I have read that Vedic Sanskrit had five grammatical moods a verb could take; indicative, optative, imperative, subjunctive, and injunctive; four of them I understand the function of through other languages; but what did the injunctive mood do?

The indicative mood declared something to be the case. The optative indicated a hopedor wished for event. The imperative ordered someone to do something. The subjunctive talked about things that are not necessarily real. But what did the injunctive do? What was its function?

1 Answer 1


The injunctive can be defined formally as an imperfect or aorist verb without the augment (a-). Its main function is with the negative particle mā to express prohibition. In non-negative sentences it is used to indicate that a statement is already known to the listener.

Related: Unaugmented contract imperfect in Ancient Greek?

EDIT: Some examples:

bharati “he carries” (present indicative)

abharat “he was carrying” (imperfect indicative)

bharat “(as you know) he carried/carries” (present injunctive)

mā bharat “do not carry!” (present injunctive negated)

  • 1
    couldn't prohibition be expressed by negating an imperative verb? and also why is a seperate mood needed for saying something the speaker already knows? also how is the same thing expressed with negative verbs? Dec 14, 2022 at 21:41
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    We don't know why. That's just the way they used it. "Why" questions about historical linguistics rarely have answers because there is rarely any data that bear on them.
    – jlawler
    Dec 14, 2022 at 22:11
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    also why is it called "injunctive" given that? Dec 14, 2022 at 23:06
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    @noah It’s fairly common in Indo-European languages that prohibition is not expressed by just negating an imperative. In Greek and Latin, just like in Sanskrit, a common way to negate an imperative is to use a special negator (μή in Greek, ne in Latin) with a form of the verb that is neither indicative nor imperative (mostly optative in Greek, subjunctive in Latin). This continues in Romance languages to this day: in Spanish, the negative of ¡toma! ‘take!’ (imp.) is ¡no tomes! (negated subjunctive). Dec 14, 2022 at 23:24
  • 1
    @noahjohnson because an injunction is a prohibition
    – No Name
    Dec 15, 2022 at 1:24

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