Lesson 3 – Vowel gradation, the ten root classes, formation of the verb stems, present indicative active, the middle voice

aiunThe video version of this lesson is given on YouTube here. [Expand to the full article to be able to click on the link]

In lesson 2 we looked at declensions and used the masculine stem  राम (rāma) as an example of the declensional paradigm. The paradigms for other stems are given in the reference here and here. The standard endings are also given here. I will assume that you would have gone through these paradigms and are now thorough with these. I will not discuss declensions anymore except when we come to numerals. We will use declensions freely in our lessons now.

We will quickly look at the Sanskrit terms for some of the terms we used in the last lesson.

  • “a” ending masculine word “rāma”
    • akārāntaḥ puṃliṅgaḥ “rāma” śabdaḥ अकारान्तः पुंलिङ्गः “राम” शब्दः
  • “i” ending masculine word “hari”
    • ikārāntaḥ puṃliṅgaḥ “hari” śabdaḥ इकारान्तः पुंलिङ्गः “हरि” शब्दः
  • “ā” ending feminine word “ramā”
    • ākārāntaḥ strīliṅgaḥ “ramā” śabdaḥ आकारान्तः स्त्रीलिङ्गः “रमा” शब्दः
  • “u” ending neuter word “madhu”
    • ukārantaḥ napuṃsakaliṅgaḥ “madhu” śabdaḥ उकारन्तः नपुंसकलिङ्गः “मधु” शब्दः
  •  Singular – ekavacanam एकवचनम्
  • Dual – dvivachanam द्विवछनम्
  • Plural – bahuvacanam बहुवचनम्

In lesson 1 we looked at a class 4 root and saw how to conjugate its verb in the present indicative active tense (लट् laṭ परस्मै पदम् parasmai padam). We will now look at roots of the other classes.

In this lesson first we will look at vowel gradation, the ten root classes, the formation of the verb stems and present indicative active conjugation for classes 1, 4, 6 and 10.  We will also look at the middle voice and at the conjugational paradigm of the present indicative middle (laṭ  ātmane padam लट् अत्मने पदम्)  of the verb √labh  √लभ्.

1. Vowel Gradation

Before that, we will quickly look at vowel gradation. Vowels are classified as simple, guṇa and vr̥ddhi.


ए  e is the guṇa of इ  i  and  ई  ī; ऐ  ai is the vr̥ddhi of इ  i  and  ई  ī. Similarly for the others.

It is important to know this because vowels of many roots and stems go through guṇa and vr̥ddhi conversion before addition of endings and affixes.

This conversion of a simple vowel to the corresponding guṇa or vr̥ddhi is called strengthening.

For example

  • bhū भू when guṇa strengthened (or  gunated) becomes bho  भो and when vr̥ddhi strengthened (or vrddhied) becomes bhau  भौ
  • nī  नी when gunated becomes  ne  ने and when vrddhied becomes nai  नै
  • budh  बुध् when gunated becomes bodh  बोध् and when vrddhied becomes baudh  बौध्
  • vad  वद् when gunated becomes vad  वद् (the guṇa of a  अ is a  अ itself) and when vrddhied becomes vād  वाद्
  • dr̥ś  दृश् when gunated becomes darś  दर्श् or draś  द्रश् and when vrddhied becomes dārś  दार्श् or drāś  द्राश्

[Note: guṇa strengthening is not possible (will not happen) for a long vowel followed by a consonant or for a short vowel followed by a cluster of two or more consonants. Guṇa strengthening can happen for a final long vowel, though.  There are no such restrictions on vr̥ddhi strengthening.  For example: √nind √निन्द् and √jīv √जीव् cannot be gunated, but they can be vrddhied ]

2. Root classes

As mentioned in the first lesson, there are ten root classes. They are

  • Class 1 – bhvādi  भ्वादि [√bhū ādi  भू आदि – bhū etc.] class
  • Class 2 – adādi  अदादि [√ad ādi  अद् आदि – ad etc.] class
  • Class 3 – juhotyādi  जुहोत्यादि [juhoti ādi  जुहोति आदि – juhoti (root √hu √हु ) etc.] class
  • Class 4 – divādi  दिवादि [√div ādi √दिव् आदि – div etc. ] class
  • Class 5 – svādi  स्वादि [√su ādi  √सु आदि – su etc.] class
  • Class 6 – tudādi  तुदादि [√tud ādi  √तुद् आदि – tud etc.] class
  • Class 7 – rudhādi  रुधादि [√rudh ādi  √रुध् आदि – rudh etc. ] class
  • Class 8 – tanādi  तनादि [√tan ādi  √तन् आदि – tan etc. ] class
  • Class 9 – kryādi  क्र्यादि [√krī ādi  √क्री आदि – krī etc.] class
  • Class 10 – curādi  चुरादि [√cur ādi  √चुर् आदि – cur etc.] class

3.  Conjugation of verbs of classes 1, 4, 6 and 10

In lesson 1 we saw that the verb पश्यति is derived from the root paś √ पश् by adding य to form the verb stem paśya पश्य. To this stem is added the personal ending ति.  √paś √ पश् is a Class 4 root. So to class 4 roots we add we add य to get the stem.

3.1 Class 1

[Note: In Sandhi, o  ओ + a  अ becomes ava  अव and e  ए + a  अ becomes aya  अय]

Class 1 roots add an “a अ” to the root which has been gunated (that is, has guṇa strengthening), if possible, to form the stem. Then, the same endings as we saw for √paś  √पश् are added to get the present active indicative.

So let us take the root √bhū √भू  “to be, to become”. The ū ऊ is gunated to get o  ओ. So bhū भू becomes bho  भो. Then the “a अ” is added to get bhava  भव. Then the endings are added.

So to get the present indicative active third person singular of the class 1 root  √bhū √भू, the process is:

  • √bhū √भू –> gunated –> bho  भो + a अ –> bhava  भव + ti  ति –> bhavati  भवति

In the same manner, the second person singular can be derived as bhavasi  भवसि and so on.

You can derive the complete paradigm as an exercise.

Let’s take the root √nī  √नी  (“to lead”)which is also of class 1.

  • √nī  √नी –> gunated –> ne  ने + a अ –> naya  नय + ti  ति –> nayati नयति and so on.

For root √budh  √बुध्

  • √budh  √बुध् –> gunated –> bodh  बोध् + a अ –> bodha  बोध + ti  ति –> bodhati बोधति

For root √vad  √वद्

  • √vad  √वद् –> gunated (the guṇa of  a अ is a अ itself) –> vad  वद् + a अ –> vada  वद + ti  ति –> vadati  वदति and so on

In a similar manner we can derive the paradigms for the root classes 4, 6 and 10.

3.2 Class 4

We already saw the derivation for Class 4. We add a ya  य to the unchanged root. [This ya  य is actually y  य् + a अ]

3.3 Class 6

In class 6, we simply (without gunating the root) add “a अ”.

Let us take the Class 6 root √viś  √विश् (“to enter”)

√viś  √विश् + a अ –> viśa  विश + ti  ति –> viśati  विशति. Similarly for the others.

3.4 Class 10

In class 10, we add an aya  अय to the root which is normally gunated if possible (we saw where gunation is not possible before). [Medial “a अ” is sometimes vriddhied.]

Let’s take a Class 10 root √cur  √चुर् (“to steal”).

√cur  √चुर् –> gunated –> cor  चोर् + aya  अय –> coraya  चोरय + ti  ति –> corayati  चोरयति

3.5 Special cases 

3.5.1 The class 1 roots √gam  √गम् (“to go”) and √yam √यम् (“to reach”) form their stems as gaccha  गच्छ and yaccha  यच्छ respectively. Endings are added to these to form gacchati गच्छति and yacchati यच्छति respectively. The class 6 root √iṣ  √इष् forms the verb stem iccha  इच्छ.

3.5.2 Some roots lengthen their vowel: Class 1 root √kram  √क्रम् (“to stride”) makes stem krāma  क्राम.

3.5.3 Some roots with a nasal before final syllable lose the nasal while others add a nasal. The class 1 roor √daṃś  √दंश् (“to bite”) makes daśa  दश and and class 6 root √sic  √सिच् (“to sprinkle”) makes siñca  सिञ्च.

3.5.4 Some roots are reduplicated. That is their roots are doubled in some fashion. We will be looking at reduplication later when we deal with class 3 root verbs. For example, The class 1 roots √sthā √स्था (“to stand”) forms tiṣṭha  तिष्ठ and √pā  √पा (“to drink”) forms piba  पिब.

4. Thematic and athematic verbs.

You would have seen that all the verb stems of classes 1, 4, 6 and 10 above ended with an “a अ” [bhava  भव, paśya पश्य, viśa  विश and coraya  चोरय]. Endings are then added to these stems. Stems of the other classes do not end with this “a अ”.

Verbs from roots of  class 1, 4, 6,and 10 are called thematic verbs and the others are called athematic verbs. We have dealt with the formation of the thematic verb stems above. Athematic conjugation is a bit more complicated. We will look at this in a later lesson.

5. The Middle Voice – अत्मने पदम् (ātmane padam)

In lesson 1, we encountered the terms परस्मै पदम् (parasmai padam) and अत्मने पदम् (ātmane padam) – the active and the middle voice respectively. Originally the परस्मै पदम् (parasmai padam) was employed when the action of the verb was directed at another person (other than the subject, transitive) while the अत्मने पदम् (ātmane padam) was employed when the action was directed at the self (the subject itself, reflexive). But in actual use this distinction is blurred and the two are used interchangeably. We learned that some verbs take only one or the other of the voices while others take both (most take both).

5. 1 Middle endings

The  endings for the middle voice present indicative is:


5.2 Middle conjugation

The conjugation paradigms for the middle voice is formed like the paradigm for the active voice.

Let us take the root class 1 root √labh  √लभ् (“to get, to take, to acquire”). The stem is formed by gunating, if possible, the vowel and adding a अ.

√labh  √लभ् –> gunated –> labh  लभ् + a अ –> labha लभ + te ते –> labhate लभते and so on.

So we can say, rāmaḥ pustakaṃ labhate  रामः पुस्तकं लभते – Rama gets a book

[You can see why we are using the अत्मने पदम् (ātmane padam) for this. The book is for Rama himself. Rama gets a book (for himself)]

The full paradigm for the present indicative middle voice is as follows. You will see that there are some deviations from the standard endings in the dual forms and some others.



This is the end of lesson 3.

In this lesson first we looked at vowel gradation – at the simple vowel, the guṇa and the vr̥ddhi. We then looked at the ten root classes and the looked at formation of the verb stems and present indicative active conjugation for classes 1, 4, 6 and 10. We said that these four classes together are called the thematic verbs. We also looked at the middle voice and at the conjugational paradigm of the present indicative middle (laṭ  ātmane padam लट् अत्मने पदम्)  of the verb √labh  √लभ्.

Please study the first three verses of the नळोपाख्यानम् naḷopākhyānam   – The story of Nala – that I have analysed on a first level and uploaded here. It will help you understand how sentences are formed in Sanskrit.


Translate into English

  1. mama pustakaṃ nagarāt rāmaḥ labhate  मम पुस्तकं नगरात् रामः लभते
  2. ramayā saha gr̥haṃ gacchāmi  रमया सह गृहं गच्छामि
  3. gr̥he viśāvaḥ  तत्र गृहे विशावः
  4. tatra jalaṃ pibāmi phalaṃ labhate ca  तत्र जलं पिबामि फलं लभते च
  5. rātriṣu nagaraṃ viśatha phalāni corayatha ratnāni labhadhve ca  रात्रिषु नगरं विशथ फलानि चोरयथ रत्नानि लभध्वे च
  6. asti hastināpure karpūravilasaḥ nāma rajakaḥ  अस्ति हस्तिनापुरे कर्पूरविलसः नाम रजकः

Translate into Sanskrit

  1. Rama and Krishna acquire a book from the fire
  2. The guru goes to the city with many fruits
  3. We give fruit to many elephants

11 thoughts on “Lesson 3 – Vowel gradation, the ten root classes, formation of the verb stems, present indicative active, the middle voice

  1. […] In lesson 1 we looked at the conjugation of the present active indicative. We also took a detailed look at the formation of the verb stems of root classes 1, 4, 6 and 10 and at the present middle indicative conjugation in lesson 3. […]

    • re: Lesson 3
      ramayā saha gr̥haṃ gacchāmi translation.
      I can see saha as (ind) along with\ together with
      gr̥haṃ – acc.singular (neuter) ‘house’
      gacchāmi – 3rd per. sing ‘ he goes’
      ramayā – I am stuck. I do not see it as rāma nom sing. + yā suffix . When I look up rama ( no long a) I see it as (mfn) pleasing, delight, etc. and therefore think that ramayā may be used as an adjective.

      I could used some guidance and help.

      thank you,

      • It’s not रमया सह गृहं गच्छामि.
        It’s रामेण सह गृहं गच्छामि।
        रामेण is the Instrumental for राम.
        रामाय is the Dative for राम.
        The preposition सह (with, together with, in company of) goes always with instrumental.
        I think रमया it’s a typo that the teacher didn’t see.

  2. Just posting my thoughts on the exercise questions to start a dialogue with others that landed here…
    sure there will be mistakes and would be glad to see corrections or your points of view… Thanks!

    Translate into English

    mama pustakaṃ nagarāt rāmaḥ labhate मम पुस्तकं नगरात् रामः लभते
    ? Rama gets/finds (got/found) my book in the town. ?

    ramayā saha gr̥haṃ gacchāmi रमया सह गृहं गच्छामि
    ? i go (am going) home along with Rama (रम) ?

    gr̥he viśāvaḥ तत्र गृहे विशावः
    ? (we) enter into that house ?

    tatra jalaṃ pibāmi phalaṃ labhate ca तत्र जलं पिबामि फलं लभते च
    ? there i (can) drink water and one* gets fruit too (*since labhate and not labhe) ?

    rātriṣu nagaraṃ viśatha phalāni corayatha ratnāni labhadhve ca रात्रिषु नगरं विशथ फलानि चोरयथ रत्नानि लभध्वे च
    ? (you folks) enter the city in the nights, steal fruits, get gems too ? (hmm, sneaky advice 🙂 )

    asti hastināpure karpūravilasaḥ nāma rajakaḥ अस्ति हस्तिनापुरे कर्पूरविलसः नाम रजकः
    ? In Hastinapura there is a cloth dyer named Karpuravilasa ?

    Translate into Sanskrit

    Rama and Krishna acquire a book from the fire
    ? रामः च कृष्णः च अग्नौ पुस्तकं लभेते ? (or should it be लभते… but since the verb should comprehensivel represent the cardinality, maybe लभेते is a better choice..)

    The guru goes to the city with many fruits
    ? गुरुः नगरे गच्छति बहु फलै सह ?

    We give fruit to many elephants
    ? वयं ददामि फलं बहुभ्यः गजेभ्यः ? (गज as m. a ending, बहु as qualifier agreeing with the case of the qualified)
    ? वयं ददामि फलं बहुभ्यः हस्तिभ्यः ? (हस्तिन् as m. ending)

    Nalopakhyanam shloka 2:
    “सर्वेषामादित्य इव” .. would meaning change if written as “सर्वेषामादित्येव” by applying guna sandhi between the two words सर्वेषामादित्य and इव? wonder why only these words are separated, where as all others were combined as much as possible in the verse?

  3. Dear gurudev,

    I cannot express how impressed and thankful I am to have chanced upon your blog. I have been overdosing on Sanskrit lately and have bought a bunch of books, all out of nostalgia. I have studied it to a great extent in school, and remember a lot, but had a ton of questions about advanced topics. The books I’ve bought answered some. But your blog is the most comprehensive I’ve ever seen. I’m getting more addicted the more I read, and thanks to you, I’m pretty sure I can teach people myself. Your method is exactly what works for me. Your way of explanation is extremely accurate and shows how scientific sanskrit really is.

    I have studied linguistics, and also know several other languages, including latin. Hence I understand and appreciate the academic and linguistic terminology you use, which helps me understand what most other books can’t.

    I truly appreciate your blog, and if you have this in a book, I would totally buy it. I can see how it is helping so many students. Kudos to you.

    Most Gratefully

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