karmaṇi and bhāve prayoga

Also known as: patientive and impersonal usage; the “passive voice”

We have now seen all of the ten classes of the special tense moods. We will end this topic by briefly discussing prayoga.

As a reminder, Sanskrit verbs use one of three prayogas. We have kartari prayoga (“agent usage”):

  • रामो नगरं गच्छति
    rāmo nagaraṃ gacchati.
    Rama goes to the city.

  • कुम्भकर्णः स्वपिति
    kumbhakarṇaḥ svapiti.
    Kumbhakarna sleeps.

karmaṇi prayoga (“object usage”), which can be used if the verb uses an object:

  • रामेण नगरं गम्यते
    rāmeṇa nagaraṃ gamyate.
    The city is gone to by Rama.

And bhāve prayoga (“stative usage”), which can be used if the verb doesn't use an object:

  • कुम्भकर्णेन सुप्यते
    kumbhakarṇena supyate.
    Kumbhakarna sleeps. (“There is sleeping by Kumbhakarna.”)

prayoga does not affect the meaning of the verb or the sentence. Instead, it is a different way of expressing the same information. It is like the difference between “I go to the store” and “The store was gone to by me.” Both express the same information, but their style and emphasis differ.

So far, all of the lessons in this topic have focused on kartari prayoga. In this topic, we will learn how to express the four special tense-moods in karmaṇi prayoga and bhāve prayoga:

  • रावणो हन्यते
    rāvaṇo hanyate
    Ravana is being killed.

  • रावणो हन्यताम्
    rāvaṇo hanyatām
    May Ravana be killed.

  • रावणो ऽहन्यत
    rāvaṇo 'hanyata
    Ravana was killed.

  • रावणो हन्येत
    rāvaṇo hanyeta
    Ravana might be killed.

A new stem

We express karmaṇi prayoga and bhāve prayoga in similar ways. First, we add the suffix ya to the root:

  • नी + य → नीय
    nī + ya → nīya
    lead → be led

Then we use ātmanepada endings. In karmaṇi prayoga, the person and number should agree with the object of the sentence:

  • अहं गजान् नयामि
    ahaṃ gajān nayāmi.
    I lead the elephants.
    (Verb is first-person singular like aham)

  • मया गजा नीयन्ते
    mayā gajā nīyante.
    By me, the elephants are led.
    (Verb is third-person plural like gajāḥ)

And in bhāve prayoga, we use the third person singular:

  • मया सुप्यते।
    mayā supyate.
    I sleep. (“There is sleeping by me”)

  • नरैः सुप्यते।
    naraiḥ supyate.
    The men sleep. (“There is sleeping by the men”)

Adding the -ya suffix

Generally, we can add -ya directly to the root:

  • नी → नीयते
    nī → nīyate
    lead → is led

But roots that end in short vowels use a long vowel:

  • जि → जीयते
    ji → jīyate
    conquer → is conquered

Roots that end in and -ai usually use instead:

  • स्था → स्थीयते
    sthā → sthīyate
    stand → is stood or stationed

  • गै → गीयते
    gai → gīyate
    sing → is sung

  • दा → दीयते
    dā → dīyate
    give → is given

If the root ends in -ṛ, that -ṛ becomes -ri:

  • कृ → क्रियते
    kṛ → kriyate
    do → is done

But it becomes -ar if it follows a consonant cluster:

  • स्मृ → स्मर्यते
    smṛ → smaryate
    remember → is remembered

Roots that end in use -īr, or ūr if the root starts with a “lip” consonant:

  • तॄ → तीर्यते
    tṝ → tīryate
    cross → is crossed

  • पॄ → पूर्यते
    pṝ → pūryate
    fill → is filled

Finally, a few roots undergo an interesting change. Their semivowels become vowels, and any other vowels they have are removed:

  • वच् → उच्यते
    vac → ucyate
    speak → is spoken, is said

  • स्वप् → सुप्यते
    svap → supyate
    sleep → there is sleeping

  • यज् → इज्यते
    yaj → ijyate
    sacrifice → is sacrificed

  • प्रछ् → पृच्छ्यते
    prach → pṛcchyate
    ask → is asked

This change is called samprasāraṇa in traditional grammar.


karmaṇi prayoga is common in Sanskrit, so it is worth knowing well. bhāve prayoga is much less common, but it still appears occasionally.

  1. Do we use parasmaipada endings in karmaṇi and bhāve prayoga?