Lesson 48 – Features of Vedic Sanskrit – Infinitives, Sandhi and others

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

In the last lesson, Lesson 47, we looked at some of the key features of Vedic Sanskrit, especially at tense systems and the subjunctive. We said that there are many features of Vedic Sanskrit that have been lost in Classical Sanskrit. Vedic Sanskrit was a more vibrant and active language as compared to Classical Sanskrit.

In this lesson we will continue to look at some of the other features of Vedic Sanskrit like Sandhis, Infinitives etc.


We learned in Lesson 5 that, in Classical Sanskrit, the hiatus (break between vowels) is forbidden. However, it is clear that in Vedic Sanskrit, the hiatus was allowed in many situations. This is evidenced from the fact that many verse padas of (say) the Rig Veda, will be metrically correct only if combined vowels are resolved into two vowels.

For example, we saw in Lesson 46, when we analysed the Rig Vedic verse that the word ī́ḍyo ईड्यो॒ had to be metrically restored to ī́ḷio ईळि॑ओ. That is the “y” in the combination reverts back to the original “i”. The same principle applies to “v” , which reverts back to “u”.

Also many a time, a long vowel needs to be resolved into two standing side by side to ensure correctness of the metre. For example, purūtámam purūṇā́m ī́śānaṃ vā́ryāṇām पु॒रू॒तम॑म् पुरू॒णाम् ईशा॑नं॒ वार्या॑णाम् has to be metrically restored to: purūtámam purūṇáām ī́śānaṃ vā́rm पु॒रू॒तम॑म् पुरू॒णआ॑म् ईशा॑नं॒ वारि॑आणआम्. (RV 1.5.2).

Some features of declension

    1. “a” ending masculines. Some things to note are:
      1. Whereas in Classical Sanskrit, the nominative and accusative dual end in “au”, eg. kā́mau कामौ॑, in Vedic Sanskrit, the normal ending is “ā”, eg. kā́mā कामा॑ (we saw this in lesson 44, in dvandvas with two deities, where both are in dual – mitrā́váruṇā मि॒त्रावरु॑णा (Mitra and Varuna)).
      2. Another thing to note is that in the nominative plural the ending āsaḥ is quite common along with āḥ. So kā́māsaḥ कामा॑सः along with kā́māḥ कामाः॑. In Classical Sanskrit only the āḥ ending is used. (The above are true also in the vocative)
      3. Also, instrumental plural: ebhiḥ is as common as aiḥ. So, kā́maiḥ कामैः॑ along with kā́mebhiḥ कामे॑भिः. In classical Sanskrit it is only the aiḥ ending that is used.
    2. “a” ending neuter. In classical Sanskrit, the nominative and accusative dual always ends in “āni”. In Vedic Sanskrit, the ending “ā” is also used as frequently as “āni”. So āsyā̀ आ॒स्या॑ along with āsyā̀ni आ॒स्या॑नि.
  1. Note: There are many such small differences. I am not quoting all of these. Refer to Whitney to get all details.


There is one pronoun of common use in the Rig Veda, which has been lost later. It is “tyad”. It is declined and used exactly like “tad”. So, syáḥ syā́ tyát tyám tyā́m tyát स्यः स्या त्यत् त्यम् त्याम् त्यत् etc.


In Vedic Sanskrit there was a considerable variety of infinitives, while in Classical Sanskrit, as we saw, this variety was reduced to one single type ending in “tum” (or “itum”).

All infinitives are really cases of verbal nouns. The infinitive in “tum” which we learned before is the accusative case of a verbal noun formed by the addition of the suffix “tu”. In Vedic Sanskrit many other verbal nouns, used in different cases, appear as infinitives. The most common infinitive in the Rig Veda is the dative infinitive, which is seven times as common as all the other types of infinitives put together. The infinitive in “tum” is used only five times in the Rig Veda! It is a remarkable fact that the least common form survived into Classical Sanskrit, while the others disappeared.

[Note that most of the the infinitives are formed directly from the root and is not connected to any tense stem. Also, there is no distinction of voice.]

[Note that some infinitives are hard to distinguish from ordinary cases of verbal nouns.]

Accusative infinitive

There are two forms:

1. made by adding “am” to the weak form of the root. For example: “samídhaṃ” “to kindle” in śakéma tvā samídhaṃ sādháyā dhíyas tvé devā́ havír adanty ā́hutam “May we have power to kindle thee. Fulfill our thoughts. In thee the Gods eat the presented offering” (RV 1.94.3);  Similarly ārúham (“to mount”) etc.

2. this is made from stems in “tu”. We have already seen this in Lesson 15.

Dative infinitive

This infinitive ends in the normal dative ending “e”

1. Dative infinitives derived directly from the verb

[The “e” ending combines with the final ā of a root to form “ai”]

Example: parā-daí (“to give up”) prahyè (“to send, to conduct”); bhuvé (“to be”); dr̥śé (“to see”) bhujé (“to enjoy”) pra-vā́ce (“to declare, to speak”)

devó devā́nāṃ gúhyāni nā́māvíṣ kr̥ṇoti barhíṣi pravā́ce (“As God, the secret names of Gods he utters, to be declared on sacred grass more widely”) (RV 9.95.2)

2. Dative infinitives from stems ending in “as”

cákṣase (“to see”) áyase (“to go”) etc.

3. Dative infinitives from stems ending in “tu”

[As we know, this “tu” is added to the gunated root, sometimes with an added “i”]

áttave (“to eat”) kártave (“to make”) étave (“to go”)

4. Dative infinitives from the stems in tavā́ (which is like “tu” added to the gunated root) gántave (“to go”)

This type of dative infinitive has the peculiarity of being doubly accented.

étavaí (“to go”) gántavaí (“to go”) etc.

5. There are also dative infinitives made from stems in “i” and “ti” and “tyā”

dr̥śáye (“to see”) pītáye (“to drink”) etc.

6. Dative infinitive from stems in dhyā

This is added to verbal stems ending in “a”

iyádhyai (“to go”) pibádhyai (“to drink”)

7. Dative infinitives in “man” and “van”

dā́mane (“to give’) dāváne (“to give”)

Locative infinitives

These are made from the stem ending in “san”

neṣáṇi (“to lead”) parṣáṇi (“to pass”)

Secondary and Tertiary Conjugations

We only touch upon these here. Please refer to Whitney for further details.

In lesson 32 and lesson 33, we looked at secondary conjugations. We said that the main secondary conjugations are:

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

We looked at the intensive indicative before. This is true in Classical Sanskrit and Vedic Sanskrit. But in Vedic Sanskrit, the intensive also has a subjunctive, an optative, an imperative and an imperfect as well as a participle. The intensive may also have a perfect, aorists, future etc.

It also has a passive. This is in fact a tertiary conjugation.

In Vedic Sanskrit, the desiderative also, in addition to the indicative, has all the present system conjugations. It allows for the periphrastic perfect, an aorist (the iṣ aorist) and a future.

It also allows tertiary conjugations like the passive.

The causative likewise, has all the present system conjugations, the periphrastic perfect, and the futures. Also, associated with the causative is a reduplicated aorist. However, it is not made from the causative stem, but directly from the root.

Tertiary conjugations like the passive and the desiderative are also made from the causative.

This is the end of Lesson 48. In this lesson we looked at some of the features of Vedic Sanskrit like Sandhis, Infinitives etc.


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