Elementary Paa.li Course
of the Cases
The Nominative Case (Pa.thamaa)
1. The Nominative case, when used by
itself, expresses the crude form of a word.
2. The subject of a verb, whether active
or passive, is expressed by the Nominative.
puriso 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.
so raajaa ahosi, he became a king.
eso daarako hoti, he is a boy.
The Vocative case (Aalapana)
The Vocative case is used to express the
Nominative of Address.
putta, idh'aagaccha!, son, come here.
bho Gotama, O venerable Gotama!
The Accusative Case (Dutiyaa)
1. The Accusative denotes the object.
aha.m lekhana.m likhaami, I am writing a letter.
2. Duration of time and extent of space
are expressed by the Accusative.
idha so temaasa.m vasi, here he lived for three months.
dvii'ha.m atikkanta.m, two days are passed.
yojana.m diigho pabbato, the mountain is one league long.
3. Verbs of motion take the Accusative.
so gaama.m gacchati, he goes to the village.
4. The prefixes anu, pati,
pari also govern the Accusative.
[rukkha.m anu, rukkha.m pati,]
rukkha.m parivijjotate cando, the
moon shines by every tree.
yad'ettha ma.m anu siyaa, whatever there be here for me.
saadhu Devadatto maatara.m anu, Devadatta is kind to his
anu Saariputta.m pa~n~navaa bhikkhu, monk inferior to Sariputta in
saccakiriya.m anu pavassi, it rained according to (his) act of
nadi.m Nera~njara.m pati, near Neranjaraa river.
5. The Accusative is sometimes used adverbially.
raajaa sukha.m vasati, the king lives happily.
sukha.m supati, sleeps happily.
dukkha.m 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.
(a) vinaa1 Dhamma.m, without the Doctrine.
sace ma.m n'aalapissati, if he will not speak with me.
(b) upamaa ma.m pa.tibhaati, a simile occurs to me.
(c) ta.m kho pana Bhagavanta.m, (of) that Blessed One.
(d) eka.m samaya.m Bhagavaa... ..., on one occasion the Blessed
1 Sometimes vinaa governs the
Nominative, Instrumental and the Ablative.
7. The root vasa preceded by aa,
adhi, anu and upa governs the
gaama.m aavasati, [anuvasati,
upavasati,] lives in the
vihaara.m adhivasati, lives in the monastery.
The Auxiliary Case
When the construction is passive the
agent is expressed by this case.
aacariyena potthaka.m diiyate, a book is being given by the
tena kata.m kamma.m, the action done by him.
The Instrumental Case (Kara.na)
1. The means or the instrument by which
an action is done is expressed by the Instrumental case.
hatthena kamma.m karoti, he does the work with his hand.
cakkhunaa passaama, we see with our eye.
~naa.nena sukha.m labhati, one obtains happiness by means
2. The Instrumental is also used to
(a) cause and reason.
vijjaaya vasati, through knowledge he lives.
kammanaa vasalo hoti, by action one becomes an outcast.
(b) bodily defects.
akkhinaa kaa.no, blind in one eye.
(c) a characteristic attribute.
va.n.nena abhiruupo, beautiful in appearance.
gottena Gotamo, Gotama by clan.
sippena na.lakaaro, a basket-maker by profession.
(d) the length of time and space within
which an action is accomplished.
ekamaasena gacchaami, I shall go in a month.
yojanena gacchati, goes by a league.
(e) the price at which a thing is bought
satena kiita.m, bought for a hundred.
(f) the idea of resemblance, equality,
rejoicing, deficiency, proficiency, need, use, etc.
pitaraa sadiso, like the father.
maataraa samo, equal to the mother.
kahaapa.nena uuno, deficit of a farthing, less by a farthing.
dhanena hiino, destitute of wealth.
vaacaaya nipu.no, proficient in speech.
ma.ninaa attho, in need of a jewel.
(g) the conveyance or the part of the
body on which a thing is carried.
siisena bhaara.m vahati, carries the burden on his head.
3. The indeclinables saha, saddhi.m -
with, accompanied by; ala.m - enough, what use; ki.m - what, also
governs the Instrumental.
"Nisiidi Bhagavaa saddhi.m bhikkhusa`nghena",
the Blessed One sat with the multitude of Bhikkhus.
bhaataraa saha, together with his brother.
ala.m te idha vaasena, what is the use of your staying here?
ki.m me dhanena, of what use is wealth to me?
4. Sometimes the Instrumental is used adverbially.
sukhena vasati, lives happily.
5. The Instrumental is sometimes used in
the sense of (a) Accusative, (b) Ablative, and (c) Locative.
(a) tilehi khette vapati, he sows gingili in the field.
attanaa'va attaana.m sammannati, he chooses himself.
(b) sumuttaa maya.m tena mahaasama.nena, we are wholly
released from that great ascetic.
(c) tena samayena, at that time.
The Dative Case (Catutthii)
1. The Dative Case is used to express
the person or thing to whom or to which something is given.
yaacakaana.m daana.m deti, he gives alms to the
kaayassa bala.m deti, he gives strength to the body.
2. The roots ruca, to please, and dhara, to bear or hold, govern the dative of the person
pleased, or held.
sama.nassa rucate sacca.m, the truth is pleasing to the ascetic.
Devadattassa suva.n.nacchatta.m dhaarayate, 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, mahaaviira, be angry with him, O great hero!
Devaa'pi tesa.m pihayanti, even the Devas hold them dear.
dujjanaa gu.navantaana.m usuuyanti, the evil are jealous
of the virtuous.
Buddhassa silaaghate, he praises the Buddha.
nindanti bahubhaanina.m, they blame the garrulous.
mayha.m 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.
te vejjassa kathayi.msu, they told it to the doctor.
arocayaami vo Bhikkhave, I declare to you, O Bhikkhus.
Satthaa Bhikkhuuna.m Dhamma.m deseti, the Teacher is
preaching the Doctrine to the Bhikkhus.
so tassa lekhana.m pahi.ni, 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.
yuddhaaya gacchati, he goes to war.
Nibbaanaaya sa.mvattati, is conducive to Nibbana.
caratha bhikkhave caarika.m bahu-janahitaaya,
bahu-janasukhaaya, go ye forth, O Bhikkhus, for the good and
happiness of the many.
atthaaya me bhavissati, it will be for my good.
6. The words hita: good, attha: good,
need, payojana: use, and indeclinables like ala.m,
svaagata.m, govern the Dative.
lokassa hita.m, good for the world.
dhanena me attho, I am in need of wealth.
~naa.nena te ki.m payojana.m, of what use is wisdom to
ala.m mallo mallassa, a warrior is fit for a warrior.
namo sammaasambuddhassa, praise be to the Fully Enlightened
svaagata.m te mahaaraaja, welcome to you, O king!
svatthi hotu sabbasattaana.m, blessing to all beings.
sotthi te hotu sabbadaa, may happiness ever be to you!
7. Sometimes the place to which the
motion is directed is put in the Dative.
appo saggaaya gacchati, few go to heaven.
The Ablative Case (Pa~ncamii)
1. The Ablative case is principally used
to denote the place or object from which motion or separation
nagaraa niggato raajaa, the king departed from the
rukkhasmaa phalaani patanti, fruits fall from the tree.
assasmaa pataami, 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.
pabbatehi nadiyo pabhavanti, rivers originate from mountains.
urasmaa jaato putto, the son born from the breast.
ubhato sujaato, well-born from both sides.
kaamato jaayati soko, grief arises from passion.
corasmaa bhaya.m uppajjati, fear arises from thieves.
aacariyamhaa ugga.nhaama, we learn from the
sissaa aacariyehi pa.n.naakaara.m labhanti,
pupils receive gifts from their teachers.
dukkhaa pamu~ncantu, may they be freed from pain!
mutto maarabandhanaa, released from the bondage of the
3. That which one desires to protect and
whose sight one desires to avoid, are also put in the Ablative case.
kaake rakkhanti ta.n.dulaa, lit. they guard crows from
paapaa citta.m nivaaraye, one should protect the mind from
maataa pituuhi antaradhaayati 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.
nagarasmaa catusu yojanesu ara~n~na.m, the
forest is four leagues from the city.
gaamasmaa aaraamo yojana.m, the monastery is one
league from the village.
imamhaa maasasmaa pa~ncamaase
atikkhante, when five months have elapsed from this.
ito kappasahasse, thousand Kappas hence.
5. Some prefixes and indeclinables also
govern the Ablative.
aa, as far as - aa pabbataa khetta.m,
as far as the rock is the field.
apa, away from - apa saalaaya
they come from the hall.
pati, like, in exchange for - Buddhasmaa pati
Saariputto, like the Buddha is Saariputta.
ghatam'asssa telasmaa patidadaati, he gives him ghee in
exchange for oil.
pari, away from, without - paripabbataa devo
vassati, it rains except on the mountain.
adho, below - adharaa adho, below the hip.
naanaa, different - te Bhikkhuu
naanaa-kulaa, those monks from different families.
rite, without - rite saddhammaa kuto sukha.m,
where is happiness without the noble Doctrine?
vinaa, without - vinaa dhammaa, without
uddha.m, above - uddha.m paadatalaa, upward
from the sole of the feet.
upari, above - upari ga`ngaaya, above
yaava, as far as - yaava brahmalokaa, as
far as the Brahma realm.
6. The Ablative is also used to denote comparison.
daanato siilam'eva vara.m, morality is indeed higher than
siilam'eva sutaa seyyo, morality is nobler than learning.
7. The Ablative is sometimes used in the
sense of the (a) Instrumental and (b) Locative.
(a) "Siilato na.m pasa.msanti", they
praise him on
account of morality.
bhava-paccayaa jaati, birth is conditioned by action.
sa`nkhaaranirodhaa avijjaa nirodho, the
cessation of ignorance results from the cessation of activities.
(b) puratthimato, from the east.
8. Sometimes the (a) Accusative and
(b) Genitive are used in the sense of the Ablative.
(a) ki.m kaara.na.m, by what reason?
(b) ta.m 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'.
kammassa ka.tattaa, by reason of having done the action.
ussannattaa, on account of having arisen.
The Genitive Case (Cha.t.thi)
1. The Genitive case is generally used
to denote the possessor.
Buddhassa dhammo, Buddha's Doctrine.
rukkhassa chaayaa, the shadow of the tree.
2. The Genitive is also used to denote
the relationship between two objects.
pupphaana.m raasi, heap of flowers.
Bhikkhuuna.m samuuho, multitude of monks.
meghassa saddo, sound of thunder.
suva.n.nassa va.n.no, colour of gold.
paadassa ukkhepana.m, 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.
naraana.m indo, king of men.
manussaana.m adhipati, chief of men.
satthaa deva-manussaana.m, 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.
Buddho se.t.tho manussaana.m, the Buddha is the chief of
imesa.m daarakaana.m (or, imesu daarakesu)
pa.thamo, he is the first of these boys.
etesa.m phalaana.m eka.m ga.nha, take one of those fruits.
5. Words implying skill, proficiency,
likeness, similarity, distance, nearness, under, above, etc.
govern the Genitive.
dhammaa'dhammassa kovido, skill in knowing the right and
kusalaa naccagiitassa, skilled in dancing and singing.
gaamassa (or gaamato)
aviduure, not far from the
Nibbaanassa santike, in the presence of Nibbaana.
nagarassa samiipe, near the city.
tassa purato, in his presence.
he.t.thaa chaayaaya, under the shade.
he.t.thaa ma~ncassa, under the bed.
tass'opari, above it; jaanuma.nalaana.m upari, above the
pitussa tulyo, similar to the father.
maatu-sadiso, like the mother.
6. The Genitive is also used with
superlatives and words having the same sense.
Dhammaana.m caturo padaa se.t.thaa, of
things the four Truths are the highest.
sabbesa.m sattaana.m Buddho uttamo, the Buddha is the highest
of all men.
danto se.t.tho manussaana.m, 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.
(a) amatassa daataa, giver of immortality.
paapaana.m akara.na.m sukha.m, it is happy not to do
(b) ra~n~no puujito, reverenced by the king.
(c) patta.m odanassa puuretvaa, filling the bowl with food.
(d) sabbe bhaayanti maccuno, all are afraid of death.
bhiito catunna.m aasiivisaana.m, frightened of the four
(e) divasassa tikkhattu.m, thrice a day.
Bhagavato pasannaa, pleased with the Blessed One.
The Locative Case
1. The Locative case denotes the place
or time where anything is or happens.
manussaa gharesu vasanti, men live in houses.
thaaliya.m odana.m pacati, he cooks rice in a pot.
khiiresu jala.m, there is water in milk.
2. The Locative denotes also the time
when an action takes place.
tasmi.m samaye, at that time.
saaya.nhasamaye aagato, he came in the afternoon.
phussamaasamhaa tiisu maasesu vesaakhamaaso,
three months from Phussa month is the month of Vesaakha.
ito satasahassamhi kappe, one hundred thousand aeons hence.
3. The reason is sometimes expressed by
diipi cammesu ha~n~nate, the tigers are killed on account of their
musaavaade paacittiya.m, one commits a paacittiya
offence, there is a paacittiya with regard to a lie or
4. The group or class from which a
person or thing is distinguished or separated is put in the Locative.
manussesu khattiyo suuratamo, the warrior is the bravest of men.
addhikesu dhaavato siighatamo, the runner is the fastest of
aayasmaa AAnando arahantesu a~n~nataro,
Venerable AAnanda is one of the Arahants.
5. The Locative or the Genitive is used
with the words adhipati, lord; daayaada, heir;
issara, lord; kusala, skill;
patibhuu, bail; pasuta, born of;
sakkhi, witness; and saami,
lokasmi.m (or lokassa)
adhipati, lord of the world.
kammasmi.m (or kammassa)
daayaado, heir of action.
pa.thaviya.m (or pa.thaviyaa)
issaro, lord of the earth.
giitasmi.m (or giitassa)
kusalo, skill in singing.
dassanasmi.m (or dassanassa)
pa.tibhuu, surety for
gosu (or gava.m)
pasuto, born of cows.
adhikara.nasmi.m (or adhikara.nassa)
sakkhi, witness in a case.
Dhammasmi.m (or Dhammassa) saami, master of Truth.
6. The Locative is used with the words saadhu, good, kind;
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
pa~n~naaya saadhu, good in wisdom.
maatari saadhu, kind towards the mother.
vinaye nipu.no, proficient in discipline.
bha.n.daagaare niyutto, attached to the treasury.
Dhamme gaaravo, reverence towards the Dhamma.
Buddhe pasanno, being pleased with the Buddha.
appakasmi.m tu.t.tho, being contented with little.
kaasira~n~ne na kuppaami, I am not angry with the
adhi devesu Buddho, the Buddha is superior to the gods.
upanikkhe kahaapa.na.m, a Kahaapa.na is greater than
7. Sometimes the Locative is used in the
sense of the (a) Nominative, (b) Accusative, (c) Instrumental (d)
Dative, and (e) Ablative.
(a) idam'pi'ssa hoti siilasmi.m, this also is his virtue.
(b) baahaasu gahetvaa, taking the hands.
bhikkhuusu abhivadanti, salute the monks.
(c) sama.naa pattesu pi.n.daaya caranti, the ascetics go
for alms with their bowls.
(d) Sanghe, Gotami, dehi, O Gotami, give to the Sangha.
(e) kadaliisu gaje rakkhanti, lit. they protect the elephants
from the plantain trees.
The Genitive and
The Nominative Absolute in English and
the Ablative Absolute in Latin are expressed by the Genitive and
Locative Absolutes in Paa.li.
(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
(c) mayi gate so aagato, he came
when I had gone.
bhikkhusa`nghesu bhojiyamaanesu gato, he
went when the multitude of monks were being fed.
sabbe maggaa vivajjenti gacchante lokanaayake, 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) aha.m gacchanto tena
saddhi.m na sallapi.m, 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.
maataapitunna.m rudantaana.m pabbaji or maataapituusu
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
The same construction may be used in the sense of as soon as; no
sooner than, by compounding eva with the participle;
tayi aagate y'eva so gato, he went as soon as you came,
or he went just as you had come.