Only Four Types of Words – Part 2 सुबन्तशब्दाः

Only Four Types of Words – Part 2


Having come to the idea that Sanskrit is Simple – Only Four Parts of Speech, one can detail what is to be learnt under Four Parts of Speech. In this part, I plan to discuss सुबन्तशब्दाः

सुबन्तशब्दाः – Commonest aspects of सुबन्तशब्दाः are –

  • There is a seed-form प्रातिपदिकम्
  • From the प्रातिपदिकम् we get पद-s by applying सुप्-प्रत्यय-s
  • सुप्-प्रत्यय-s apply according to लिङ्ग-विभक्ति-वचन (Gender-Case-Number – GCN)

Interesting and Important things to be noted about Gender लिङ्ग

(1) In all languages genders are three – masculine पुँल्लिङ्गम्, feminine स्त्रीलिङ्गम्, neuter नपुंसकलिङ्गम्

(2) Pronouns सर्वनामानि and Adjectives विशेषणानि have पद-s in all three genders.

    • However pronouns of first person उत्तमपुरुष i.e. अस्मद् and of second person मध्यमपुरुष i.e. युष्मद् have common forms in all three genders.

(3) Most nouns नामानि have specific gender, which is predominantly by convention, e.g.

  • ‘man’ मनुजः/मानवः/पुरुषः is masculine,
  • woman, girl, virgin, daughter स्त्री/बाला/कुमारी/कन्या are feminine
  • most things वस्तु-s are neuter.
  • Some nouns have more than one genders, e.g. मित्रम् usually neuter means ‘friend’, but मित्रः masculine means ’sun’. कन्दुकः/कन्दुकम् (masculine or neuter) both mean ‘ball’ to play with.

Interesting and Important things to be noted about Cases विभक्ति

(1) The concept of ‘Case’ विभक्ति in Sanskrit eliminates prepositions. Rather we should just set in our mind, which case stands for which preposition.

  • Vocative or address case is संबोधन-विभक्ति
  • First case प्रथमा-विभक्ति is nominative case or subject-case, because it is to be used for subject-words in the sentence. It is कर्तृकारक, it makes subject-words
  • Second case द्वितीया-विभक्ति is accusative case or object-case, because it is to be used for object-words in the sentence. It is कर्मकारक, it makes object-words
  • Third case तृतीया-विभक्ति is Instrumental case, because it is to be used with words which are instrumental for an action. We cut with a knife. Knife is the instrument for the action of cutting. So, this third case is करणकारक related to words which are instrumental in the action. The case is to be used, where in English we shall have prepositions ‘with’, by, by means of.
    • To explain use of preposition ‘by’ and in turn तृतीया-विभक्ति in Sanskrit, let me take a sentence I shall go by your advice. तव उपदेशेन गच्छामि
    • However if the sentence is “I shall follow your advice”, here ‘your advice’ is object in the sentence. In Sanskrit also तव उपदेशम् अनुसरामि
    • English prepositions corresponding to तृतीया-विभक्ति would be with, along with, by, by means of, according to, as per.
  • Fourth case चतुर्थी-विभक्ति is dative case. It is used mostly for personal object-words,  to whom an offering संप्रदान is made. It connotes purpose of the action. It is संप्रदानकारक. The case is to be used, where in English we shall have preposition ‘for’
  • Fifth case पञ्चमी-विभक्ति is ablative case, अपादानकारक The case is to be used, where in English we have prepositions – ‘from’, out of, away from. For example “removed from mind” मनसः निष्कासितम् “out of town’ ग्रामात् बहिः away from home गृहात् दूरम्
  • Sixth case षष्ठी-विभक्ति Genitive case is not a कारक-विभक्ति. The case is to be used, where in English we have preposition ‘of’. It is not a कारक-विभक्ति, because it is not related to the verb. Preposition ‘of’ is a conjunction between two nouns or between noun and pronoun. In ‘juice of mango’, ‘juice’ and ‘mango’ are both nouns. ‘of’ connects them.
  • Seventh case सप्तमी-विभक्ति is locative case. Words in this case are mostly adverb of place. अधिष्ठानकारक or अधिकरणकारक. However it may be used to speak of the place of a thing or person, e.g. water in the well कूपे जलम् picture in the book पुस्तके चित्रम् wife at home गृहे भार्या. The case is to be used, where in English we have prepositions – in, at, on, upon.
Case No. Property Function Preposition(s)
संबोधन / संबोधन-प्रथमा Vocative संबोधनम्
1 प्रथमा Nominative Subject-words कर्तृकारक
2 द्वितीया Accusative Object-words कर्मकारक
3 तृतीया Instrumental Instrumental करणकारक with, along with, by, by means of, according to, as per
4 चतुर्थी Dative Personal Object-words  संप्रदानकारक for
5 पञ्चमी Ablative अपादानकारक from, out of, away from
6 षष्ठी Genitive of
7 सप्तमी Locative अधिष्ठानकारक / अधिकरणकारक in, at, on, upon

Interesting and Important things to be noted about Number वचनम्

The वचन i.e. number-concept in Sanskrit eliminates need for articles – a, an, the, which are very much necessary in English. Number in English is a two-tier concept – singular or plural. In Sanskrit, it is a three-tier concept – one, two, many (or more than two) एकवचनम्, द्विवचनम्, बहुवचनम् One should not use the term अनेकवचनम्, because अनेक can mean both द्वि or बहु.

The पद-s are word-forms शब्दरूपाणि and are called as शब्दरूपाणि also. With 3 लिङ्ग-s, 8 (संबोधन + 7 =) विभक्ति-s and three वचन-s one would get 72 पद-s from an adjectival प्रातिपदिक-s, which have पद-s in all three लिङ्ग-s. Pronouns do not have रूपाणि in संबोधन. Hence they have 63 रूपाणि. Nouns, which mostly have a specific लिङ्गम्, will have 24 पद-s or शब्दरूपाणि.

One gets पद-s by affixing suffixes प्रत्यय-s to प्रातिपदिक-s. There are grammatical processes प्रक्रिया-s for affixing suffixes प्रत्यय-s to प्रातिपदिक-s to get पद-s.

For one thing, the प्रक्रिया-s depend upon the ending syllable of the प्रातिपदिकम् – whether the ending syllable is a vowel स्वरः or a consonant व्यञ्जनम्. So प्रातिपदिक-s are स्वरान्त or व्यञ्जनान्त (also called as अजन्त or हलन्त). The term अजन्त has in it a component अच् which connotes all vowels. The term हलन्त has in it a component हल् which connotes all consonants.

To obtain पद-s by affixing suffixes प्रत्यय-s to प्रातिपदिक-s, following the prescribed grammatical processes प्रक्रिया-s, would often be complex. It is hence better, particularly for a student, to memorize पद-s or शब्दरूपाणि of typical प्रातिपदिक-s.

Meanings of words can be found in dictionaries. But Sanskrit words can be located in dictionaries, only if one knows the प्रातिपदिकम्. For example most common form of Sanskrit-word for ‘king’ is राजा. But one cannot find this word in the dictionary, because the प्रातिपदिकम् is राजन्. One can certainly locate राजन्. In fact there is another प्रातिपदिकम् राज्. which has identical meaning. It should be noted that the ending consonants of the two प्रातिपदिक-s are different. So शब्दरूपाणि of these two प्रातिपदिक-s are very, very different.

Knowing प्रातिपदिकम् properly is important also from another aspect also. In Sanskrit, there are शब्दरूपाणि of adjectives also. And the शब्दरूपम् must be identical to that of the noun, which it qualifies. The rule is stated in a verse, which should make it easy to remember the rule. The verse is –

यल्लिङ्गं यद्वचनं या च विभक्तिर्विशेष्यस्य |

तलिङ्गं तद्वचनं सा च विभक्तिर्विशेषणस्यापि ||

Meaning – Gender लिङ्गम्, Case विभक्तिः and number वचनम् of the adjective विशेषणम् must  be the same as are of (the noun being qualified) विशेष्य.

In English such correspondence does not happen. In ‘ good person’ and ‘good men’ although former phrase is in singular and latter is in plural, the adjective ‘good’ remains unchanged. But the Sanskrit grammar making शब्दरूपाणि of adjectives also is a great grammatical logic, which facilitates putting words anywhere in the sentence, that is, it gives freedom from rules of syntax. For example ‘A ferocious tiger roams in a dense forest’ भयङ्करः व्याघ्रः निबिडे अरण्ये अटति Now one can write the Sanskrit sentence as –

  • अटति भयङ्करः व्याघ्रः निबिडे अरण्ये
  • भयङ्करः अटति व्याघ्रः निबिडे अरण्ये
  • अरण्ये अटति निबिडे भयङ्करः व्याघ्रः
  • etc.

Mathematically speaking, since the Sanskrit sentence has 5 words, possible number of permutations is 120 ! So the sentence can be written in 120 different ways. And all of them can be grammatically valid and all of them will convey the same meaning.

The corresponding English sentence ‘A ferocious tiger roams in a dense forest’ has 8 words. Mathematically it should be possible to write it in 40,320 different ways. Can we do so without having different meaning or without being meaningless ? For example can we write ‘A dense tiger roams forest a ferocious in’ ? But in Sanskrit it is perfectly legitimate and meaningful to write निबिडे व्याघ्रः अटति अरण्ये भयङ्करः

All this is possible because अरण्ये and निबिडे, so also भयङ्करः and व्याघ्रः have been formatted to have same gender, case and number.

Having said this, it should be also noted that often one would be using numerical adjectives. Numerical adjectives are generally of two types – cardinal and ordinal. But there are more variants also. For example –



Ordinal क्रमवाचकम् विशेषणम् So many times कतिवारम् Group of समूहवाचकम्
(एक) एकः एका एकम् प्रथमः प्रथमा प्रथमम् एकवारम्
(द्वि) द्वौ द्वे द्वे द्वितीयः द्वितीया द्वितीयम् द्विवारम् द्वयम्
(त्रि) त्रयः तिस्रः त्रीणि तृतीयः तृतीया तृतीयम् त्रिवारम् त्रयम्
(चतुः) चत्वारः चतस्रः  चत्वारि चतुर्थः चतुर्थी चतुर्थम् चतुर्वारम् चतुष्टयम्
(पञ्चन्) पञ्च पञ्चमः पञ्चमी पञ्चमम् पञ्चवारम् पञ्चकम्
(षट्) षट् षष्ठः षष्ठी षष्ठम् षड्वारम् षट्कम् षट्कारः
(सप्तन्) सप्त सप्तमः सप्तमी सप्तमम् सप्तवारम् सप्तकम्
(अष्टन्) अष्ट/अष्टौ अष्टमः अष्टमी अष्टमम् अष्टवारम् अष्टकम्
(नवन्) नव नवमः नवमी नवमम् नववारम् नवकम्
(दशन्) दश दशमः दशमी दशमम् दशवारम् दशकम्

In the first column I have mentioned the (प्रातिपदिकम्) पुँल्लिङ्गी, स्त्रीलिङ्गी, नपुंसकलिङ्गी संख्याशब्दाः प्रथमायां विभक्त्याम् एकवचने. It may be noted that for पञ्चन्-onwards the संख्याशब्दाः are common in all three genders.

In the second column the feminine forms are आकारान्त for first three numbers and are ईकारान्त thereafter.

Interesting point for numbers 11 onwards is that the cardinal and ordinal adjectives have same प्रातिपदिकम्. For example, एकादश ग्रन्थाः (eleven books) एकादशोऽध्यायः (eleventh chapter), एकादशी तिथिः (eleventh day). Note also, that in the first phrase एकादश ग्रन्थाः, eleven books, the form of the adjective एकादश is of first case (प्रथमा विभक्तिः), plural (बहुवचनम्). Similarly its forms in all other cases एकादशान् (द्वितीया) एकादशभिः (तृतीया) एकादशेभ्यः (चतुर्थी and पञ्चमी) एकादशानाम् (षष्ठी) एकादशेषु (सप्तमी) are always plural and common in all genders. The pattern is similar for most other numbers.

Mr. GSS Murthy has done a great job of compiling declension-tables शब्दरूपाणि of great number of words. He has arranged them also in good order according to the ending syllable. At the link here, it is an index. Every word in the index is a hyperlink. When you click on the word, you are taken to the declension-table of the word.

Master the tables and you have started off well on सुबन्त-s, on one of four Parts of Speech, that means more than 25 percent of learning Sanskrit ! I say more than 25 percent, because in one part of Speech, that of अदृष्ट- or लुप्त-प्रत्यय-s, there is hardly anything to be learnt as such. There the words are just there. You have to only understand their meanings and use them as they are, doing no word-formation, nothing.whatever !

It would be good recapitulate main points, which are detailed above.

  1. The seed from which सुबन्तशब्द-s are obtained is called as प्रातिपदिकम्
  2. प्रातिपदिकम् would be either a noun नाम pronoun सर्बनाम or adjective विशेषणम्.
  3. सुबन्तशब्द-s are obtained by affixing suffixes सुप्-प्रत्यय-s to a प्रातिपदिकम्
  4. There are well-defined processes प्रक्रिया-s for affixing suffixes सुप्-प्रत्यय-s to a प्रातिपदिकम्. The processes depend upon –
  • gender लिङ्गम्
  • case विभक्तिः
  • number वचनम्
  1. The प्रक्रिया-s depend upon
  • the ending syllable of the प्रातिपदिकम् – whether the ending syllable is a vowel स्वरः or a consonant व्यञ्जनम्.
  • the gender लिङ्गम् and
  • the case विभक्तिः and
  • number वचनम्
  1. Pronouns सर्वनामानि and adjectives have सुबन्तशब्द-s in all three genders त्रिषु लिङ्गेषु, except that pronouns अस्मद् and युष्मद् have identical सुबन्तशब्द-s in all three genders. It is important that gender, case and number of adjectives matches with those of the noun, which the adjective qualifies.

शुभमस्तु !