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Pronouns | Learn Sanskrit Online

Pronouns

Also known as: sarva-nāman ("a name for everything")

Introduction

In the introduction to this chapter, we learned that pronouns are words that stand in for other words, usually to avoid repetition. You can see some common pronouns in the example sentences below. None of these sentences have had sandhi applied.

Sanskrit has many different pronouns, but we will study only three in this lesson. Pronouns in the first ("I") and second ("you") persons do not have gender, but all other pronouns do.

Having no gender is not the same as having the neuter gender.

Inflection

Most pronouns are highly irregular.

The first-person and second-person pronouns

The first-person and second-person pronouns are very similar, so we will learn them together. The stem for the first-person pronoun is said to be mad, and the stem for the second-person pronoun is said to be tvad. But although the pronouns use these stems in theory, their behavior is much different in practice.

mad (no gender)
मद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) अहम्
aham
आवाम्
āvām
वयम्
vayam
tvad (no gender)
त्वद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) त्वम्
tvam
युवाम्
yuvām
यूयम्
yūyam

Notice that these pronouns are related to words in English.

Sanskrit
English
aham
ego, I (distant relation)
vayam
we
tvam
thou
yūyam
you

How do we translate the dual and plural into English? For the first person, we can use "the two of us" and "all of us." For the second person, we can use "the two of you" and "all of you." The singular forms should be straightforward: the first person translates to "I" and the second person translates to "you."

A third-person pronoun

The most common third-person pronoun has tad for its stem, and it usually means "that." Since Sanskrit is so highly inflected, it uses pronouns less often than other languages.

tad (masculine)
तद् Singular Dual Plural
Case 1 (subject) सः
saḥ
तौ
tau
ते
te

Again, notice the relations to English:

Sanskrit
English
tad
the, that
te
they

How do we translate tad? I mentioned above that this pronoun usually means "that." If we're talking about a biologically male thing, though, we should use "he." Depending on the context, "it" is also a good translation.

Sandhi

-m Sandhi

-m sandhi has only one rule, and it's very easy to remember:

When -m is in front of a consonant, it becomes the anusvāra. Otherwise, it stays m.

Recall that the anusvāra is usually produced like the nasal sound from the varga that follows it. When a letter from pavarga follows it, then, the anusvāra is pronounced like m. Does a sandhi change actually occur in this situation?

No, not quite. The sound of the letter remains the same, so no change has occurred. But some written texts will show this change anyway, and others will leave a final -m alone. Most texts, however, will change m to the anusvāra when followed by any consonant. This website follows that convention.

-e Sandhi

We will cover these rules in the next lesson.

saḥ Sandhi

The pronoun form saḥ follows just one extra rule:

The pronoun saḥ becomes sa if it is in front of a consonant. Otherwise, saḥ follows the regular rules of visarga sandhi.