Lesson 40 – Outlines Of Syntax – 3

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

In Lesson 38 we started looking at syntax and in Lesson 39, we continued this. We said that syntax deals with the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences in a language. In Lesson 38, we looked at Word Order, Number, Concord, Pronouns and the Nominative and Accusative cases and in Lesson 39 we looked at the Instrumental, Dative, Ablative and Genitive Cases.

In this lesson we will continue to look at syntax. We will look at the Locative case, Absolute constructions, Participles and Infinitives.

Locative Case

The locative case is the in case. It expresses a situation or location. Other senses expressed are amid, among, on, at etc. And sometimes it overlaps with the other cases for which it works as a substitute.

Situation in space: sa gr̥he tiṣṭhati स गृहे तिष्ठति (he stands in the house); parvatasya pr̥ṣṭhe पर्वतस्य पृष्ठे (on top of the mountain); daśame pade दशमे पदे (at the tenth step)

Situation in time: etasmin kāle एतस्मिन् काले (at this time); daśame varṣe दशमे वर्षे (in the tenth year)

Person with whom instead of place at which: gurau vasan गुरौ वसन् (living at the teacher’s);

Sphere or condition or circumstance: rāmo rāvaṇaṃ roṣe hanti रामो रावणं रोषे हन्ति (Rama kills Ravana in anger); rāmo lakṣmaṇasya vacana ānanditaḥ रामो लक्ष्मणस्य वचन आनन्दितः (Rama is happy in Lakshmana’s words)

The above is generalised to expressions with in the matter of, in the case of, with reference to, respecting etc.

na śakto’bhavan nivāraṇe न शक्तोऽभवन् निवारणे (he was not capable of preventing); upāyo’yaṃ mayā dr̥ṣṭa ānayane उपायोऽयं मया दृष्ट आनयने (this means was devised by me for (with reference to) bringing you here); satītve kāraṇaṃ striyāḥ सतीत्वे कारणं स्त्रियाः (The cause of (in the case of) a woman’s chastity)

We already saw how the locative becomes to be used adverbially or prepositionally. arthe or kr̥te agre r̥te samīpe अर्थे or कृते (in the matter of) अग्रे (in front of) ऋते (without) समीपे (near) etc. meaning

Object or goal or motion or action: skandhe kr̥tvā स्कन्धे कृत्वा (putting on shoulder); sa deveṣu gacchati स देवेषु गच्छति (it goes to the gods (to be among the gods)); mā prayaccheśvare dhanam मा प्रयच्छेश्वरे धनम् (do not offer wealth to a lord)

Absolute constructions

An absolute construction is one standing apart from a normal or usual syntactical relation with other words or sentence elements. It modifies an entire sentence, and not attached to a single element (like a noun – the subject or object) in the sentence.

In an absolute construction, normally, a noun in the locative or genitive case is used in combination with a participle which is also put in the locative or genitive case. It is then regarded as a temporal or a qualifying clause. For example, kāle  काले  “in time” when combined with, for example, the participle prapta  प्रप्त becomes,  kāle prapte  काले प्रप्ते  “in arrived time”. This expression then passes over into the absolute construction with the independent sense “the time having arrived”.

Note: Normally, the present participles (active and middle) and the past passive and active participles are used in absolute constructions. The future participles are never used in this manner. The perfect participles are rarely used.

Some examples of absolute construction in English:

Barring heavy traffic, we plan to drive to the meeting.

The minister having finally arrived, the meeting began.

In his speech, he said, “All things considered, our party has done a good job.”

The wind being favourable, the ship set sail

He being king, who would conquer the earth?

Note: In English the absolute construction is in the nominative case

The participle agrees with a subject that is different from the subject of the sentence. [In fact, if the subject or object of the main sentence is the same as that of the participial phrase, the absolute construction should not be used. In this case a continuative or a simple participle agreeing with the subject must be used. So we cannot use the absolute construction to translate Rama, after he killed Ravana, returned home. But, we can use the absolute construction translate Lakshmana, after Rama killed Ravana, returned home.]

Locative absolute

The normal condition of the absolute construction is with a participle (or equivalent) accompanying a noun used in the locative. (This is called the locative absolute. It is called sati saptamī सति सप्तमी by Sanskrit grammarians].

kāle śubhe prapte rāmo’gacchat काले शुभे प्रप्ते रामोऽगच्छत् (an auspicious time having arrived, Rama went)

avasannāyām rātrau, so’tiṣṭhat अवसन्नायाम् रात्रौ सोऽतिष्ठत् (the night ending, he stood up)

candre udite kumudāni vikasanti चन्द्रे उदिते कुमुदानि विकसन्ति (the lillies bloom on the moon rising)

[In the above three examples, the past passive participle is used]

tasmin rājñi sati ko bhūmiṃ jayet तस्मिन् राज्ञि सति को भूमिं जयेत् (He being king, who would conquer the earth?) [Here note that sati is the locative of the present active participle, sant, of root as, to be]

[In normal use in Sanksrit, the word sati “being” may be omitted. So, tasmin rājñi ko bhūmiṃ jayet तस्मिन् राज्ञि को भूमिं जयेत् (He being king, who would conquer the earth?)]

tasyāṃ rājñyāṃ satyāṃ ko bhūmiṃ jayet तस्यां राज्ञ्यां सत्यां को भूमिं जयेत् (She being queen, who would conquer the earth?) [Here note that satyām is the locative of the feminine present active participle, satī, of root as, to be]. [Here again, the satyām can be omitted.]

rāme rāvaṇaṃ ghnati lakṣmaṇo gr̥haṃ gacchati रामे रावणं घ्नति लक्ष्मणो गृहं गच्छति (On Rama killing Ravana, Lakshmana goes home]

In many cases, the noun may be omitted.

sūrye astamite सूर्ये अस्तमिते or astamite अस्तमिते, (the [sun] having set]

varṣati वर्षति (when it rains)

evam ukte rāmeṇa एवम् उक्ते रामेण (having thus said by Rama)

tathānuṣṭhite तथानुष्ठिते (it being accomplished)

Genitive absolute

The genitive absolute is generally used when contempt or disregard is to be shown. It can be translated as in spite of the fact that, even though etc. In this, the participle (or equivalent) and accompanying noun are used in the genitive.

paśyato rājño vīram ahan śatruḥ पश्यतो राज्ञो वीरम् अहन् शत्रुः (while (even though) the king was looking on, the enemy killed the hero)

kartavyasya karmaṇaḥ kṣipram akriyamāṇasya kālaḥ pibati tadrasam कर्तव्यस्य कर्मणः क्षिप्रम् अक्रियमाणस्य कालः पिबति तद्रसम् (Of things to be done, if left undone, time drinks up its essence)

munīnāṃ paśyatāṃ divaṃ jagāma मुनीनां पश्यतां दिवं जगाम (With the ascetics looking on, he went to heaven)

iti vādina evāsya dhenurāvavr̥te vanāt इति वादिन एवास्य धेनुराववृते वनात् (while he was thus speaking, the cow came from the forest)


Participles share the character of both noun and verb. In form they are adjectives both in inflection and concord. They govern cases like the verb, and also indicate differences in voice and also indicate the time expressed by the verb to which they belong. They are used appositionally with nouns, qualifying the main action and equivalent to subordinate clauses.

See lesson 12 for the use of the present participles.

See lesson 13 for the use of the past participles.

See lesson 15 for the use of the future (potential) passive participles (gerundives).

See lesson 30 for the use of the perfect participles.

See lesson 14 for the use of the indeclinable participles (gerunds or continuatives).


The infinitive is used to supplement the general statement of the sentence in the sense of in order to or so as to. However the infinitive is many a time dependent on a particular word in the sentence. Then that word is normally in the accusative

See lesson 15  for the use of the infinitive.

An interesting fact

Sometimes two or more different roots with the same meaning are used for different tenses of what is practically one verb. [There may be exceptions to this. We are here talking of the general case]


bhū  भू and  as  अस्; the present, the perfect and imperfect are normally formed by as  अस्, while the future and the aorist by bhū  भू . This is when bhū  भू is used in the sense of “to be”. When it is used in the sense of “to become” it is used with the present, the perfect and imperfect also. as  अस् is never used in the future or aorist.

paś पश् and dr̥ś दृश्; paś पश् appears normally in the present only while dr̥ś दृश् is used in the aorist, future and perfect only.

brū ब्रू and vac वच्; brū ब्रू is normally used in the present stem only, while vac वच् is used in aorist, future and perfect.

han हन् and vadh वध्; han हन् is normally used in the present, imperfect, future and perfect while vadh वध् is used in the aorist.

This is the end of lesson 40. In this lesson, we continued to look at Sanskrit syntax.




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