Class I e+i o+i Ø+i Ø+i Gmc ī a+i I i oe ī ā I i wrītan wrāt writon writen class II

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Old English morphology – strong verbs

IE ablaut

e (present) o (perfect) Ø (aorist) historically a thematic adj.

(IE o-stem, Gmc. a-stem)


Present Pret 1 Pret 2 Past Participle

class I e+i o+i Ø+i Ø+i

Gmc ī a+i i i

OE ī ā i i

wrītan wrāt writon writen
class II e+u o+u Ø+u Ø+u

Gmc eu au u o (lowered before back V)

OE ēo u u o

a <ēa>

cēosan cēas curon coren
class III a. e+n+C o+n+C Ø+n+C Ø+n+C

OE inC anC unC unc

singan sang sungon sungen
b. e+l+C o+l+C Ø+l+C Ø+l+C

Gmc a

OE elC (no br.) ealC ulC olC

helpan healp hulpon holpen

c. e+r/h+C o+r/h+C Ø+r/h+C Ø+r/h+C


OE eo ea u o

weorpan wearp wurpon worpen

feohtan feaht fuhton fohten
class IV e o ē (lengthened grade) Ø

IE e+l/r/m o+l/r/m ē+l/r/m Ø+l/r/m

Gmc e a 1 u > o

OE beran br b1ron boren

stelan stl st1lon stolen

niman nam nōmon numen

class V e+C o+C ē+C e+C (analogy on the pres.)

Gmc e a 1 e

OE e  1 e

sprecan sprc spr1con sprecen

etan t 1ton eten
class VI

class VI is not an ablaut series in the strict sense but a Germanic innovation, if with elements of original ablaut. Many class VI verbs seem to have uniquely Germanic roots and no secure IE etymologies.

IE o+C ō+C ō+C o+C (analogy on the pres.)

OE a ō ō a

faran fōr fōron faren
class VII

OE x ēo/ē ēo/e x

cnāwan cnēow cnēowon cnāwen

l1tan lēt lēton l1ten

blōwan blēow blēowon blōwen

healdan hēold hēoldon healden

class VII is often referred to as ‘reduplicating’. regular reduplication preserved in Gothic, only some relic forms in Northwest Germanic. Gothic haitanhaihait ‘command’, OE hātanheht, alongside a more frequent hēt.

  • Conjugation of the verb

Strong Weak

Indicative Subjunctive Imperative Indicative Subjunctive Imperative


SG 1 -e -e

2 -(e)st -e -Ø -(e)st -e -e

3 -eþ -eþ

PL -aþ -en -aþ -aþ -en -aþ


SG 1 -Ø -e

2 -e -en -(e)st -e

3 -Ø -e

PL -on -en -on -en

  • Preterite-present verbs

  • This is a small but interesting group of Teutonic preterite-present verbs (now chiefly used as auxiliaries of tense, mood, or predication), in form characterised by having as their present tense an original preterite, which retains the preterite form but has come to have a present signification, and from which a new weak past tense has subsequently been developed.

  • Exemplary paradigms

Meaning Inf. Pres.Ind.Sing Pres.Ind. Pl Pret Sg

1, 3 2

‘possess’ agan ah ahst, aht agon ahte

‘can, know how to’ cunnan cann canst cunnon cūþe

‘avail, be of use’ *dugan dēah --- dugon dohte

‘dare’ *durran dearr dearst durron dorste

remember’ gemunan geman gemanst gemunon gemunde

‘be able’ magan mg meaht magon mihte, meahte

‘be allowed to, may’ *mōtan mōt mōst mōton mōste

‘be obliged to’ *sculan sceal scealt sculon sceolde

‘need’ þurfan þēarf þearft þurfon þorfte

‘grant’ unnan ann --- unnon ūþe

‘know’ witan wat wast witon wiste, wisse

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