The dvandva

Here, we will study the most basic compound of all.


Carefully study the compound analysis below. This analysis has a Sanskrit phrase on the left side and a Sanskrit compound on the right. Both sides have the same meaning.

This type of compound has the same meaning as a series of nouns followed by ca. Such a compound is called a dvandva. Both of the words in the compound are main ideas; although a dharmakṣetra is still a kṣetra and not at all a type of dharma, a phalapattra is partially a pattra and partially a phala.

Note that phalapattra is used here in the dual number. The compound is inflected to show the number of ideas that the compound describes.

Strongly bound items

Also known as: samāhāra-dvandva ("dvandva in aggregate")

If the items in a dvandva compound have an extremely strong relationship to each other — especially if they're opposites — then they may optionally appear in the neuter singular. (The neuter gender is often used to represent abstract ideas.) When used in the neuter singular, the dvandva is slightly more than the sum of its parts:

The gender of a compound

Like the tatpurusha, the dvandva takes the gender of its last noun.


Since only the last noun is inflected, it's possible that we could lose information about the nouns inside of the compound. This fact isn't quite clear when we look at a compound in the dual because we know we have one of each noun: phalapattre, for example, lets us know that there is one phala and one pattra. But, consider the examples below. The same compound is produced by three different phrases.

Note that we have no idea how many lions and elephants the word siṃhagajāḥ describes. In almost every situation, though, we should translate this compound as "lions and elephants."

Also note that siṃhagajāḥ is a plural noun. This indicates that the total number of things that the compound describes is 3 or more. If this compound described just two things, it would be siṃhagajau instead.

Compounds in compounds

A compound is a larger word composed of two smaller words. Since a compound is a word, we can put compounds inside of compounds to produce even longer combinations. An example:

In Vedic Sanskrit, long dvandva compounds sometimes appear. But in later Sanskrit, you're more likely to see a long tatpurusha.

The tatpurusha, part 2

Speaking of the tatpurusha, let's study a few more of its features. Since the tatpurusha is so common, we will revisit it often.

With verb prefixes

Also known as: prādi-samāsa ("A compound with a verb prefix")

Tatpurusha compounds cas be formed with nouns verb prefixes. Such forms are usually adjectives, but some are regular nouns. The examples below use the prefix anu, which means "after" or "along."

Note that the second example does not fit in with the usual example of a tatpurusha. In many ways, the tatpurusha is a "catch-all" term for several sorts of odd compounds.

"Not" and "With"

We have already studied the prefixes a/an and sa, which are traditionally associated with the tatpurusha. These prefixes can be used together. They can even be repeated: