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Lesson 1: Letter Pronunciation Lesson 2: Verbs Lesson 3: Nouns

Hi, if you're new to learning languages, then please see A List of Common Linguistic Terms to learn what words like "accusative" and "strong verbs" mean.

You should know that in Old English, verbs changed (we say that we "conjugate" verbs when we change them) a lot more than in Modern English. In Modern English, we usually add "-s" to third person singular verbs; that means that verbs used with words like "he", "she" or "it" add "-s", for example, we say "I sing" but "he sings". See? We added an "-s" to the end of the verb when we used it with "he", but we didn't when we used it with "I".

Also, in Modern English, we often add "-ed" or "-d" to the end of verbs when we are talking about the past tense. That means things that have been done. For example, we say "I kick" (or maybe "I am kicking") when we are talking about the present tense (a thing that is happening now), but in the past tense, when we are talking about things that have been done, we say "I kicked". We add the "-ed" to the end of the verb to show that it happened in the past. In Old English, though, they also have suffixes (word endings) when they are talking about "I", "you", "they", and "we".

And notice that some words in Modern English change the vowel to show that they happened in the past? For example we say "I sing" or "I am singing" for now, but when we want to talk about the past, we say "I sang". They also did this to some verbs in Old English. You should read the "Verb Classes" section of this page.

JargonEdit

You should read this section if you find some of the words hard to understand.

"Active" is the voice that shows that a person is doing something, for example, "I am kicking the door."

"Conjugation" means how you change a verb according to tense, voice, and person.

"Future" is the tense used for things that will happen.

"Imperative" is a mood. It is used for giving commands. For example, "Come today!"

"Indicative" is a mood. It is used for most verbs, and is used for actual actions, for example, "He is coming today."

"Mood" is a slight change in the meaning of the verb. For example, imperative is the mood of the verb you use for a command, but indicative is what you use for a normal sentence.

"Object" is whatever is having something done to them; it is not the same as the subject. In Modern English, it usually comes after the verb, for example, "I am kicking the door."

"Passive" is a verb used to show that something is being done to someone, for example, "I am being killed"

"Past" is the tense used for actions that have taken place.

"Past participle" is the form of the verb that you used with "have" to show a completed action in the past. For example, "I have come" It is also used with "am", "is", "are", "be", "was", and "were" to show that the verb is passive, for example, "I was killed!"

"Passive" is the voice that show that the subject is having something done to them, for example, "I am being kicked."

"Person" means who is doing the verb: you, me, he, she, it, we, or they?

"Present" is the tense that is used for things are are being done now.

"Subject" is the thing in the sentence which you change the verb for. It is usually the main thing in a sentence, and in Modern English it is usually what you mention first in a sentence, for example, "I am singing."

"Tense" means the time that a verb takes places in, for example "I sing" is the present, but "I sang" is the past"

"Subjunctive" is a mood. It is used for things that aren't real, or that are wished for, for example, "Oh, that he should come!"

"Voice" shows how the verb relates to subject of the sentence. For example, a passive verb is when the subject of the sentence is having something done to them, for example, "I am being killed!" But the active voice is for when the subject of the sentence is doing something, for example, "I love that."

Verb ClassesEdit

There are mainly two groups of verbs: strong and weak. Weak verbs are the verbs that add a suffix usually with "-d" in it to show the past time, and strong verbs are the verbs that change the vowel of the verb to show past time. There are seven subgroups within the strong verb group and three subgroups within the weak verb group, which are all slightly different. There are also other verbs which don't change exactly according to either weak or strong verb patterns. We'll call these irregular verbs.

Note that the present tense in Old English was usually also used to talk about future time, which we sometimes do in Modern English, too (for example, "I'm coming to your place tomorrow.").

See Lesson 4: Pronouns for the 1st (I, we), 2nd (you), and 3rd (he, she, it, they) person pronouns to go with the verbs.

Weak VerbsEdit

Weak verbs are the easiest verbs to conjugate. Weak verbs in Modern English are words like "kick", "love", and "bribe". They take dental suffixes (suffixes that have "t" or "d" in them) to form past and past participles, for example "kicked", "loved", and "bribed" as apposed to strong verbs ("run", "sing", and "take") which change the stem vowel to form the past and sometimes (in Modern English) add an "-en" suffix for past participles, for example "ran" and "have run", "sang" and "have sung", and "took" and "have taken". In Old English, strong past participles always ended with "-en"

Class One Weak VerbsEdit

Here is how to conjugate a class one weak verb:

Fremman - to advance, to support, to accomplish, to make
present indicative present subjunctive
1st pers. sing. Fremme Fremme
2nd pers. sing. Fremest Fremme
3rd pers. sing. Fremað Fremme
Pl. Fremmað Fremmen
Past (preterite) indicative Past (preterite) subjunctive
1st pers. sing. Fremede Fremede
2nd pers. sing. Fremedest Fremede
3rd pers. sing. Fremede Fremede
Pl. Fremedon Fremeden
Sing. imperitave Pl. imperitave
Freme Fremmað
Present participle Past participle
Fremmende (Ȝe)fremed
Inflicted infinitive
Tō fremmenne

In the past subjunctive and indicative, present second and third person indicative conjugations, and the singular imperative, verbs with double of the same consonants in the middle of a word (like "fremman") lose one of the consonants.

Verbs ending in -rian (like "nerian" - "to save") lose their i's in the same place that double middle consonants are shortened to only one (for example, "fremme" for 1st pers. sing. present indicative, but "fremest" for 2nd pers. sing. present indicative).

The present participle (fremmende), which is in some ways the equivalent to modern endglish (verb)+ing, can not actually be used in a participle, and therefore one cannot make the distinction in Old English betwix "I am making" and "I make" (German and Dutch and most Germanic languages still retain this indistinctness betwix the present participle (E.G. "is making") and the present simple (E.G. "makes")), for one of the sole uses of the present participle is as an adjective (I.E. "The screaming kid was very angry").

The past participle does not actually have to have to be used with the word habban-to have. I.E. Modern English "have been" and "have done" compared to Old English "gebēon" and "gedōn".

Plural Verbs all share the same conjugation.

Class Two Weak VerbsEdit

Here is how to conjugate a class two weak verb:

Lufian-to love
Present indicative Present subjunctive
1st pers. sing. Lufi(g)e Lufi(g)e
2nd pers. sing. Lufast Lufi(g)e
3rd pers. sing. Lufað Lufi(g)e
Pl. Lufiað Lufien
Past (preterite) indicative Past (preterite) subjunctive
1st pers. sing. Lufode Lufode
2nd pers. sing. Lufodest Lufode
3rd pers. sing. Lufode Lufode
Pl. Lufodon Lufoden
Sing. imperitave Pl. imperitave
Lufa Lufiað
Present participle Past participle
Lufiende (Ġe)lufod
Inflicted infinitive
Tō lufienne

Notes on second weak verb conjugation:

All verbs in the second weak conjugation end in -ian in the infinitive, but most verbs ending in -rian in the infinitive take the first weak conjugation ending.

In the present indicative singular second and third person conjugations, in the singular imperative, and in all past conjugations, the -i- drops out.

Class Three Weak VerbsEdit

Here is how to conjugate class three weak verbs, the smallest of the weak verb subgroups. They are semi-irregular because the third verb class was already dying by the time the first extensive Old English documents that survive today were written, and so some of them were already beginning to be conjugated like class one or two weak verbs. There is a grand total of four class three weak verbs.

Habban-to have Hycgan-to think Libban/Lifgan-to live Secgan-to say
Present indicative
1st pers. sing. Hæbbe Hycge Libbe/Lifge Secge
2nd pers. sing. Hæafst/Hafast Hygst/Hogast Lifast/Leofast Segst/Sagast
3rd pers. sing. Hæfð/Hafað Hygeð/Hogað Lifað/Leofað Segð/Sagað
Pl. Habbað Hycgað Libbað Secgað
Present subjunctive
Sing. Hæbbe Hycge Libbe/Lifge Secge
Pl. Hæbben Hycgen Libben/Lifgen Secgen
Past (preterite) indicative
Sing. Hæfde Hogode/Hygde Lifde/Leofode Sægde
Pl. Hæfdon Hogodon/Hygdon Lifdon/Leofodon Sægdon
Past (preterite) subjunctive
Sing. Hæfde Hogode/Hygde Lifde/Leofode Sægde
Pl. Hæafden Hogoden/Hygden Lifden/Leofoden Sægden
Imperative
Sing. Hafa Hyġe/Hoga Leofa Sæġe/Saga
Pl. Habbað Hycgað Libbað/Lifġað Secgað
Present participle
Habbende Hycgende Libbende/Lifġende Secgende
Past participle
(Ġe)hæfd (Ġe)hogod (Ġe)lifd (Ġe)sæġd
Inflicted infinitive
Tō habbenne Tō Hycgenne Tō Libbenne Tō Secgenne

Strong VerbsEdit

Strong verbs are (in Old English) verbs that show the difference between the past, past participle, and present tenses with an internal vowel change (I.E. sing, sang, sung). There are a great many more strong verbs in Old English than there are in Modern English because there has been (and still is) a tendency towards the considerably simpler weak verb conjugation rather than the more complex strong verb conjugation.

Overall Conjugation of a Strong VerbEdit

Most strong verbs take the endings (but not the vowel change) of "drincan-to drink".

Present indicative Present subjunctive
1st pers. sing. Drince Drince
2nd pers. sing. Drincest Drince
3rd pers. sing. Drineð Drince
Pl. Drincað Drincen
Past (preterite) indicative Past (preterite) subjunctive
1st pers. sing. Dranc Drunce
2nd pers. sing. Drunce Drunce
3rd pers. sing. Dranc Drunce
Pl. Druncon Druncen.
Sing. imperative Pl. imperative
Drinc Drincað
Present participle Past participle
Singende (Ġe)sungon
Inflicted infinitive
Tō singenne

Notes on overall conjugation of a strong verb:

In the past (preterite) indicative, the 2nd pers. sing. ending takes the vowel change, but not the ending, of the past (preterite) Pl. indicative ending.

There are four vowel changes in the graduation series of an Old English strong verb: present, 1st pers. sing. past, 2nd pers. sing. and pl. past, and past participle. If you know all of these, then you can fully predict the conjugation of a verb. When demonstrating the conjugation of each of the seven strong verb classes, I will simply show each of the afore-stated forms.

Class I Strong VerbsEdit

How to recognize these verbs in the infinitive:

  • Ī+one cons.

These verbs take this vowel change series:

Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
Ī Ī Ā I I

Verbs belonging to this class are:

Class II Strong VerbsEdit

How to recognize these verbs in the infinitive:

  • Ēo+one cons.
  • Ū+one cons.

These verbs take this vowel change series:

Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
Ēo/ū Īe/ȳ Ēa U O

Notes:

The present tense takes the i-mutation.

Verbs belonging to this class are:

Class III Strong VerbsEdit

Class three strong verbs are somewhat more complex than most other strong verb conjugations.

To understand well why this conjugation is so complicated, please see: Sound Changes Relevant to Old English

How to recognize these verbs in the infinitive:

First series:

  • E+two cons.

Second series:

  • Eo+h/r+one cons.

Third series:

  • E+l+one cons.

Fourth series:

Fifth series:

These are the rules to their conjugation:

  • 1st graduation series:
Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
E E Æ U O
  • 2nd graduation series:
Infinitive Present 1st Past 2nd Past Past participle
Eo Eo Ea U O
  • 3rd graduation series:
Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
E E Ea U O
  • 4th graduation series:
Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
Ie Ie Ea U O
  • 5th graduation series:
Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
I I A U U

Verbs belonging to this class are:

Class IV Strong VerbsEdit

What betokens this verb class:


Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
E I Æ Ǣ O

Notes:

The present tense takes the i-mutation

Class V Strong VerbsEdit

What betokens this verb class:

  • E+1 cons (usually a stop: b, c, d, g, p, and t, or a fricative: f, s, and þ/ð).


Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past past participle
E I Æ Ǣ E

Verbs belonging to this class:

Weak Verbs with E+stop/fricative in the infinitive:

Class VI Strong VerbsEdit

What betokens this verb class: A+1 cons (usually).


Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
A Ō Ō A

Verbs Belonging to this class:

Weak verbs with a+1 cons in the infinitive:

Class VII Strong VerbsEdit

What betokens this verbs class: When verb has the same vowel in the infinitive as in the past participle, and when the 1st past and 2nd past share the same vowel, too (either ē or ēo).


Infinitive Present 1st past 2nd past Past participle
? ēo/ē ēo/ē (same as infinitive)

Verbs belonging to this class:

  • Note that, as there is a wide variety of vowels in the infinitive of verbs in this class, listing weak verbs that could be mistaken for this class would be impractical, especially as the recognition symbol for these verbs is not so much what vowel for the infinitive as which vowels throughout the vowel-graduation series of these verbs.

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