Sanskrit pronouns and determiners

Sanskrit pronouns are declined for case, number, and gender. The pronominal declension applies to a few adjectives as well.

Many pronouns have alternative enclitic forms.

First- and second-person pronouns[edit]

Sanskrit pronouns in the first and second person (uttamapuruṣa and madhyamapuruṣa, respectively) resemble one another in how they are declined, and similarly do not mark gender. These pronouns have shortened, enclitic forms in the accusative, dative, and genitive cases (in parentheses in the table below).[1]

First Person Second Person
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative aham āvām vayam tvam yuvām yūyam
Accusative mām (mā) āvām (nau) asmān (naḥ) tvām (tvā) yuvām (vām) yuṣmān (vaḥ)
Instrumental mayā āvābhyām asmābhiḥ tvayā yuvābhyām yuṣmābhiḥ
Dative mahyam (me) āvābhyām (nau) asmabhyam (naḥ) tubhyam (te) yuvābhyām (vām) yuṣmabhyam (vaḥ)
Ablative mat āvābhyām asmat tvat yuvābhyām yuṣmat
Genitive mama (me) āvayoḥ (nau) asmākam (naḥ) tava (te) yuvayoḥ (vām) yuṣmākam (vaḥ)
Locative mayi āvayoḥ asmāsu tvayi yuvayoḥ yuṣmāsu


Sanskrit does not have true third person pronouns, but its demonstratives play this role when they stand independently of a substantive. The four different demonstratives in Sanskrit (cited in their neuter nominative/accusative singular form) are: tat, adaḥ, idam, and etat. Both tat and adaḥ are used for objects of reference that are far away, but the latter is more emphatic. Both are translated by the English distal demonstrative that. By contrast, idam and etat are used for nearby objects, and, again, the latter is more emphatic and has a strong deictic meaning. These two pronouns are translated by the English proximal demonstrative this.[2]

The tat paradigm is given below. Note that the masculine singular nominative form saḥ exhibits irregular sandhi behaviour—before consonants it becomes sa, giving, for instance, sa gajaḥ ("that elephant") rather than the expected *so gajaḥ.[3] This phonological irregularity does not carry over to pronouns analogous to tat such as etat, kim, and yat.

Masculine Neuter Feminine
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative saḥ tau te tat te tāni te tāḥ
Accusative tam tau tān tat te tāni tām te tāḥ
Instrumental tena tābhyām taiḥ tena tābhyām taiḥ tayā tābhyām tābhiḥ
Dative tasmai tābhyām tebhyaḥ tasmai tābhyām tebhyaḥ tasyai tābhyām tābhyaḥ
Ablative tasmāt tābhyām tebhyaḥ tasmāt tābhyām tebhyaḥ tasyāḥ tābhyām tābhyaḥ
Genitive tasya tayoḥ teṣām tasya tayoḥ teṣām tasyāḥ tayoḥ tāsām
Locative tasmin tayoḥ teṣu tasmin tayoḥ teṣu tasyām tayoḥ tāsu

etat, is declined almost identically to tat. Its paradigm is obtained by prefixing e- to all the forms of tat. As a result of a general sandhi rule requiring the retroflexion of s in certain environments,[4][5] the masculine and feminine nominative singular forms of this pronoun are eṣaḥ and eṣā.[6]

The idam paradigm is given below. Its declension is somewhat irregular because it is formed from two different stems, i- and a-, both of which also form proximal pro-adverbs (for example, atra and iha both mean "here", and ataḥ and itaḥ both mean "in this way").[7] The nominative and accusative forms, except the three singular nominatives, are regularly formed with the stem im-, and the remaining forms from a-; an extra -n- is infixed should the ending start with a vowel.

Masculine Neuter Feminine
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative ayam imau ime idam ime imāni iyam ime imāḥ
Accusative imam imau imān idam ime imāni imām ime imāḥ
Instrumental anena ābhyām ebhiḥ anena ābhyām ebhiḥ anayā ābhyām ābhiḥ
Dative asmai ābhyām ebhyaḥ asmai ābhyām ebhyaḥ asyai ābhyām ābhyaḥ
Ablative asmāt ābhyām ebhyaḥ asmāt ābhyām ebhyaḥ asyāḥ ābhyām ābhyaḥ
Genitive asya anayoḥ eṣām asya anayoḥ eṣām asyāḥ anayoḥ āsām
Locative asmin anayoḥ eṣu asmin anayoḥ eṣu asyām anayoḥ āsu

The adaḥ paradigm is given below. Most of the forms are regularly formed using the stem u- the same way as if it were a-, with the combination *ui- becoming ī- in the plural. The nominative dual and instrumental singular are formed like u-stem nouns.

Masculine Neuter Feminine
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative asau amū amī adaḥ amū amūni asau amū amūḥ
Accusative amum amū amūn adaḥ amū amūni amūm amū amūḥ
Instrumental amunā amūbhyām amībhiḥ amunā amūbhyām amībhiḥ amuyā amūbhyām amūbhiḥ
Dative amuṣmai amūbhyām amībhyaḥ amuṣmai amūbhyām amībhyaḥ amuṣyai amūbhyām amūbhyaḥ
Ablative amuṣmāt amūbhyām amībhyaḥ amuṣmāt amūbhyām amībhyaḥ amuṣyāḥ amūbhyām amūbhyaḥ
Genitive amuṣya amuyoḥ amīṣām amuṣya amuyoḥ amīṣām amuṣyāḥ amuyoḥ amūṣām
Locative amuṣmin amuyoḥ amīṣu amuṣmin amuyoḥ amīṣu amuṣyām amuyoḥ amūṣu

Polite pronoun[edit]

Technically a noun, bhavant (probably deriving from bhagavant) literally means "Your Honour" and is treated like a third-person subject. It carries, however, a second person meaning and connotes politeness. This use of bhavant is common enough to suggest that the word should be treated as a polite variant of the second person pronoun, rather than as a more elaborate honorific construction. Bhavant declines like all stems ending in -ant.[8]

Masculine Neuter Feminine
Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural
Nominative bhavān bhavantau bhavantaḥ bhavat bhavatī bhavanti bhavatī bhavatyoḥ bhavatyaḥ
Accusative bhavantam bhavantau bhavataḥ bhavat bhavatī bhavanti bhavatīm bhavatyoḥ bhavatīḥ
Instrumental bhavatā bhavadbhyām bhavadbhiḥ bhavatā bhavadbhyām bhavadbhiḥ bhavatyā bhavatībhyām bhavatībhiḥ
Dative bhavate bhavadbhyām bhavadbhyaḥ bhavate bhavadbhyām bhavadbhyaḥ bhavatyai bhavatībhyām bhavatībhyaḥ
Ablative bhavataḥ bhavadbhyām bhavadbhyaḥ bhavataḥ bhavadbhyām bhavadbhyaḥ bhavatyāḥ bhavatībhyām bhavatībhyaḥ
Genitive bhavataḥ bhavatoḥ bhavatām bhavataḥ bhavatoḥ bhavatām bhavatyāḥ bhavadyoḥ bhavatīnām
Locative bhavati bhavatoḥ bhavatsu bhavati bhavatoḥ bhavatsu bhavatyām bhavadyoḥ bhavatīṣu

Enclitic pronouns[edit]

The enclitic pronoun enam is found only in a few oblique cases and numbers. It is unemphatic and mostly refers to persons.[9]

Singular Dual Plural
Masc. Neu. Fem. Masc. Neu. Fem. Masc. Neu. Fem.
Accusative enam enat enām enau ene enān enāni enāḥ
Instrumental enena
Genitive/locative enayoḥ

The k-y-t series of interrogative, relative, and correlative pronouns[edit]

In Sanskrit, interrogative and relative pronouns are formed analogously to tat. The interrogative pronoun kim is declined like tat, replacing the initial t or s with k. The only exception to this rule is the neuter nominative/accusative singular form, which is kim rather than the expected *kat. The relative pronoun yat is declined like tat, without exception replacing the initial t or s with y.[10]

The demonstrative tat functions as a correlative pronoun when used in "independent clauses that 'complete' relative clauses to form complex sentences"—unlike in English (where one can say, for example, "The girl with whom you were speaking is my sister"), relative pronouns must be accompanied by correlative pronouns (which, if applied to the previous example, would be: "The girl with whom you are speaking, she is my sister").[11]

For a Sanskrit example of a complex sentence using corresponding relative and correlative pronouns, consider: yasmin vane vasati rāmas tasmin vane na vidyante rākṣasāḥ ("In the forest where Rāma lives, there are no demons"). In that example, the pronouns are alike in gender, number, and case, but matching relative–correlative pronouns need not be alike in case—for example: yena puruṣeṇa saha bhāṣate nṛpaḥ sa muniḥ ("The man with whom the king is speaking is a sage").[12]

Indefinite and absolute negative phrases[edit]

Aside from their primary uses, the interrogative and relative pronouns are also used to form indefinite phrases. The two ways of forming indefinite phrases are:

  • placing a relative pronoun before its corresponding interrogative pronoun, which in turn is followed by the particle api (for example: yat kim api, which means "something or another"), and
  • placing one of api, cana, or cit after the interrogative pronoun (for example: kiṃcit, which means "something").

As is evident in the examples, the first method of indicating indefiniteness is stronger, while the latter is more subtle and can simply be translated by an indefinite article in English. [13]

The absolute negative, semantically functioning as the negation of existential quantification, is formed by negating an indefinite phrase.[14]

Reflexive pronouns[edit]

There are a number of words in Sanskrit that function as reflexive pronouns. The indeclinable svayam can indicate reflexivity pertaining to subjects of any person or number, and—since subjects in Sanskrit can appear in the nominative, instrumental, or genitive cases—it can have the sense of any of these cases. The noun ātman ("self") and adjective svaḥ ("own"; cf. Latin suus) decline so as to express reflexivity in any case, person, and number. The former is always in the masculine, even when used in relation to a female subject, but the latter declines for gender.[15]

Pronominal adjectives[edit]

Several adjectives in Sanskrit are declined pronominally. That is, their declension differs from ordinary adjectival declension of a-stems and instead follows the declension of tat in certain respects.

  • anya ("other"), anyatara ("either"), itara ("other"), katara ("which of two?"), katama ("which of many?"), and ekatama ("one of many") all follow the tat paradigm exactly.
  • sarva ("every", "all"), ubhaya ("both"), eka ("one"), and ekatara ("either") follow the tat paradigm except in the neuter nominative/accusative singular, ending in -m rather than -t.
  • pūrva ("prior", "east"), avara ("posterior", "west"), adhara ("inferior", "west"), uttara ("subsequent", "north"), dakṣiṇa ("south"), para ("subsequent", "other", "opposite"), apara ("other", "inferior"), antara ("outer"), and sva ("own") follow the tat paradigm except (1) in the neuter nominative/accusative singular, ending in -am rather than -at; (2) in the masculine/neuter ablative and locative singular, sometimes (though not necessarily) ending in -āt and -e rather than -asmāt and -asmin; and (3) in the masculine nominative plural, sometimes (though not necessarily) ending in -āḥ rather than -e.
  • ardha ("half"), alpa ("little"), katipaya ("some"), prathama ("first"), carama ("last"), and dvaya/dvitaya ("twofold") generally follow the regular adjective declension for a-stems but sometimes (though not necessarily) follow tat in the masculine nominative plural, ending in -e rather than -āḥ.
  • dvitīya ("second") and tṛtīya ("third") optionally follow the declension of tat in the forms of the oblique cases in the singular.

Note that when any of these adjectives are at the end of a compound, they decline exactly like ordinary a-stem adjectives.[16]


  1. ^ Goldman & Goldman, §4.46, pp. 71 - 3.
  2. ^ Coulson, pp. 62 - 3, 76 - 7.
  3. ^ Coulson, p. 46
  4. ^ Coulson, pp. 65 - 6.
  5. ^ Goldman & Goldman, §3.58, p. 43.
  6. ^ Coulson, pp. 62 - 3.
  7. ^ Coulson, p. 76.
  8. ^ Coulson, ch. 9, pp. 116 - 7.
  9. ^ Coulson, p. 151.
  10. ^ Goldman & Goldman, §6.14, p. 103.
  11. ^ Goldman & Goldman, §6.3, pp. 97 - 8.
  12. ^ Goldman & Goldman, §6.15, pp. 103 - 4.
  13. ^ Goldman & Goldman, §§6.17 - 6.19, p. 105.
  14. ^ Goldman & Goldman, §6.20, p. 105.
  15. ^ MacDonell, III.115, p. 79
  16. ^ MacDonell, III.120, pp. 81 - 2.


  • Coulson, Michael. Teach Yourself Sanskrit. Oxford: Hodder and Stoughton, 1986. (ISBN 0-340-32389-2)
  • Goldman, Robert P., and Sally J. Sutherland Goldman. Devavāṇīpraveśikā: An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language. Berkeley: Center for South Asian Studies, 2004. (ISBN 0-944613-40-3)
  • Macdonell, A. A. A Sanskrit Grammar for Students. London: Oxford UP, 1927. (ISBN 81-246-0094-5)