Lesson 32 – Secondary conjugations – The causative

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

In the previous lessons, lesson 28lesson 29, and lesson 30, we looked at the perfect tense, called liṭ लिट् by the Sanskrit grammarians. In lesson 31, we analysed a story from the Hitopadeśa.

In this lesson we will look at secondary conjugations, starting with the causative.

Secondary conjugations

A secondary conjugation is one in which a whole system of conjugations is formed from a derivative (derived from the root) conjugation stem, rather than the root itself. This also connected with a modification of the sense of the root.

The main secondary conjugations are:

  • The Passive
  • The Causative (ṇijanta णिजन्त)
  • The Intensive (yaṅanta यङन्त)
  • The Desiderative (sannanta सन्नन्त)
  • The Denominative (nāmadhātu नामधातु)

We have already considered the passive in lesson 26. In this lesson we will look at the causative.


A causative of a root communicates the sense that a person or thing causes or makes another thing or person to undergo the state denoted by the root. That is, the causative changes the sense of the root from “do X” to “cause to do X”.

For example in English, the compound verb “make eat” is a causative. We can say, The father made his daughter eat the spinach.

The English verb “fell” is a causative verb of the simple verb “fall”. We can say, The woodcutter felled the tree. This is equivalent to The woodcutter made the tree fall.

Causatives are very common in Hindi. For example transitive verb – causative verb pairs are well known. For example:

pakānā पकाना (to cook): Causative is pakvānā पकवाना (to cause to cook)

banānā बनाना (to make): Causative is banvānā बनवाना (to cause to make)

jalānā जलाना (to burn): Causative is jalvānā जलवाना (to cause to burn)

biṭhānā बिठाना (to seat): Causative is biṭhvānā बिठवाना (to cause to seat)

Note that in Hindi there is also a intransitive verb – transitive verb pair

paknā पकना (to cook (intransitive)) – pakānā पकाना (to cook)

ban-nā बनना (to be made) – banānā बनाना (to make)

jalnā जलना (to burn (intransitive)) – jalānā जलाना (to burn)

baiṭhnā बैठना (to sit) – biṭhānā बिठाना (to seat)

In Sanskrit, the intransitive is converted to the transitive by using the causative. [Of course, a different root also may exist with the transitive meaning]

However, the two usages are different. The causative form that is used as a transitive, uses the accusative of the agent that is caused to do the action. While the causative form that is used as a real causative, uses the instrumental like in Hindi (in Hindi preposition se से is used).

Formation of the causative

The causative is formed by adding an -aya- -अय- to a strengthened root. It is then conjugated in the active and middle like a thematic verb (see lesson 3). [The active conjugation is more common.  Even most verbs that are only conjugated in the middle in the present are conjugated in the active in the causative.]

The general rules strengthening of the root before the addition of the -aya- -अय- is as follows (there are some exceptions)

  1. A final vowel takes vr̥ddhi वृद्धि. Thus bhāvaya भावय from bhū भू; kāraya कारय from kr̥ कृ
  2. Medial i इ, u उ, r̥ ऋ and ऌ take the guṇa गुण (if capable of it: see lesson 3). Thus vedaya वेदय from vid विद्; codaya चोदय from cud  चुद्
  3. Medial or initial a अ in a light syllable (that is, not followed by a double consonant) is sometimes lengthened and sometimes not. Thus bhājaya भाजय from bhaj भज्; svāpaya स्वापय from svap स्वप्; but, janaya जनय from jan जन् and gamaya गमय from gam गम्
  4. Most roots in final ā आ and the root ऋ add p प् before the -aya- -अय-. Thus dāpaya दापय from दा; sthāpaya स्थापय from sthā स्था and arpaya अर्पय from ऋ. But, pāyaya पायय from पा (“drink”)
  5. If a nasal is taken in any of the strong forms of a root, it usually appears in the causative stem also. Thus rundhaya रुन्धय from rudh रुध्

There are some exceptions and anomalous cases: Examples: ghātaya घातय from hanहन्; jāpaya जापय from ji जि; pālaya पालय from पा (“protect”).

Forms of the causative

Once the causative stem is formed, it can be conjugated in the present system like any thematic verb.

Let us take the root kr̥ कृ. The causative stem is kāraya कारय.

Present indicative active

kārayati kārayataḥ kārayanti कारयति कारयतः कारयन्ति etc.

Present indicative middle

kārayate kārayete kārayante कारयते कारयेते कारयन्ते etc.

In a similar fashion you can form the imperfect, the imperative and the optative.

The present active participle is kārayant कारयन्त् and the middle participle is kārayamāṇa कारयमाण.

The perfect is normally the periphrastic perfect. kārayāṃ cakāra कारयां चकार etc.

Both the s-future and the periphrastic future also can be formed.

kārayiṣyati kārayiṣyataḥ kārayiṣyanti कारयिष्यति कारयिष्यतः कारयिष्यन्ति etc. for active;

Similarly the middle, the participle and the conditional can be formed.

The periphrastic future can be formed as kārayitā kārayitārau कारयिता कारयितारौ etc.

The causative passive is formed by adding the usual passive sign  -ya- -य- instead of the sign  -aya- -अय- to the causatively strengthened root. As usual it is conjugated in the middle. So, for the root kr̥ कृ, he causative stem is kāraya कारय and the causative passive stem is kārya कार्य. So the conjugation would be kāryate kāryete kāryante कार्यते कार्येते कार्यन्ते etc.

Using the causative

As we said before, a causative of a root communicates the sense that a person or thing causes or makes another thing or person to undergo the state denoted by the root. That is, the causative changes the sense of the root from “do X” to “cause to do X”.

As mentioned before, we can use the causative in two constructions – where the agent that is caused to do the action is put in the instrumental and where it is put in the accusative.

Causative with the instrumental of agent that is caused to do the action

rāmo rāvaṇaṃ hanti रामो रावणं हन्ति – Rama kills Ravana (simple transitive sentence)

sītā rāmeṇa rāvaṇaṃ ghātayati सीता रामेण रावणं घातयति – Sita causes Ravana to be killed by Rama OR Sita causes Rama to kill  Ravana OR Sita kills Ravana through Rama OR Sita has Rama kill Ravana OR Sita gets Rama to kill Ravana etc.(causative)

Note that Rama which was the subject of the first (simple )  sentence becomes instrumental in the causative. Ravana who is the object of the killing, remains in the accusative in both the sentences.

 [This is equivalent to the transitive-causative pair in Hindi.]

Causative with the accusative of agent that is caused to do the action

rāvaṇaḥ svargam agacchat रावणः स्वर्गम् अगच्छत् – Ravana went to heaven(simple intransitive sentence)

rāmo rāvaṇaṃ svargam agamayat रामो रावणं स्वर्गम् अगमयत् – Rama caused Ravana to go to heaven OR Rama sent Ravana to heaven (causative)

Note that Ravana which was the subject of the first (simple ) sentence becomes accusative in the causative.

 [This is equivalent to the intransitive-transitive pair in Hindi.]

This construction is taken by all intransitive verbs.

This is also taken by those those transitive verbs that imply any of the following categories of action: motion, knowledge, information and eating. (There are some exceptions to this like bhakṣ भक्ष् “eat”)

rāma odanam āśnat राम ओदनम् आश्नत् (Rama ate rice) – simple

sa rāmam odanam āśayat स रामम् ओदनम् आशयत् (He caused Rama to eat rice) – causative

Note here that even though the verb is transitive, since it implies eating,  in the causative, the agent caused to do the action is in the accusative.

Note: There are some roots like kr̥ कृ and hr̥ हृ that take either the accusative or the instrumental in the causative.

Causative Passive

In this the agent caused to do the action is in the nominative (regardless of whether it is in the instrumental or the accusative in the active). The direct object in the primitive sentence remains in the accusative.

rāmo rāvaṇaṃ hanti रामो रावणं हन्ति – Rama kills Ravana (simple transitive sentence)

rāmo rāvaṇaṃ ghātyate रामो रावणं घात्यते – Rama is caused to kill Ravana (causative passive)

Of course, in this construction, the agent who causes the action to be done is in the instrumental (like normally in the passive).

sītayā rāmo rāvaṇaṃ ghātyate सीतया रामो रावणं घात्यते – Rama is caused to kill Ravana by Sita

Note: Roots of the tenth class (whose class sign is -aya- -अय- ) have the same primitive and causative forms. So, corayati चोरयति can mean “he steals” or “he causes to steal”

Note: For many roots, the causative passive and primitive passive may be the same. For example, gamyate गम्यते can mean “it is gone” or “he is caused to go”.

In both the above cases, the meaning has to be figured out from the context.

This is the end of lesson 32. In this lesson we looked at the causative conjugation.


5 thoughts on “Lesson 32 – Secondary conjugations – The causative

    • Hello, I have been following your lessons with great interest and also I am studying sanskrit on my own. I just have a doubt. I think I didnt understand how to turn a normal sentence into causative ,when it contains a verb in the perfect tense. Can you please make clarity on this ? Thank you !

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