Grammatical Numbers Persons and Genders
वचनानि, पुरुषाः लिङ्गानि च (vacanāni, puruṣāḥ liṅgāni ca)

Chapter

1

Skill Level

Intermediate

Language

Sanskrit explained in English

Overview

Welcome! This is the second section called Sanskrit Words.

‘Grammatical Numbers Persons and Genders’ is the first chapter in this series. This chapter explains the different types of Grammatical Numbers, Grammatical Persons and Grammatical Genders that are in the Sanskrit language.

In Sanskrit, words (nouns, pronouns, etc.) and verbs are influenced by three factors: grammatical numbers, grammatical genders and grammatical persons. Words such as nouns and pronouns are influenced by grammatical genders and verbs are influenced by grammatical persons. Both words and verbs are influenced by grammatical numbers.

Learning this chapter will help you:

Who is the chapter for?

Grammatical Numbers Persons and Genders
वचनानि, पुरुषाः लिङ्गानि च (vacanāni, puruṣāḥ liṅgāni ca)

As mentioned in the overview section of this chapter, Words such as nouns and pronouns are influenced by grammatical genders and verbs are influenced by grammatical persons. Both words and verbs are influenced by grammatical numbers.

We will now look at Grammatical Numbers Persons and Genders in detail.

Sanskrit Grammatical Numbers:

Grammatical Numbers are known as वचनानि (vacanāni) in Sanskrit. These basically denote the number of something in a sentence.

Grammatical numbers are of three types. 1. एकवचनम् (ekavacanam) i.e. Singular, 2. द्विवचनम् (dvivacanam) i.e. Dual and 3. बहुवचनम् (bahuvacanam) i.e. Plural.

It is एकवचनम् (ekavacanam) i.e. Singular when there is only one of something in the sentence.

It is द्विवचनम् (dvivacanam) i.e. Dual when there are two of something in a sentence.

It is बहुवचनम् (bahuvacanam) i.e. Plural when there are multiple things of something in a sentence.

To explain the above details a little better, we will look at the following sentence as an example. “The boy is reading”  .

The above sentence in all grammatical numbers will be formed the following way.

In एकवचनम् (ekavacanam) i.e. Singular it will be बालकः पठति। (bālakaḥ paṭhati।), which means, “The boy is reading“.

In द्विवचनम् (dvivacanam) i.e. Dual it will be बालकौ पठतः। (bālakau paṭhataḥ।), which means, “Two boys are reading“.

In बहुवचनम् (bahuvacanam) i.e. Plural it will be बालकाः पठन्ति। (bālakāḥ paṭhanti।), which means, “Many boys are reading“.

Note: In English, there are two types of grammatical numbers i.e. Singular and Plural. However, in Sanskrit, apart from Singular and Plural grammatical numbers there is this additional grammatical person i.e. Dual. In Sanskrit, when two of something needs to be shown, द्विवचनम् (dvivacanam) i.e. Dual is used and not बहुवचनम् (bahuvacanam) i.e. Plural.

Sanskrit Grammatical Genders:

Grammatical genders are known as लिङ्गानि (liṅgāni) in Sanskrit. There are word forms that are dependent on the grammatical number, grammatical gender, case and ending of that particular word. All of these factors come together to create a particular form of the word.

Grammatical genders are of three types: 1. पुल्लिङ्गम् (pulliṅgam) i.e Masculine Gender, 2. स्त्रीलिङ्गम् (strīliṅgam) i.e. Feminine Gender and 3. नपुंसकलिङ्गम् (napuṃsakaliṅgam) i.e. Neuter Gender.

ल्लिङ्गम् (pulliṅgam) i.e Masculine gender: Some commonly used words for masculine gender are –

गजः (gajaḥ)  i.e. Elephant
बालकः (bālakaḥ) i.e. Boy
विद्यालयः (vidyālayaḥ) i.e. School
मुनिः (muniḥ) i.e. Saint
कविः (kavi) i.e. Poet
ऋषिः (ṛṣiḥ) i.e. Sage
तरुः (taruḥ) i.e. Tree
शिशुः (śiśuḥ) i.e. Child
गुरुः (guruḥ) i.e. Teacher
पिता (pitā) i.e. Father

स्त्रीलिङ्गम् (strīliṅgam) i.e. Feminine Gender: Some commonly used words for feminine gender are –

माला (mālā) i.e Garland
बालिका (bālikā) i.e. Girl
पाठशाला (pāṭhaśālā) i.e.  School
मतिः (matiḥ) i.e. Intellect
प्रकृतिः (prakṛtiḥ) i.e. Nature
रात्रिः (rātriḥ) i.e. Night
नदी (nadī) i.e. River
जननी (jananī) i.e. Mother
नगरी (nagarī) i.e. Big City
धेनुः (dhenuḥ) i.e. Cow
चञ्चुः (cañcuḥ) i.e. Beak
रज्जुः (rajjuḥ) i.e. Rope

नपुंसकलिङ्गम् (napuṃsakaliṅgam) i.e. Neuter Gender. Some commonly used words for neutur gender are – 

फलम् (phalam) i.e. Fruit
पुस्तकम् (pustakam) i.e. Book
जलम् (jalam) i.e. Water
मधु (madhu) i.e. Honey
अम्बु (ambu) i.e. Water
वस्तु (vastu) i.e. Object

Sanskrit Grammatical Persons:

Grammatical persons are known as पुरुषाः (puruṣāḥ) in Sanskrit. These influence verbs. There are three grammatical persons: 1. प्रथमपुरुषः (prathamapuruṣaḥ) i.e. Third Person, 2. मध्यमपुरुषः (madhyamapuruṣaḥ) i.e. Second Person and 3. उत्तमपुरुषः (uttamapuruṣaḥ) i.e. First Person.

प्रथमपुरुषः (prathamapuruṣaḥ) i.e. Third Person is used most of the time. Third person refers to anybody else other than the person himself/herself and the person being spoken to.

Following are some sentences using third person in all the three grammatical numbers:

Singular – शिक्षकः पाठयति। (śikṣakaḥ pāṭhayati।). This sentence means, “The teacher is teaching”.

Dual – शिक्षकौ पाठयतः। (śikṣakau pāṭhayataḥ।). This sentence means, “Two teachers are teaching”.

Plural – शिक्षकाः पाठयन्ति। (śikṣakāḥ pāṭhayanti।). This sentence means, “Many teachers are teaching”.

मध्यमपुरुषः (madhyamapuruṣaḥ) i.e. Second Person is used to refer to the person being spoken to. Only three words can be used for second person: 1. त्वम् (tvam) i.e. You which is ‘Singular’, 2. युवाम् (yuvām) i.e. You two which is dual and 3. यूयम् (yūyam) i.e. You all which is Plural.

Following are some sentences using second person in all the three grammatical numbers:

Singular – त्वं कुत्र गच्छसि? (tvaṃ kutra gacchasi?). This sentence means, “Where are you going?”.

Dual – युवां कुत्र गच्छथः? (yuvāṃ kutra gacchathaḥ?). This sentence means, “Where are you two going?”.

Plural – यूयं कुत्र गच्छथ? (yūyaṃ kutra gacchatha?). This sentence means, “Where are all of you going?”.

उत्तमपुरुषः (uttamapuruṣaḥ) i.e. First Person is used by one to refer to himself/herself. Similar to second person, only three words are used for first person: 1. अहम् (aham) i.e. I which is singular, 2. आवाम् (āvām) i.e. We which is Dual and 3. अन्द् वयम् (and vayam) i.e. We all which is Plural.

Following are some sentences using first person in all grammatical numbers:

Singular – अहं वदामि। (ahaṃ vadāmi।). This sentence means, “I am speaking”.

Dual – आवां वदावः। (āvāṃ vadāvaḥ।). This sentence means, “We two are speaking”.

Plural – वयं वदामः। (vayaṃ vadāmaḥ।). This sentence means, “We all are speaking.”

Importance and Relation of Grammatical Numbers, Persons and Genders:

Noun-Pronoun Agreement: This means that whatever pronoun is going to replace a noun, whatever the grammatical number, grammatical gender and case of the noun is, the same things the pronoun should have. If there is a sentence and the noun needs to be replaced with a pronoun, the latter needs to be exactly similar to the former. We can see this explanation from the following example.

अहं मित्रेण सह सम्भाषे। (ahaṃ mitreṇa saha sambhāṣe।) – this means, “I am conversing with my friend”. The word, ‘मित्रेण’ (mitreṇa) is in singular, neuter gender and instrumental case.

If the word, ‘मित्रेण’ (mitreṇa), were to be replaced with a pronoun, the sentence would be as follows:

अहं तेन सह सम्भाषे। (ahaṃ tena saha sambhāṣe।). In this sentence, the word, ‘तेन’, is in singular, neuter gender and instrumental case.

Adjective-Noun Agreement:

In Sanskrit, just like noun-pronoun agreement, whatever adjective is used to describe the noun, whatever grammatical number, grammatical gender and case the noun has, the same things the adjective should have. We can see this explanation from the following example.

अहं सुन्दरं पुष्पं पश्यामि। (ahaṃ sundaraṃ puṣpaṃ paśyāmi।), this means, “I am looking at a beautiful flower.”

Here the adjective is, ‘सुन्दरम्’ and the noun is, ‘पुष्पम्’. The noun is in singular, neuter gender and accusative case. Likewise, the adjective is also singular, neuter gender and accusative case.

Subject-Verb Agreement:

In this agreement. whatever grammatical person and grammatical number the subject has, the same must be true for the verb.

Note: Grammatical person is actually present in words such as nouns and pronouns but it does not influence them. All words are in third person except for the following six words, which are used to denote second person and first person.

त्वम् (tvam) – You (One) (Second Person Singular)
युवाम् (yuvām) – You (Two) (Second Person Dual)
यूयम् (yūyam) – You (Many) (Second Person Plural)
अहम् (aham)  – I (First Person Singular)
आवाम् (āvām) – We (Two) (First Person Dual)
वयम् (vayam) – We (All) (First Person Plural)

बालकः हसति। (bālakaḥ hasati।), this means, “A boy is laughing.” It is in third person and is singular.

युवां हसथः। (yuvāṃ hasathaḥ।), this means, “You two are laughing.” It is in second person and is dual.

वयं हसामः। (vayaṃ hasāmaḥ।), this means, “We all are laughing.” It is in first person and is plural.

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