Basic nominal endings

In the previous lesson, we learned that we can sort nominal stems into different families based on their last sound. Different stem families might use different endings. For example, compare the endings of the words agni (“fire”) and manas (“mind”) below:

  • अग्नि → अग्निना
    agni → agninā
    with the fire

  • मनस् → मनसा
    manas → manasā
    with the mind

Here, we can see that agni uses the ending -nā, but manas uses the ending . But even though these endings are different, we can still see that they both end with a long sound.

All stem families tend to use a set of basic endings. Different stem families will modify these basic endings in different ways. But if we know these basic endings, we can more easily understand the system as a whole.

In this lesson, we will learn about the basic endings that Sanskrit nominals tend to use.

Basic masculine and feminine endings

Here are the basic nominal endings we use for the masculine and feminine genders. These endings are the same for both genders:

 SingularDualPlural
Case 1

au
अः
aḥ
Case 2अम्
am

au
अः
aḥ
Case 3
ā
भ्याम्
bhyām
भिः
bhiḥ
Case 4
e
भ्याम्
bhyām
भ्यः
bhyaḥ
Case 5अः
aḥ
भ्याम्
bhyām
भ्यः
bhyaḥ
Case 6अः
aḥ
ओः
oḥ
आम्
ām
Case 7
i
ओः
oḥ
सु
su
Case 8

au
अः
aḥ

The table above has eight rows and three columns. Each row corresponds to a different case, and each column corresponds to a different number. For example, we can use this table to learn that the “case 7 singular” ending is i.

Why do we put these endings in a table? Is it so that we can sit down and memorize these endings? No! In our view, that is a waste of time. Mainly, a table helps us see certain patterns clearly.

Specifically, notice that many of these endings are the same. For example, the same ending bhyām has three different meanings:

  • नरो गजाभ्यां नगरं गच्छति
    naro gajābhyāṃ nagaraṃ gacchati
    The man goes to the city by means of the two elephants.

  • नरो गजाभ्यां नगरं गच्छति
    naro gajābhyāṃ nagaraṃ gacchati
    The man goes to the city for the two elephants.

  • नरो गजाभ्यां नगरं गच्छति
    naro gajābhyāṃ nagaraṃ gacchati
    The man goes from the two elephants to the city.

How do we decide what bhyām means here? We can decide what bhyām means only if we know the sentence's context. If we don't have that context, we must guess.

Basic neuter endings

The basic neuter endings follow an interesting pattern. In cases 3 to 7, they are identical to the endings we saw above. But in cases 1, 2, and 8, they are as you see below:

 SingularDualPlural
Case 1
ī

i
Case 2
ī

i
Case 8
ī

i

The “” symbol means that no ending is used. More importantly, notice that all three of these cases use identical endings. This is the usual pattern for neuter endings.

Two examples

Let's study two examples of how to use these endings. We will study the feminine stem nau, which means “boat,” and the neuter stem manas, which means “mind.”

When we add endings to the stem nau, a few small sandhi changes apply if the ending starts with a vowel. Otherwise, nau is normal and predictable:

 SingularDualPlural
Case 1नौः
nauḥ
नावौ
nāvau
नावः
nāvaḥ
Case 2नावम्
nāvam
नावौ
nāvau
नावः
nāvaḥ
Case 3नावा
nāvā
नौभ्याम्
naubhyām
नौभिः
naubhiḥ
Case 4नावे
nāve
नौभ्याम्
naubhyām
नौभ्यः
naubhyaḥ
Case 5नावः
nāvaḥ
नौभ्याम्
naubhyām
नौभ्यः
naubhyaḥ
Case 6नावः
nāvaḥ
नावोः
nāvoḥ
नावाम्
nāvām
Case 7नावि
nāvi
नावोः
nāvoḥ
नौषु
nauṣu
Case 8नौः
nauḥ
नावौ
nāvau
नावः
nāvaḥ

Notice that nausu becomes nauṣu due to sandhi. s usually becomes s when it follows a vowel other than a or ā.

Meanwhile, manas is a neuter stem and uses neuter endings. As before, a few small sandhi changes will apply. But otherwise, manas follows a regular pattern:

 SingularDualPlural
Case 1मनः
manaḥ
मनसी
manasī
मनांसि
manāṃsi
Case 2मनः
manaḥ
मनसी
manasī
मनांसि
manāṃsi
Case 3मनसा
manasā
मनोभ्याम्
manobhyām
मनोभिः
manobhiḥ
Case 4मनसे
manase
मनोभ्याम्
manobhyām
मनोभ्यः
manobhyaḥ
Case 5मनसः
manasaḥ
मनोभ्याम्
manobhyām
मनोभ्यः
manobhyaḥ
Case 6मनसः
manasaḥ
मनसोः
manasoḥ
मनसाम्
manasām
Case 7मनसि
manasi
मनसोः
manasoḥ
मनःसु
manaḥsu
Case 8मनः
manaḥ
मनसी
manasī
मनांसि
manāṃsi

The s in manas becomes the visarga before consonants or at the end of a word. manaḥ (with its visarga) then follows the normal rules of visarga sandhi:

  • मनः + भ्याम् → मनोभ्याम्
    manaḥ + bhyām → manobhyām

Notice that the stem changes slightly in the word manāṃsi. The stem's last vowel becomes longer, and we insert an anusvāra as well:

  • मनः → मनांसि
    manaḥ → manāṃsi
    minds

Neuter stems often change in this way. We will see many examples of this change in the lessons to come.

Review

In this lesson, we learned about the basic nominal endings. We also studied two examples that use these endings: the feminine stem nau and the neuter stem manas. We also learned that different stem families modify these basic endings in different ways.

In the following lessons, we will learn how each stem family modifies these basic endings.

  1. Why is it useful to know the basic nominal endings?

  2. If we see a nominal ending that has multiple possible meanings, how do we decide which meaning is intended?

  3. In the neuter gender, there are three cases that have identical endings. What are these three cases?