Simple Sanskrit – Lesson 1

Simple Sanskrit Lesson 1
सरलं संस्कृतम् प्रथमः पाठः |

Simplest way to start learning Sanskrit is to learn to make simple sentences. Below are some simple sentences.

Table 1-1

1 I go अहं गच्छामि
2 We go वयं गच्छामः
3 You (Singular) go त्वं गच्छसि
4 You (plural) go यूयं गच्छथ
5 He goes सः गच्छति
6 She goes सा गच्छति
7 It goes तत् गच्छति
8 They (masculine) go ते गच्छन्ति
9 They (feminine) go ताः गच्छन्ति
10 They (neuter) go तानि गच्छन्ति

Following glossary in Table 2 is clear from the above.

Table 1-2

No. English Sanskrit What this is
1 I अहं Pronoun – First person, singular
2 We वयं Pronoun – First person, plural
3 You (Singular) त्वं Pronoun – Second person, singular
4 You (plural) यूयं Pronoun – Second person, plural
5 He सः Pronoun – Third person, masculine, singular
6 She सा Pronoun – Third person, feminine, singular
7 It तत् Pronoun – Third person, neuter, singular
8 They (masculine) ते Pronoun – Third person, masculine, plural
9 They (feminine) ताः Pronoun – Third person, feminine, plural
10 They (neuter) तानि Pronoun – Third person, neuter, plural

As is known the pronouns of the third person, singular, viz. He, She, It, are different according to the gender. This is so in Sanskrit also.

In English, the pronoun of third person plural is ‘they’. It is common for all three genders. In Sanskrit it is NOT common.

Coming to the verb, in English the verb has only two forms – ‘go’ and ‘goes’.
In Sanskrit, they are different according to the person (first, second or third) and number (singular or plural)

Table 1-3

No. Person Number Verb
1 First Singular गच्छामि
2 – First – Plural गच्छामः
3 Second Singular गच्छसि
4 – Second – Plural गच्छथ
5 Third Singular गच्छति
6 – Third – Plural गच्छन्ति

As can be seen, in Sanskrit there is a good, very distinct correspondence between the pronoun and the verb. When we would say गच्छामि it is clear that the subject is pronoun of first person, singular, i.e. अहं So, in Sanskrit if we say गच्छामि it is not at all necessary to say अहं !! The verb-form गच्छामि is structured to be the form for first person singular and hence structured for the subject to be अहं . That is why Sanskrit is called as a “structured” language. One can readily appreciate the usefulness of such ‘structured’-ness of the language. It lends brevity and crispness. If it is not necessary to say अहं गच्छामि and if it is adequate to say just गच्छामि – saying only one word instead of two is fifty percent shorter !

But in the structuring process, the Rishi’s thought it good and important to have the ‘number’-concept to be not just singular and plural, but singular, dual and plural. That applies both to pronouns and the verb-forms.

Table 1-4 – Pronouns

Person Gender Singular Dual Plural
First All अहम् आवाम् वयम्
Second All त्वम् युवाम् यूयम्
Third Masculine सः तौ ते
Third Feminine सा ते ताः
Third Neuter तत् ते तानि

Table 1-5 – Verb-forms

Person Singular Dual Plural
First गच्छामि गच्छावः गच्छामः
Second गच्छसि गच्छथः गच्छथ





By using appropriate verb-form from Table 5 with the 15 pronoun-forms in Table 4, it is now possible to make 15 sentences.

Table 1-6

15 sentences

1 अहम् गच्छामि | I go
2 आवां गच्छावः We two go
3 वयं गच्छामः We go
4 त्वं गच्छसि You go
5 युवां गच्छथः You two go
6 यूयं गच्छथ You go
7 सः गच्छति He goes
8 तौ गच्छतः They two go
9 ते गच्छन्ति They go
10 सा गच्छति She goes
11 ते गच्छतः They two go
12 ताः गच्छन्ति They go
13 तत् गच्छति It goes
14 ते गच्छतः They two go
15 तानि गच्छन्ति They go

Given this basic structure of 15 sentences, we can take 9 verb-forms of any verbal root and make 15 sentences for each verbal root.

For the Verbal root वद्  (= to say, to speak) the verbal forms are

Table 1-7

Verbal forms for वद्

Person Singular Dual Plural
First वदामि वदावः वदामः
Second वदसि वदथः वदथ
Third वदति वदतः वदन्ति

By the way, one would not find in dictionary the words
गच्छामि गच्छावः गच्छामः गच्छसि गच्छथः गच्छथ  गच्छति गच्छतः गच्छन्ति
वदामि वदावः वदामः वदसि वदथः वदथ वदति वदतः वदन्ति
अहम् आवाम् वयम्
त्वम् युवाम् यूयम्
सः तौ ते
सा ते ताः
तत् ते तानि
These are all derived forms, derived from root words. For example,
वदामि वदावः वदामः वदसि वदथः वदथ वदति वदतः वदन्ति are derived from the verbal root वद्, i.e. from धातु वद्. We can find वद् in the dictionary. This is a huge difference between dictionary of Sanskrit from dictionary of other languages. Of course in English also we do not look for words like me, my, us, our, your, him, his, her, its, them, their, etc. Yet there is a difference and the difference is huge, because number of words which can be derived from a root word is very large. We have just seen 9 words derived from the verbal root वद्. This is not even the tip of an iceberg. These 9 words are of present tense. There will be more words in past and future tenses and in imperative mood and in other moods as obtained in English by using auxiliaries such as shall, will, should, would, can, could, may, might, must, ‘ought to’. In Sanskrit the emphasis is on deriving a word so that it can stand by itself. That is the basic logic of ‘structuring’.

By the way, the verbal forms गच्छामि गच्छावः गच्छामः गच्छसि गच्छथः गच्छथ  गच्छति गच्छतः गच्छन्ति are derived from the verbal root गम् (= to go). Technical term in Sanskrit for verbal root is धातु. Sanskrit word for verbal form is क्रियापदम् or तिङन्तम् 

It is also to be noted that the words अहं आवां वयं त्वं युवां यूयं are better written as अहम् आवाम् वयम् त्वम् युवाम् यूयम् with the ending म् clearly visible, when the words are stand-alone or at the end of a line of a poem or at the end of a sentence. This in fact is the rule.

Compiled below are verbal forms of some commonplace verbal roots धातु-s.

Table 1-8

verbal forms of some commonplace verbal roots धातु-s

No. Verbal root धातु Meaning Verbal forms
1 गम् to go गच्छामि गच्छावः गच्छामः
गच्छसि गच्छथः गच्छथ
गच्छति गच्छतः गच्छन्ति
2 वद् to say, to speak वदामि वदावः वदामः
वदसि वदथः वदथ
वदति वदतः वदन्ति
3 आ + गम् to come आगच्छामि आगच्छावः आगच्छामः
आगच्छसि आगच्छथः आगच्छथ
आगच्छति आगच्छतः आगच्छन्ति
4 प्रति  + गम् to go towards, to go unto प्रतिगच्छामि प्रतिगच्छावः प्रतिगच्छामः
प्रतिगच्छसि प्रतिगच्छथः प्रतिगच्छथ
प्रतिगच्छति प्रतिगच्छतः प्रतिगच्छन्ति
5 प्रति + आ + गम् to return प्रत्यागच्छामि प्रत्यागच्छावः प्रत्यागच्छामः
प्रत्यागच्छसि प्रत्यागच्छथः प्रत्यागच्छथ
प्रत्यागच्छति प्रत्यागच्छतः प्रत्यागच्छन्ति
6 कृ to do करोमि कुर्वः कुर्मः
करोषि कुरुथः कुरुथ
करोति कुरुतः कुर्वन्ति
7 खाद् to eat खादामि खादावः खादामः
खादसि खादथः खादथ
खादति खादतः खादन्ति
8 पा to drink पिबामि पिबावः पिबामः
पिबसि पिबथः पिबथ
पिबति पिबतः पिबन्ति
9 अस् to be अस्मि स्वः स्मः
असि स्थः स्थ
अस्ति स्तः सन्ति
10 भू to be, to become, to be present भवामि भवावः भवामः
भवसि भवथः भवथ
भवति भवतः भवन्ति
11 उप + विश् to sit उपविशामि उपविशावः उपविशामः
उपविशसि उपविशथः उपविशथ
उपविशति उपविशतः उपविशन्ति
12 स्था to stand, to halt, to stop तिष्ठामि तिष्ठावः तिष्ठामः
तिष्ठसि तिष्ठथः तिष्ठथ
तिष्ठति तिष्ठतः तिष्ठन्ति
13 उत् + स्था to stand up उत्तिष्ठामि उत्तिष्ठावः उत्तिष्ठामः
उत्तिष्ठसि उत्तिष्ठथः उत्तिष्ठथ
उत्तिष्ठति उत्तिष्ठतः उत्तिष्ठन्ति
14 दा to give ददामि दद्वः दद्मः
ददासि दत्थः दत्थ
ददाति दत्तः ददति
15 ग्रह् or गृह् to take, to receive, to accommodate गृह्णामि गृह्णीवः गृह्णीमः
गृह्णासि गृह्णीथः गृह्णीथ
गृह्णाति गृह्णीतः गृह्णन्ति
16 ज्ञा to know, to become aware जानामि जानीवः जानीमः
जानासि जानीथः जानीथ
जानाति जानीतः जानन्ति

All the above verbal forms are of धातु-s which are of a type or class known as परस्मैपदी.

Other type or class of धातु-s is आत्मनेपदी.

There are also धातु-s which can have verbal forms both of परस्मैपदी and आत्मनेपदी types. Such धातु-s are called as उभयपदी.

In above Table 8, it can be seen that the verbal root धातु for ‘to go’ is गम्. The verbal root धातु for ‘to come’ is आ + गम् and that for ‘to return’ is प्रति + आ + गम्. We can say that the basic verbal root is गम्. Then verbal roots आ + गम् and प्रति + आ + गम् are secondary or tertiary verbal roots, derived using prefixes such as आ and प्रति + आ. The prefixes are called as उपसर्ग. Prefixes are common in English also, e.g. inscribe, describe, subscribe, prescribe, circumscribe. Interestingly the prefixes cause the meaning to undergo a radical change. There is a good verse which summarizes such radical change in meaning caused by उपसर्ग-s. Will it be good to know that verse ! The verse, श्लोक is –

उपसर्गेण धात्वर्थो बलादन्यत्र नीयते |

विहाराहार-संहार-प्रहार-परिहारवत् ||

Prefixes cause the meaning of the verbal root to undergo a radical change as it happens in विहार-आहार-संहार-प्रहार-परिहार.

It should be also noted that though all धातु-s in Table 8 are of परस्मैपदी type and have some similarity in the pattern of formation of verb-forms, for some धातु-s, in the formation of verb-forms, there are peculiarities e.g.

  • गम् takes the form गच्छामि,
  • कृ takes the forms करोमि कुर्वः कुर्मः
  • पा takes the forms पिबामि पिबावः पिबामः
  • अस् takes the forms अस्मि स्वः स्मः
  • स्था takes the forms तिष्ठामि तिष्ठावः तिष्ठामः
  • दा takes the forms ददामि दद्वः दद्मः
  • ग्रह् or गृह् takes the forms गृह्णामि गृह्णीवः गृह्णीमः
  • ज्ञा takes the forms जानामि जानीवः जानीमः

These peculiarities also have rules and quite often “Exceptions prove the rule” is also an accepted rule ! It is good to be curious but not good to be over-inquisitive. For the beginning, it would be good to accept the things as given and practice with them. More the practice, even the peculiarities will become natural.

When a child learns its mother tongue, it acquires the tongue by being engulfed in that environment 24×7. If such 24×7 environment is not available for learning a language such as Sanskrit, the option then is to make devoted intense exercise. Luckily, There is a beautiful easy rhythm with everything in Sanskrit. In Table 8, all the nine forms of each verb are set in three lines of three forms in each line. They can be memorized and should be memorized, so intensely that they would come natural when one has to use them and make sentences. With 15 sentences illustrated for the verb गम्, it is possible to practice making 240 sentences from the 16 verbs !!! Why not do that as self-study exercises स्वाध्याय-s to practice this lesson ?

There would be many ways to practice parsing the 240 sentences. For example, if I take a sentence ते कुर्वन्ति I should be able to explain the grammar of both these words.

  • कुर्वन्ति = धातु कृ (to do), present tense, third person, plural
  • ते = pronoun of masculine, third person, plural.

Now, among the 15 pronouns, the word ते has three connotations – (a) masculine, third person, plural (b) neuter, third person, dual (c) feminine, third person, dual. If so, is the grammar written above as “ते = pronoun of masculine, third person, plural” correct ? It is correct, because the verb form कुर्वन्ति is plural.

As practice in parsing, we can exercise with this sentence ते कुर्वन्ति to transform it, replacing ते by the other 14 pronouns and say, to what verb-forms the word कुर्वन्ति will change to.