An Elementary Pali Course
Uses of the Cases
The Nominative Case (PaŹham)
1. The Nominative case, when used by
itself, expresses the crude form of a word; e.g.,
2. The subject of a verb, whether active
or passive, is expressed by the Nominative; e.g.,
Purisio gacchati, man goes.
Buddhena Dhammo desiyate, the Doctrine is preached by the Buddha.
3. The complement of intransitive verbs
is also expressed by the Nominative; e.g.,
So rj ahosi, he became a king;
Eso drako hoti, he is a boy.
The Vocative case (īlapana)
The Vocative Case is used to express the
Nominative of Address; e.g.,
Putta, idh'gaccha! son, come here.
Bho Gotama, O venerable Gotama!
The Accusative Case (Dutiy)
1. The Accusative denotes the object;
Ahaµ lekhanaµ likhmi, I am writing a letter.
2. Duration of time and extent of space
are expressed by the Accusative. e.g.,
Idha so temsaµ vasi, here he lived for three months.
Dv“'haµ atikkantaµ, two days are passed.
Yojanaµ d“gho pabbato, the mountain is one league long.
3. Verbs of motion take the Accusative;
So gmaµ gacchati, he goes to the village.
4. The prefixes "anu",
"pati", "pari" also govern the Accusative;
Rukkhaµ anu, rukkhaµ pati, rukkhaµ parivijjotate cando, the moon shines by every tree.
Yad'ettha maµ anu siy, whatever there be here for me.
Sdhu Devdatto mtaraµ anu, Devadatta is kind to his mother.
Anu Sriputtaµ paav bhikkhu, monk inferior to Sariputta in wisdom.
Saccakiriyaµ anu pavassi, it rained according to (his) act of truth.
Nadiµ Nerajaraµ pati, near Neranjar river.
5. The Accusative is sometimes used
Rj sukhaµ vasati, the king lives happily.
Sukhaµ supati, sleeps happily.
Dukkhaµ seti, lives painfully.
6. Sometimes the Accusative is used in
the sense of the (a) Ablative of agent, (b) Dative, (c) Genitive,
and (d) Locative; e.g.,
(a) Vin* Dhammaµ, without the Doctrine.
Sace maµ n'lapissati, if he will not speak with me.
(b) Upam maµ paŹibhti, a simile occurs to me.
(c) Taµ kho pana Bhagavantaµ, (of) that Blessed One.
(d) Ekaµ samayaµ Bhagav....., on one occasion the Blessed One.
*Sometimes "Vin" governs the Nominative, Instrumental and the Ablative.
7. The root "vasa" preceded by
, adhi, anu and upa governs the Accusative; e.g.,
Gmaµ vasati, anuvasati, upavasati, lives in the village.
Vihraµ adhivasati, lives in the monastery.
The Auxiliary Case (Tatiy)
When the construction is passive the
agent is expressed by this case; e.g.,
cariyena potthakaµ d“yate, a book is being given by the teacher.
Tena kataµ kammaµ, the action done by him.
The Instrumental Case (Karaöa)
1. The means or the instrument by which
an action is done is expressed by the Instrumental Case; e.g:,
Hatthena kammaµ karoti, he does the work with his hand.
Cakkhun passma, we see with our eye.
öena sukhaµ labhati, one obtains happiness by means of wisdom.
2. The Instrumental is also used to
(a) Cause and reason; e.g.,
Vijjya vasati, through knowledge he lives.
Kamman vasalo hoti, by action one becomes an outcast.
(b) Bodily defects; e.g.,
Akkhin köo, blind in one eye.
(c) A characteristic attribute; e.g.,
Vaööena abhirčpo, beautiful in appearance.
Gottena Gotamo, Gotama by clan.
Sippena naĀakro, a basket-maker by profession.
(d) The length of time and space within
which an action is accomplished; e.g.,
Ekamsena gacchmi, I shall go in a month.
Yojanena gacchati, goes by a league.
(e) The price at which a thing is bought
or sold; e.g.,
Satena k“taµ, bought for a hundred.
(f) The idea of resemblance, equality,
rejoicing, deficiency, proficiency, need, use, etc.; e.g.,
Pitar sadiso, like the father.
Mtar samo, equal to the mother.
Kahpaöena čno, deficit of a farthing, less by a farthing.
Dhanena h“no, destitute of wealth.
Vcya nipuöo, proficient in speech.
Maöin attho, in need of a jewel.
(g) The conveyance or the part of the
body on which a thing is carried; e.g.,
S“sena bhraµ vahati, carries the burden on his head.
3. The indeclinables saha, saddhiµ -
with, accompanied by; alaµ - enough, what use; kiµ - what, also
governs the Instrumental ; e.g.,
"Nis“di Bhagav saddhiµ bhikkhusaŗghena", the Blessed One sat with the multitude of Bhikkhus.
Bhtar saha, together with his brother.
Alaµ te idha vsena, what is the use of your staying here?
Kiµ me dhanena, of what use is wealth to me?
4. Sometimes the Instrumental is used
Sukhena vasati, lives happily.
5. The Instrumental is sometimes used in
the sense of (a)Accusative, (b)Ablative, and (c)Locative, e.g.,
Tilehi khette vapati, he sows gingili in the field.
(a) Attan'va attnaµ, sammannati, he chooses himself.
(b) Sumutt mayaµ tena mahsamaöena, we are wholly released from that great ascetic.
(c) Tena samayena, at that time.
The Dative Case (Catutth“)
1. The Dative Case is used to express
the person or thing to whom or to which something is given; e.g.,
Ycaknaµ dnaµ deti, he gives alms to the beggars.
Kyassa balaµ deti, he gives strength to the body.
2. The roots rucaruca, to please, and
dharadhara, to bear or hold, govern the dative of the person
pleased, or held; e.g.,
Samaöassa rucate saccaµ, the truth is pleasing to the ascetic.
Devadattassa suvaööacchattaµ dhrayate, he holds a golden parasol for Devadatta.
3. Verbs implying anger, jealousy,
praise, blame, curse, and others having the same sense govern the
dative of the person against whom such a feeling is directed;
Tassa kujjha, mahv“ra, be angry with him, O great hero!
Dev'pi tesaµ pihayanti, even the Devas hold them dear.
Dujjan guöavantnaµ usčyanti, the evil are jealous of the virtuous.
Buddhassa silghates, he praises the Buddha.
Nindanti bahubhninaµ, they blame the garrulous.
Mayhµ sapate, he curses me.
4. The indirect object of verbs such as
telling, proclaiming, teaching, preaching, sending, writing, etc.
is put in the Dative Case; e.g.,
Te vejjassa kathayiµsu, they told it to the doctor.
Arocaymi vo Bhikkhave, I declare to you, O Bhikkhus
Satth Bhikkhčnaµ Dhammaµ deseti, the Teacher is preaching the Doctrine to the Bhikkhus.
So tassa lekhanaµ pahiöi, he sent a letter to him.
5. The purpose for which anything is
done, the result to which anything leads, and the reason for
which anything exists, are also expressed by the Dative; e.g.,
Yuddhya gacchati, he goes to war.
Nibbnya saµvattati, is conducive to Nibbana.
Caratha bhikkhave crikaµ bahu-janahitya, bahu-janasukhya, go ye forth, O Bhikkhus, for the good and happiness of the many.
Atthya me bhavissati, it will be for my good.
6. The words hita: good, attha: good,
need, payojana: use, and indeclinables like alaµ, kiµ, namo,
svgataµ, govern the Dative; e.g.,
lokassa hitaµ, good for the world.
Dhanena me attho, I am in need of wealth.
öena te kiµ payojanaµ, of what use is wisdom to you?
Alaµ mallo mallassa, a warrior is fit for a warrior.
Namo sammsambuddhassa, praise be to the Fully Enlightened One.
Svgataµ te mahrja, welcome to you, O king!
Svatthi hotu sabbasattnaµ, blessing to all beings.
Sotthi te hotu sabbad, may happiness ever be to you!
7. Sometimes the place to which the
motion is directed is put in the Dative; e.g.,
Appo saggya gacchati, few go to heaven.
The Ablative Case (Pacam“)
1. The Ablative Case is principally used
to denote the place or object from which motion or separation
takes place; e.g.,
Nagar niggato rj, the king departed from the city.
Rukkhasm phalni patanti, fruits fall from the tree.
Assasm patmi, I fall from the horse.
2. The Ablative is used to express the
person or thing from whom or from which something is originated,
produced, caused, learnt, received, released, etc.; e.g.,
Pabbatehi nadiyo pabhavanti, rivers originate from mountains.
Urasm jto putto, the son born from the breast.
Ubhato sujto, well-born from both sides.
Kmato jyati soko, grief arises from passion.
Corasm bhayaµ uppajjati, fear arises from thieves.
īcariyamh ugguöhma, we learn from the teacher.
Siss cariyehi paöökraµ labhanti, pupils receive gifts from their teachers.
Dukkh pamucantu, may they be freed from pain!
Mutto mrabandhan, released from the bondage of the Evil One.
3. That which one desires to Protect and
whose sight one desires to avoid, are also put in the Ablative
Kke rakkhanti taöul, lit. they guard crows from rice.
Ppa cittaµ nivraye, one should protect the mind from evil.
Mt pitčhi antaradhyati putto, the son disappears from the parents.
4. The place or time from which another
place or time is measured is expressed by the Ablative. The
distance in space is put in the Locative or in the Nominative,
and that in time is put in the Locative; e.g.,
Nagarasm catusu yojanesu araaµ, the forest is four leagues from the city.
Gmasm rmo yojanaµ, the monastery is one league from the village.
Imamh msasm pacamse atikkhante, when five months have elapsed from this.
Ito kappasahasse, thousand Kappas hence.
5. Some prefixes and indeclinables also
govern the Ablative; e.g.,
"ī", as far as - pabbat khettaµ, as far as the rock is the field.
"Apa", away from - apa slya yanti, they come from the hall.
"Pati", like, in exchange for - Buddhasm pati Sriputto, like the Buddha is Sriputta.
Ghatam'asssa telasm patidadti, he gives him ghee in exchange for oil.
"Pari", away from, without - Paripabbat devo vassati, it rains except on the mountain.
"Adho", below - adhar adho, below the hip.
"Nn", different - te Bhikkhč nn-kul, those monks from different families.
"Rite", without - rite saddhamm kuto sukhaµ, where is happiness without the noble Doctrine?
"Vin", without - vin dhamm, without the Doctrine.
"Uddhaµ", above - uddhaµ pdatal, upward from the sole of the feet.
"Upari", above - Upari gaŗgya, above the river.
"Yva", as far as - yva brahmalok, as far as the Brahma realm.
6. The Ablative is also used to denote
Dnato s“lam'eva varaµ, morality is indeed higher than liberality.
S“lam'eva sut seyyo, morality is nobler than learning.
7. The Ablative is sometimes used in the
sense of the (a) Instrumental and (b) Locative; e.g.,
(a) "S“lato naµ pasaµsanti", they Praise him on account of morality.
Bhava-paccay jti, birth is conditioned by action.
Saŗkhranirodh avijj nirodho, the cessation of ignorance results from the cessation of activities.
(b) Puratthimato, from the east.
8. Sometimes the (a) Accusative and the
(b) Genitive are used in the sense of the Ablative; e.g.,
(a) Kiµ kranaµ, by what reason?
(b) Taµ kissa hetu, by what cause?
9. Sometimes the Ablative is used after
abstract nouns formed from past participles in the sense of
'because of'; 'on account of'; e.g.,
Kammassa kaŹatt, by reason of having done the action.
Ussannatt, on account of having arisen.
The Genitive Case (ChaŹŹhi)
1. The Genitive Case is generally used
to denote the possessor; e.g.,
Buddhassa dhammo, Buddha's Doctrine.
Rukkhassa chy, the shadow of the tree.
2. The Genitive is also used to denote
the relationship between two objects; e.g.,
Pupphnaµ rsi, heap of flowers.
Bhikkhčnaµ samčho, multitude of monks.
Meghassa saddo, sound of thunder.
Suvaööassa vaŗŗo, colour of gold.
Pdassa ukkhepanaµ, raising of the foot.
Lokassa hito, the good of the world.
3. Persons or things over which
kingship, lordship, teachership, superiority, etc. are expressed
are also put in the Genitive Case; e.g.,
Narnaµ indo, king of men.
Manussnaµ adhipati, chief of men.
Satth deva-manussnaµ, teacher of gods and men.
4. When a person or thing is
distinguished from a group the word implying the group is put in
the Genitive or Locative; e.g.,
Buddho seŹŹho manussnaµ, the Buddha is the chief of men.
Imesaµ draknaµ, or (imesu drakesu) eso paµhamo, he is the first of these boys.
Etesaµ phalnaµ ekaµ gaöha, take one of those fruits.
5. Words implying skill, proficiency,
likeness, similarity, distance, nearness, under, above, etc.
govern the Genitive; e.g.,
Dhamm'Dhammassa kovido, skill in knowing the right and wrong.
Kusal naccag“tassa, skilled in dancing and singing.
Gmassa (v gmato) avidure, not far from the village.
Nibbnassa santike, in the presence of Nibbaana.
Nagarassa sam“pe, near the city.
Tassa Purato, in his presence.
HeŹŹh chyya, under the shade.
HeŹŹh macassa, under the bed.
Tass'opari, above it; jnumaöalnaµ upari, above the knees.
Pitussa tulyo, similar to the father.
Mtu-sadiso, like the mother.
6. The Genitive is also used with
superlatives and words having the same sense; e.g.,
Dhammnaµ caturo pad seŹŹh, of things the four Truths are the highest.
Sabbesaµ sattnaµ Buddho uttamo, the Buddha is the highest of all men.
Danto seŹŹho manussnaµ, a self-controlled person is the best of men.
7. Sometimes the Genitive is used in the
sense of the (a) Accusative, (b) Auxiliary, (c) Instrumental, (d)
Ablative, (e) Locative; e.g.,
(a) Amatassa dt, giver of immortality.
Ppnaµ akaraöaµ sukhaµ, it is happy not to do evil.
(b) Rao pčjito, reverenced by the king.
(c) Pattaµ odanassa pčretv, filling the bowl with food.
(d) Sabbe bhyanti maccuno, all are afraid of death.
Bh“to catunnaµ sivisnaµ, frightened of the four snakes.
(e) Divasassa tikkhattauµ, thrice a day.
Bhagavato pasann, pleased with the Blessed One.
The Locative Case (Sattam“)
1. The Locative Case denotes the place
or time where anything is or happens; e.g.,
Manuss gharesu vasanti, men live in houses.
Thliyaµ odanaµ pacati, he cooks rice in a pot.
Kh“resu jalaµ, there is water in milk.
2. The Locative denotes also the time
when an action takes place; e.g.,
Tasmiµ samaye, at that time.
Syaöhasamaye gato, he came in the afternoon.
Phussamsamh t“su msesu veskhamso, three months from Phussa month is the month of Veskha.
Ito satasahassamhi kappe, one hundred thousand aeons hence.
3. The reason is sometimes expressed by
the Locative; e.g. ,
D“pi cammesu haate, the tigers are killed on account of their skin.
Musvde pcittiyaµ, one commits a pcittiya offence, there is a pcittiya with regard to a lie or through falsehood.
4. The group or class from which a
person or thing is distinguished or separated is put in the
Manussesu khattiyo sčratamo, the warrior is the bravest of men.
Addhikesu dhvato s“ghatamo, the runner is the fastest of travellers.
īyasm īnando arahantesu aataro, Venerable īnanda is one of the Arahants.
5. The Locative or the Genitive is used
with the words "adhipati", lord;
"dyda", heir; "issara", lord;
"kusala", skill; "patibhč", bail;
"pasuta", born of; "sakkhi", witness; and
"smi", master; e.g.,
Lokasmiµ or (lokassa) adhipati, lord of the world.
Kammasmiµ or (kammassa) dydo, heir of action.
PaŹhaviyaµ or (paŹhaviy) issaro, lord of the earth.
G“tasmiµ or (g“tassa) kusalo, skill in singing.
Dassanasmiµ or (dassanassa) paŹibhč, surety for appearance.
Gosu or (gavaµ) pasuto, born of cows.
Adhikaraöasmiµ or (adhikaraöassa) sakkhi, witness in a case.
Dhammasmiµ or (Dhammassa) smi, master of Truth.
6. The Locative is used with the words
"sdhu", good, kind; "nipuŗa",
proficient, skilful; and words having the sense of "being
pleased with, angry with, contented with, being addicted
to"; etc., and with prefixes "adhi" and
"upa", in the sense of exceeding, or master of; e.g.,
Paya sdhu, good in wisdom.
Mtari sdhu, kind towards the mother.
Vinaye nipuöo, proficient in discipline.
Bhaögre niyutto, attached to the treasury.
Dhamme gravo, reverence towards the Dhamma.
Buddhe pasanno, being pleased with the Buddha.
Appakasmiµ tuŹŹho, being contented with little.
Ksirae na kuppmi, I am not angry with the Ksi king.
Adhi devesu Buddho, the Buddha is superior to the gods.
Upanikkhe kahpaöaµ, a Kahpaöa is greater than Nikkha.
7. Sometimes the Locative is used in the
sense of the (a) Nominative, (b) Accusative, (c) Instrumental (d)
Dative, and (e) Ablative; e.g.,
(a) Idam'pi'ssa hoti s“lasmiµ, this also is his virtue.
(b) Bhsu gahetv, taking the hands.
Bhikkhčsu abhivadanti, salute the monks.
(c) Samaö pattesu piöya caranti, the ascetics go for alms with their bowls.
(d) Sanghe, Gotami, dehi, O Gotami, give to the Sangha.
(e) Kadal“su gaje rakkhanti, lit. they protect the elephants from the plantain trees.
The Genitive and the Locative Absolutes
The Nominative Absolute in English and the Ablative Absolute in Latin are expressed by the Genitive and Locative Absolutes in PĀi.
(a) When the subject of a participle is different from the subject of the verb it is put in the Locative Absolute and the participle is made to agree with it in gender, number and case.
(b) If the subject of the participle is the same as that of the finite verb this construction is not used.
(c) Mayi gate so gato, he came
when I had gone.
Bhikkhusaŗghesu bhojiyamnesu gato, he went when the multitude of monks were being fed.
Sabbe magg vivajjenti gacchante lokanyake, when the leader of the world goes, all turn away from the path.
This construction corresponds to the Nominative Absolute in English and Ablative Absolute in Latin.
(d) Ahaµ gacchanto tena
saddhiµ na sallapiµ, as I was going I did not speak with him.
When disregard is to be shown the Genitive Absolute is often used. Sometimes the Locative Absolute is also used.
Mtpitunnaµ rudantnaµ pabbaji or mtpitčsu rudantesu pabbaji, he renounced disregarding his weeping parents, i.e., he renounced in spite of or not withstanding the weeping of his parents. (though his parents were weeping, he went forth into homelessness.)
The same construction may be used in the sense of as soon as; no sooner than, by compounding "eva" with the participle; e.g.,
Tayi gate y'eva so gato, he went as soon as you came, or he went just as you had come.