Bhante Sujato Pali Course 2023: lesson 8

Thread for discussing chapter 8 of Warder for the class on September 19.

Meeting ID: 869 8997 6290
Passcode: 2023


Also, everyone might wanna get a head start on Lesson 8: he’s introducing both the gerund and the present participle in the same lesson :woozy_face: (along with many new uses of the instrumental :dizzy_face:) Should be a fun week! :sweat_smile:


This book was originally published in the UK in 1963, the year I finished high school there. The students Warder prepared these lessons for had already learned these terms at school and were familiar with how they played out in at least English, French and Latin. So he wouldn’t have felt he was overloading us at all. :rofl:

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What Warder calls the ‘gerund’ is better described as the ‘absolutive’, as ‘gerund’ in English grammar is something very different.


Collins has a good overview of ‘absolutive’ on p. 114.
He cites OED: “the absolutive form of a word is that in which it is not inflected to indicate relation to other words in a sentence. “

He also helpfully points out that a Pali absolutive can sometimes be rendered as a present participle.

In Pāli the gerund/absolutive and present participle are formally distinct. But in English gerund and present participle are easily confused as they have the same ending.

In English adding -ing to a verb forms the present participle. Eg swimming.>

Use the present participle with the verb to be to make the present continuous tense. Eg They are swimming in the ocean.

It can also be used as a noun. Eg Swimming is fun. This is called a gerund.

One has to wonder why it’s not always called absolutive in Pāli.


And also I always get confused between gerund and gerundive.

A useful reminder that grammatical rules in different languages are not the same “thing”; in fact, they’re not a “thing” at all. Grammar is just a set of abstractions, and use of the same grammatical terms in different languages simply means, “some linguists thought that this abstraction in this language is similar in some respects to that abstraction in that language”.


Yes. Always.
We can choose between studying abstractions and learning a language.
Sometimes this or that abstraction helps language learning.

Many people are amazed that one doesn’t need to understand grammar to learn language.

A gerundive in English (do they happen in Pali?) is a present participle used as an adjective.
eg That swaying branch should be cut.
Cf gerund where it is used as an noun. eg Swaying isn’t good.


Yes, there is a ‘gerundive’. It’s also known as the ‘future passive participle’ and the ‘optative participle. ‘
(I think!)

Karaniya mettā sutta, Karaṇīyamatthakusalena …e.g.

In the PED one needs to get used to the abbreviations for ‘gerund’ vs. ‘gerundive’.


I’m grateful for what he’s done though I’m frustrated with how he did it.

But yes, I also thought that what you said was the case. Teachers would use tools that make it easier for students to understand. I believe that in his case, he didn’t expect the students to be linguists or grammarians, but only to understand Pali.

After two days of reading, I’ve made a note for myself (more like combining explanations from Mr Learn Pali, Ajahn Brahmali, Meiland and Warder). Please ignore the Thai words.

I’d be grateful If you tell me of any mistakes or confusing statements I’ve made.

Tomorrow I may have energy to do the exercises…
Lesson 8 - Notes.pdf (1.3 MB)


Yes, indeed! Warder may be one of the only grammarians who calls the absolutive a gerund, which, as Stephen and Gillian have pointed out, is a different thing altogether. I suggest we all get in the habit of calling it absolutive.

One important thing to note about the absolutive is that it is used for stringing actions together for one subject (agent), which in English, we simply do with commas or the connector ‘and’.

Take the common set-up or preamble to many, many suttas in the canon - “So and so got dressed in the morning, took their bowl and robe, and entered Sāvatthī for alms”. Well, Pāli can’t say it this way like we do in English, since a sentence can only have one main verb.
Thus, the form it takes in Pāli is a string of absolutives for all the prior actions, ending in a main verb. Consequently the sentence above would be rendered, awkwardly-sounding in English “So and so, having got dressed (absolutive) in the morning, having taken (abs.) their bowl and robe, entered (main verb) Sāvatthī for alms”.

Here’s one example out of many taken from SN 3.9:
atha kho sambahulā bhikkhū pubbaṇhasamayaṃ nivāsetvā pattacīvaramādāya sāvatthiṃ piṇḍāya pavisiṃsu.
Note, both nivāsetvā and ādāya are absolutives.


Thanks for the great explanation.
Gair & Karunatillake also use the term ‘gerund’ sadly- someone should put out a new edition!

Your example helpfully shows the 2 common ways the absolutive is formed, the -ya suffix often for verbs with a prefix.
(And sometimes the -ya gets assimilated, making it less obvious, like in the absolutive ‘paticca’)


Steven and John, you are about to pull your hair out, but my defence is that students can only hear when they are ready to hear! When I saw this

I just thought, “I really wish someone had told me that a long time ago,” it makes many things seem suddenly simple.

… but you probably did, both of you … Students can be so difficult!!!


This is probably why it’s referred to as ‘absolutive’- an action that stands independent from the main action of the sentence.

Perhaps related to the absolute construction.
(Locative, genitive, etc. )

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So, a sentence in the Pali language can have only one main verb? Or, are you talking about both English and Pali?

In English you can. For example: I went to the shop and I bought groceries. ‘Went’ and ‘bought’ are both main verbs. But in Pāli you would have to say: Having gone to the shop, I bought groceries. ‘Having gone’ would be an absolutive.


How about “The Buddha went to the west, but Ananda went to the east”? Two clauses with two subjects?


…………… Two sentences?

I’m not sure if you asked me or not, but let me try to respond:

A sentence is a unit of grammar. It must contain at least one main clause. It can contain more than one clause. In writing, a sentence typically ends with a full stop.

A clause is the basic unit of grammar. Typically a main clause is made up of a subject (s) (= a noun phrase) and a verb phrase… Main (or independent) clauses can form sentences on their own. They aren’t dependent on other clauses. They are always finite (they must contain a verb which shows tense).

Subordinate (or dependent) clauses cannot form sentences on their own. They are dependent on main clauses to form sentences. – Cambridge Grammar

My question above is whether Pali can have two independent clauses, both of which have a finite verb(s).