Lesson 16 – Athematic verbs -1

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

Over the previous lessons we looked at the conjugation of thematic verbs. We saw how the middle and the active voices of present indicative, the imperfect, the imperative and the optative of thematic verbs are conjugated. Remember  what we said in Lesson 3.

“You would have seen that all the verb stems of root 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. Athematic conjugation is a bit more complicated.”

We are now ready to look at the “complicated” conjugations! In this, and over the next few lessons, we will look at athematic verbs.

The main feature of athematic conjugation is the variation of the stem in a conjugation paradigm. Like declensional forms of words ending in consonants (see Lesson 7) the stems show a strong and weak form.

The following forms are strong:

  1. The first, second and third persons singular active of present indicative  and imperfect
  2. The third person singular active of imperative
  3. The three first person forms of the imperative, both active and middle

All other forms are weak (including all middle forms except as in 3 above).

Note that in verbs of root classes 2, 3 and 7, the endings come directly in contact with the final consonants of the roots (of roots ending in consonants) and therefore (the sometimes complicated) consonant sandhis apply.

Note also, the optative active, the second person singular of the imperative, the third person middle plural and the middle participle are formed differently from the thematic verbs.

Note that the personal endings are the same for thematic and athematic verbs except for the second person singular of the imperative and the third person middle plural of the indicative, the imperfect and the imperative.

Class 2 verbs

In class 2, the endings are added directly to the root. The root vowel is gunated (if possible) in the strong forms.

Let us take the paradigm for the active present of the class 2 root √i  √इ (“go”).

Note the gunation of the radical vowel in the strong forms.


Let us take another paradigm for the active present of the class 2 root √ad  √अद् (“eat”).

Note the consonant sandhis when the ‘d’ of ‘ad’ meets the consonants of the endings.

As an example of the middle forms let us take the class 2 root √ās  √आस् (“sit”)

Note that all forms of the middle conjugation are weak (except the first persons imperative, which we will learn later)

Note the sandhi in the second person plural. The “s” become “d” before the “dh” of the ending.

Note carefully the third person plural. The ending is “ate” instead of the “ante” seen in the thematic cases.

Consonant sandhis that come about when the consonant of the ending hits against the consonant of the root can sometimes produce strange forms.

Let us take the conjugation of the common verb √dviṣ  √द्विष् (“hate”). Note the sandhis here.

The “t” retroflexes to “ṭ” in the presence of “ṣ”;

See second person singular: “ṣ” of dviṣ reverts to the etymologically original form “k” and the  “s” of the ending retroflexes.

See second person plural: The “ṣ” of the stem becomes “ḍ”  and the “dh” of the ending become “ḍh” in combination.

Let us take the conjugation of the verb √duh  √दुह् (“milk”). Note the sandhis here.

When the “h” of the stem and the “t” of the ending meet it becomes “gdh” (the “h” of √duh behaves like it is a “gh”; see Whitney 222 for details of this)

When the “h” of the stem meets “s” of the ending, the “h” becomes “k” and the “s” retroflexes (see second person singular)

A strange occurrence is the aspiration of the starting “d” to “dh” in a some cases (see second person singular). We saw in Lesson 6 in consonant sandhis (section 6.3) that √duh + su  √दुह् + सु –> dhukṣu  धुक्षु = dhukṣu. The beginning “d” becomes “dh”. A similar phenomenon happens in the second person singular also. (See Whitney 155 for a full explanation of this phenomenon “When a final sonant aspirate gh, dh, bh and h as representing an original gh thus loses its aspiration, the initial sonant consonant (g,d or b) becomes aspirate”). This phenomenon occurs in Greek also.

The extremely common root √as √अस्  (“be”) loses its vowel in weak forms (except where it is protected by the augment as in the imperfect).

Note that the second singular is “asi” instead of the expected “assi”.

We have come across the word form “asti” is our example stories and poems.

This is the end of lesson 16. In this lesson, we looked at the conjugation of the present indicative active and middle of some athematic verbs of Class 2.

Please study the first few verses (I have reached up to verse 11)  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.




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