The present indicative of √vac

The Pali verb with root √vac appears to have lost its normal present indicative form *vacati, which has been replaced by vadati. So far so good. The Pali English Dictionary (PED)'s entry for *vacati directs us to the entry vatti. This seems very odd to me because “vatti” does not occur as the 3rd. sing. pres. verb, which is the normal form of the entry for a verb in the PED. Granted that some forms of the verb given under vatti do begin with “vatt”. However, vatti also doesn’t occur in the EBT’s as far as I can see. The PED gives the etymology " Vedic vakti, vac", so presumably we have vakti > *vatti, which is replaced by “vadati”. A strange verb. It seems that there’s something going on similar to the English “go/went” which were originally seperate verbs.

Well, that’s the best I can do.



Thanks David.

True, there is no present ind. of vac, but there are other verbs like the passive (vuccati) and past (avoca). Or other words, like the noun vacana.

This is in part why I don’t emphasize roots for Pali. The point of roots is not that you start with a root and from there you form the verbs (or other words). In reality these “derivations” are primary, and they are just somewhat loosely related to one another through various roots. So you start with the actual words that are used, and only then see how they relate to roots. You don’t start witih the roots. At least, I don’t.

Why the PTS dictionary mentions vatti in the first place is that it has all verb entries under their present indicatives. Under that header they put other forms, like the past, gerund, and so on. Like in this case avoca. So they had to “invent” this vatti as the entry header (or adopt it from Sanskrit), even though the word is not actually used.

Vadati I belief to be connected to root vad, not vac. It’s just a separate verb with a similar meaning. Possibly because of the similarity in meaning vatti/vacati got out of use. Or it was never used in the first place. That’s my guess.


Another example of a theoretical verb found in PED, similar to *vatti, is *dassati.
(I’m sure you know Pāli has passati instead.)

I suppose the issue is where to put all the other forms of the verb since, as Ven. Sunyo has said, the entries are all present indicatives.

It’s important to understand the root √dṛś, otherwise students might say, ‘where does this disvā, addasā, and diṭṭhi, etc. come from?’

Regarding √vac, Gair and Karunatillake tell us (p.88):
“The root vac- is defective, since it does not have present tense forms in actual use, though present tense forms vatti or vacati are sometimes cited. In Pāli, it has been supplanted in the present tense by the root vad- as in vadati. However, vac- does have forms in other tenses, including the past…”

The comparison to the English verbs go and wend is an interesting one.



No. In Sanskrit, the root vac forms its presents with a reduplicated stem, e.g. vívakti.

Hi @Leon.

Thanks for the information on the Sanskrit.

I’m not sure what point you disagree with, below. Perhaps I wasn’t clear. Warder in his gives at Pali form vacati as the present of root vac. The PED gives *vacati pointing to vatti. The PED entry for vatti gives etymology “Vedic vakti, vac”. Are you saying that the PED etymology is incorrect?

For what it’s worth, both vatti and vacati appear in the Saddanīti, a grammatical work by Aggavaṃsa. See this link.

Thanks again.

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Hello @stephen ,

Thank you for your note (quoted below). I have only begun paying attention to verbal roots recently. When I first looked at Pali, many years ago now, I found the use of roots in Warder’s Introduction quite off-putting. But now my main objection is that there is no standard representation of roots across dictionaries and grammars. For example, √dṛś (below) appears as (d)dis in Warder and as both √dis and √dṛś in Duroiselle.

I’m working on creating a LaTex version of Warder for my personal use. Eventually I get around to creating a version of his verb table with links like this to an online version of a Sanskrit dictionary.


I hope you found it somewhat helpful. Some find Warder’s Pali textbook offputting, it seems geared to those with a strong philological bent. I’m afraid I don’t know what Latex is.

Many find the Gair & Karunatillake book more friendly, as it seems better directed to teaching how to read the suttas. It also draws from a much larger body of texts.

But everyone’s different.


Hi David,

Apologies for my rather terse reply the other day.

I’m not certain that the verb form vacati (built with a thematic stem) was, as you stated, ‘the normal present indicative form’ of the root vac. Is it actually attested in any Pali texts? Late lexicographic works often contain non-authentic forms.

Present indicative forms of roots cognate with Pali vac are also unattested in Avestan and Greek. The only strange thing going on to my eyes is in Pali dictionaries and suchlike that insist on using 3rd sing pres ind act forms as lemmata!

Hi @Leon,

Thanks again.

My mistake. I should have said something like “the hypothetical first conjugation present indicative form” of vac. As far as I can see, the earliest Pali form is in the Saddanīti from 1154, CE (according to Wikipedia). So the form, vacati, may well be non-authentic, as you suggest.

Would you than suggest that the lemma of a verb should be some other form or forms of the verb if the 3rd present does not occur in the EBTs?

Thanks again,

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Hi @stephen,

If I were starting out fresh, I would probably choose Gair & Karunatillake. I bought the Kindle version from Amazon, but it’s worthless as an on-line text because it’s only a scanned version with garbled OCR text. I returned it as soon as I looked at it. It’s true that the exercises and grammar in Warder come mainly from the DN.

Lately I’ve been working through " Reading the Buddha’s Discourses in Pali". It refers to several grammars, but I can only find good on-line versions for Duroiselle. So for now I’m stuck with it and Warder.

LaTex is a text processing system with output ready for book and article publication.

Thanks again,

Hi David,

No, I would much rather attested finite forms, participles etc were listed under their respective verbal roots. This is standard practice in Sanskrit scholarship (and that of many other old Indo-European languages) and has many advantages, among them:

  1. Not creating / citing ghost words.
  2. Parsimony.
  3. On a morphological level, it is more straightforward to associate, say, a related present form, aorist form and a perfect form with their shared root than directly with each other.
  4. Not privileging the present indicative over other forms.

Hi Leon and Bhante @sujato ,

(I am including Bhante Sujato because of the current work on improving searching.)

I’ve been thinking about what you said (quoted below). I think the future of special language dictionaries is online. Therefore, what the verb is listed under is less important than how it can be looked up. I agree that there should be a way of looking up a verb given its root. The lookup should be either exact (finding the verb without prefixes) or loose (finding the verb and its various forms with prefixes and relevant specialized forms, i.e. aorist, etc.). More advanced lookup features can, of course, be added.

Here the appropriate form of the root is that appearing in the PTS Pali-English Dictionary.