Passive Verbs

Recall that the gerund is a verb form that depends on the roots's spelling instead of the root's verb class. Here, we will study another sort of verb that does the same.


Consider the two sentences below. What is the difference between them?

There's no subject in the second sentence! We do not know who or what the subject is. It could be "I," it could be "Arjuna" — it could even be "the two horses" for all we know! Such a sentence is called a passive sentence because it does not clearly state the subject of the sentence. In fact, the subject is optional; we are not required to supply it, although we can do so anyway.

Passive verbs in Sanskrit

Passive verbs are very common in Sanskrit, and it is nearly impossible to find a text that does not use passive verbs of some kind or another. Since passive verbs are formed straight from a verb's root — with no reference to a verb's class — we can study verbs from unfamiliar verb classes with no problems.

We can translate all three of the example sentences above into Sanskrit:

Here, we can imagine that the first sentence is the original one. Then, the shift from a non-passive verb to a passive verb becomes straightforward:

parasmaipada and ātmanepada

Regardless of whether the original root is a parasmaipada verb or an ātmanepada verb, the passive verb has the same meaning. ātmanepada verbs do not become passive as often as parasmaipada verbs, but they still follow the pattern:

In Proto-Indo-European, passive verbs were a sub-type of the ātmanepada verbs. For that reason, the two are lumped together today as the mediopassive verbs. Here, "medio-" refers to the "middle voice," which is the English term for ātmanepada and its counterpart in other languages.


Passive verbs always use ātmanepada endings. To form the passive stem, we add ya to the end of the root; that is, we treat the root like a ya-class ātmanepada verb. As with the gerund, roots appear in a weakened form. Samprasarana roots will weaken accordingly.

Now, here are some more general changes.

Roots ending in vowels

Final ā becomes ī.

Final i and u become long.

After just one consonant, final becomes ri. Otherwise, final becomes ar.

Final changes according to the rule we discussed in the lesson on gerunds.

As always, try pronouncing these words without the sandhi changes applied. By doing so, you can better understand the reasons for the changes above. The first change (e.g. sthā → sthīyate), however, is irregular.

Roots ending in consonants

Generally, no changes occur.