In the previous lesson, we learned about the dhātus in the Dhātupāṭha and how to convert their upadeśa forms into something more usable. But to create a verb, a dhātu alone is not enough. We must also add a suffix to express the semantics we have in mind.

The verb suffixes in the Aṣṭādhyāyī have names like laṭ, liṅ, and so on. And because all of these suffixes start with the sound l, they are called the la-kāras (“the letters la”).

The rules below describe some of the basic semantics associated with each lakāra. Most of these lakāras have special uses outside of the basic ones here. But rather than getting lost in details right now, let's focus on the bigger picture.

adhikāra rules

All of the lakāras are defined under the following adhikāra rules:

  • प्रत्ययः। ३.१.१
    pratyayaḥ (3.1.1)
    … is a pratyaya (suffix).

  • परश्च। ३.१.२
    paraśca (3.1.2)
    paraḥ ca
    … and [it is inserted] after [the base].

  • धातोः। ३.१.९१
    dhātoḥ (3.1.91)
    After a dhātu

  • कृदतिङ्। ३.१.९३
    kṛdatiṅ (3.1.93)
    kṛt a-tiṅ
    … is called kṛt (a kind of nominal suffix), excepting the tiṅ suffixes.

In other words, a lakāra is a pratyaya that is inserted after a dhātu. And since a lakāra will later be replaced by a tiṅ suffix, it will not be called kṛt. (kṛt is a suffix that combines with dhātus to make nominal stems.)

Since we have a dhātu, let's select the right lakāra to use. Six of the lakāras refer to specific tenses (kāla), and four refer to specific moods (arthas).

The six kālas

Generally, luṅ, laṅ, and liṭ describe the past tense:

  • भूते। ३.२.८४
    bhūte (3.2.84)
    In bhūta (the past tense), …

  • लुङ्। ३.२.११०
    luṅ (3.2.110)
    [The pratyaya] luṅ [is added after a dhātu in the sense of past action]

  • अनद्यतने लङ्। ३.२.१११
    anadyatane laṅ (3.2.111)
    anadyatane laṅ
    [The pratyaya] laṅ [is added after a dhātu in the sense of past action] that did not occur today.

  • परोक्षे लिट्। ३.२.११५
    parokṣe liṭ (3.2.115)
    parokṣe liṭ
    [The pratyaya] liṭ [is added after a dhātu in the sense of past action] that was unwitnessed.

laṭ describes the present tense:

  • वर्तमाने लट्। ३.२.१२३
    vartamāne laṭ (3.2.123)
    vartamāne laṭ
    [The pratyaya] laṭ [is added after a dhātu] in the sense of present action.

And lṛṭ and luṭ describe the future tense. Rule 3.3.13 here inherits the word bhaviṣyati (“in the future”) from a prior rule:

  • लृट् शेषे च। ३.३.१३
    lṛṭ śeṣe ca (3.3.13)
    lṛṭ śeṣe ca
    [The pratyaya] lṛt [is added after a dhātu in the sense of future action], and in the other [minor senses described in previous rules].

  • अनद्यतने लुट्। ३.३.१५
    anadyatane luṭ (3.3.15)
    anadyatane luṭ
    [The pratyaya] luṭ [is added after a dhātu in the sense of future action] that will not occur today.

Here are examples of all six kālas, as well as their meanings within the Pāṇinian system:

  • अभूत्
    He was. (luṅ)

  • अभवत्
    He (before yesterday) was. (laṅ)

  • बभूव
    He (long ago) was. (liṭ)

  • भवति
    He is or becomes. (laṭ)

  • भविष्यति
    He will be. (lṛṭ)

  • भविता
    He will (eventually) be. (luṭ)

The four arthas

lṛṅ has the sense of “would” or “would have”. Rule 3.3.139 below has the word bhaviṣyati (“in the future”) through anuvṛtti:

  • लिङ्निमित्ते लृङ्क्रियातिपत्तौ। ३.३.१३९
    liṅnimitte lṛṅkriyātipattau (3.3.139)
    liṅ-nimitte lṛṅ kriyā-atipattau
    [The pratyaya] lṛṅ [is added after a dhātu] in a cause-effect relationship [liṅ-nimitta] in the future [bhaviṣyati] when the action is not accomplished.

  • भूते च। ३.३.१४०
    bhūte ca (3.3.140)
    bhūte ca
    and [likewise] in the past.

This complex description is easier to understand with an example:

  • दक्षिणेन चेद् आयास्यन् न शकटं पर्याभविष्यत्
    dakṣiṇena ced āyāsyan na śakaṭaṃ paryābhaviṣyat
    If he would come by the southern road, the cart would not overturn.

liṅ and loṭ have several senses in common:

  • विधिनिमन्त्रणामन्त्रणाधीष्टसंप्रश्नप्रार्थनेषु लिङ्। ३.३.१६१
    vidhinimantraṇāmantraṇādhīṣṭasaṃpraśnaprārthaneṣu liṅ (3.3.161)
    vidhi-nimantraṇa-āmantraṇa-adhīṣṭa-saṃpraśna-prāṛthaneṣu liṅ
    [The pratyaya] liṅ [is added after a dhātu] in the sense of vidhi (injunction), nimantraṇa (pressing invitation), āmantraṇa (permission), adhīṣṭa (respectful or ceremonial request), sampraśna (courteous questioning), and prārthanā (supplication),

  • लोट् च। ३.३.१६२
    loṭ ca (3.3.162)
    loṭ ca
    as is loṭ.

This overlap has a counterpart in English. For example, depending on the context, we might say either “Eat!” or “You should eat.” The second statement is softer than the first one, but it often expresss the same semantics:

  • खाद
    eat! (loṭ)

  • खादेः
    You should (or could, or might) eat. (liṅ)

liṅ has many different senses, but here are two more worth knowing about:

  • शकि लिङ्च। ३.३.१७२
    śaki liṅca (3.3.172)
    śaki liṅ ca
    [The pratyayas] liṅ and [some suffixes from an earlier rule are added after a dhātu] in the sense of śak (be able to).

  • आशिषि लिङ्लोटौ। ३.३.१७३
    āśiṣi liṅloṭau (3.3.173)
    āśiṣi liṅ-loṭau
    [The pratyayas] liṅ and loṭ [are added after a dhātu] in the sense of āśīḥ (blessing or benediction).

In the sense of āśīḥ, liṅ uses special forms. Usually, we say that these forms use āśīr-liṅ (“liṅ in the sense of āśīḥ”) as opposed to the regular vidhi-liṅ (“liṅ in the sense of vidhi”):

  • भवेत्
    He might be. (vidhi-liṅ)

  • भूयात्
    May you be. (āśīr-liṅ)

Finally, we have leṭ, which is used only in Vedic compositions. leṭ has a meaning similar to liṅ:

  • लिङर्थे लेट्। ३.४.७
    liṅarthe leṭ (3.4.7)
    liṅ-arthe leṭ
    [The pratyaya] leṭ [is added after a dhātu] in the sense of liṅ.


By adding a lakāra to the end of our dhātu, we continue the process of deriving our verb:

  1. ṇīñ
  2. ṇī1.3.3 halantyam
    1.3.9 tasya lopaḥ
  3. 6.1.65 ṇo naḥ
  4. nī la̐ṭ3.2.123 vartamāne laṭ

A lakāra is abstract, and we need to convert it into a suffix we can recognize and understand. In the next lesson, we will learn how to do so and get one step closer to completing our prakriyā.