Simple Sanskrit – Lesson 13

सरलं संस्कृतम् – त्रयोदशः (13) पाठः |

Study of a धातु cannot be complete without discussing composing the sentence in passive voice or transforming a sentence given in active voice to its form in passive voice or vice versa.

In English grammar change of voice can be done only if the verb is transitive, i.e. only if there is an object in the sentence. For example a sentence in active voice कर्तरिप्रयोग such as “I read a book” अहं पुस्तकं पठामि would be transformed into passive voice कर्मणिप्रयोग as “A book is read by me”. मया पुस्तकं पठ्यते.

If the verb can have two objects, it can be transformed into passive voice in two different ways. For example, I give him a book. अहं तस्मै पुस्तकं ददामि Note ! धातु दा requires the personal object to be in fourth case, hence तस्मै.

In passive voice it can be (i) “A book is given by me to him.” पुस्तकं मया तस्मै दीयते or (ii) “He is given a book by me”. सः मया पुस्तकं दीयते.

In both the variants, the subject in active voice is ‘I’ अहं. In passive voice it takes the form ‘by me’ मया.

The one object which becomes the subject in passive voice has to be in first case.

  • In transformation (i), the subject is ‘book’ पुस्तकम्.
  • In transformation (ii) the subject is ‘He’ सः.

Change of voice also involves change in the form of the verb. In active voice the verb is ‘give’. In passive voice it has become ‘is given’. The verb in active voice is in present tense, first person singular, because the subject is ‘I’. In passive voice one uses an auxiliary verb ‘to be’. The present tense then applies to the auxiliary verb. The root verb becomes a past passive participle ‘given’.

In Sanskrit, there is no passive participle used. The root verb itself changes its form.

  • In the first example, in active voice the verb is पठामि. In passive voice it is पठ्यते.
  • In the second example, in active voice the verb is ददामि. In passive voice it is दीयते.

As can be seen, both the forms पठ्यते and दीयते are of the style of an आत्मनेपदी धातु.

Also पठ्यते has a य added to the root verb पठ्. This is similar to the विकरण, as it happens to धातु-s of चतुर्थ गण.

Not to be missed also the fact that in active voice the verb is पठामि (वर्तमानकाल, उत्तमपुरुष, एकवचन), because the subject is ‘I’ अहं. In passive voice it is पठ्यते (वर्तमानकाल, प्रथमपुरुष, एकवचन), because the subject is ‘book’ पुस्तकम्.

In the second example also, in active voice the verb is ददामि (वर्तमानकाल, उत्तमपुरुष, एकवचन), because the subject is ‘I’ अहं. In passive voice it is दीयते (वर्तमानकाल, प्रथमपुरुष, एकवचन), because the subject is (i) ‘book’ पुस्तकम् (ii) ‘He’ सः.

If the tense in active voice is past tense, transformation into passive voice can also be done by using क्त-कृदन्त.

For example if the sentence in active voice is in past tense, ‘I read the book’. अहं पुस्तकं अपठम् then in passive voice it can be मया पुस्तकं पठितम्. using क्त-कृदन्त ‘पठित’ of the root verb धातु पठ्

Similarly, for the second example if the sentence in active voice in past tense is ‘I gave him a book’, then in passive voice it can be (i) मया पुस्तकं तस्मै दत्तम्, using क्त-कृदन्त ‘दत्त’ of the धातु दा. (ii) सः मया पुस्तकं दत्तः

Note ! दत्त is an adjective. Hence it is दत्तम् when related to पुस्तकं and दत्तः when related with सः. In English grammar ‘given’ is a participle. So English linguists, writing Sanskrit grammar, gave the name ‘past passive participle’ to क्त-कृदन्त. That is wrong terminology.

In English when transforming active voice sentence ‘I give a book’ into passive voice ‘A book is given by me’, the sentence in passive voice gets a tinge of past tense, suggesting that the action of ‘giving’ is already done. This seems to be so, because the participle ‘given’, required and essential in passive voice, is eminently a ‘past passive participle’.

But in Sanskrit, when अहं पुस्तकं ददामि is in present tense in active voice, in passive voice मया पुस्तकं दीयते is also in present tense.

This is an important point bringing forth how correct Sanskrit grammar is !

Another charming feature of Sanskrit grammar is that ‘change of voice’ can be done even verbs are intransitive अकर्मक. If we have a sentence in active voice ‘I stand’ अहं तिष्ठामि, it is perfectly legitimate to change the voice and say मया स्थीयते. English translation of मया स्थीयते may be something like ‘action of standing is by me.’

This word स्थीयते brings to mind the interesting quote राजहंस तव सैव शुभ्रता चीयते न च न चापचीयते । “Oh swan ! your whiteness remains same, neither is increased nor is diminished”. The context is of a swan whether in clean pure water of the Ganges or in brackish water of Jamuna, as discussed in previous lesson.

Importantly the changed voice of an active voice sentence with intransitive verb is called as भावेप्रयोग and not as कर्मणिप्रयोग. The logic could be that, in change of voice, as in मया स्थीयते, it is the sense of standing which is given significance rather than the action of standing.

Change of voice also applies to causative and other shades and transforms of a धातु. For example,

  • Active voice ‘I do’ अहं करोमि –> passive voice ‘is done by me’ मया क्रियते
  • Causative active voice ‘I get done’ अहं कारयामि –> passive voice ‘is obtained done by me’ मया कार्यते

Note ! Since passive voice verb form is आत्मनेपदी, the present-tense adjectival derivative, the शतृ-कृदन्त in active voice becomes शानच्-कृदन्त in passive voice. For example, in active voice कर्माणि कुर्वन् पुरुषः ‘person doing actions’ —> in passive voice पुरुषेण क्रियमाणानि कर्माणि ‘actions being done by person’

See कुर्वन्नेवेह कर्माणि जिजीविषेत् शतं समाः (ईशावास्योपनिषत्) is in active voice, whereas प्रकृतेः क्रियमाणानि गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः (गीता 3-27) is in passive voice.

Sanskrit provides change of voice not only for sentences, but also for phrases having verbal derivatives. If one would like grammar of a language to be comprehensive and perfect, Sanskrit excels !

Having discussed an example of a verb having two objects द्विकर्मक-धातु, it would be interesting to note the verse which enlists 16 द्विकर्मक-धातु-s. Such verses which contain lists are known as कारिका-s. The कारिका of द्विकर्मक-धातु-s is –

दुह्याच्पच्दण्ड्रुधिप्रच्छि चिब्रूशासुजिमन्थ्-मुषाम् |

कर्मयुक् स्यादकथितं तथा स्यान्नीहृकृष्वहाम् ||

शुभमस्तु !


3 thoughts on “Simple Sanskrit – Lesson 13

  1. Sir, I have join this course recently. I feel very attractive while going through lessons like 1st & 2nd chapter. Being beginer like me, I suggest if you lay down sentences as an example,it wil be more easy to understad.As an example, mention few sentences for Lat, Lrit,Long.Bidhiling etc

  2. Many thanks to the Acharya who has, and is continuing to provide these lessons in an excellent fashion; easy to understand, and punctuating it with relevant shlokas from the Bhagavad Geetaa, to illustrate the grammar rules. This is an excellent site beyond compare

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