Sentence structure

Sentences are meaningful expressions made from of one or more words. Just as sounds combine to express a meaningful word, words combine to create a meaningful sentence.

The lessons in this topic will focus on how words interact to create meaning.

A basic sentence

The most basic Sanskrit sentence is a single verb:

  • गच्छति।
    (Someone) goes.

We can add other words to this basic sentence to extend or modify its basic meaning. For example, we can express who is performing the act of “going” by adding a nominal word:

  • रामो गच्छति।
    rāmo gacchati.
    Rama goes.

We can also specify the destination of the action:

  • रामो वनं गच्छति।
    rāmo vanaṃ gacchati.
    Rama goes to the forest.

Or various other kinds of information:

  • रामो सीतया सह वनम् अयोध्यायाः पित्रे गच्छति।
    rāmo sītayā saha vanam ayodhyāyāḥ pitre gacchati.
    Rama goes with Sita to the forest from Ayodhya for his father.

As we add more and more nominal words, we add more and more detail to our original action.

Sentence context

In Sanskrit, we often leave words out of the sentence if the context is clear. Here are some simple examples:

  • रामो मातरं गच्छति।
    rāmo mātaraṃ gacchati.
    Rama goes to his mother.

  • रामो हस्तं पश्यति।
    rāmo hastaṃ paśyati.
    Rama looks at his hand.

If it is clear from context that rāma is the subject, we can even say this:

  • मातरं गच्छति।
    mātaraṃ gacchati.
    He goes to his mother.

  • हस्तं पश्यति।
    hastaṃ paśyati.
    He looks at his hand.

Verbless sentences

If we use a verb like asti (“is”), we can express that one thing is another:

  • रामो राजपुत्रो ऽस्ति
    rāmo rājaputro 'sti.
    Rama is a prince.

  • रामो बलवान् अस्ति
    rāmo balavān asti.
    Rama is strong.

If the sentence has no verb, the verb asti is assumed by default. So we can also rephrase the two examples above to remove asti:

  • रामो राजपुत्रः।
    rāmo rājaputraḥ.
    Rama is a prince.

  • रामो बलवान्।
    rāmo balavān.
    Rama is strong.

Sentences without a verb are sometimes called verbless sentences. We will learn more about these in a future lesson.