The Desiderative

Also known as: sannanta ("suffixed by sa")


Sanskrit gives us two ways to express what we want to do. First, we can use the verb iṣ with an infinitive:

Second, we can use a new verb form:

This verb form has many names. I will use the traditional English name and call this verb the desiderative (pronounced "duh-si-dur-a-tive"). The "desidera" in this term is from a Latin word; this same Latin word is the origin of the English word "desire."

Forming the desiderative root

The desiderative uses a special root. Let's call this root the desiderative root. To form the desiderative root, we perform doubling on the verb root and and add s to the end of the root. Some roots use the connecting i vowel, which combines with the s suffix to form iṣ.

Generally, we need to do three things to create the desiderative root:

Creating the doubled sound

The doubled sound follows the regular rules of reduplication. The vowel in the doubled sound is always either i or u, and it is determined by the vowel in the root:

Root vowel
Doubled vowel
u, ū
ṛ, ṝ
u if after a consonant in pavarga; i otherwise.

If the root starts with a vowel, then it does not use a doubled sound. Instead, the s suffix is used with the connecting vowel i. (But, two similar vowels will not combine; see the example below.) āp irregularly forms a special desiderative root: īps.

Changing the root

and become īr; but if they appear after a sound from pavarga, they become ūr instead.

A final short vowel usually becomes long.

If the root is used with iṣ, then the following root vowels will strengthen:

Using the desiderative root

If we have a desiderative root, we can make three different types of words: verbs, adjectives, and abstract nouns.


We can form four different stems:

Stem Type
ordinary stem
passive stem
causal stem
future stem

All four of these stems are used normally, and they can be mixed and matched as you might expect. The causal stem, however, might be tricky at first. If the original verb means "to X," the causal stem means "cause somebody to want X." Note the order here carefully. The subject causes; he does not want.


The desiderative root is commonly used to create adjectives, especially in later Sanskrit works. To create the adjective, add u to the end of the root.

Abstract Nouns

The desiderative root can also become an abstract noun. To turn the root into a noun, add ā to the end of the root.

Exceptions and other notes

The desiderative with causal stems

We can use the causal stem to create desiderative verbs as well. The last a of the stem is removed, and a connecting i is used. If the original verb means "to X" and the causal verb means "to cause somebody to X," then the desiderative verb means "to want to cause somebody to X." Note the order here carefully. The subject wants; he does not cause.

Odd meanings of the desiderative root

For some verb that means "X," the desiderative does not always mean "want to X." Sometimes, the desiderative may mean something else: