Root √as + genitive case

We have seen that the Pali roots , bhū and as correspond to the verb ‘to be’ in English language. Thus, we have forms of these roots expressing the meaning – am, is, are etc.

bhavati / hoti / atthi = is
bhavanti / honti / santi = are (they – 3rd person plural)
bhavāmi / homi / asmi, amhi = am

In Pali, we do not have a root which is synonymous to the verb ‘to have’. The root √as (also root √hū at times) is used to express this meaning of possession / relation, in combination with genitive case of the relevant noun. Let us understand this concept with the help of a few examples.

So bhūpālassa pāsādo atthi.
That is a king’s palace.
(The pronoun ‘so’ is used as a demonstrative pronoun meaning ‘that’)

Te kassakassa puttā santi.
They are the farmer’s sons.

In the above sentences, ‘that’ and ‘they’ are the subjects which are equated to ‘palace’ and ‘sons’, respectively. If we wish to rewrite these sentences so that they express relation / possession, (expressed by ‘have’ / ‘has’ in English) the sentences will be as follows :

Bhūpālassa pāsādo atthi.
Here, pāsādo is the subject.
pāsādo = palace, atthi = is,
bhūpālassa (genitive case) = king’s / of the king.
Translation : The king has a palace.

The literal translation of this sentence will be – A palace is of the king (There is / there exists a palace of the king), which simply indicates possession. Hence it can be translated as – The king has a palace.

Kassakassa puttā santi.
Here, puttā is the subject.
puttā = sons, santi = are,
kassakassa (genitive case) = farmer’s / of the farmer.
Translation : The farmer has sons.

The literal translation of this sentence will be – Sons are of the farmer (There are / there exist) sons of the farmer, which indicates relation. Hence it can be translated as – The farmer has sons.
Please note : In the above sentence, ‘puttā’ being the subject (plural), the verb is in plural (santi). However, as it expresses relation with respect to a farmer (singular), it will be translated in English as : The farmer has sons.

Here are a few more examples of this type of sentence construction :

Vejjassa sakaṭo atthi.
vejjassa = doctor’s / of the doctor,
sakaṭo = a cart,
atthi = is
Translation : The doctor has a cart.

Vāṇijānaṃ assā santi.
vāṇijānaṃ (genitive plural) = of the merchants / merchants’,
assā = horses, santi = are
Translation : The merchants have horses.

Ācariyassa bahū sāvakā santi.
ācariyassa = teacher’s / of the teacher,
bahū = many,
sāvakā = disciples,
santi = are
Translation : The teacher has many disciples.

Let us translate a few sentences adopted from the Suttas, which use conjugated forms of the root as + genitive case to convey the meaning – has / have

1. So ‘atthi me ajjhattaṃ rūpesu rāgo’ti pajānāti.

me (genitive) = of me, my;
ajjhattaṃ = interior, inside, inwardly;
rūpa = form,
rāgo’ti = rago + iti,
rāga = passion, lust; iti = thus, as;
pajānāti = knows

Translation : He knows thus – I have passion for forms within me.

● Please note that though the sentence conveys the meaning of having passion / lust ‘for’ forms, the Pali sentence uses the locative case – rūpesu rāgo. The same construction will be used with respect to other sense objects. E.g., saddesu rāgo = passion for sounds, rasesu rāgo = passion for tastes / flavours
We will come across similar usage of locative case in many Suttas.

2. Atthi me sappāyāni bhojanāni, atthi me sappāyāni bhesajjāni, atthi me patirūpā upaṭṭhākā.

sappāya = suitable, proper, beneficial, fit;
bhojana = meal,
bhesajja = medicine,
patirūpa = proper, suitable;
upaṭṭhāka = attendant

Translation : I have proper meals, proper medicines and suitable attendants.

3. Tamahaṃ vadāmi theroti, yassa no santi āsavā

tamahaṃ = taṃ + ahaṃ,
taṃ (pronoun) = him,
vadati = says, speaks; vadāmi = I say / call
theroti = thero + iti,
thera = elder, iti = thus, as;
yassa (genitive) = whose, of whom;
no = no, not; santi = are,
āsava = taint, effluent, mental intoxicant

We can rewrite the sentence as :
Ahaṃ taṃ ‘thero’ iti vadāmi, yassa āsavā no santi
where yassa āsavā no santi has as + genitive case

Translation : I call him as an elder, who does not have any taints.

4. Pahīnamānassa na santi ganthā

pahīna = abandoned, given up;
māna = conceit, pride, ego;
pahīnamāna (compound) = one who has abandoned ego (sense of self),
pahīnamānassa (dative / genitive singular) = for / of one ….
gantha (masc) = knot, bond, fetter
ganthā (nominative plural – subject) = bonds, fetters

We can rewrite the sentence as :
Pahīnamānassa ganthā na santi.

Literal meaning of the above is :
Bonds are not (do not exist) for / of one who has abandoned ego.

Hence we can go with either of the following translations :

- There are no bonds for one who has abandoned (their) ego.
- One who has abandoned ego has no bonds.

● Please note : The first translation considers pahīnamānassa as dative case and hence uses ‘for’ in the translation. While the second translation takes the word as genitive singular and goes with as + genitive = has / have formula.
We will come across many such instances where dative / genitive case can be used while translating, and the participants are encouraged to go along with their individual choice.

Last modified: Friday, 21 April 2023, 4:09 PM