The Sanskrit Language
作者:Walter Harding Maurer

Lession 1


Lesson 1

Nouns and Gender
Principles of Translation
Indeclinable Words


Nouns and Gender

Every noun in Sanskrit has 24 different forms, each of which indicates a combination of a case and number. Excluding the dual number forms, the remaining 16 forms of the word देव are given on Page 51 along with their meanings. The convention used on this website to indicate the case and number corresponding to one form of a noun is 'CASE/NUMBER', e.g. देवः is 1/1, देवान् is 2/+. (The plural number is indicated by a +.)

TIP: The 1/+ and 8/+ forms and 4/+ and 5/+ forms of देव are identical. Therefore its case must be determined by the context of the word in a sentence. Usually this is quite simple to do. For example, 1/+ is much more common than 8/+ because almost every sentence needs a subject. The vocative 8/+ form will be found only rarely in the context of a dialogue.

The forms of देव serve as a template for every masculine noun in Sanskrit that ends in -अ. Hence just as the 5/1 form of देव is देवात्, for वृक्ष it is वृक्षात्, for तापस it is तापसात्, and so on. All masculine nouns that end in - are said to decline like देव.

Every noun in Sanskrit has a 
gender. There are 3 genders in Sanskrit:masculinefeminine, and neuter. Although the genders of some nouns correspond to their physical gender (e.g. पुरुष = 'man' is masculine, स्त्री = 'woman' is feminine), the gender of most nouns is arbitrary. The gender of a noun must be looked up in a dictionary. In this book, the gender of a noun is indicated in the vocabulary lists following each exercise, as well as in the lexicon at the back of the book, with the letters m.f., and n.

The noun
फल is neuter. It declines exactly the same as देव, except for the First, Second and Eighth case. Its singular and plural forms for both First and Second case are फलम् and फलानि. The forms of फल serve as a template for every neuter noun in Sanskrit that ends in -अ.

TIP: Since the First and Second case forms for neuter nouns are exactly the same, it can be difficult to decide whether a neuter noun in a sentence is in First or Second case. Assume it is in First case unless you can connect it to a specific verb as its object. If both the subject and object of a verb are neuter, only context can tell which is in First case and which is in Second case.

Adjectives do not have fixed gender. An adjective must 'agree' with the noun it describes in gendercase, and number. This means that the gender, case, and number of the adjective will be the same as the noun it describes.

Principles of Translation

The following principles can be used to help translate basic sentences. These principles will be modified as new grammatical topics are introduced.

  1. Determine the case and number      of each noun

  2. Place the noun in First case      before the verb in English, and the noun in Second case after the verb

  3. Place all other nouns at the      end of the sentence along with the preposition appropriate for their case

  4. Place adjectives as well as      nouns in Sixth case together with the noun they describe.

  5. Translate all the words into      their English meanings

For example, a Sanskrit sentence can consist of any arbitrary nouns ABC, and D in the following cases: A (1/+) B (7/1) C (4/1) D (2/1) VERB. The structure of this sentence in English would be: AVERB D in B for C. You can try using this method to translate sentence #2 on Page 55.

NOTE: All the verbs in the vocabulary lists in this lesson end in -ति. If the subject of the sentence is plural, the ending will be changed to -न्ति. This will be explained further in Lesson 2.

Sentence #4 of Page 55 includes an adjective: कृष्णाः (1/+) अश्वाः (1/+) क्षेत्रे (7/1) धावन्ति (VERB). The structure of this sentence in English would be: कृष्ण अश्वs धावन्ति in क्षेत्रे.

A word in Sixth case is always connected to another noun (almost always the noun that immediately follows it in Sanskrit). It can be translated with the preposition 'of' or with an apostrophe and the letter 's'. For example 
A (6/1) B can be translated as 'B of A' or 'A's B'. Sentence #5 on Page 55 is: नरेश्वरस्य (6/1) सूतः (1/1) रथं (2/1) आरोहति. The structure of this sentence in English would be: सूत of नरेश्वर आरोहति रथ or नरेश्वर's सूत आरोहति रथ. Note that the word in Sixth case, like an adjective, must always translated together with the noun it is connected to.

NOTE: In sentence #1 on Page 55, the word स्वर्गं is in Second case not as the object of the verb, but as its destination. Like this, additional uses of each case will be introduced in the coming lessons.

Indeclinable Words

There are many words in Sanskrit that do not have multiple forms like nouns and verbs do. Such words are called 'indeclinable'. The majority of indeclinable words are either adverbs, conjunctions ('and', 'but', etc.) or particles such as the negative particle '' or particles used for emphasis like 'एव'. 

The negative particle '
' usually negates the word immediately following it. For example, in sentence #3 on Page 55, it negates the verb 'विन्दति', which should then be translated 'does not find'.

Some adverbial indeclinable words look like nouns and therefore it is necessary to look the words up to determine whether they are nouns or indeclinable words. For example,
शनैः (meaning 'slowly') is an indeclinable that looks like a noun in 3/+.


Sandhi is a unique and significant feature of Sanskrit. It is the euphonic changes that occur when certain letters come together, either between words or within them. Two examples are introduced here, and more sandhi rules will be taught systematically in later lessons.

One example is the letter
न् becoming ण् after certain letters. It is this change that results in the 3/1 and 6/1 of words like शूर being शुरेण (not शूरेन) and शूराणाम् (not शूरानाम्). It is not necessary to know the exact rule, but only to treat न् and ण् as equivalent in noun endings.

Another example is the letter
म् becoming anusvāra (the dot '  ं ' above the previous letter) when followed by a consonant. This anusvāra should be pronounced like the nasal letter that has the same articular surface (guttaral, palatal, etc.) at the following consonant, e.g. anusvāra before त् is pronounced as न्. To simplify things, every म् at the end of a word will be written as anusvāra in this book, whether a consonant follows or not.