Simple Sanskrit – Lesson 3

Simple Sanskrit – Lesson 3

सरलं संस्कृतम् – तृतीयः पाठः ।

All the 600 sentences in present tense from Lessons 1 and 2 can be transformed into interrogatives by just adding an interrogative किम्  For example,

Table 3-1

Interrogatives using किम्

Sentence in Present tense




भवत्यः गच्छन्ति

(see Table 2-2)

You (ladies) go

भवत्यः गच्छन्ति किम् ?

Do you ladies go ?

(Note Table 2-2 means in Lesson 2 Table 2. All tables in both previous lessons have been renumbered in this pattern.)

Now किम् is a pronoun, an interrogative pronoun, equivalent to the English interrogatives who, what, which.

Although किम् is equivalent to ‘who’, a question in English “Who goes ?”  should not be translated as किम् गच्छति ?

In Sanskrit we have to be conscious of the gender.

  • If the question “Who goes ?” is about a person, whose gender is not known, the most common gender by convention in Sanskrit should be masculine. Then the question should be कः गच्छति ?
  • But if the gender is known then the question should be with appropriate form of the pronoun किम् . Among a group of girls they would ask का गच्छति ?
  • But suppose two friends are sitting together chatting. Suddenly one of them is disturbed by something, some insect having crept away somewhere. Then the other friend would anxiously ask किम् गच्छति ? “What goes ?”.

As was done for the pronouns in Table 1-4 (Note, Table 1-4 stands for Table 4 in Lesson 1) and was done also for the pronoun भवत् in Table 2-1 it would be good to tabulate forms of this pronoun किम् .

Table 3-2

Forms of Pronoun किम्

Gender लिङ्ग

Singular एकवचनम्

Dual द्विवचनम्

Plural बहुवचनम्

Masculine पुंल्लिङ्ग




Feminine स्त्रीलिङ्ग




Neuter नपुंसकलिङ्ग




When the sentence सः गच्छति is transformed into interrogative सः गच्छति किम् ? the meaning is “Does he go ?”

  • But सः गच्छति could be an answer to a question “Who goes ?” The question could as well be कः गच्छति ?
  • There could as well be a situation when a Captain is wanting any one of his cadets to volunteer and would ask, कः गच्छति ? And one, who would volunteer, would say अहं गच्छामि. Or many would together volunteer saying वयं गच्छामः If two would volunteer together they would say आवां गच्छावः

By the way, it should be interesting to note that it is very much permissible in most languages, at least colloquially to use Present Tense in place of Future.

Coming back to interrogatives, in transforming the sentence सः गच्छति into interrogative सः गच्छति किम् ? the two-word sentence has become a 3-word sentence. That arouses a curiosity about the role of each word in the sentence.

About the role of a word in a sentence, in English grammar there is the concept of eight Parts of Speech –

  • Preposition, Noun, Pronoun, Adjective,
  • Verb, Adverb,
  • Conjunction,
  • Exclamatory.

In Sanskrit grammar, prepositions are merged into the noun, pronoun adjectives by making word-formations in seven cases.

For example

  • “a book” in Sanskrit is पुस्तकम्
  • “in the book” would be पुस्तके.

Note, both preposition ‘in’ and article ‘the’ are merged along with the noun ‘book’ and all together become one single word पुस्तके – just one word for three. That is brevity.

(I understand that microprocessor designers are impressed by this brevity, because this can help signals in the microprocessor to travel and be processed faster. That may help microprocessors to do large number of tasks, also much faster.)

There is another angle to the formation of a word such as पुस्तके. Suppose we want to translate the English sentence “There are pictures in the book.”, the translation would be पुस्तके चित्राणि सन्ति. Now, rules of syntax of English would not permit any word to be sprewn around anywhere. You cannot say “Pictures there in are book the.” But in Sanskrit it is perfectly permissible to put the words in any order.

  1. पुस्तके चित्राणि सन्ति
  2. पुस्तके सन्ति चित्राणि
  3. चित्राणि पुस्तके सन्ति
  4. चित्राणि सन्ति पुस्तके
  5. सन्ति पुस्तके चित्राणि
  6. सन्ति चित्राणि पुस्तके

If there are ‘n’ number of words in a sentence, there can be nPn number of permutations of syntax of the sentence ! Isn’t that awesome flexibility ? This is possible because every word is given a formation, which gives it the strength to stand by itself anywhere in the sentence. This facilitated much of Sanskrit literature to be poetry.

Possibly this aspect of flexibility is also important and beneficial for microprocessor-design. The designer can select that order, which is most suitable for fastest processing of the signal. Or the microprocessor can be given ‘artificial intelligence’ for the signal to select by itself the path of least resistance.

Having said that the English phrase ‘in the book’ becomes पुस्तके in Sanskrit, it should be interesting to learn which ‘case’ denotes which preposition.

Table 3-3

correspondence between ‘case’ विभक्ति and English Prepositions

‘case’ विभक्ति

when used or English Preposition

Forms of word पुस्तकम् when singular


First (or Nominative case) प्रथमा

for ‘subject’ words in a sentence


पुस्तकम् अस्ति

(There) is a book

Second (or Accusative case) द्वितीया

for direct objects in a sentence


पुस्तकम् गृहाण

Take the book

Third (or instrumental case) तृतीया

with, by


पुस्तकेन ज्ञानम् भवति

Knowledge happens by a book

Fourth (or Dative case) चतुर्थी

for, to


पुस्तकाय वेष्टणम्

Cover for the book

Fifth (or Ablative case) पञ्चमी



पुस्तकात् गीतम्

song from the book

Sixth (or genitive case) षष्ठी



पुस्तकस्य लेखकः

writer (or author) of the book

Seventh (or Locative case) सप्तमी

in, at, on, upon


पुस्तके चित्राणि

pictures in the book

Pronouns will have word-formations (declensions of a root word) for all three genders लिङ्ग-s in all cases विभक्ति-s and all three numbers – Singular एकवचनम्, Dual द्विवचनम् and Plural बहुवचनम्. Totally 3x3x7 = 63 declensions

Declensions of the pronoun किम् will be very handy to frame and ask a large number of questions.

Table 3-4

Masculine declensions of Pronoun किम् – पुंल्लिङ्ग

‘case’ विभक्ति

Singular एकवचनम्

Dual द्विवचनम्

Plural बहुवचनम्

First (or Nominative case) प्रथमा




Second (or Accusative case) द्वितीया




Third (or instrumental case) तृतीया




Fourth (or Dative case) चतुर्थी




Fifth (or Ablative case) पञ्चमी




Sixth (or genitive case) षष्ठी




Seventh (or Locative case) सप्तमी




Let us try and frame sets of questions and answers to understand the usefulness of these word-forms.

Table 3-5

sets of questions and answers – in masculine Singular पुंल्लिङ्गि एकवचनम्

‘case’ विभक्ति

Question प्रश्नः

Answer  उत्तरम्

First (or Nominative case) प्रथमा

कः प्रत्यागच्छति ?

Who returns ?

त्वं प्रत्यागच्छसि

You return

Second (or Accusative case) द्वितीया

कम्  पृच्छसि ?

To whom do you ask ?

शिक्षकं पृच्छामि

(I) ask the teacher

Third (or instrumental case) तृतीया

केन सिद्धिः ?

By what attainment ?

अभ्यासेन सिद्धिः

Attainment by persistence

Fourth (or Dative case) चतुर्थी

कस्मै नमः

To whom the obeisances ?

श्रीगणेशाय नमः

Obeisances to Shri-GaNesha !!

Fifth (or Ablative case) पञ्चमी

कस्मात् भयम् ?

Fear from whom ?

चोरात् भयम्

Fear from a thief

Sixth (or genitive case) षष्ठी

कस्य शौर्यम् ?

Whose bravery ?

सैनिकस्य शौर्यम्

Bravery of soldier

Seventh (or Locative case) सप्तमी

कस्मिन् जलम् ?

Wherein the water ?

घटे जलम्

Water in a jar

It ought to be noted that in framing the questions and answers, the answer-word had to match पुंल्लिङ्ग, एकवचनम् and the विभक्ति. For example कम् – शिक्षकम्, केन – अभ्यासेन, कस्मै – श्रीगणेशाय, कस्मात् – चोरात्, कस्य – सैनिकस्य, कस्मिन् – घटे
It should be noted that

  • all the words शिक्षक, अभ्यास, श्रीगणेश, चोर, सैनिक, घट are masculine singular पुंल्लिङ्ग, एकवचनम् .
  • The other words are of different genders –
    • सिद्धिः is feminine,
    • नमः is masculine,
    • भयम्, शौर्यम् and जलम् are neuter.

Point to be noted is that every noun has a gender of its own.

In English we are not worried about the gender of nouns. For example when we say “water in a jar” we are not concerned about the genders of ‘water’ and ‘jar’. In English, the concern for gender is only for pronouns, that too for third person, singular pronouns – he or she or it.

In Sanskrit, we have to be conscious of gender of all pronouns and of nouns also. The gender, number and case of the pronoun has to match the gender, number and case of the noun, it stands for. The pronoun कम् in the question corresponds to the noun शिक्षकम् in the answer. Both are masculine, second case, singular. Such correspondence between gender, number and case of both noun and pronoun is observed in all the other pairs केन – अभ्यासेन, कस्मै – श्रीगणेशाय, कस्मात् – चोरात्, कस्य – सैनिकस्य, कस्मिन् – घटे

By the way, in the process of framing questions and answers, many new words also have got introduced. They are not difficult. But they have their own forms. We shall get to discuss them in due course.

Table 3-6

7 sets of questions and answers – in Masculine Dual पुंल्लिङ्गि द्विवचनम्

‘case’ विभक्ति

Question प्रश्नः

Answer  उत्तरम्

First (or Nominative case) प्रथमा

अत्र कौ स्तः ?

Who (two) are here ?

अत्र आवां स्वः

We (two) are here

Second (or Accusative case) द्वितीया

नमनाय कौ मिलसि ?

What (two) do you join for bowing ?

नमनाय हस्तौ मिलामि

I join hands for bowing

Third (or instrumental case) तृतीया

सः काभ्याम् शृणोति ?

By what (two) does he hear ?

सः कर्णाभ्यां शृणोति

He hears with (his two) ears.

Fourth (or Dative case) चतुर्थी

काभ्याम् माता अन्नं ददाति ?

To whom (two) does mother give food ?

माता बालकाभ्यां अन्नं ददाति

Mother gives food to (two) children

Fifth (or Ablative case) पञ्चमी

काभ्याम् जलं पतति ?

From which two does water drop ?

हस्ताभ्यां जलं पतति

Water drops from (two) hands

Sixth (or genitive case) षष्ठी

कयोः पिता ?

Father of who (two) ?

पुत्रयोः पिता

Father of two sons

Seventh (or Locative case) सप्तमी

कयोः पादत्राणे ?

On which (two) the (two) footwears ?

पादयोः पादत्राणे

(Two) Footwears on (two) feet

Note, in the last question and answer, footwear पादत्राणे and feet both are in dual द्विवचनम्.
Note also that

  • काभ्याम् is in third, fourth and fifth cases.
  • कयोः is both in sixth case and seventh case.

In a given sentence whether the case of काभ्याम् is third, or fourth or fifth or whether case of कयोः is sixth or seventh, is to be understood by keeping in mind the context.

Table 3-7

7 sets of questions and answers – in Masculine Plural पुंल्लिङ्गि बहुवचनम्

‘case’ विभक्ति

Question प्रश्नः

Answer  उत्तरम्

First (or Nominative case) प्रथमा

के ते ?

Who (are) they ?

ते वाचकाः

They (are) readers

Second (or Accusative case) द्वितीया

कान् पश्यसि खे ?

Whom do you see in the sky ?

खे खगान् पश्यामि

I see birds in the sky

Third (or instrumental case) तृतीया

कैः राक्षसाः हताः ?

By whom were demons killed ?

वानरैः राक्षसाः हताः

Demons were killed by monkeys.

Fourth (or Dative case) चतुर्थी

केभ्यः प्रशस्तिः ?

Praise for whom ?

चतुरेभ्यः प्रशस्तिः

Praise for the smart-ones

Fifth (or Ablative case) पञ्चमी

केभ्यः ज्ञानम् ?

Knowledge from whom ?

आचार्येभ्यः ज्ञानम् ?

Knowledge from precepts

Sixth (or genitive case) षष्ठी

केषाम् विजयः ?

Victory of whom ?

वीराणां विजयः

Victory of the mighty

Seventh (or Locative case) सप्तमी

अश्वत्थः केषु श्रेष्ठः ?

Among whom is Ashwattha tree most superior

अश्वत्थः वृक्षेषु श्रेष्ठः

Ashwattha tree is superiormost among trees

In the question and answer for third case the word हताः stands for “were killed”. In the question and answer phrases हताः is not the verb, हताः is adjectival but serves the function of a verb. We shall come to such formations in due course.

In the question and answer for the seventh case, अश्वत्थः is explained as holy fig tree in Apte’s dictionary.

Eight more Tables of questions and answers as in 3-4, 3-5, 3-6, 3-7 can be compiled and need to be compiled for feminine and neuter forms of pronoun किम् . We shall continue with these in the next lesson.

Before closing, it comes to mind that whereas all 600 sentences can be transformed into their interrogatives by using the pronoun किम् negatives of them all can be obtained by using an indeclinable न. Sanskrit term for ‘indeclinable’ is अव्यय. We have seen above various masculine forms obtaining for the pronoun किम् and we shall see more with feminine and neuter genders. But an indeclinable such as न has no more derivations of it. ‘No change’ is exactly the meaning of अव्यय.

Interestingly, making interrogatives and negatives of all the 600 sentences will happen in the following manner.

Table 3-8

Basic sentence, Interrogative, Affirmative answer, Negative answer

Basic sentence Interrogative Affirmative answer Negative answer
सः गच्छति |
He goes
सः गच्छति किम् ?
Does he go ?
सः गच्छति |
He goes
सः गच्छति न |
He does not go

(Note – The vertical ‘|’ at the end of the sentence सः गच्छति | is Sanskrit ‘full stop’, end of a sentence or end of a line in poetry)

This pattern would give the opportunity to utter every sentence 4 times. So, 2400 utterances from the 600 sentences !! Let your tongue and voice box get exercised with all these many utterances. That will get so much Sanskrit into your blood. You may realize that Sanskrit has the definite quality of purifying the tongue and the pronunciation !!

If you want, you can utter सः गच्छति किम् ? and सः गच्छति न  in 6 syntax options each !!