parasmaipada and ātmanepada

There are eighteen tiṅ suffixes in total. By choosing a particular person (prathama, madhyama, or uttama), we reduce eighteen to six. And by choosing a particular number (ekavacana, dvivacana, or bahuvacana), we reduce six to two.

To finally choose an ending, there is one last distinction we should make: whether to use a parasmaipada ending or an ātmanepada ending.

There are two important questions we should answer here:

  1. What does it mean for an ending to be parasmaipada or ātmanepada?

  2. How do we decide which of these types to use?

The first question has a complex answer. parasmai-pada literally means “word for another,” and ātmane-pada literally means “word for oneself.” So a naive guess is that parasmaipada endings are used for general actions and ātmanepada endings are used for self-interested actions.

But although this may have been true at one point in time, it is only half-true in the Aṣṭādhyāyī. While some verbs do express the idea of self-interested action, many verbs use ātmanepada endings with no special semantics at all. And in later Sanskrit, the distinction is almost entirely absent.

The second question is a little easier. To decide which ending to use, we can refer to a specific section of the Aṣṭādhyāyī, which starts at rule 1.3.12. Based on those rules and the semantics we want to express, here are the outcomes we might have:

Outcome 1: only ātmanepada

  • अनुदात्तङित आत्मनेपदम्। १.३.१२
    anudāttaṅita ātmanepadam (1.3.12)
    anudātta-ṅitaḥ ātmanepadam
    ātmanepada is used [after a dhātu that is] either anudāttet (i.e. having anudātta on an it vowel) or ṅit.

anudātta is one of the three vowel accents, along with udātta and svarita. Here, it refers to the accent an it vowel has in the upadeśa. ṅit, meanwhile, refers to roots with as an it.

Note that rule 1.3.12 does not imply any special semantics; there is no sense of “for oneself” being implied. But there are other conditions where we might use ātmanepada endings with a clearer semantic difference:

  • भावकर्मणोः। १.३.१३
    bhāvakarmaṇoḥ (1.3.13)
    [ātmanepada is used after a dhātu] in bhāve [prayoga] or karmaṇi [prayoga].

  • कर्तरि कर्मव्यतिहारे। १.३.१४
    kartari karmavyatihāre (1.3.14)
    kartari karma-vyatihāre
    [ātmanepada is used after a dhātu] in kartari [prayoga] in the sense of mutual action,

  • न गतिहिंसार्थेभ्यः। १.३.१५
    na gatihiṃsārthebhyaḥ (1.3.15)
    na gati-hiṃsā-arthebhyaḥ
    but not [in the sense of mutual action] after [dhātus] that denote motion or violence,

  • इतरेतरान्योन्योपपदाच्च। १.३.१६
    itaretarānyonyopapadācca (1.3.16)
    itaretara-anyonya-upapadāt ca
    nor when the words itaretara (each other) or anyonya (each other) are upapadas (i.e. used with the verb).

Here are examples of rules 1.3.13 and 1.3.14:

  • त्वया सुप्यते
    tvayā supyate
    You sleep. (bhāve: “There is sleeping by you.”)

  • कटः क्रियते
    kaṭaḥ kriyate
    The mat is being made.

  • व्यतिलुनते
    They cut each other.

After rule 1.3.16, the Aṣṭādhyāyī continues with a list of small exceptions, usually for specific combinations of verbs and prefixes:

  • नेर्विशः। १.३.१७
    nerviśaḥ (1.3.17)
    neḥ viśaḥ
    [ātmanepada is used after dhātu] viś with the prefix ni [in kartari prayoga].

Since these exceptions are quite minor, let's skip them and consider the second outcome we could have:

Outcome 2: optional ātmanepada

A select number of roots can use ātmanepada optionally. And when they do so, they express extra semantics:

  • स्वरितञितः कर्त्रभिप्राये क्रियाफले। १.३.७२
    svaritañitaḥ kartrabhiprāye kriyāphale (1.3.72)
    svarita-ñitaḥ kartṛ-abhiprāye kriyā-phale
    [ātmanepada is used after a dhātu that is either] svaritet (i.e. having svarita on an it vowel) or ñit when the fruit of the action serves the intention of the kartṛ (agent).

The distinction, in theory, is that if the agent performs the action for their own benefit, we may optionally use ātmanepada for certain roots. Here is the classic example:

  • देवदत्त ओदनं पचति।
    devadatta odanaṃ pacati.
    Devadatta cooks rice (for others).

  • देवदत्त ओदनं पचते।
    devadatta odanaṃ pacate.
    Devadatta cooks rice (for himself).

This is why roots like ṇīñ and ḍukṛñ are marked with ñ as an it. Because they are ñit, they can use ātmanepada endings per rule 1.3.72.

Rule 1.3.72 is again followed by some minor exceptions. So let's skip them and consider the third outcome we could have:

Outcome 3: Only parasmaipada

All other roots use parasmaipada by default:

  • शेषात् कर्तरि परस्मैपदम्। १.३.७८
    śeṣāt kartari parasmaipadam (1.3.78)
    śeṣāt kartari parasmaipadam
    After any other [dhātu] in kartari [prayoga], parasmaipada [is used].

For example, the first root in the Dhātupāṭha is bhū. bhū is neither anudātta nor svarita, and it has no it sounds attached to it. So by rule 1.3.78, it uses parasmaipada endings.


By considering person and number, we narrow eighteen endings down to just two. And by appling the procedure above, we can finally select the right ending.

For our example root ṇīñ, we have two choices. We can either reject rule 1.3.72 and use a parasmaipada ending by rule 1.3.78 (śeṣāt kartari parasmaipadam):

  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
  5. nī tip1.3.78 śeṣāt kartari parasmaipadam
    3.4.78 tiptasjhisipthasthamibvasmastātāṃjhathāsāthāṃdhvamiḍvahimahiṅ
  6. nī ti1.3.3 halantyam
    1.3.9 tasya lopaḥ

Or we can accept rule 1.3.72 and use an ātmanepada ending:

  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
  5. nī ta1.3.72 svaritañitaḥ kartrabhiprāye kriyāphale
    3.4.78 tiptasjhisipthasthamibvasmastātāṃjhathāsāthāṃdhvamiḍvahimahiṅ

But if you know some Sanskrit, perhaps you've noticed a small problem. For the ātmanepada form, we should expect nayate, but the prakriyā above looks like it will give us the incorrect *nayata instead. How do we ensure that our prakriyā give us the correct result? In the next lesson, we will learn about the rules that help us do so.