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Pali Glossary of grammatical terms
A glossary of grammatical terms used in the study of Pali language. Click on the term itself for related posts or follow the 'Reference' links for more offsite information.
For a list of traditional Pali & Sanskrit technical grammatical terms see the final section.

Ablative case

An inflectional noun case, which generally indicates separation or origination.
  • From. 
  • In philosophical statements: from which cause? for what reason? why? 
  • Abl of some pronouns why? therefore. 
  • Isolated, separated, secluded from. 
  • Fear, danger from. 
  • Cleansed from. 
  • Freed from. 
  • To hide, conceal from 
  • Direction or Distance from in either space or time. This is always with -to, -ito from here, from now: 
  • Abstinence from, revulsion from. 
  • Recovered from 
  • Limit up to, within which 
  • With reference to 
  • In comparison or distinction, when ‘more’ is meant - whence more? (Idiomatically:how could it be more?), more than this. 
  • Abl is very frequently used instead of InstrumentalAccusativeGenitiveLocative:
For more see Syntax of the Cases, [Reference

Absolutives, gerunds, indeclinable participle

generally indicate an action that takes place before or along side that of the principal verb.
  • 'having done x, he did y'
It is an indeclinable verb form used to indicate a subsidiary action performed by the same subject as that of the principal verb. Thus absolutives are similar in meaning to what have been termed 'perfect participles', converbs, or adverbial participles. The term 'absolutive', I think, relates to the verb's ergative-absolutive nature, literally:
  • by-him hitting I => He hits me
But all these are somewhat misleading terms. Indeed, some European Pali scholars have confusingly called them gerunds. But be warned, traditional English grammars use the term gerund in the sense of action nouns! [Reference]

Accusative case

An inflectional noun case, which generally indicates a grammatical object of a transitive verb or goal of motion.
  • Grammatical objects.(direct & occasionally indirect) 
  • Goal of motion and also change in stance, body position 
  • Attributive of another accusative 
  • Objects of a verb of speech
  • .Space traversed 
  • Accusative of state, usually translated as ‘with reference to’ 
  • Acc Sg neut is often adverbial 
  • Objects of a Causative Verb 
  • Following abverbs indicating proximity, to near, in the presence of 
  • Ordinals in the Acc denote "number of times"
For more see Syntax of the Cases [Reference]

Action nouns

A type of verbal noun (derived from a verbal base) - denoting the idea of an action but without referring to a specific agent. Thus creating an abstract noun. eg:
belief, inspection, reach, arrival 
In Pali, the term refers to a derivation, marked by specific derivational infixes (eg. -ana). [Reference] See Warder pg138.

Active voice, active sentence

A sentence where the grammatical subject of the verb is also the semantic agent of the action.
Ted hit the ball
 Contrasts with passive voice.  [Reference]


is a term usually relating to a single word (ie. an adverb), a phrase or a clause, that qualifies an action - adds more information. Whereas adjectives modify nouns, adverbs and adverbial phrases & clauses modify anything else. They typically express:
  • place (in the garden), 
  • time (in May), 
  • or manner (in a strange way).


include words such as:
 old, wise, red, attractive, friendly. 
They denote qualities and are traditionally defined as words or phrases that modify or describe a substantive noun. They describe, add information or limit the noun.
In Pali, they must agree with the noun qualified - in number, gender and case.
See also comparatives. [Reference]


Literally meaning 'to attach', but used in linguistics to indicate a morpheme added to a base or stem of a word. They maybe:
  • derivational, (creating a new base and changing the word category) or
  • inflectional (modifying the grammatical function).
An affix is basically what your traditional Pali grammars may call an ‘ending’, though the term affix is more general, as it represents three types of insertion:
  • prefix, attaches to the front of the base word
  • infix, comes after the root /base but before further suffixes
  • suffix, attaches to the end of the base word

Agent, logical subject

The entity (person or thing) that carries out the action of the verb. The concept is semantic in nature and different from grammatical terms like subject and object. See also semantic/thematic roles. [Reference]

Agent nouns

are a type of verbal noun (derived from a verbal base)  - denoting the 'a doer of an action'. In English, theses words usually end in -er or -or.
teacher, assessor, leader etc.
They sometimes take an object related to that action ('an asker of questions'). In Pali, they are marked by specific derivational infixes (eg. -ar) and any object is placed either in the Accusative or in the Genitive case. [Reference] See Warder pg209

Agreement, Concord

Agreement or concord happens when a word changes inflection to match the grammatical categories (number, person, gender etc.) of other words to which it relates. This is mostly attributed to Verbs which in Pali must agree in person & number, with their subjects; but also applies to participles, relative pronouns and even adjectives. [Reference]


Literally meaning 'to precede', but in linguistics, indicates a noun phrase associated with a relative term or pronoun. This is the element in the main clause that the relative pronoun in the relative clause stands for - ie. the thing to which the relative term points.
[ Reference]


The Sanskrit name for a diacritic mark indicating a type of nasal sound. See niggahīta. [Reference]


A term borrowed from the grammar of Ancient Greek, which means 'unmarked or undefined'. In Pali, it is the primary past verb tense referring to past events - usually of simple or present-perfect aspect and so sometimes called 'preterite'. Though in Pali, past events are more frequently expressed by past participles.

Appositional attribute

Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element qualifying the other.
John, the butcher... 


'a' & 'the'. Not generally present in Pali See: Parts of speech


See Verbal Aspect. In many PIE languages, aspect has merged with tense and verbal mood


a type of Sandhi. Assimilation is a sound change where adjacent consonants change to be more similar to the neighbor.


A special 'a-' prefix which in Pali is:
  • obligatory for conditional verbs and 
  • variably applied to the past (aorist) tense verbs.

Auxiliary verbs

A class of verbs, sometimes called 'helping' verbs, used in forming tense/aspectmood, and voice with other verbs or participles (in Periphrasis). In English:
  •  the primary auxiliary verbs are: 'to be', 'to do', and 'to have'; 
  •  the modal auxiliaries are: 'can, could, may, might, must, shall, should, will, and would.'
Consider the sentences:
  • I have finished my lunch. (the auxiliary 'have' expresses the perfective aspect.)
  • I will finish my lunch. (the auxiliary 'will' expresses future time.)
  • I may finish my lunch. (the auxiliary 'may' expresses optative mood.)
  • My lunch is finished. (the auxiliary 'is' = 'to be' expresses passive voice.)

Avyayībhāva, adverbial compounds

Avyayībhāva or adverbial compounds can be formed with an indeclinable preposition or a particle as an initial member. eg:
Over-head, under-ground, against the stream, beyond the limit. 
upa+nagaraṃ, = near the town.
They are used adverbially (indicating where or how the action is being done) and are themselves indeclinable, though usually based on the neuter Nominative/Accusative singular endings. See: Compounded words. [Reference]


In morphology, a base is a general term, merely indicating a word segment, to which an affix can be attached.

Bahubbīhi, possessive compounds

Bahubbīhi or possessive compounds, are not technically a separate class of compound but are determined by their usage. They are a determinate compound - either tappurisa & kammadhāraya - that ends in a substantive noun. They are employed and are declined like adjectives. Importantly, they always refer to (qualify) a noun outside of the compound.
  • the red-nosed man
See: Compound words. [Reference]


A type of grammatical category applied to nouns, pronounsadjectives & participles, which reflects the grammatical role (subjectobject etc.) performed by that word in a clause or sentence. Proto-Indo-European languages generally have eight morphological cases.

English grammar equivalent
Pāli case
Generally Used to denotes
Common English prepositional substitute
The subject of a verb and its attributes
Forms of address
Direct object
Destination of action or motion, i.e. The object of a transitive verb
Done to (a place or object)
union, ‘whose?’, owner or possessor of a thing;
x‘s, of/by, to have
Indirect object / Prepositional object
Beneficiary. To whom or for whom an action is done or to whom something is given.
Purpose of action
To, for
In order to
Prepositional object
Separation. cause or direction; from whom, what, where or when an action proceeds
From, out of,
as, after
Prepositional object
The instrument by or through which the action is achieved.
The agent in passive voice
By, with, through, due to, because of
Prepositional object
The place (in time or space) where the action takes place
At, in, on, among, regarding=

For more see Syntax of the Cases [Reference

Causative verb, Causatives

a secondary verb derivation in Pali. Causatives are often employed as instructions or orders. They are generally used when,
  •  'A' makes 'B' do something to 'C'.
In English, such sentence constructions have two verbs, 'make' and 'do...', which each take their own subjects and objects
  •  'A' makes 'B' + 'B' does something to 'C'.
A causative sentence in Pali, similarly has two subjects and two objects, but only a single verb. In essence, the one causative verb plays both roles - the causative infix constitutes the verb 'to make/cause' etc., while the meaning of the verb itself provides the second verb - the action caused.
  • 'A', 'B' something 'C'
Generally, 'A' is in Nominative case, 'B' & 'C' are in Accusative case, though 'B' may also be in Instrumental. [Reference]


A clause is a group of words, similar to a phrase, but includes its own subject and predicate (a verb describing what happens to that subject). Clauses come in four types:
  • main [or independent], which can stand alone,
  • subordinate [or dependent], that need a main clause to make sense,
  • relative [or adjective], a type of subordinate clause that begins with a relative term, &
  • noun, which although a clause, functions as a noun in the larger sentence.
However, they are often classified in other ways, often by construction.

Co-ordinate clauses

Two independent clauses of equal importance, connected together by a coordinating conjunctions such as ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘or’.

Comparative & Superlative adjectives.

Comparative adjectives are used:
  • to compare one noun to another, and express a sense of ‘more than’ or ‘better than’.
Superlative adjectives are used:
  • to compare a noun against several nouns or a group, meaning ‘the best of’ or ‘the most’.
more joyful
most joyful
more joyfully
most joyfully


Literally something that completes. In grammar, a complement is a word, phrase or clause that is necessary to complete the meaning of an expression.
  • You can keep... (the change)
  • transitive verbs requires a direct object:
    • he consumed (the cake)
  • bi-transitive verbs require both a direct object and an indirect object,
    • he gave (the boy) (a cake)
  • linking verbs (copulas) require a subject complement 
    • he seemed (hungry),  the ball is (blue)
  • and some verbs require both a direct object and an object complement, 
    • I think (you) are (hungry)
Subject complements (often called subject predicates) contrast with grammatical objects in that they follow a linking verb (copula) and complement the subject of the sentence by either:
  • renaming it (She is the boss)
  • or describing it (He is upset)
Object complements are linked to the object of the verb in a similar manner.  [Reference] [Reference]

Compounded words, Compounds

Two or more words joined together to form a single composite term. They can function in a sentence in several ways and Pali grammarians have created a classification system - though the English translation of the class names vary:
  • Syntactical (from western scholarship): just a sequence of words which often appear together and over time have become conjoined so have usually retained their inflectional endings,
  • Kammadhāraya: Descriptive Determinate or Adjectival Compounds,
  • Digu: Numerical Determinate Compounds,
  • Dvanda: Copulative, Co-ordinative or Aggregative Compounds,
  • Tappurisa: Dependent Determinate Compounds,
  • Upasagganipātapubbaka: Prepositional Compounds,
  • Bahubbīhi: Possessive, Exocentric, Relative or Attributive Compounds,
  • Avyayībhāva: Adverbial Compounds


See: Agreement.

Conditional Clause

clause construction that implies a condition upon which the main clause is contingent:

  •  if X then Y. 

This should be distinguished from the conditional verbal mood. A conditional mood verb maybe used as the condition but it is not a defining feature.
For instance, if the condition is:
  • hypothetical: both verbs are in Optative: 'if you ask, he may accept' 
  • certain (or a truth): both verbs are in Present indicative: 'if a virtuous man approaches an assembly, he approaches without shame'
The conditional nature of the clause is often marked by adverbs. See Warder pg332

Conditional verb mood/tense

The conditional mood which is often also specified as a subdivision of the future tense, is a verb form used to express a hypothetical proposition or one whose validity is contingent on some condition (eg. would have, might etc). In Pali, it is rare and usually implies something unfeasible or counterfactual. [Reference]


Generally, conjugation refers to the modification of a verb stem ie. by applying inflection, through which the verb is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tensevoiceaspect, person, number, and verbal mood.
However, both Sanskrit and Pali grammarians have used the term to specifically refer to ten different methods by which (regular) verbs adapt their roots to form present stems. These are usually referred to by number ie. first conjugation etc., running either 1 through 10 or 1 through 7 when the 1st classes is subdivided into 4.
Root conjugation
Strengthen root vowel
e→ay, o→av
+ a,
√bhū → bho → bhav+a
Nasal insertion ñ
+ a
√bhuj → bhuñj+a
Addition of -ya*
√man + ya → mañña
Addition of -ṇo
Addition of - ṇā
√ñā + nā → jānā
Addition of -o
√kar + o → karo
Strengthen root vowel
+ e or aya
√kam → kām → kām+e
√dis → des → des+aya
* –ya often assimilates to produce a consonant cluster.

Usually, in order to translate, there is little need to be able to distinguish one class of verb from another. However, if required, it can be determined from the present tense 3rd person singular form of the verb, (the form given in most Pali dictionaries).
For most practical purposes the seven classes can be reduced to five groups:
  • 1st, 2nd and 3rd conjugations: ending -ati. 
  • 4th conjugation: ending -uṇāti or -oti. 
  • 5th conjugation: ending -āti. 
  • 6th conjugation: ending -oti 
  • 7th conjugation: ending -eti or -ayati

Conjunct consonants & Consonant clusters

Conjunct consonants are a type of compound letter used, for instance, in modern Devanagari, to represent certain consonant clusters by a single symbol ( त + व = त्व ie. -tva).
Consonant clusters are simply adjacent consonants with no intervening vowel. When Pali is written in romanised script the consonant clusters are explicit (ie. not formed into conjuncts).

Conjunctive, Conjunction

A conjunction is a part of speech that connects words, phrases, or clauses, such as ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘or’.

Copula, copulative, copular verb [linking verb]

In linguistics, a copula is a verb that links the subject to a subject complement or less frequently an object to and object complement and so is often called a linking verb. They are frequently a form of the verb 'to be' (am, are, is, was, were)
 Roses are red
But, in English, they can also be verbs of perception such as 'look, sound, or taste', that do not describe any direct action taken by the subject
He felt sick.
In Pali, the copular verbs for 'to be' (asti/hoti) are often omitted resulting in a nominal/equational sentence. [Reference]

Co-relative, Correlative

A word that is paired with another word. The term can be used in two ways as in:
  • correlative conjunctions;
    • either...or
    • not only...but (also)
    • both...and
    • whether...or
    • just
    • as
    • no sooner...than
    • rather...than
  •  a relative word that represents or is paired with another relative term.
    • The man, who walked slowly, he was smiling

Dative case

An inflectional noun case, which generally indicates purpose.
  • purpose 'for'; often with Genitive: for one's..
  • dative of advantage: Person, for whom something is done or advantageous
  • With verbs expressing praise or blame, anger, believing, assent, envy, pleasure, injury, benefit, approval, forgiveness, hatred, concealing, or carrying.
  • piya (adj) -dear (to whom Dat)
  • alaṃ vo = enough for you
  • abhabba = unable to do something (Dat).
  • with adv. of time = time for...
  • used with verbs "to be" meaning 'to have,
  • with maññati implying contempt
  • the target of motion is sometimes in Dat
  • often used instead of Accusative and Locative.
For more see Syntax of the Cases [Reference]


The variation in form (usually the ending) of a noun, pronoun, or adjective, by which its grammatical case, number, and gender are marked. The individual declensions are grouped into cases, and together they form a case system. [Reference]

Denominatives, Denominal verbs

Literally meaning “from a noun”, in Pali, a type of secondary derivation where verbs are derived from nouns. (a shelf => to shelve).


A type of secondary verb derivation that indicates a wish or desire; a “wanting to do something”.

Diacritics, Diacritic mark

A glyph or mark appearing above or below a letter often employed to extend the Roman/Latin alphabet to create new, distinct letters that correspond to non-represented sounds values.

Digu: Numerical Determinate Compounds,

Digu compounds start with a number and are followed by a noun. Technically there are two kinds of digu:
  • samāhāra digu: collectives; (in neuter sing ending -ṃ)
    • tilokaṃ, = the three worlds
  • asamāhāra digu: when the compound does not express a collective, but the objects are individual instances, (generally in the plural)
    • tibhavā, = the three states of existence

Direct object

See Objects


To disconnect or separate; in grammar, to set two terms in opposition by use of conjunctions 'or' or 'but'.

The digital pali reader (DPR)

The Digital Pali reader is a browser extension, the basic functions of which include:
  • Displaying Pali Canonical texts - the Vinaya, all five Nikaya's, the Abhidhamma, and more.
  • When reading, click on a word to bring up a n English dictionary definition ( 5 dictionaries).
  • Extensive searching facilities.
  • Plus lots of other features like: bookmarks, history, permalinks, Script Conversion, Conjugation Charts, and Pali Vocab Quiz.
Originally designed by Bhikkhu Yuttadhammo as a firefox extension, but unfortunately Mozilla changed their security policy for self-hosted addons which means the DPR no longer runs on versions later than Firefox 56.0 – Though, other browsers like Palemoon are still compatible. See Pali Learning Resources

Dvanda: Copulative, Co-ordinative or Aggregative Compounds,

Dvanda compounds are two nouns that are joined together with no added meaning due to the compounding, but often with an implied 'and' between the members.
Technically, Dvandas can be divided into two kinds:
  • when in a plural and takes the gender and declension of its last member.
    • samaṇabrāhmanā = samanas and brahmins
    • candimasuriyā, the sun and the moon. (often the member of import is placed last)
  • The compound takes the form of a neuter singular and, whatever the number of its members, becomes a collective.
    • chavimaṃsalohitaṃ = skin, flesh and blood

Enclitic (clitic)

A word that is shortened and then linked to a preceding word, for example 'not' in:
  • can't, wouldn't, isn't
In Pali, "no, vo, hi & 'ti" are all enclitic forms and as such never appear as the first word of a sentence.

Equational, Nominal sentence

A sentence composed of only nouns; where the verb has been omitted because it is implied. In Pali, this only applies to linking verbs (copulas) and results in pairs of nouns that are equated,
  • 'A' (is) 'B'. 
Thus, adjacent nouns appearing Nominative case may imply a linking verb. See: Copulas.


The quality of being pleasing to the ear; but in linguistics, the tendency to make phonetic/sound changes for ease of pronunciation. This is a major constituent of Sandhi. [Reference]

Fifth conjugation

The fifth conjugation class of verbs corresponds to the Sanskrit ninth indicated by the addition of -nā to the Verb root. See conjugation. [Reference]

Finite verb vs Non-finite

A finite verb is a verb that is said to be limited (by inflection) to show agreement with a subject in person & number, and is usually marked for tense. Finite verbs:
  • are usually the main verbs in independent clauses; whereas non-finite verbs occur in subordinate clauses. 
  • require a subject; non-finite verbs frequently have implied (same as main clause) or indefinite subjects.
  • almost always carry tense and voice (though this is not, strictly, part of their definition).
See also non-finite verb

First conjugation

A verb conjugation class characterised by the verb stem taking a final -a. See conjugation. [Reference]

Fourth conjugation

A verb conjugation class characterised by adding -ṇu, or -ṇa if the Verb root ends in a vowel; or -uṇu, or -uṇā, if the root ends in a consonant. As this class is small, it is often merged with that of the fifth. See conjugation. [Reference]

Future passive participle, gerundive

participle form with many names:
  • participle of necessity, 
  • the potential participle &
  • the gerundive due to its similarity with Latin (not to be confused with the gerund) 
In principle, the future passive participle/gerundive can express a wide range of meanings: 'capable of', 'prone to', 'ripe for'. But the sense of the future passive participle is generally one of obligation:
  • ‘this must be done,’ ‘this should be done,’ ‘this ought to be done,’ also ‘this can/could be done ‘. 
As well as the simple future 'to be done'. As its name suggests this participle forms passive voice constructions and, according to Warder, it is used in any construction requiring a future participle. However it is not formed on the future verb stem but by adding various suffixes directly to the Verb root. [Reference] [Reference]

Genitive absolute

A rare grammatical construction in Pali, consisting of a participle and usually a noun or pronoun, both in the Genitive case, acting as a dependent clause, but where the subject is different from that of the main clause or merely impersonal.
While the men are waging war, the women are at home by themselves.
In Pali, the absolute clause looses its normal genitive case meaning and often takes on the sense of:
  • ‘when’, ‘while’, ‘after’, ‘because’ 
  • or ‘although…’, ‘despite…’, ‘even though…’, or to ‘disregard’ another’s wishes.

Genitive case

An inflectional noun case, which generally indicates possession or ownership.
For more see Syntax of the Cases [Reference]


See: Absolutive.


See: Future passive participle.


The study of language, specifically the set of structural rules governing the composition of clauses, phrases and words and usually taken to consisting of:
and sometimes:

Grammatical category

A general term for any class within the grammar of a language. Frequently encountered grammatical categories include:

Imperative mood

Used in a number of ways but as a verbal mood it implies the force of command, prohibition, suggestion, permission, or request by the speaker. In the 2nd person the sense is usually that of a command, whereas the 3rd person imperative used in a similar situation with the title or name of the person addressed, or the polite pronoun, expresses a polite invitation. The imperative verb often stands at the beginning of a sentence and the subject is often an implied (you!).[Reference]

Imperfective aspect vs the Imperfect tense

Imperfective is a verb aspect to describe ongoing, habitual, or repeated action whether in the past, present, or future times. (This can be contrasted to the perfective aspect which is used to describe actions viewed as a complete whole.)
An imperfect verb is a specific verb form which combines past tense and imperfective aspect. See Aspect and Tense.


A word class unable to take, and therefore, having no inflection.

Indeclinable participle, indeclinable past participles

See Absolutive.

Indicative mood

Expresses confidence that something is the case, used to make factual statements, or express opinions as if they were facts. See verbal mood

Indirect object

In traditional grammar, the entity indirectly affected by an action, usually and person or animal who receives a direct object. See Objects.

Infinite verb/clause

A verb form that is not finite. See non-finite verb.

Infinitive verb

derived from the Latin 'infinitus' meaning "unlimited", the infinitive, in English, is usually made up from 'to' + simple verb:
to go, to leave
They are a non-finite verb form (act like Verbal Adjectives) and thus, may take objects and other complements and modifiers to form a verb phrase, before being used as a noun, adjective or adverbial in the larger sentence.
In Pali, they are indeclinable and marked by specific derivational suffixes (eg. -tuṃ)  [Reference] [Reference]


A type of affix inserted inside a word base - between stem and suffix. 


To change the form of a word (usually by addition of affixes) to mark such grammatical categories such as tense, person, number, gender, verbal moodvoice, and case. Inflection differs from derivation in that it does not change the word class [part of speech]. Generally, the inflection of verbs is termed conjugation, and the inflection of nouns, adjectivespronouns, and participles, is declension.

Instrumental case

An inflectional noun case, which generally indicates the means or instrument by which.
  • Means by, or with which something is achieved
  • Accompanied by
  • Endowed with
  • Filled:with
  • Cause in non-philosophical sense:
  • Equality: equal in
  • Price:
  • Way: by this
  • Direction,orientation:from
  • Manner: in this way
  • Motive: through
  • Time: at the end of which
  • Age at which.
  • Measure
  • Classification: of birth, clan, family, kind
  • attho (desire) takes an Instrumental object (that desired) and a Dative for person desiring,
  • often used adverbially.
For more see Syntax of the Cases [Reference]


secondary verb derivation denoting stronger, severe, or frequentative action.

Interrogative mood

verbal mood used for asking questions. 

Kammadhāraya: Descriptive Determinate or Adjectival Compounds,

Often hard to distinguish from tappurisas, in their uncompounded state the two members of a kammadhāraya would be in the same case. There are four general types of Kammadhāraya constructions:
  • adjective +substantive (noun)
    • mahāpuriso = a great man.
  • adjective (or adverb) + adjective (or participle) - often the subject is implied
    • andhabadhiro = (he is) blind and deaf.
  • substantive + adjective
    • naraseṭṭho = the oldest man.
  • substantive + substantive (with an implied relationship but not of an oblique case)
    • aniccasaññā = anicca iti saññā, the idea, (which is) Impermanence.
    • buddhādicco = ādicco viya buddho, the sun-like-Buddha.
    • guṇadhanaṃ = guno eva dhanaṃ, wealth of virtues.

Linking verbs

See copula.

Locative case

An inflectional noun case, which generally indicates located in, on.
  • The place where.
  • The time when.
  • Situation in which.
  • In plural, amongst
  • with adv. Proximity 
  • cause, reason, or motive
  • Locative Absolutes. noun or pronoun (Loc) + participle (Loc)
  • used with words indicating happy, contented, eager,
  • used with words signifying respect, love, delight, taking, seizing, striking, kissing,
  • Frequently used instead of Genitive, and Adverbially too.
For more see Syntax of the Cases [Reference]

Locative absolute

A grammatical construction consisting in a participle and usually a noun or pronoun both in the locative case, acting as a dependent clause, but where the subject is different from that of the main clause or merely impersonal.
After Sariputta departed, the Brahman died
In Pali, the absolute clause looses its normal locative case meaning and often takes on the sense of:
  • ‘when’, ‘while’, ‘after’, ‘because’ and ‘although’...
  • or ‘although…’, ‘despite…’, ‘even though…’, or to ‘disregard’ another’s wishes.

Logical Subject

Another name for the semantic agent of an action. See Agent

Main clause

clause (a subject and a predicate) that can standing alone, does not require anything else to make sense, and contains the main statement of the overall sentence. See clauses.


From Greek meaning 'I put in a different order' this is a form of Sandhi. Most commonly, it refers to the interchange of two or more adjacent sounds.
  • √sah + ya = sahya

Middle conjugation, Middle voice

A term borrowed from the grammar of Ancient Greek which is occasionally employed by some guides in place of Reflexive voice.
Sometimes Middle conjugation is conflated with Passive conjugation

Modal verbs

An auxiliary verb that expresses necessity or possibility. English modal verbs include:
must, shall, will, should, would, can, could, may, and might.
 Often used in the creation of verbal mood.

Morphology & morphemes

In linguistics, morphology is the study of words and how they are formed - their structure. Words may be constructed from one or more morphemes. Morphemes are the smallest forms (i.e., spoken and/or written units) in a language that have meaning or grammatical function. Thus morphemes are the building blocks from which words are made.
From the point of view of their function, morphemes may be divided into three classes:
  • derivational, changes the word class and creates a separate word (teach+er, teacher)
  • inflectional, - alters the grammatical function, to indicate properties such as plurality (-s, -ed etc)
  • and roots - the basic meaning of the word.
Generally, A morpheme attached before the root of a word is said to be prefixed; a morpheme attached after the root of a word is said to be suffixed. See affix.
A Root with deprivational morphemes only is sometimes referred to as a 'stem'. See also bases & verb stems.
In the study of Pali, morphology can generally be divide into:

Moods, grammatical mood/mode

See verbal mood


Literally meaning 'restrained', the Pali name of a diacritic character (ṃ) indicating a type of nasal sound - an m ('ng') without release. Anusvāra is the Sanskrit name. It can only occur after a short vowel. It has been transliterated as η, ṁ or ṃ. Nowadays only the ṃ is used. Bhikkhu  Ariyajoti coined the terms 'true' & 'false' anusvāra; where a 'true' anusvāra can only come at the end of a word or immediately before 'y, r, v, s or h'.
For more see: Ariyajoti's guide to Anusvāra

Nominal (equational) sentences/clauses

A sentence composed entirely of nouns – where the verb (to be / is) has been omitted. See copula.

Nominative case

An inflectional noun case, which generally marks the grammatical subject of a verb.
  • Grammatical Subject.
  • Attribute of Subject
  • Quotation: ’ti phrases'. 
For more see Syntax of the Cases [Reference]

Non-finite verbs,

are a verb form that is not finite ie. not limited:
In Pali, non-finite verbs are:
While the first two are indeclinable, participles decline like adjectives. Although participles are often called past & present, this is with respect to the main verb of the clause and strictly, isn't tense.
The term non-finite verb is often conflated with Verbal Adjective, in that they often act adjectivally. However, the term verbal adjective and verbal noun merely indicate words that are based on a verb stem but functions as a nouns/adjectives.
As verbal adjectives they may take objects and other complements and modifiers to form a verb phrase, before being used as a noun, adjective or adverbial in the larger sentence. 


Literally meaning "name"; it is a class of words (part of speech) that name specific things or set of things, such as creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.

Noun case

See case.

Noun phrase

A type of phrase that contains a noun and maybe other modifiers, which functions as a unit like a noun would grammatically, ie as subjects or objects of a verb, or as a complement to a copula.

Noun stem

 is the core part of a noun that carries the basic meaning of the word. This is the form of a noun listed in the PED. A stem is the part of a word before inflectional affixes, indicating case, gender & number are attached.

Object, grammatical object

In traditional grammar there can be three types of object identified. The verb in a clause determines which objects are present.
  • Direct object. the entity that is acted upon by the verb. Transitive verbs require a direct object, intransitive verbs do not.
  • Indirect object, the entity indirectly affected by the verb, usually a person or animal who receives a direct object.
  • Prepositional object, though not strictly an object of a verb, refers to the noun or phrase following a preposition.

Objective genitive

See Subjective vs objective genitive

Oblique Cases

Any declension case except the Nominative and the Vocative case. An oblique case is a noun case that is used when the noun (or pronoun) is the grammatical object (ie. not the subject). This includes both objects of verbs and those of Prepositions. So in Pali, these are the  AccusativeInstrumentalDativeGenitiveAblative, or Locative cases. 

Optative mood

A form of verbal mood indicating mild command, strong injunction, request, invitation, wish, but more commonly, possibility, supposition, or hypotheses (may, might, woulds, should). May also be used in subordinate clauses expressing a condition on which the main clause depends. Opt can be formed also for passive indicatives and Causatives.

Pali primer

In a general sense, a 'primer' is an intro level textbook for the teaching of a language, presenting the most basic elements of the subject. However, the term is also often shorthand for Dr. Lily De Silva's book: A Pali Primer.

Paradigm tables, linguistic paradigms

A tabulation of word forms which contain a common element, usually used to present a set of inflectional endings for a word of a particular noun or verb class.

Parts of speech (word class)

Types or category into which words can be placed due to similar grammatical properties. Traditionally there are eight Parts of speech listed as:
  • Noun: generally, the name of a person, place thing, or idea.
  • Verb: a word describing an action or state of being.
  • Adjective: a word which describes, qualifies or modifies a noun or pronoun.
  • Adverb: a word which gives adds substance to a verb, adjective, clause or other adverb, often by expressing the time, place, intensity or manner of doing something.
  • Pronoun: a word that substitutes for a noun or noun phrase, eg. he, she, it.
  • Preposition: placed before other words in composition, used to express spatial or temporal relations eg. in, on, under, towards, before etc.
  • Conjunctions: used to connect words, phrases, or clauses , such as ‘and’, ‘but’, or ‘or’.
  • Interjection: a small but diverse category collecting lone utterances such as: 'damn!, hey, bye, okay' etc.
Occasionally, others are identified:
  • Articles: used with a noun to signal either definite (the) or indefinite (a,an). This category has no equivalent in Pali.
  • Determiners: expresses a reference to a noun or noun phrase. (it, this).
  • Participles: sharing features of both verbs and adjectives.
However, traditional Pali grammarians identify four categories:
  • नाम  nāma – noun (including adjectives); inflected for case,
  • आख्यात  ākhyāta – verb; inflected for tense, person and number,
  • उपसर्ग  upasarga – pre-verb or prefix,
  • निपात  nipāta - invariant (indeclinable) words.


A type of Verbal Adjective (a verbal) that is based on a verb but can function as an adjective or as part of a verb phrase to create verb aspect. Being verb-like they can be marked for time period:
The terms present and past being with respect to the action of the main verb ie. running alongside or happening before that of the main verb. And they can also convey voice:
Unlike English, Pali has separate inflections to create:
  • present (active) participles
  • present (passive) participles
  • past (active) participles
  • past (passive) participles

But similar to English they often function in either passive or active sentences. And, being noun-like, they are declined like adjectives to agree with their subject in gender, case, and number.

Participial phrases

These are participles combined with other words that act as adjectival phrases within sentences. Usually, participial phrases modify the subjects of sentences, but sometimes they modify other nouns. For instance:
  • removing his robe, the monk washed; 
  • I saw the monk begging for alms

Partitive genitive

Shows the relationship of a part to the whole; usually consisting in a quantity, such as a number or fraction, followed by a whole, which is expressed by a noun in the Genitive case.
  • half of the pie

Passive conjugation, Passive Indicative [Middle conjugation]

is a type of a secondary verb derivation used to express the passive voice. Note, in Pali, the passive voice can be achieved by use of either:
  • passive particles,
  • or more rarely, a secondary verb derivation termed passive indicative.
See also passive voice. Some guide use the term middle conjugation but this can be confused with middle/reflexive endings.

Passive sentences, Passive voice 

When the entity acted upon becomes the subject of the main verb. terminology is often loose but on the level of traditional grammar we can define:
  • subject, who or what the sentence is about, - technically, the noun which is in agreement with the verb in number and person,
  • predicate, what happens to the subject, expressed by a verb which might require a direct object, the entity acted upon.
Grammatically speaking the subject of the verb is the noun which is in agreement with the verb and the object is an argument which is required to complete a transitive verb - but not an intransitive verb. The terms subject and object are often conflated with the semantic roles of agent and target.
  • Agent – The entity (noun) that carries out the action of the verb,
  • Patient/Target/Theme – The entity that directly undergoes the action of the verb - What is acted upon.
In the Active voice (active sentence) these grammatical Subject and semantic Agent overlap, whilst in the passive voice the Subject and Target overlap.
The vet
the horse
The horse
was shot
by the vet

In Pali, the passive voice can be achieved by use of:
  • passive particles (past and sometimes also present),
  • or more rarely, a secondary verb derivation termed passive indicative.

Past participles

are a type of participle (a verb form acting as an adjective). For regular verbs in English, adding -ed to the simple verb creates the past participle.
try + ed => tried
Past participles formed from irregular verbs may have endings like -en, -t, -ed, and -n.
ride + en => ridden
Past participle is often associated with the perfective verb aspect, which can apply to any time period. So the label 'past' rather than referring to tense/time period, implies an event that occurred before the action of the main verb of the sentence.
They are also used in passive voice constructions.

Patient [Target]

semantic term indicating the thing which suffers, or undergoes the action of the verb. This is the subject of a passive verb.

Perfect tense

A Latin & ancient Greek tense which indicates that an action or circumstance occurred earlier than the time under consideration, often focusing attention on the resulting state rather than on the occurrence itself. (I have made dinner). See present-perfect.

Plu-Perfect, Past-perfect

The past perfect tense is for talking about something that completed before something else. Thus it is a verb form that indicates that an action occurred earlier than the time under consideration, and the perfective aspect (I had eaten) = had + past participle.
It is in fact a combination of past tense (time period) with the the perfective aspect.

The Perfective aspect

Sometimes called the Aorist aspect, is a verb aspect that describes an action viewed as a complete whole, a unit, but is also sometimes less accurately described as a "completed" action. See aspect.


a construction in which two verb forms (often auxiliary + participle) are used as equivalent to a single verb - expressing a single grammatical idea.
He did go
He will go
Rather than creating an independent inflection to convey the grammatical meaning, a combination of verbs are used instead. In Pali it is generally used to create verb aspect. See also Auxiliary verbs.

Personal endings

A set of inflectional endings conveying grammatical number and person. In Pali, the final step in verb inflection where a specific suffix is attached to a base by which it comes to agree with its subject in number and person.
Following Sanskrit grammar these can be of two types:
Though, the secondary endings assimilate and are often hard to distinguish. [Reference]


A group of words, acting as a grammatical unit, but lacking a subject/predicate (cf. clause). They generally function as a single noun, verb, adverb, preposition or adjective.

Phonetics & Phonemes

a branch of linguistics concerned with the physical properties of speech sounds (phonemes), and the processes of their physiological production.
A phoneme is a distinct unit of sound within a word. In a phonetic language such as Pali, the pronunciation of each sound (phonemes) is highly correlated to the written letters (graphemes). And Sandhi is the study of phonetic changes.


A class of words used to express many semantic relationships such as direction, instrumentality, and a number of other such notions. eg.
in, on, to, toward, along, by, with
In English, they take a noun phrase as object to form a prepositional phrase. In Pali, explicit prepositions play a less significant role because their functions are mainly expressed by noun case declensions. 

Present participles

are a type of participle (a verb form acting as an adjective). All English present participles end in -ing. A present participle is often associated with the progressive/continuous verb aspect, which can apply to any time period. So the label 'present' rather than referring to a tense/time period, implies an ongoing event running alongside the action of the main verb of the sentence. In Pali, there are distinct participle forms for Active voice and passive voice.


a verb tense that is a combination of present time and perfective aspect - referring to an action or state that either occurred at an indefinite time in the past
we have talked before
or one begun in the past and continued to the present time
he has grown impatient
In English, this tense is formed by an auxiliary,  'have/has' (present) + the past participle (perfect). See tense.


Denotes an event that took place or was completed in the past; combining the perfective aspect (event viewed as a single whole) with the past tense/time period, and so is equivalent to the past-perfect.

Principle parts of verbs

A carry-over from Latin education where most verbs can be said to have four principal parts. English verbs are also said to have 4 principle parts which correspond to the Infinitive, simple past and the past & present participles. These verb forms are then inflected for tense, person, number etc. to perform the required role in the sentence.
     Principle Part
infinitive to sing
simple past sang
past participle sung
present participle singing

Thus they can be seen as the result of addition of derivational affixes to a Verb root / stem.

Pronominal adjective

pronoun based word used as an adjective - to qualify another noun.
  • Their coat, his trousers, that hat, this desk

Pronouns, types of

A pronoun is a short word used as a substitute for a noun or noun phrase - which is known as the pronoun's antecedent. Common pronouns in English are:
  • he, she, you, me, I, we, us, this, them, that.
They can be classified by use:
  • Personal pronouns (e.g., he, she, you, me, they)
  • Demonstrative pronouns (e.g., this, these)
  • Interrogative pronouns (e.g., which, who ?)
  • Indefinite pronouns (e.g., none, several, anyone)
  • Possessive pronouns (e.g., his, your)
  • Relative pronouns (e.g., who, which, where  is)
  • Reflexive pronouns (e.g., itself, himself)

Pali text society, (PTS) -number scheme

A publication society founded in 1881 by T.W. Rhys Davids "to foster and promote the study of Pāli texts". It publishes Pāli texts in romanised script, translations in English and other works including dictionaries, books for students and a journal. The texts are often the primary source material for western scholars and passages are often referenced by PTS volume and page number.


relating to a root. Radical vowel = the first vowel of the root.


A morphological process in which the root or part of a word is repeated. Reduplication is used in the 1st verb conjugation class and with intensives.

Reflexive voice (middle voice)

Often referred to as the 3rd voice in Pali:

Relative clauses

is a type of subordinate clause that adapts, describes or modifies a noun in the main clause. Relative clauses start with the relative pronouns, such as: 'who/whom, that, which, whose, where, when'.
  • This is the house which Jack built.

Repetition of words

In Pali, words are sometimes repeated to express "plurality, totality, distribution, variety, multiplicity," etc.:
  • tesu tesu  ~ various 
  • taṃ taṃ ~ this and this.
  • yaṃ yaṃ ~ whatever
  • so so, ~ every one.
  • so diṭṭhadiṭṭhamanusse jīvitakkhayaṃ pāpeti, he kills all whom he sees;
  • gatagataṭṭhāne, in every place,
  • yena kena, by whatever...;


A root is a type of morpheme, which carries the basic meaning of a word but may be very vague and general. In Pali grammar the term tends to apply to Verb morphology. See Verb root.
They are marked by the √ symbol as in the Pāli verb root √gam = 'to go'. Each word has a single root morpheme.


The sound/spelling changes that take place when one word or one morpheme is joined with another. From Sanskrit 'saṃdhī': meaning 'to place together, join'. Covers a wide variety of phonetic processes such as:
All of which result in sound changes, most due to the fusion of sounds across morpheme or word boundaries. Thus Sandhi (generally euphony & assimilation) can occur in two areas:
  • within a word (internal), as with the addition of affixes, (stem+suffix)
  • or between words (external) when words are compounded (word+word)
[Reference] [Reference] [Reference]

Second conjugation

the Second conjugation class of verbs is characterized by a niggahīta inserted before the final consonant of the Verb root, which then changes to the nasal of that group. An 'a' then is appended, as in the 1st conjugation.

Secondary Derivation/Conjugation [derivative verbs]

a type of derivational morphology. Secondary or Derivative verbs, are built on a secondary base rather than the primary verb stem. This secondary base is mainly achieved by the insertion of derivational infixes between the Verb root and the primary systems of personal verb endings.
Secondary verb derivation
Thus, counter-intuitively, a secondary inflection usually precedes the primary inflection!
Secondary verbs can be formed either from verb stems/roots (so-called deverbals) or from nouns (denominal verbs or denominatives) thus changing a noun into a verb.
Deverbal formations include:
  • Passives  -  "something was done - by me",
  • Causative   - "I had someone do something",
  • Iterative/inceptive  - "I did something repeatedly" / "I began to do something" ,
  • Desideratives  - "I want to do something".
denominate verbs:
Sometimes the conditional inflection is counted as a secondary derivation of the future tense.


a branch of linguistics concerned with the way in which words are put together to create meaning. Note, the rules governing syntax are distinct from meaning. To illustrate, sentences such as:
The missionary is ready for eating",
"Visiting relatives can be tiresome.
are ambiguous in meaning because the same sequence of words (syntax) can take one of two deeper semantic meanings. See also Semantic/thematic roles.

Seventh conjugation

Verbs of the Seventh Conjugation group form their present stems by appending to the Verb root -aya, which may be contracted to just 'e'.

Sixth conjugation

the Sixth conjugation class of verbs form their stems by adding -u to the Verb root; this -u generally strengthens to -o, and, if before a vowel, it is then changed to -va.

Special base / tense

Another name for the present stem of verbs. The term comes from the idea that the present system of verb derivation can be classified into eight groups, where as the other tenses systems theoretically are formed directly on the Verb root. And so a single verb root can form many differing present stems thus the term 'special' relates to bases derived from the seven conjugation classes of the present stem, while the term 'general' relates to the other tense systems. However, in reality all tenses can be formed on the present stem, so the distinction is now somewhat diminished.


Generally, a stem is the part of a word to which 'affixes' can be attached. More specifically, a stem may include derivational affixes (prefixes or suffixes), but is before inflectional suffixes (personal verb endings) have been added. Thus a stem is the part of the word that is common to all its inflected variants.
Where as a 'root' is a form which can not be further broken down into smaller meaningful parts- either in terms of derivational or inflectional morphology. See Verb stem .

Strengthening (of verb roots), guṇation 

Strengthening is a Sandhi process of changing a vowel sound into another vowel sound during conjugation. The process is similar to the English conjugation: sing, sung, sang. In Pali, a Verb root may undergo modification before inflectional affixes are applied. The root vowels (also called radical vowels) which undergo strengthening are: a, i, ī, u and ū. And a final e or o when followed by a vowel may be changed into their semi-vowel + that vowel. This process of strengthening a vowel is also called guṇation and the result is the guṇa/vṛddhi grade. Thus:
Verb gunation

[Reference] [Reference] [Reference]

Subject and objects (grammatical)

are grammatical relations and arguments to verbs. Grammatically, the subject is the noun (or noun phrase) that is in 'agreement' with the verb. That is, the verb has been inflected to match its subject in person and number. Subject-verb-object is the general pattern of a sentence in English whereas in Pali it tends to be Subject-object-verb.
Objects are nouns (or noun phrases) representing the thing(s) affected by a verb, either directly or indirectly as in one who receive something or benefit in some way. Objects are verb complements, in that they complete the verb to form the predicate of a simple sentence. Some verbs don't require an object to complete their meaning and these verbs are termed intransitive .
[Reference] [Reference]

Subject and predicate

A tenet of traditional grammar is that a sentence (clause) consists of two parts: the subject and the predicate. In this terminology, the subject is what the sentence is about, while the predicate is what happens to that subject. Generally the subject is a noun phrase (a noun with modifiers), while the predicate is a verb phrase (generally what remains of a simple sentence after the subject).

Subject, subject of the verb, grammatical subject

Grammatically, the subject is the noun (or noun phrase) that is in 'agreement' with the verb. That is, the verb has been inflected to match its subject in person and number. In Pali, the grammatical subject is indicated by the Nominative case too. This definition includes passive voice  constructions when the 'patient/target' of the verbs action becomes the grammatical subject.

Subjective genitive vs objective genitive

Usually a distinction made when a genitive noun is in combination with a verbal adjective, usually a participle, which can play either a verbal or nominial role. Probably best demonstrated by an example:
The dog's hunting,
This phrase can either refer to:
  • 'the hunting done by the dog', where the dog is the agent/subject of the action.
  • or 'the hunting of the dog by others', where the dog is the object/target of the action.

Subordinate clause

is a clause, typically introduced by a connective word, that is dependent on, a main clause in order to make sense. Thus they are often also referred to as dependent clauses. Connectives that join clauses can be conjunctions, prepositions or adverbs.
[Reference] [Reference]


is a noun that represents a 'thing or set of things', such as creatures, objects, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas. As opposed to an attributive adjective that merely modifies, qualifies or describes a substantive noun.


a morpheme added at the end of a stem or base to form an inflected word. See affix.


See comparative


comes from the Greek, meaning "arrange together". It is a major constituent part of grammar that relates to the types of word and the patterns through which those words can be combined into sentences.

Tense system

merely refers to a group of inflections used to convey a specific tense.

Tense, aspect and mood

In English grammar, the word tense usually refers to a combination of both time period and aspect.
  • the time when an action or event occurs, or when a state or process holds,
  • aspect, expresses the extent (duration, completion, or frequency) of the action, event, state, process or situation.
The term 'tense' in English is often confuse with time! A tense is really a combination of Time, Aspect and often Mood. Thus the Time element of tense refers to temporally when, while aspect refers to temporally how. Consider:
I eat", "I am eating", "I have eaten", and "I have been eating
All are in the present, indicated by the present-tense verb 'to eat'. Yet they differ in aspect, each conveying different extents of completion.
Aspect in English is conveyed by the use of auxiliary verbs: 'to be' & 'to have'.
Mood in English is conveyed by the use of modal verbs: 'will/shall, would, could should, may'


will go
would go
may go
Imperfective (progressive/continuous)
am/is/are going
was/were going
will be going
would be going
may be going
have/has gone
had gone
will have gone
would have gone
may have gone
have/has been going
had been going
will have been going
would have
been going
may have
been going

These tenses often go by the combination names, simple-present, past-perfect, future-progressive etc. But also older grammars may use a Latin/Greek language/grammar system:

Imperfective (progressive/continuous)

For anyone interested in Pali tense I recommend watching this video tutorial on Tense, Aspect & Mood.
[Reference] [Reference]

Tappurisa: Dependent Determinate Compounds,

Tappurisa compounds are composed of two or more words (adjectivesparticiples, pronouns, and nouns) and can be used themselves as a noun or an adjective. The initial words are is associated with the posterior word via a direct relation that would usually be expressed by the oblique casesAccusativeInstrumental, DativeGenitiveAblative, or Locative. However, the Case-ending of the first member is elided. Tappurisas in the Genitive are by far the most common.
  • araññagato = (Acc), gone to the forest,
  • buddhabhāsito = (Ins) spoken by the Buddha
  • . saṅghabhattaṃ = (Dat) rice for the Saṅgha,
  • gantukāmo = (+kāmo Dat), desiring to go.
  • rukkhapatito = (Abl) fallen from the tree.
  • rājaputto = (Gen) son of the king; the king's son, (note: 1st member is Gen therefore the possessor).
  • araññavāso = (Loc) living in the forest.

Thematic roles, Semantic roles

semantic roles relate to the verb or action of the sentence at an intuitive level of meaning. important ones include:
  • Agent – The entity (noun) that intentionally carries out the action of the verb 
  • Patient/Target/Theme – The entity that directly undergoes the action of the verb - what is acted upon. 
  • Instrument – The entity through which the action of the verb is carried out. 
  • Beneficiary - the entity for whose benefit the action occurs (e.g.. I baked Reggie a cake)
These should be contrasted with grammatical terms like subject and object.
 [Reference] [Reference]

 Thematic verbs vs Athematic

a classification of verb roots related to their conjugation class. A resultant verb stem that ends in a consonant, or with no derivational suffix at all, is Athematic. Thus personal verb endings are affixed directly to the root.
As opposed to the thematic class of verbs which present a "thematic" vowel (-a in Pali) at the end of the verb stem.

Third conjugation

Verbs of the Third Conjugation have -ya added to the Verb root. However, the assimilation of -ya regularly occurs.

Transitive vs Intransitive verbs

Verbs can be classified into two groups based on whether they require an object (noun, or noun phrase) in order to be complete (make sense). Thus, with an intransitive verb, no complement is required or allowed.
  • Intransitive: he arrived; he swam
Intransitives are often used with adverbial terms:
  • Intransitive: he came here; it arrived yesterday.
Whereas a transitive verb requires an object.
  • he arrested... (the thief)
The object of a transitive verb is termed a 'direct object'. Transitive verbs however, can be further divided into mono-transitives and those that can take two objects.
  • bring (me) (the book); he told (me) (a lie)
These are often verbs of interaction: e.g. give, send, tell, lend, buy, offer, show; and are sometimes referred to as bi-transitive or di-transitive. The secondary object is termed an 'indirect object' and is the person or animal receiving the direct object.
Some verbs can be used as both transitive or intransitive depending on context:
  • Intransitive: he wrote quickly,
  • Transitive: he wrote (a letter)
  • di-Transitive: he wrote (his mother) (a letter)

Types of objects

See Objects & Transitive verbs


The Velthuis system was developed by Frans Velthuis, originally as a transliteration scheme designed for the representation in ASCII of Devanagari (Sanskrit) characters. The scheme, which represents characters such as ā ~ aa, also became used for the transliteration of other Indic scripts and languages such as Pali.
However, with the proliferation of modern unicode fonts, the use of Velthuis has largely become redundant.

Verbal aspect

Aspect is often confused with the closely related concept of tense. Aspect conveys temporal information about how an action, event, state, process or situation extends through time - such as it's duration, completion, and frequency.
The most fundamental distinction, is between perfective aspect and imperfective aspect.
  • Simple, no aspect, - expressing facts,
  • Perfective aspect indicates a bounded, finished event (I have helped him)
  • Imperfective aspect views an event or process as unfolding or having a repeated nature. (I am helping him, I often help him)
And this distinction goes by different names in different language/grammar systems:

Perfective Aspect
Imperfective Aspect

The Imperfective (ongoing) aspect can also be subdivided:
  • Continuous: an ongoing state, expressed by a copula and complement 
    • Tom is a student
  • Progressive: having limited duration; expressed by a copula and present participle 
    • Tom is reading
  • Habitual: for repetition over the longer term
    • Tom reads frequently
 These are then combined with a time period to create tense. For instance:
Aspects of the present:
  • Present simple (no aspect - simple statement): "I eat" 
  • Present progressive (progressive, not perfect): "I am eating" 
  • Present perfect (not progressive, perfect): "I have eaten" 
  • Present perfect-progressive (progressive & perfect): "I have been eating"
see: Tense, aspect & mood and Auxiliary Verbs.   [Reference] [Reference]

Verbal mood

Grammatical mood (also mode) is a grammatical feature of verbs, used for signaling the speakers attitude toward what they are saying (ie. a statement: of fact, of desire, of command, etc.). Mood is distinct from grammatical tense and aspect. Moods include:
  • indicative, - a simple statement believed to be fact
  • interrogative, - a question
  • imperative, - a command or request
  • subjunctive, (Sanskrit) - various states of unreality such as wish, emotion, often contrary-to‐fact or hypothetical.
  • conditional, - if/then conditions
  • optative - a wish or hope,
  • potential - probability.
The optative, subjunctive  and the conditional are three closely related moods which have often merged and overlapped and so Pali grammar guides are inconsistent in their classifications. Generally, the subjunctive & conditional are combined into a single mood as are optative & the potential.
[Reference] [Reference] [Reference]

Verb root

The root morpheme of a word is the morpheme left over when all derivational and inflectional morphemes have been removed. Words may be constructed from one or more morphemes. Morphemes are the smallest forms (i.e., spoken and/or written units) in a language that have meaning or grammatical function.
From the point of view of their functions in words, morphemes may be divided into three classes:
  • derivational, changes the word class
  • inflectional, - alters the grammatical function,
  • and root.
A root morpheme is the basic form to which other morphemes are attached. It provides the basic meaning of the word which at this level maybe nebulous & vague.

Verb stems

a term which has been defined in several different ways and thus get used to mean slightly different thing by different authors. Generally, a word stem consists in a root plus associated derivational affixes and before any inflectional affixes are added.
However, in Pali grammars, the term 'Stem' as applied to verbs, is often defined slightly differently, to mean the base before a personal verb ending has been applied.

Occasionally, 'Stem' is used in the same sense as 'Base' ie. any part of a word to which an affix may be attached. 

Verbal Adjective, Verbal vs Deverbal

At its simplest a verbal adjective is an adjective formed from a verb base and so are sometimes called attributive verbs or simply verbals.
  • I have such an annoying brother.
They are typically non-finite verb forms — Participles and Infinitives — as well as certain verb-derived words that function as ordinary adjectives.
  • The man wearing a hat is my father
Here 'wearing ' behaves like a verb, taking an object, 'a hat', although the resulting phrase 'wearing a hat' functions like an attributive adjective in modifying the subject, 'the man'.
Thus, truly "verbal" adjectives are non-finite verb forms: participles (present and past), and sometimes to-infinitives. Which act as verbs - in that they form a verb phrase, possibly taking objects and other dependents and modifiers that are of verbs - however that verb phrase then plays the role of an attributive adjective in the larger sentence.
Technically, they are opposed to deverbal adjectives - a verb that has been converted into a noun and used as an ordinary adjective whilst no longer taking objects like a verb.
  • It was a very exciting game.
Here, the word 'game' is not an object of 'exciting'. [Reference]

Verbal nouns

At its simplest, a verbal noun is a noun formed from a verb base. (These may also be referred to as Verbals, but see also Verbal Adjectives)
  • It was a lovely building.
  • Their arrival has been delayed.
Strictly, verbal nouns are morphologically related to verbs, but they are not non-finite verb forms and do not follow verb syntax.
However, some grammarians use the term "verbal noun" to include verbal nouns, gerunds (action nouns, not absolutives), infinitives and participles.

Vocative case

a noun declension case used in addressing a person or thing. A vocative expression is an expression of direct address by which the identity of the party spoken to is expressed.


Voice is a grammatical category attached to verbs that indicates whether the grammatical subject of the verb is an
The voice is said to be:

Vowel gradation

See Strengthening

Vipassana Research Institute [VRI]

With its ongoing research into Vipassana mediatation, the Vipassana Research Institute (VRI) published a version of Tipitaka Pāli literature. It's simplified numbering system has become a default for many modern scholars including Access to Insight and the DPR.

Warder [Also A.K.Warder or Warder's 'intro to pali']

was a British Indologist (8 September 1924 – 8 January 2013). His best-known work is Introduction to Pali (1963), which has become the reference document for serious Pali students. See Pali Learning Resources page.

 Other Linguistic Glossary Sources:

English Grammar:
University of Duisburg and Essen
Michael M. Olds BuddhaDust
Pali Grammatical terms:
Bhikkhu Nyanamoli, -additions by Ānandajoti Bhikkhu (2014)
Michael M. Olds BuddhaDust
Sanskrit Grammar:
Grammatical Terms | Learn Sanskrit Online


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