Lesson 10 – The Imperative and the Optative


Welcome to Lesson 10.

Let us start with an exercise:

Translate into English:

  • upadeśo hi mūrkhānāṃ prakopāya na śāntaye | payaḥpānaṃ bhujaṃgānāṃ kevalaṃ viṣavardhanam
  • उपदेशो हि मूर्खानां प्रकोपाय न शान्तये | पयःपानं भुजंगानां केवलं विषवर्धनम्

[Hint: The message in this verse is the same as the message in the Hitopadeśa story “The Birds And The Monkeys” dealt with in Lesson 8]

Let us move on to Lesson 10.

A short YouTube version is available here.

In this lesson, Lesson 10, we will look at the Imperative and Optative conjugations of thematic verbs.

The Imperative mode (or mood) is used to indicate a command or injunction, while the Optative mode is used to indicate a wish or desire. 

The Optative

The Optative mode (also called the Potential) or mood is called लिङ् (liṅ ) by Sanskrit grammarians. Though, the primary use is for expressing a wish, it is used in various other contexts like: light order (less forceful than imperative), invitation, giving permission etc. It is also used in subordinate clauses.

[The real “wish” aspect of the optative comes out in the first person. In other uses, in many a case, the optative can be used interchangeably with the imperative.]

The optative mode has a special mode sign. The optative endings are added to the stem to which the optative mode sign has been added. For thematic verbs the mode sign is ī  ई॒ which when combined with the final “a” of the thematic stems produces an “e” as the ending of the optative stem. [Note that the mode sign for athematic verbs is different. We will look at this in a later lesson when we deal with athematic verbs]

So the optative conjugation of thematic verbs is formed thus:

(maybe modified) root + thematic ending “a” + optative mode sign “ī” + optative personal endings

As an example let us take the optative active third person singular of class 1 (thematic) root √bhū  Vभू

  • √bhū √भू –> gunated –> bho  भो + a अ –> bhava  भव + ī  ई॒ –>bhave  भवे + t  त् –> bhavet  भवेत्

Similarly you can form the other persons and numbers.

The optative endings for active voice are:

The endings for the middle voice are:

Combined with the thematic “a” and the mode sign “ī”, and catering for internal sandhis the endings are:

Am example conjugation is:

Some examples of the usage of the optative:

  1. nagaraṃ gaccheḥ  नगरं गच्छेः “may you go to the city”
  2. nagaraṃ gaccheya  नगरं गच्छेय “I would go to the city”
  3. rāmaḥ nagaraṃ gacchet  रामः नगरं गच्छेत् “may Rama go to the city”

The Imperative

The Imperative mode or mood is called loṭ  लोट् by Sanskrit grammarians. The primary use of the imperative is a command or injunction. It is also used in many other senses like entreaty, gentle advice, benediction etc.

[The real “command” aspect of the imperative comes out in the second person. In other uses, in many a case, the optative can be used interchangeably with the imperative.]

The imperative has no mode sign. The imperative endings are directly added to the tense-stem.

So the imperative conjugation of thematic verbs is formed thus:

(maybe modified) root + thematic ending “a” + imperative personal endings

As an example let us take the imperative active third person singular of class 1 (thematic) root √bhū  Vभू

  • √bhū √भू –> gunated –> bho  भो + a अ –> bhava  भव  + tu  तु –> bhavatu  भवतु

Similarly, you can form the other persons and numbers.

The imperative active endings are

An example conjugation:

Note: The first person numbers of the Imperative was not in use in early times. The current first person forms are really the first person forms of the defunct subjunctive mode which has been “re-purposed” for the imperative.

Some examples of the use of the imperative:

  1. gaccha  गच्छ “(you) go”
  2. palāyadhvam  पलायध्वम् “(you all) run”
  3. kṣamasvāparādham  क्षमस्वापराधम् “(God,) forgive (my) sins”
  4. svastirbhavatu  स्वस्तिर्भवतु “let there be welfare”
  5. yasmāttvaṃ pustakānpatrāṃśca labhethāḥ sa manuṣyedānīmatra tiṣṭhati  यस्मात्त्वं पुस्तकान्पत्रांश्च लभेथाः स मनुष्येदानीमत्र तिष्ठति

We will look at the Optative and Imperative of athematic verbs in later lessons.

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.


Translate into English

  1. bho atra bhojanaṃ labheya  भो अत्र भोजनं लभेय
  2. grāmaṃ gacchema  ग्रामं गच्छेम
  3. suśantirbhavatu  सुशन्तिर्भवतु
  4. saṃgacchadhvaṃ saṃvadadhvam  संगच्छध्वं संवदध्वम्

Translate into Sanskrit

  1. I would see
  2. May he win
  3. Krishna, see Rama

8 thoughts on “Lesson 10 – The Imperative and the Optative

  1. hello and namaste,
    Thank you for all these lessons…what great value and insight it adds to my studies. My question is on kṣamasvāparādham. I can take the sentence apart yet I still do not ‘see’ the imperative. I think it should be aligned to ‘dham’ to blow out, cast away. I also ‘see’ the lord in two places – apara, and also ksa ( as nara simha); I ‘see’ sva as ‘my own’. I see ksama as ~ suffering~.
    I can read this line as Lord, blow out, cast away my own (sva) suffering. Yet I do not see the imperative in first person atmaepada or parasmaipada.

    Your kind help and direction would be greatly appreciated.

  2. namaste,
    thank you Kurumathur-ji

    I see what you offer, but am somewhat perplexed. I do not see why kṣam would take on 2nd person?
    If it is MY sin/suffering, I would select + ai as the termination.

    I see kṣam as Class 1 A1 root class.

    That is why I ~ convinced~ myself of using ‘sva’ and therefore ‘my own’… that was my logic.

    What am I not comprehending?

    Thank you for your guidance.

  3. I thought to leave this for others ( perhaps of value) of where this term kṣamasvāparādham is used:

    śrī domakoṇḍa cāmuṇḍeśvarī suprabhātam , suprabhātam – beautifully illuminated by dawn i.e. ~ the morning prayer~ to cāmuṇḍeśvarī.

    kṣamāparādhastotram –
    ahaṃ duṣṭacittaḥ sadā duṣṭakarmā
    ahaṃ bhaktihīnaḥ parityaktapūjaḥ ।
    kṣamasvāmba me māṃ tvimaṃ jñānaśūnyaṃ
    namaścaṇḍike te sthite domakoṇḍe ॥ 1॥

    na pitrorhi sevā na vā devapūjā
    na te mandiraṃ hi praviṣṭaḥ kadā’pi ।
    kṣamāparādhaṃ padaṃ te gataṃ māṃ
    namaścaṇḍike te sthite domakoṇḍe ॥ 2॥

    this is just a few śloka-s from the total…

    kind regards,

    || yatastvaṁ śivasamo’si ||
    because you are identical with śivaḥ

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