The basic need of language arrived in order to satisfy the need of communicating each other, and communicating is done by asking questions. Hence, in this section, we are going to fulfill the need of communicating by learning some ways of asking questions in Sanskrit.


api is usually used to ask yes-no questions. For example;

अपि त्वं गुरुः
api tvaṃ guruḥ
Are you a guru?

2. ka, ki, ku

The words that begin with ya, as in “yatra” or “yatha”, mostly define relative clauses. Whereas, the words that define correlative clause starts with ta as in “tatra” or “tatha”. However, in order to ask the question we need to add ka, ki, and ku to these words as a suffix

Word Meaning
kadā when
kutra Where
Kutah From what
Kathā how

Kathā here can also be said askatham”.

कथं गच्छामि
kathaṃ gacchāmi
How will I go?

गच्छन्ति कुत्र
gacchanti kutra
Where do they go?

One important thing to note is that these words cannot be replaced with any other, for doing so will change the entire meaning of the sentence. ya is used to denote the relative part of the question whereas ka is used to ask the actual question


Now in order to ask questions, we can also use pronouns. The first pronoun that we are going to use is kim

किं तत्फलम्
kiṃ tat phalam
What (n.) is that fruit?

को गच्छति
ko gacchati
Who (m.) goes?

किं पृच्छति
kiṃ pṛcchati
What (n.) does he ask?

The pronoun kim is irregular in case1 and 2 neuter singular, but apart from this, this is a powerful pronoun which can be used in many ways;

नरो ऽश्वेन नगरमाचार्याय गच्छति
naro ‘śvena nagaramācāryāya gacchati
The man goes to the city on a horse (literally “with a horse”) for his teacher.

We can also ask about nouns (subject/object) in the question

नरः केन गच्छति
naraḥ kena gacchati
By what does the man go?

नरो ऽश्वेन कस्मै गच्छति
naro ‘śvena kasmai gacchati
For whom does the man go on a horse?

को ऽश्वेन गच्छति
ko ‘śvena gacchati
Who goes on a horse?

नरः किं गच्छति
naraḥ kiṃ gacchati
To where does the man go?

Pronouns used as an adverb

We have seen before that how adjectives can be turned to adverbs, for instance, sundar to sundaram. Similarly, pronouns can also be turned into adverbs. Let us take a look at their meaning after being change to adverb

Words                             Meaning
yad                            Because; since; wherefore
tad                              Thus; as a result; therefore
kim                               Why? For what reason?

Let us take a look at the example of kim

किं गच्छति
kiṃ gacchati
Why does he go?

However, word kim changes its meaning in case 3 to “what is the point of?”

किम् अश्वाभ्याम्
kim aśvābhyām
What is the point of two horses?

Kim sometimes is also used as api;

किं गच्छति
kiṃ gacchati
Is he going?

4. api, cid, and cana

We have by far learned that how to ask questions now let us take a look at the words that are used for answering the purpose.
We studied that api is used to form a yes-no question, however, api can also be sued to make general questions. Let’s take a look at the example;

कथम् गच्छति → कथम् अपि गच्छति
katham gacchati → katham api gacchati
How does he go? → He goes somehow or another.

को गच्छति → को ऽपि गच्छति
ko gacchati → ko ‘pi gacchati
Who goes? → someone or another goes.

We have till now learned that api can be used for multiple purposes. So let’s take a look at all of them to avoid any further confusion.
• As we learned initially, api is used to form yes-no questions
• It makes the word “ indefinite”
• Following nouns and pronouns, Api also means “also” or “usually”
• Following the adjectives and verbs, api means ” although” or “even though”

5. cid and ana

Now let us talk about cid and ana, well these words are used following the k words in a sentence. Let us take a look at the examples to understand them better.

कः स्मरति → कश्चित् स्मरति
kaḥ smarati → kaścit smarati
Who (masculine) remembers? → Somebody remembers.

कां पृच्छति → कां चित् पृच्छति
kāṃ pṛcchati → kāṃ cit pṛcchati
Whom (feminine) do you ask? → You ask somebody.
कुत्र काशते → कुत्र चित् काशते
kutra kāśate → kutra cit kāśate
                                                                           Where does it shine? → It shines somewhere.                                                                                                                                        

can however, is very rare compared to cid. In a sentence, it has a negative connotation.

न कश्चन
na kaścana
Not anyone