The Ordinary Future Tense

Also known as: simple future, bhaviṣyat ("about to be"), lṛṭ


So far, we have only learned how to talk about events in the present tense. To talk about other time periods, we use a different verb form. In this lesson, we will learn a verb form that lets us talk about things that have not happened yet. Such verbs are said to be in the future tense.

Sanskrit has two different "future tense" verbs. The one we'll study in this lesson is by far the most common. For that reason, let's call it the ordinary future tense. You can see some examples of the ordinary future tense below.

Forming the ordinary future tense

The ordinary future tense is based on a special future stem. This stem uses the endings that we've studied already: P verbs use P endings, and A verbs use A endings:

Since it's much harder to form the future stem than to attach endings to it, let's spend a little more time on forming the future stem.

Forming the future stem

To produce the future stem, we strengthen the ordinary verb root to the medium level and attach sya to the end of it. For some roots, the vowel i may come between the strengthened root and sya. This i will change sya to ṣya according to the following internal sandhi rule:

s, if it follows a vowel other than a or ā, becomes .

This all seems straightforward enough. However, we should ask: Why does Sanskrit have all of these i vowels in front of its suffixes? That is, Sanskrit has suffixes like tvā and sya, but why does it also have itvā and iṣya? The answer is complex and related to the history of the Sanskrit language; it cannot be answered easily.

But we can still observe some facts about how this i is used. To start, a root that uses i in the gerund will almost always use i in the future stem.

(As an aside, note the change that occurs in man:)

ns is, for some reason, usually written as ṃs.

Now, back to this mysterious i. gam makes an important exception, as it often does:

A root that ends in a vowel, meanwhile, usually uses a connecting i if the strengthened root ends in o or ar.

Keep in mind that we have only described some tendencies of Sanskrit, not hard rules. Do not spend time trying to remember these tendencies. Rather, just observe them; they will come to mind as you see more examples.

iṭ: Panini's description of the behavior

The grammarian Panini did not explain why these i vowels appear, but he did describe their behavior. He did so by creating a technical term for the i vowel when it comes between a root and its suffix: iṭ. Some roots always use this iṭ suffix; so, they are called seṭ, from sa-iṭ. Likewise, the roots that don't use the suffix are called aniṭ, from an-iṭ. And, roots that optionally use the suffix are called veṭ, from vā-iṭ. (This word is formed irregularly.) Panini's description was so thorough that his terms are still used in linguistic circles today, even outside of the realm of Sanskrit.

Exceptions and Sandhi

Roots containing

A few roots that contain will strengthen to contain ra instead of ar. Two of these roots are dṛś and sṛj. dṛś is far more common:

Note that a new sandhi rule has appeared:

In internal sandhi, the combinations śs and ṣs become kṣ.

This is an exception to the general principle we devised in Starting Out: If two tongue consonants with two different points of pronunciation are next to each other, both become retroflexed. But if we change the general principle so that the second tongue consonant has to be a stop consonant (like t), then we have no problem accepting this new rule.

Almost every ś consonant exists as a *k in Proto-Indo-European, where * represents a hypothetical form. A cognate to Sanskrit dṛś is the Greek verb δέρκομαι (with root form δέρκ, or derk if you can't read Greek). This comparison is easier to make if we strengthen the Sanskrit root to darś. Further, compare the noun aśva to Old Latin *equos, stem form *equo (pronounced "ekwo").