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Case 6: "of" | Learn Sanskrit Online

Case 6: "of"

Also known as: the genitive case, ṣaṣṭhī vibhakti ("sixth case")

Introduction

All of the cases that we have studied so far have described the way that a noun relates to a verb, or else to the sentence as a whole. This new case, however, does not. Instead, it describes a connection between two nouns. It implies the same sort of meaning as the English word "of."

Let's call this the "of" case. Traditionally, this case is the sixth case that students learn. To make things less confusing, I will follow tradition and call this case case 6 for short.

Case 6 is very flexible; the Sanskrit grammarian Panini even called it a "catch-all" case that should be used when no other case quite fits. In addition to case 1 and case 2, case 6 is one of the most important and useful Sanskrit cases.

"Having" something

In addition to the roles above, case 6 also express the sense of "having" or "possessing" something. Sanskrit has no verb for "having" something, so we must use case 6 if we want to show ownership. The "owner" is in case 6, and the "owned thing" is in case 1. A verb that means "be" — like bhav — is optional.

When we talked about the object case, I mentioned that English uses the object case in just a few places. In English, "of"-case inflection is much more common. The words "whose," "my," "your," "his," "her," "its," and "their" are all in the "of" case. All of these words are used today. As far as I am aware, this is the full extent of "of"-case inflection in modern English.

Inflection

You can find the endings for case 6 in the table below:

-a (masculine)
गज Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) गजः
gajaḥ
गजौ
gajau
गजाः
gajāḥ
Case 2 (object) गजम्
gajam
गजौ
gajau
गजान्
gajān
Case 6 ("of") गजस्य
gajasya
गजयोः
gajayoḥ
गजानाम्
gajānām
Case 8 (address) गज
gaja
गजौ
gajau
गजाः
gajāḥ

Pronouns

As usual, the first- and second-person pronouns are irregular.

mad (no gender)
मद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) अहम्
aham
आवाम्
āvām
वयम्
vayam
Case 2 (object) माम्
mām
आवाम्
āvām
अस्मान्
asmān
Case 6 ("of") मम
mama
आवयोः
āvayoḥ
अस्माकम्
asmākam
tvad (no gender)
त्वद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) त्वम्
tvam
युवाम्
yuvām
यूयम्
yūyam
Case 2 (object) त्वाम्
tvām
युवाम्
yuvām
युष्मान्
yuṣmān
Case 6 ("of") तव
tava
युवयोः
yuvayoḥ
युष्माकम्
yuṣmākam

The third-person pronoun is more regular, but it still uses a different ending:

tad (masculine)
तद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) सः
saḥ
तौ
tau
ते
te
Case 2 (object) तम्
tam
तौ
tau
तान्
tān
Case 6 ("of") तस्य
tasya
तयोः
tayoḥ
तेषाम्
teṣām

Sandhi

Vowel Sandhi: -a, -ā

Two rules of vowel sandhi are here. We have already studied one: similar vowels will combine to produce the long form.

But we haven't studied the second. This rule applies when the two vowels are dissimilar.

-a/-ā combines with the vowel that follows it and strengthens it by one level. If the vowel can't be strengthened any more, then -a/-ā disappears.

This rule is just a product of vowel strengthening. For that reason, it is extremely easy to understand.

Internal Sandhi: n to

The internal sandhi rule that causes n to change to is daunting and complicated. Most textbooks offer the full rule and leave the student to grapple with its seemingly arbitrary parts. This guide will do something a little different and state the principle of the rule without detailing all of its exceptions and qualifications. As you read more Sanskrit, you will develop an intuition for how this rule acts. (You are welcome to read the full rule, of course, but I do not recommend it.)

Here is the underlying process:

Retroflexed sounds, if they are not stop consonants, cause n to change to a retroflexed if the change "feels" right. Generally, n should be followed by a vowel, and there should not be any intrusive consonants between n and the retroflexed sound.

As always, speaking these changes out loud will help greatly. The intuition here is that some quality of "retroflexion" endures in the word until it finds release or blockage. For illustration, consider the examples below. These examples feature some words that we have not studied, but just focus on the sandhi for now.

Certainly, this "intuitive" approach to the rule carries some uncertainty with it. But noun stems will have the retroflexion already applied, and only two of the endings we've seen so far are affected by it:

For these reasons, it is not worth our time to study the smaller details of this rule.

Other -ḥ Sandhi

The term other -ḥ sandhi refers to the rules that we use whenever the vowel in front of the visarga is neither a nor ā. The rules for other -ḥ sandhi are almost identical to the rules for -āḥ sandhi. First, review the rules of -āḥ sandhi below:

Second Letter
Combination
all vowels
ā —
voiced consonants
ā —
c, ch
āś —
ṭ, ṭh
āṣ —
t, th
ās —
other consonants
āḥ —

Now, study the rules for other -ḥ sandhi. I've used an extra dash () to indicade the original vowel.

Second Letter
Combination
all vowels
—r —
voiced consonants
—r —
c, ch
—ś —
ṭ, ṭh
—ṣ —
t, th
—s —
other consonant
—ḥ —

The rules are exactly alike. Most importantly, note that the visarga becomes r in front of voiced sounds.