Introduction to Pali Verbs

We have so far studied nouns and their declension in detail. We will now start learning more about the verbs in Pali. Similar to the nouns, the verbs in Pali also take up different forms. This is called as the conjugation of the verb. Thus as we studied declension tables for nouns, we will be studying conjugation tables for the verbs.

Let us first have an overview of verbs and the extent to which we will be learning them in this course.

A verb originates from a ‘root’.
verbal root + conjugation sign = verbal base
verbal base + termination = verb (conjugated form)
verbal root verbal base verb (conjugated form)

The verbal roots are classified into various classes called as gaṇa in Pali and ‘conjugation’ in English. Different grammarians classify these roots in different ways and thus there are 7 to 10 gaṇā or conjugations. Many Pali grammar books give a detailed explanation regrading formation of verbal bases and verbs from these roots, with respect to various gaṇā or conjugations.

In this course however, we will study the verbs based on verbal bases, instead of the roots. This choice is made for simplification of the learning process. Most of the verbs can be divided into 4 classes based on the verbal bases. Thus we will be studying 4 categories of verbs instead on minimum 7 (based on the verbal roots). Further, correlating verbal bases to the conjugated forms of verbs is much easier compared to verbal roots.

E.g. consider the following examples of verbal roots and verbal bases

gam (root) gaccha (verbal base) gacchati (verb)
(root) dadā (verbal base) dadāti (verb)
(ni) + sad (prefix + root) nisīda (verbal base) nisīdati (verb)

We have found this method quite satisfactory for basic understanding of the Pali verbs and also for reading and understanding the original suttas. Students who are interested in deeper grammatical and etymological study of Pali language are encouraged to follow any of the available grammar books / other resources to deepen their knowledge.


The Pali verbs are normally studied with respect to Tenses and Moods. Again, there are some variations as to the classification of the Tenses and Moods as per different grammarians. We will be studying three basic tenses – the Present Tense, Future Tense & Past Tense and two moods – Optative Mood & Imperative Mood.

We will be learning these tenses and moods over the next few Units of this course. The study of verbs in this manner will be interspersed with learning about a few more nouns, adjectives, indeclinables, etc.

Let us now learn the conjugation of verbs in the Present Tense.

Last modified: Thursday, 16 February 2023, 1:10 PM