The potential mood
Also known as: the optative, vidhiḥ (“injunction”), vidhiliṅ
The potential mood is the last of the four special tense-moods.
The potential mood usually describes what might, could, or should happen:
रामः वनम् गच्छेत्।
rāmaḥ vanam gacchet.
Rama might go to the forest.
The potential mood can express many different meanings based on the context. For example, it can show what someone is capable of doing:
अहम् इदं वनं सर्वं दहेयम्।
aham idaṃ vanaṃ sarvaṃ daheyam.
I could burn all of this forest.
It can be a soft command:
त्वम् इदं खादेः।
tvam idaṃ khādeḥ.
You should eat this.
And there are other subtle uses as well.
The endings we use with the potential mood are almost identical to the endings of the ordinary past tense. There are two main differences. The first difference is that we add an extra -ī sound before every ending:
And the second is that the third-person plural ending is -uḥ instead of -an:
They might lead.
Here is how these endings appear when used with a stem like naya:
Note the sandhi between the stem and the ending here:
नय + ईत् → नयेत्
naya + īt → nayet
(someone) might, could, or should lead