Lesson 5 – The imperfect active and vowel Sandhis

aiunA short YouTube version is available here. [Expand to the full article to be able to click on the link]

In this lesson, the fifth one, we will learn the imperfect active of thematic verbs and vowel Sandhis. It is important to learn Sandhis as any full sentence written in Sanskrit is sure to contain Sandhis. Unless you know how to separate out the words and get their uncombined from it will be difficult to understand what is being said.

The imperfect active  – लङ् (laṅ)  परस्मै पदम् (parasmai padam)

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.

In this lesson we will look at the imperfect active conjugation. The imperfect tense is called laṅ  लङ् by the Sanskrit grammarians.

The imperfect is used to indicate a past action. “Rama saw Krishna” etc.

The imperfect endings are slightly different from the present endings. The endings are called secondary endings while the endings for the present are called primary endings. This is because the imperfect endings seem to a briefer version of the present endings.

Of course, like the present there are two different set of endings – one for the active voice and one for the middle voice. We will learn the active in this lesson and the middle in the next.

The active endings are:


We can now see why these are called secondary endings: Instead of “ti” we have “t” instead of “si” we have “s” etc.

The formation of the imperfect conjugation is done in a fashion similar to the present. Let us take the class 4 root √paś  √पश् as we did in lesson 1. As in the case of the present, we add a “ya  य” to the root to get the stem. Then add the secondary endings. The main difference is that the imperfect tense takes an augment “a  अ” in the beginning.

So, the stem is √paś  √पश् + ya  य –> paśya पश्य.

Then the endings are added. For example for the third person singular the ending t  त् to get paśyat पश्यत्.

The the augment “a  अ” is attached at the beginning to get apaśyat अपश्यत्

In a similar manner we can derive the other persons and numbers.

The full conjugation is given below:



As in the present case, the forms for the first person dual and plural have final the vowel of the stem lengthened before adding the endings.

The third person plural and the first person singular use briefer endings  “n” and “m” and not “an” and “am”.

We saw the use of the imperfect in lesson 4.

tasya gardabhaḥ atibhāravāhanāt durbalaḥ mumūrṣuḥ iva abhavat.

The “abhavat” is in the imperfect singular third person.


Formation of words and sentences

Before we look at Sandhis let us understand the process of forming a word or a sentence in Sanskrit.

In Sanskrit, as we saw before, all words are analysable into roots, prefixes, derivational suffixes and inflectional endings. So

1. Stem ::= [0 to n Prefixes] + [0 to 1 Augment] + [Maybe Modified] Root + [0 to n Derivational Suffixes]

    Stem ::= Stem* + [0 to n Stems] (this is the formation of a compound)

    Word ::= Stem + [0 to 1 Inflectional Suffix]

2. Sentence ::= Word + [0 to n Words]

*Sometimes a declined form enters into a compound as a prior member. This phenomenon is called “aluk”

We will look at word and sentence formation in detail in a later lesson.

Sandhi (संधिः saṃdhiḥ)

  • A Sandhi is possible in all the places where there is a “+” above. The ending sound before the “+” and the beginning sound after the “+” may change as per euphonic laws. We touched briefly on this in lessons 1 and 3.
  • The Sandhi between words is called an external Sandhi, while the Sandhi within a word is called an internal Sandhi.
  • The rules for external Sandhi and internal Sandhi are mainly the same. But there are some differences.
    • In lesson 3, we said that to form the thematic verb stem of the class 1 roots, √bhū, √nī etc., in internal Sandhi, e + a becomes aya .
      • √nī  √नी –> gunated –> ne  ने + a अ –> naya  नय
    • but in external Sandhi, the intervening “y” is dropped and the hiatus remains
      • nagare + iha –> nagara iha [not nagarayiha as would have happened in internal Sandhi]
  • In this lesson we will mainly deal with external Sandhi. We will mention any different rule for internal Sandhi if and when required.

Vowel Sandhis

  1. Generally, hiatus (break between vowels) is forbidden.
  1. Two similar simple vowels coalesce to from the corresponding long vowel
  • अ (a) or आ (ā) + अ (a) or आ (ā) = आ (ā)
    • rājā  āsīt  राजा  आसीत् –>  rājāsīt  राजासीत्   [आ (ā) + आ (ā) = आ (ā)] [ There was a king]
    • rāmasya astram  रामस्य अस्त्रम् –> rāmasyāstram रामस्यास्त्रम्  [अ (a) + अ (a) = आ (ā)] [Rama’s missile]
    • rāmasya ācāryaḥ  रामस्य आचार्यः –> rāmasyācāryaḥ रामस्याचार्यः [अ (a) + आ (ā) = आ (ā)] [Rama’s teacher]
    • rājā + asti  राजा + अस्ति = rājāsti  राजास्ति   [आ (ā)  + अ (a) = आ (ā)] [There is a king]
    • mumūrṣuriva + abhavat –> mumūrṣurivābhavat [From the Hitopadesha story in lesson 4]
  •  इ (i) or  ई  (ī) +  इ (i) or  ई  (ī) = ई  (ī)
    • hi + iti  हि + इति =  hīti हीति etc.
    • gardabhī +iyam –> gardabhīyam [From the Hitopadesha story in lesson 4]
  • उ (u) or ऊ (ū) + उ (u) or ऊ (ū) = ऊ (ū)
    • sādhu + uktam  साधु + उक्तम् = sādhūktam साधूक्तम्
    • su-uktam सु – उक्तम् becomes  sūktam  सूक्तम् [internal combination within a word]
  1. Combination of “a” with following dissimilar vowels and diphthongs
  •  अ (a) or आ (ā) + इ (i) or  ई (ī) = ए (e)
    • rāmasya + icchā  रामस्य + इच्छा = rāmasyecchā रामस्येच्छा [Rama’s wish]
    • rāja –  indraḥ राज – इन्द्रः becomes  rājendraḥ   राजेन्द्रः [internal combination within a word]
  • अ (a) or आ (ā) + ए (e) or ऐ (ai) = ऐ (ai)
    • rāmasya + eva + asti रामस्य + एव + अस्ति rāmasyaivāsti  रामस्यैवास्ति [(It) is surely Rama’s] [Here you can see a + e and also a + a]
    • atha + ekadā  –> athaikadā [From the Hitopadesha story in lesson 4]
  • अ (a) or आ (ā) + उ (u) or ऊ (ū) = ओ (o)
    • rāmasya + upānat रामस्य + उपानत् = rāmasyopānat  रामस्योपानत् [Rama’s shoe]
    • hita – upadeśaḥ हित – उपदेशः becomes  hitopadeśaḥ   हितोपदेशः  [internal combination within a word]
  • अ (a) or आ (ā) + ओ(o) or औ(au) = औ (au)
    • rāmasya + oṣṭhau रामस्य + ओष्ठौ = rāmasyauṣṭhau रामस्यौष्ठौ [Rama’s lips]
  • अ (a) or आ (ā) +  ऋ (r̥) = अर् (ar)
    • rāmasya + r̥k  रामस्य + ऋक् = rāmasyark  रामस्यर्क् [Rama’s verse]
    • mahā – r̥ṣiḥ महा – ऋषिः becomes maharṣiḥ  महर्षिः [internal combination within a word]
  1. Combination of non-a and non-ā vowels with dissimilar vowels and diphthongs
  • The vowels इ (i) ई (ī), उ (u) ऊ (ū) and ऋ (r̥) before a dissimilar vowel or diphthong are converted into the corresponding semivowels, य् (y), व् (v), र् (r) respectively.
  • Examples
    • iti + āha इति + आह = ityāha   इत्याह [(He) said thus]
    • madhu + iva मधु + इव = madhviva   मध्विव [Like honey]
    • dāt + asti दातृ + अस्ति = dātrasti   दात्रस्ति [That which gives exists]
    • vi – uṣṭi वि – उष्टि becomes vyuṣṭi  व्युष्टि [internal combination within a word]
    • su – iṣṭa सु – इष्ट becomes sviṣṭa  स्विष्ट [internal combination within a word]
    • nadi – au नदि – औ becomes nadyau  नद्यौ [internal combination within a word]
    • paśyati abuddhimān –> paśyatyabuddhimān [From the Hitopadesha story in lesson 4]
  1. Combination of the diphthongs with “a”
  • After ए (e) or ओ (o) an initial अ (a) disappears. The अ (a) that disappears is indicated by the “avagraha” sign ऽ. In the Roman script it is indicated by the quote sign ‘. The avagraha has no pronunciation.
  • Examples
    • te + abruvan ते + अब्रुवन् = te’bruvan  तेऽब्रुवन् [They said] [Pronounced as tebruvan  तेब्रुवन्]
    • so + abravīt सो + अब्रवीत् =  so’bravīt   सोऽब्रवीत् [He said] [Pronounced as sobravīt   सोब्रवीत् ] [Note: the सो (so) here stands for  सः (saḥ). We will learn about how the visarga changes to “so” later]
  1. Combination of ए (e) and ऐ (ai) with non-a vowels
  • Before a non-a vowel, ए (e) becomes अ (a) and ऐ (ai) becomes आ (ā). The non-a vowel remains unchanged and the hiatus remains. That is the two words don’t combine any further!]
    • te + āgatāḥ  ते + आगताः = ta āgatāḥ त आगताः [They are come]
    • nagare + iha  नगरे + इह = nagara iha नगर इह [Here in the city]
    • tasmai + adadāt  तस्मै + अददात् = tasmā adadāt तस्मा अददात् [He gave it to him]
    • striyai + uktam  स्त्रियै + उक्तम् = striyā uktam स्त्रिया उक्तम्
  1. Combination of औ (au)
  • औ (au) becomes āv  आव् before vowels and diphthongs
    • tau + eva तौ + एव = tāveva  तावेव
  1. Uncombinable final vowels
  • Some final vowels do not enter into Sandhi and remain unchanged before any following vowel or diphthong. The instances of these vowels are called प्रगृह्य (pragr̥hya).
  •  ई (ī), ऊ (ū) and ए (e) of dual endings of both declensional and conjugational forms are प्रगृह्य (pragr̥hya).
  • Example
    • harī apaśyatām  हरी अपश्यताम्; Two Haris saw. [Here the ई (ī) and अ (a) don’t combine to give the form haryapaśyatām  हर्यपश्यताम् which would otherwise happen]
  • The final ई (ī) of amī  अमी [nominative plural of the masculine of pronoun adas  अदस्] is प्रगृह्य (pragr̥hya).
    • amī aśvāḥ  अमी अश्वाः – Yonder horses

Please study the first few verses of the नळोपाख्यानम् naḷopākhyānam   – The story of Nala – that I have analysed on a first level and uploaded here. This will help you understand how to analyse Sanskrit verses.

Also have a look at the quick dictionary that I have published. These contain a few simple words. There is also a link to a good online dictionary.


Translate into Sanskrit

  1. Krishna went to the city [The object of the verb “go”, that is where the person is going to is rendered in the accusative]
  2. Krishna or Rama saw the fruit
  3. Where did Krishna go?
  4. Hey Rama, Krishna is not here.
  5. Rama, Krishna or Seeta went to the city

5 thoughts on “Lesson 5 – The imperfect active and vowel Sandhis

  1. […] In lesson 5, we learned the imperfect active of thematic verbs and vowel Sandhis.  The imperfect tense is used to indicate a past action. We said that it is important to learn Sandhis as any full sentence written in Sanskrit is sure to contain Sandhis. Unless we know how to separate out the words and get their uncombined from it will be difficult to understand what is being said. […]

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