Best books for learning Pali and best references

Having the the Pali along side the English with Pali word lookup has been very helpful when reading the suttas, but I realize I need to understand Pali grammar and parts of speech better.

I am looking for recommendations for books to teach me these things as well as useful reference books for translating Pali.

I want to hear from people who have actually used the books the recommend.

Thanks in advance.

1 Like

I am currently doing this course:

Trying to read this book alongside it: Reading the Buddha’s Discourses in Pāli - The Wisdom Experience

And I will try out this book and course next: ‘A new course in Reading Pali’, more info in this topic:


You mentioned Pāli grammar specifically, Bhikkhu Bodhi recommends this book: Pāli Grammar for Students by Steven Collins.

Also, the excellent A New Course in Reading Pāli by James Gair has already been mentioned above, which is another book recommended by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Bhikkhu Bodhi also recently published Reading the Buddha’s Discourses in Pali: A Practical Guide to the Language of the Ancient Buddhist Canon.

These plus a number of online courses should help you get your arms around Pāli.

I hope these recommendations will be of benefit to you and your practice.


If you’re completely new to classical grammar, consider starting with DeSilva’s gentle primer before graduating to the more serious books mentioned above :slight_smile: Best of luck!


Does anyone have any thoughts on Warder? I have it in physical form which is how I like to study- does it have any serious drawbacks or weakness compared to the other books mentioned?


I think Warder on its own might be a bit difficult. He includes a lot of background info. But luckily Ajahn Brahmali did a wonderful set of talks to accompany the chapters and work through the exercises. And Ajahn Brahmali separates out with his key to reading Pali from what is extraneous. Lectures available here:

A number of us on this board used daSilva’s Pali Primer with Stephen Sas’s excellent class. Book and class lectures available here available here:

The course then moves into using the Gair and Karunatillake book.


For those who could endure such a thing, on the BAUS youtube channel there are 38 1.5 hour classes beginning with a bit of Pali Primer and then covering the entirety of Gair and Karunatillake.

However, I do think learning a language in a group setting together with fellow eager classmates often yields better results than a solitary pursuit. The trick is, of course, to find those enthusiastic Pali friends.


Just be aware, this isn’t a lesson book. It’s a reference book.

When I spoke to Bhikkhu Bodhi, he didn’t recommend it. I believe his reason was that it would be good if you were already a philologist. He prefers the Gair/Karunatilaka book instead. But of course many people have learned using Warder.