The personal ending added to the stem पश्य is ति in this case. ति [ ti ] is the personal ending for third person singular subjects like रामः for the present tense indicative active verb.

The other endings are given here.


So, the full conjugation is:


So when Rama sees Krishna, we say रामः कृष्णं पश्यति. However, if two Ramas (dual) were seeing Krishna we would use the verb form पश्यतः [paśyataḥ]. If more than two Ramas (plural) were seeing Krishna we would use the verb form पश्यन्ति [paśyanti]]. These are what are called the third person endings.

[We should keep in mind that the subject endings also change to indicate two Ramas (dual – रामौ rāmau) or more than two Ramas (plural – रामाः rāmāḥ). We will learn about this in subsequent lessons.]

The second person endings are used when you want to say “You see Krishna” [त्वं कृष्णं पश्यसि (tvaṃ kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyasi)], “You two see Krishna” [युवां कृष्णं पश्यथः (yuvāṃ kr̥ṣṇaṃpaśyathaḥ)], “You (more than two) see Krishna” यूयं कृष्णं पश्यथ (yūyam kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyatha)]. The words त्वम्, युवाम् and यूयम् are the subject forms of You, you two and you (more than two) respectively. We will learn more about these forms in later chapters.

One thing of interest you would have noticed is when it comes to the second person, the verb ending and the subject gives redundant information. The verb form पश्यसि is only used with त्वम्. The same goes for the other two. So, the subject is most of the times dropped in normal usage. It is used only if emphasis is needed. So “You see Krishna” [कृष्णं पश्यसि (kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyasi)], “You two see Krishna” [कृष्णं पश्यथः (kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyathaḥ)], “You (more than two) see Krishna” [कृष्णं पश्यथ (kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyatha)]. These forms would convey sufficient information.

The first person endings are used when you want to say “I see Krishna” [अहं कृष्णं पश्यामि (ahaṃ kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyāmi)], “We two see Krishna” [आवां कृष्णं पश्यावः (āvāṃ kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyāvaḥ)], “We (more than two) see Krishna” [वयं कृष्णं पश्यामः (vayaṃ kr̥ṣṇaṃ paśyāmaḥ)]. The words अहम्, आवाम् and वयम् are the subject forms of I, we two and we (more than two) respectively. We will learn more about these forms in later chapters.

As in the case of the second person, the subject is dropped in normal usage. One thing you would have noticed about the verb forms of the first person is that the final vowel of the stem is lengthened before adding the endings [पश्यामि paśyāmi rather than पश्यमि paśyami]. This is peculiar to the first person.

Another thing to note is that the the third person plural ending used here is nti not anti. The normal ending is anti.

Some other veb stems are

जय+ ति, तः etc. (jaya+ ti, taḥ etc.) – wins, vanquishes;

गच्छ+ ति, तः etc. (gaccha+ ti, taḥ etc.) – goes;

तिष्ठ+ ति, तः etc. (tiṣṭha+ ti, taḥ etc.) – stands

The conjugation for जय+ ति, तः etc. (jaya+ ti, taḥ etc.) – wins, vanquishes is givem below:


Other verbs coming from other classes form their word stems in their own fashions and then add these same endings to get their conjugations. We will learn about how verb stems of other classes are generated in subsequent lessons.

The set of personal endings mentioned here is what is called the “active” voice endings. There is another set of endings called the “middle” voice endings conveying similar meanings to verbs. Some roots take only the active endings while some take only the middle endings. Many take both to give different shades of meanings. The active voice form is called परस्मै पदम् (parasmai padam – meaning “a word for another”) and the middle one is called अत्मने पदम् (ātmane padam– meaning “a word for one’s self”). The terms are best called transitive and reflexive.

The different tenses and moods of the Sanskrit verbs are called “Lakaras” by grammarians. The present indicative tense is called लट् (laṭ). In subsequent lessons we will learn the other tenses and moods (or other Lakaras)

A conjugated verb form used in a sentence (like पश्यति paśyati) is made up of two parts.

पश्यति paśyati =  stem – पश्य paśya  +  ending – ति ti

We saw one way of creating the stem from the root and one set of ending

The Sanskrit conjugation system is formed by various ways of creation of the stem and the adding of different sets of endings

[See Tenses and Conjugation  for details]

A couple of things to note:

Verb conjugation is gender independent unlike in languages like Hindi, Tamil etc. In Hindi you would say “Ram jaata hai”; “Sita jaatii hai”.

Verb conjugation always agrees with  the subject unlike in Hindi where sometimes the verb agrees with the object rather than the subject. In Hindi you would say, Ram mujhe sau rupaye deta hai; but Ram ne mujhe  sau rupaye diye

See reference text to get a general idea of a Sanskrit verse. Don’t worry if you do not understand this completely. You will be able to understand it better as you go into further lessons.

This is the end of the first lesson.

We looked at a sentence and from that understood the normal word order in Sanskrit which is subject, object, verb. But since Sanskrit is an inflected language, the subject of the sentence or the object of a sentence is indicated by the form of the noun. So word order may not be very critical

We took an early look at Sandhi, and discovered the visarga and the anusvara.

We had an introductory look at roots and said that all words in Sanskrit are derived from roots. We also said that there are 10 classes of roots and verb stems are derived from this by various different rules. We took an example of class 4 root and saw how the verb stem was derived from this.

We looked at the full conjugation of the present indicative active of a class 4 verb. We found that conjugation is gender independent always in grammatical agreement with the subject.

I have given some exercises against this lesson below. Please do these exercises. Please refer to a dictionary (there are online dictionaries) for words that you don’t understand.

One word of advice. While doing the exercise, read out each word loudly. This will help you stabilise your pronunciation and also to remember some of the topics introduced


Translate into English

1.आस्यामि पश्यामि च āsyāmi paśyāmi ca

2.गोविन्दः कुप्यति govindaḥ kupyati

3.पुष्यावः puṣyāvaḥ

4.कृष्णः च गोविन्दः च अच्युतः च रामं पश्यन्ति कुप्यन्ति च kr̥ṣṇaḥ ca govindaḥ ca acyutaḥ ca rāmaṃ paśyanti kupyanti ca

Translate into Sanskrit

1.You get angry

2.We (more than two) see Govinda

3.Achyuta gets angry

4.I stand and see


9 thoughts on “Lesson 1 – Introduction, conjugation

  1. […] Lesson 1 was an introduction. We started by looking at the concept of inflection – declension and conjugation. We said that Sanskrit is a highly inflected language.We also said that all words in Sanskrit are derived from entities called roots. We said that there are 10 classes of roots and verb stems are derived from this by various different rules. We took an example of class 4 root and saw how the verb stem was derived from this. We looked at the full conjugation of the present indicative active of a class 4 verb. We found that conjugation is gender independent always in grammatical agreement with the subject. […]

  2. Oh, thank you so much. I’m continuing my studies online since returning from India and need your blog and lessons! Radhe!

  3. namaste and hello,

    I am using अष्टावक्र गीता ( ashtavakra gitā) as a resource to read and translate… I use the text to practice the rules of sanscrit and apply what I learn on this site ( thank you again for this knowledge) to the best of my ability.

    I am at an impasse here with this compound ‘kāmamākāṅkṣet’ to

    udbhūtaṁ jñānadurmitramavadhāryātidurbalaḥ |
    āścaryaṁ kāmamākāṅkṣet kālamantamanuśritaḥ || ॥ ३-७॥

    kāma-mākāṅkṣet – I have used the term ‘āṅka’ as a clue , as it means ‘the curve in the human form esp. female’ – this aligns to the śloka as it it dealing with the desire ( kāma ) and thoughts clinging (kālamantamanuśritaḥ) to sensual things.

    I am looking at the last member of the compound to determine a clue… so far the best I can gather is that it is optative (lin). Yet I am struggling with the proper dis-assembly of the term and the categorization of class and case of the terms.

    Translation by John Richards ( I see the terms slightly differently but will not pursue it within this post e.g. I would use ‘ a wonder’ udbhūtaṁ vs. ‘astonishing’ )

    It is astonishing that one already very debilitated, and knowing very well that its arousal is the enemy of knowledge should still hanker after sensuality, even when approaching his last days.

    Any pointers are welcomed and greatly appreciated.

    śrī śivāḥpanamastu

    Kind Regards,
    San Diego,CA

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