The recent past tense

Also known as: the aorist, bhūta (“past”), luṅ

Traditionally, the recent past tense refers to any past action regardless of time period:

  • अश्रौषम्
    I heard.

But recall that Sanskrit has three past tenses. Since the ordinary past tense traditionally refers to non-recent (anadyatana, “not of today”) events, and since the distant past tense refers to distant (parokṣa, “unwitnessed”) events, only this tense can refer to very recent past events. That is why we call it the recent past tense.

The recent past tense often has the sense of having just done something:

  • अश्रौषम्
    I have heard.

This tense is rare and complicated. Here, we will focus only on a few of its common patterns.

Making the stem

We make the stem of the recent past tense in many different patterns. Some roots use certain patterns, and other roots use other patterns.

Some roots are completely unchanged:

  • भू → अभूः
    bhū → abhūḥ
    become → you have become

Others use a connecting -a vowel:

  • गम् → अगमः
    gam → agamaḥ
    go → you have gone

A third group doubles in a special way:

  • नश् → अनीनशत्
    naś → anīnaśat
    perish, be destroyed → it has perished

A fourth group strengthens with the suffix -siṣ:

  • नम् → अनंसिषम्
    nam → anaṃsiṣam
    bow → I have bowed

A fifth group uses -sa:

  • श्रु → अश्रौषम्
    śru → aśrauṣam
    hear → I have heard

And there are other minor patterns, too.

Adding endings

Generally, these stems use the endings of the ordinary past tense.

The recent past tense without a-

Here is a common pattern worth knowing. We can use the forms of the recent past tense with a word like (“don't”) to state commands:

  • मा गमः
    Don't go.

  • मा भैषीः
    Don't fear.

This command doesn't have any “past” meaning. It is just an alternate way of giving a command.