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The New Pāli Course Book 1
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Vocabulary: Pali-English
Vocabulary: English-Pali
For free distribution, as a gift of Dhamma.

The New Pali Course

First Book

The Alphabet

1. The Pali alphabet consists of 41 letters, eight vowels and thirty-three consonants.


a, aa, i, ii, u, uu, e, o


k, kh, g, gh, `n
c, ch, j, jh, ~n
.t, .th, .d, .dh, .n
t, th, d, dh, n
p, ph, b, bh, m
y, r, l, v, s, h, .l, .m

2. Of the vowels a, i, u are short; the rest are long.

Although e and o are included in long vowels they are often`sounded short before a double consonant, e.g. mettaa, se.t.thii, okkamati, yotta.m[1].

[1] Wide Book II for further treatment of letters.

3. Pronunciation

a is pronounced like a in what or u in hut
aa is pronounced like a in father
i is pronounced like i in mint
ii is pronounced like ee in see
u is pronounced like u in put
uu is pronounced like oo in pool
e is pronounced like a in cage
o is pronounced like o in no
k is pronounced like k in kind
kh is pronounced like kh in blackheath
g is pronounced like g in game
gh is pronounced like gh in big house
`n is pronounced like ng in singer
c is pronounced like ch in chance
ch is pronounced like ch h in witch-hazel
jh is pronounced like dge h in sledge-hammer
~n is pronounced like gn in signore
.t is pronounced like t in cat
.th is pronounced like th in ant-hill
.d is pronounced like d in bad
.dh is pronounced like dh in red-hot
.n is pronounced like kn in know
t is pronounced like th in thumb
th is pronounced like th in pot-herb
d is pronounced like th in then
dh is pronounced like dh in adherent
ph is pronounced like ph in uphill
bh is pronounced like bh in abhorrence
y is pronounced like y in yes
s is pronounced like s in sight
.m is pronounced like ng in sing

j, n, p, b, m, r, l, v and h are pronounced just as they are pronounced in English.

Parts of Speech

4. In English, there are 8 parts of speech. They are all found in Pali, but the Pali grammarians do not classify them in the same way. Their general classification is:

  1. Naama = noun
  2. Aakhyaata = verb
  3. Upasagga = prefix
  4. Nipaata = indeclinable particle

Pronouns and adjectives are included in the first group. Adjectives are treated as nouns because they are declined like nouns.

Conjunctions, prepositions, adverbs and all other indeclinables are included in the fourth group.

Gender, Number and Case

5. There are in Pali as in English three genders and two numbers.

  1. Pulli`nga = Masculine
  2. Itthili`nga = Feminine
  3. Napu.msakali`nga = Neuter
  1. Ekavacana = Singular
  2. Bahuvacana = Plural

6. Nouns which denote males are masculine; those which denote females are feminine; but nouns which denote inanimate things and qualities are not always neuter, e.g. rukkha (tree), canda (moon) are masculine. Nadii (river), lataa (vine), pa~n~naa (wisdom) are feminine. Dhana (wealth), citta (mind) are neuter.

Two words denoting the same thing may be, sometimes, in different genders; paasaa.na and silaa are both synonyms for a stone, but the former is masculine, and the latter is feminine. Likewise one word, without changing its form, may possess two or more genders; e.g. geha (house) is masculine and neuter, kucchi (belly) is masculine and feminine.

Therefore, it should be remembered that gender in Pali is a grammatical distinction existing in words, it is called grammatical gender.

7. There are eight cases, namely:

  1. Pa.thamaa = Nominative
  2. Dutiyaa = Accusative
  3. (a) Tatiyaa = Ablative of agent, and
    (b) Kara.na = Ablative of instrument
  4. Catutthii = Dative
  5. Pa~ncamii = Ablative of separation
  6. Cha.t.thii = Possessive or Genitive
  7. Sattamii = Locative
  8. Aalapana = Vocative

The Ablative in English is here divided into Tatiyaa, Kara.na and Pa~ncamii. But, as Tatiyaa and Kara.na always have similar forms both of them are shown under "Instrumental". Where only the "Ablative" is given the reader must understand that all (3) forms of the Ablative are included.

Declension of Nouns

8. Nouns in Pali are differently declined according to their gender and termination.

Nara is a masculine stem, ending in -a.

It is to be declined as follows:-

Case Singular Plural
Nominative naro = man naraa = men
Accusative nara.m = man nare = men
Instrumental narena = by, with or through man narebhi, narehi = by, with or through men
Dative naraaya, narassa = to or for man naraana.m = to or for men
Ablative naraa, naramhaa, narasmaa = from man narebhi, narehi = from men
Genitive narassa = of man naraana.m = of men
Locative nare, naramhi, narasmi.m = on or in man naresu = on or in men
Vocative nara, naraa = O man naraa = O men

Some of the stems similarly declined are:-

9. Inflections or case-endings of the above declension are:

Case Singular Plural
Nominative o aa
Accusative .m e
Instrumental ena ebhi; ehi
Dative aaya; ssa aana.m
Ablative aa; mhaa; smaa ebhi; ehi
Genitive ssa aana.m
Locative e; mhi; smi.m esu
Vocative a; aa aa

The last vowel of the stem should be elided before an inflection which begins with a vowel.

Exercise 1

Translate into English

  1. Manussaana.m.
  2. Purise.
  3. Hattha.m.
  4. Paadamhi.
  5. Kaayena.
  6. Buddhesu.
  7. Dhamma.m.
  8. Sa`nghamhaa.
  9. Suriye.
  10. Rukkhassa.
  11. Aakaasena.
  12. Bhuupaalebhi.
  13. Devaa.
  14. Canda.m.
  15. Gaamasmaa.
  16. Go.naaya.
  17. Siihaana.m.
  18. Asso.
  19. Sakuna.
  20. Ma~ncasmi.m.

Translate into Pali

  1. The dogs.
  2. Of the hand.
  3. On the men.
  4. From the tree.
  5. In the islands.
  6. With the foot.
  7. By the hands.
  8. To the lion.
  9. Of the oxen.
  10. From the birds.
  11. By the king.
  12. O deity.
  13. To the sun.
  14. In the sky.
  15. Through the body.
  16. On the bed.
  17. Of the moons.
  18. In the world.
  19. The monkey.
  20. Through the light.

Exercise 2

Translate into English

  1. Purisassa go.no.
  2. Manussaana.m hatthaa.
  3. Aakaasamhi saku.naa.
  4. Buddhassa dhammo.
  5. Ma~ncesu manussaa.
  6. Assaana.m paadaa.
  7. Rukkhe saku.no.
  8. Paasaa.namhi go.no.
  9. Lokasmi.m manussaa.
  10. Bhuupaalassa diipaa.

Translate into Pali

  1. The body of the ox.
  2. The bird on the tree.
  3. The island of the world.
  4. With the feet of the man.
  5. By the hand of the monkey.
  6. Of the birds in the sky.
  7. In the doctrine of the Buddha.
  8. The villages of the king.
  9. The birds from the tree.
  10. The horse on the path.

Remark. In translating these into Pali, the articles should be left out. There are no parallel equivalents to them in Pali. But it should be noted that the pronominal adjective "ta" (that) may be used for the definite article, and "eka" (one) for the indefinite. Both of them take the gender, number, and case of the nouns they qualify. (See §§46 and 48).

Conjugation of Verbs

10. There are three tenses, two voices, two numbers, and three persons in the conjugation of Pali verbs.

  1. Vattamaanakaala = Present Tense
  2. Atiitakaala = Past Tense
  3. Anaagatakaala = Future Tense
  1. Kattukaaraka = Active Voice
  2. Kammakaaraka = Passive Voice
  1. Pa.thamapurisa = Third Person
  2. Majjhimapurisa = Second Person
  3. Uttamapurisa = First Person

The first person in English is third in Pali.

Numbers are similar to those of nouns.

11. There is no attempt to conjugate the Continuous, Perfect, and Perfect Continuous tenses in Pali; therefore only the indefinite forms are given here.

Conjugation of the Root Paca (to cook)

12. Indicative, Present Active Voice

Person Singular Plural
Third (So) pacati = he cooks (Te) pacanti = they cook
Second (Tva.m) pacasi = thou cookest (Tumhe) pacatha = you cook
First (Aha.m) pacaami = I cook (Maya.m) pacaama = we cook

13. The base bhava (to be) from the root bhuu is similarly conjugated.

Person Singular Plural
Third (So) bhavati = he is (Te) bhavanti = they are
Second (Tva.m) bhavasi = thou art (Tumhe) bhavatha = you are
First (Aha.m) bhavaami = I am (Maya.m) bhavaama = we are

The following are conjugated similarly:-

Exercise 3

Translate into English

  1. Naraa suriya.m passanti.
  2. Go.naa paasaa.ne ti.t.thanti.
  3. Manusso gaame carati.
  4. Saku.no rukkhe nisiidati.
  5. Buddho dhamma.m bhaasati.
  6. Aha.m diipa.m aaharaami.
  7. Maya.m go.ne haraama.
  8. Sa`ngho gaama.m gacchati.
  9. Tva.m siiha.m passasi.
  10. Bhuupaalaa asse aaruhanti.
  11. Devaa aakaasena gacchanti.
  12. Assaa diipesu dhaavanti.
  13. Tva.m paadehi carasi.
  14. Tumhe hatthehi  haratha.
  15. Maya.m loke vasaama.
  16. Sunakhaa vaanarehi ki.lanti.
  17. Puriso ma~nce sayati.
  18. Varaahaa ajehi vasanti.
  19. Siihaa saku.ne hananti.
  20. Sunakhaa gaame caranti.

Translate into Pali

  1. The horse stands on the rock.
  2. The goats walk in the village.
  3. You see the sun.
  4. The moon rises in the sky.
  5. The men sleep in beds.
  6. The oxen run from the lion.
  7. People live in the world.
  8. Thou bringest a lamp.
  9. We live in an island.
  10. Thou art a king.
  11. You see the bird on the tree.
  12. The monkey plays with the pig.
  13. The king kills a lion.
  14. The deity walks in the sky.
  15. Trees are in the island.
  16. He carries the lamp.
  17. We see the body of the man.
  18. We eat with the hands.