The scope of this book is indicated in § 5. It is intended for beginners, and in writing it, these words of Sir Thomas Elyot have not been forgotten: “Grammer, beinge but an introduction to the understandings of autors, if it be made to longe or exquisite to the lerner, it in a maner mortifieth his corage: And by that time he cometh to the most swete and pleasant redinge of olde autors, the sparkes of fervent desire of lernynge are extincte with the burdone of grammer, lyke as a lyttell fyre is sone quenched with a great heape of small stickes.”—The Governour, Cap. X.

Only the essentials, therefore, are treated in this work, which is planned more as a foundation for the study of Modern English grammar, of historical English grammar, and of the principles of English etymology, than as a general introduction to Germanic philology.

The Exercises in translation will, it is believed, furnish all the drill necessary to enable the student to retain the forms and constructions given in the various chapters.

The Selections for Reading relate to the history and literature of King Alfred’s day, and are sufficient to give the student a first-hand, though brief, acquaintance with the native style and idiom of Early West Saxon prose in its golden age. Most of the words and constructions contained in them will be already familiar to the student through their intentional employment in the Exercises.

For the inflectional portion of this grammar, recourse has been had chiefly to Sievers’ Abriss der angelsächsischen Grammatik (1895). Constant reference has been made also to the same author’s earlier and larger Angelsächsische Grammatik, translated by Cook. A more sparing use has been made of Cosijn’s Altwestsächsische Grammatik.

For syntax and illustrative sentences, Dr. J. E. Wülfing’s Syntax in den Werken Alfreds des Grossen, Part I. (Bonn, 1894) has proved indispensable. Advance sheets of the second part of this great work lead one to believe that when completed the three parts will constitute the most important contribution to the study of English syntax that has yet been made. Old English sentences have also been cited from Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Reader, Bright’s Anglo-Saxon Reader, and Cook’s First Book in Old English.

The short chapter on the Order of Words has been condensed from my Order of Words in Anglo-Saxon Prose (Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, New Series, Vol. I, No. 2).

Though assuming sole responsibility for everything contained in this book, I take pleasure in acknowledging the kind and efficient assistance that has been so generously given me in its preparation. To none to I owe more than to Dr. J.E. Wülfing, of the University of Bonn; Prof. James A. Harrison, of the University of Virginia; Prof. W. S. Currell, of Washington and Lee University; Prof. J. Douglas Bruce, of Bryn Mawr College; and Prof. L.M. Harris, of the University of Indiana. They have each rendered material aid, not only in the tedious task of detecting typographical errors in the proof-sheets, but by the valuable criticisms and suggestions which they have made as this work was passing through the press.

C. Alphonso Smith.


Baton Rouge, September, 1896.




I. History (§1-2) 1

II. Sounds (§ 3-6) 3

III. Inflections (§7-10) 7

IV. Order of Words (§ 11-12) 11

V. Practical Suggestions (§ 13-15) 13


VI. The a-Declension: Masculine a—Stems (§ 16-18) 16

VII. Neuter a-Stems (§ 19-21) 19

VIII. The ō-Declension (§ 22-24) 22

IX. The i-Declension and the u-Declension (§ 25-29) 25

X. Present Indicative Endings of Strong Verbs (§ 30-34) 30

XI. The Weak or n-Declension (§ 35-37) 35

XII. Remnants of Other Consonant Declensions (§ 38-41) 38

XIII. Pronouns (§ 42-44) 42

XIV. Adjectives, Strong and Weak (§ 45-48) 45

XV. Numerals (§ 49-51) 49

XVI. Adverbs, Prepositions, and Conjunctions (§ 52-54) 52

XVII. Comparsions of Adjectives and Adverbs (§ 55-59) 55

XVIII. Strong Verbs: Class, Syntax of Moods (§ 60-63) 60

XIX. Classes II and III (§ 64-67) 64

XX. Classes IV, V, VI, and VII (§ 68-72) 68

XXI. Weak Verbs (§ 73-79) 73

XXII. Remaining Verbs; Verb-Phrases … (§ 80-86) 80






1. The history of the English language falls naturally into three periods; but these periods blend into one another so gradually that too much significance must not be attached to the exact dates which scholars, chiefly for convenience of treatment, have assigned as their limits. Our language, it is true, has undergone many and great changes; but its continuity has never been broken, and its individuality has never been lost.

2. The first of these periods is that of OLD ENGLISH, or ANGLO-SAXON,1 commonly known as the period of full inflections. E.g. stān-as, stones; car-u, care; will-a, will; bind-an, to bind; help-að (= ath), they help.

It extends from the arrival of the English in Great Britain to about one hundred years after the Norman Conquest,—from A.D. 449 to 1150; but there are no literary remains of the earlier centuries of this period. There were four2 distinct dialects spoken at this time. These were the North-umbrian, spoken north of the river Humber; the Mercian, spoken in the midland region between the Humber and the Thames; the West Saxon, spoken south and west of the Thames; and the Kentish, spoken in the neighborhood of Canterbury. Of these dialects, Modern English is most nearly akin to the Mercian; but the best known of them is the West Saxon. It was in the West Saxon dialect that King Alfred (849-901) wrote and spoke. His writings belong to the period of Early West Saxon as distinguished from the period of Late West Saxon, the latter being best represented in the writings of Abbot Ælfric (955?-1025?).

  1. The second period is that of MIDDLE ENGLISH, or the period of leveled inflections, the dominant vowel of the inflections being e. E.g. ston-es, car-e, will-e, bind-en (or bind-e), help-eth, each being, as in the earlier period, a dissyllable.

The Middle English period extends from A.D. 1150 to 1500. Its greatest representatives are Chaucer (1340-1400) in poetry and Wiclif (1324-1384) in prose. There were three prominent dialects during this period: the Northern, corresponding to the older Northumbrian; the Midland (divided into East Midland and West Midland), corresponding to the Mercian; and the Southern, corresponding to the West Saxon and Kentish. London, situated in East Midland territory, had become the dominant speech center; and it was this East Midland dialect that both Chaucer and Wiclif employed.
NOTE.—It is a great mistake to think that Chaucer shaped our language from crude materials. His influence was conservative, not plastic. The popularity of his works tended to crystalize and thus to perpetuate the forms of the East Midland dialect, but that dialect was ready to his hand before he began to write. The speech of London was, in Chaucer’s time, a mixture of Southern and Midland forms, but the Southern forms (survivals of the West Saxon dialect) had already begun to fall away; and this they continued to do, so that “Chaucer’s language,” as Dr. Murray says, “is more Southern than standard English eventually became.” See also Morsbach, Ueber den Ursprung der neuenglischen Schriftsprache (1888).

  1. The last period is that of MODERN ENGLISH, or the period of lost inflections. E.g. stones, care, will, bind, help, each being a monosyllable. Modern English extends from A.D. 1500 to the present time. It has witnessed comparatively few grammatical changes, but the vocabulary of our language has been vastly increased by additions from the classical languages. Vowels, too, have shifted their values.

  2. It is the object of this book to give an elementary knowledge of Early West Saxon prose, or the language of King Alfred. With this knowledge, it will not be difficult for the student to read Late West Saxon, or any other dialect of the Old English period. Such knowledge will also serve as the best introduction to the structure both of Middle English and of Modern English, besides laying a secure foundation for the scientific study of any other Germanic tongue.
    NOTE.—The Germanic, or Teutonic, languages constitute a branch of the great Aryan, or Indo-Germanic (known also as the Indo-European) group. They are subdivided as follows:

North Germanic: Scandinavian, or Norse.

Old High German,

(to A.D. 1100,)

Germanic East Germanic: Gothic. Middle High German,

High German (A.D. 1100-1500,)

New High German.

(A.D. 1500-.)

West Germanic


Low German Old Saxon,



Chapter II.


Vowels and Diphthongs.

  1. The long vowels and diphthongs will in this book be designated by the macron (¯). Vowel length should in every case be associated by the student with each word learned: quantity alone sometimes distinguishes words meaning wholly different things: fōr, he went, for, for; gōd, good, god, God; mān, crime, man, man.

Long vowels and diphthongs:

ā as in father: stān, a stone.

ǣ as in man (prolonged): slǣpan, to sleep.

ē as in they: hēr, here.

ī as in machine: mīn, mine.

ō as in note (pure, not diphthongal): bōc, book.

ū as in rule: tūn, town.

ȳ as in German grün, or English green (with lips rounded):1 brȳd, bride.

The diphthongs, long and short, have the stress upon the first vowel. The second vowel is obscured, and represents approximately the sound of er in sooner, faster (= soon-uh, fast-uh). The long diphthongs (ǣ is not a diphthong proper) are ēo, īe, and ēa. The sound of ēo is approximately reproduced in mayor (= mā-uh); that of īe in the dissyllabic pronunciation of fear (= fē-uh). But ēa = œ̅-uh. This diphthong is hardly to be distinguished from ea in pear, bear, etc., as pronounced in the southern section of the United States (= bœ-uh, pœ-uh).

  1. The short sounds are nothing more than the long vowels and diphthongs shortened; but the student must at once rid himself of the idea that modern English red, for example, is the shortened form of reed, or that mat is the shortened form of mate. Pronounce these long sounds with increasing rapidity, and reed will approach rid, while mate will approach met. The Old English short vowel sounds are:

a as in artistic: habban, to have.

æ as in mankind: dæg, day.

e, ę as in let: stelan, to steal, sęttan, to set.

i as in sit: hit, it.

o as in broad (but shorter): god, God.

ǫ as in not: lǫmb, lamb.

u as in full: sunu, son.

y as in miller (with lips rounded): gylden, golden.

NOTE:—The symbol ę is known as umlaut-e (§ 58). It stands for Germanic a, while e (without the cedilla) represents Germanic e. The symbol ǫ is employed only before m and n. It, too, represents Germanic a. But Alfred writes manig or monig, many; lamb or lomb, lamb; hand or hond, hand, etc. The cedilla is an etymological sign added by modern grammarians.


  1. There is little difference between the values of Old English consonants and those of Modern English. The following distinctions, however, require notice:

The digraph th is represented in Old English texts by ð and þ, no consistent distinction being made between them. In the works of Alfred, ð (capital, Ð) is the more common: ðās, those; ðæt, that; bindeð, he binds.

The consonant c had the hard sound of k, the latter symbol being rare in West Saxon: cyning, king; cwēn, queen; cūð, known. When followed by a palatal vowel sound,—e, i, œ, ea, eo, long or short,—a vanishing y sound was doubtless interposed (cf. dialectic kyind for kind). In Modern English the combination has passed into ch: cealc, chalk; cīdan, to chide; lǣce, leech; cild, child; cēowan, to chew. This change (c > ch) is known as Palatalization. The letter g, pronounced as in Modern English gun, has also a palatal value before the palatal vowels (cf. dialectic gyirl for girl).

The combination cg, which frequently stands for gg, had probably the sound of dge in Modern English edge; ęcg, edge; sęcgan, to say; brycg, bridge.

Initial h is sounded as in Modern English: habban, to have; hālga, saint. When closing a syllable it has the sound of German ch: slōh, he slew; hēah, high; ðurh, through.

  1. An important distinction is that between voiced (or sonant) and voiceless (or surd) consonants.1 In Old English they are as follows:


g h, c

d t

ð, þ (as in though) ð, þ (as in thin)

b p

f (= v) f

s (= z) s

It is evident, therefore, that ð (þ), f, and s have double values in Old English. If voiced, they are equivalent to th in (though), v, and z. Otherwise, they are pronounced as th (in thin), f (in fin), and s (in sin). The syllabic environment will usually compel the student to give these letters their proper values. When occurring between vowels, they are always voiced: ōðer, other; ofer, over; rīsan, to rise.

NOTE.—The general rule in Old English, as in Modern English, is, that voiced consonants have a special affinity for other voiced consonants, and voiceless for voiceless. This is the law of Assimilation. Thus when de is added to form the preterit of a verb whose stem ends in a voiceless consonant, the d is unvoiced, or assimilated, to t: sęttan, to set, sętte (but tręddan, to tread, has trędde); slǣpan, to sleep, slǣpte; dręncan, to drench, dręncte; cyssan, to kiss, cyste. See § 126, Note 1.


10. A syllable is usually a vowel, either alone or in combination with consonants, uttered with a single impulse of stress; but certain consonants may form syllables: oven (= ov-n), battle (= bœt-l); (cf. also the vulgar pronunication of elm).

A syllable may be (1) weak or strong, (2) open or closed, (3) long or short.

(1) A weak syllable receives a light stress. Its vowel sound is often different from that of the corresponding strong, or stressed, syllable. Cf. weak and strong my in “I want my lárge hat” and “I want mý hat.”

(2) An open syllable ends in a vowel or diphthong: dē-man, to deem; ðū, thou; sca-can, to shake; dæ-ges, by day. A closed syllable ends in one or more consonants: ðing, thing; gōd, good; glæd, glad.

(3) A syllable is long (a) if it contains a long vowel or a long diphthong: drī-fan, to drive; lū-can, to lock; slǣ-pan, to sleep; cēo-san; to choose, (b) if its vowel or diphthong is followed by more than one consonant:1 cræft, strength; heard, hard; lib-ban, to live; feal-lan, to fall. Otherwise, the syllable is short: ðe, which; be-ran, to bear; ðæt, that; gie-fan, to give.

NOTE 1.—A single consonant belongs to the following syllable: hā-lig, holy (not hāl-ig); wrī-tan, to write; fæ-der, father.

NOTE 2.—The student will notice that the syllable may be long and the vowel short; but the vowel cannot be long and the syllable short.

NOTE 3.—Old English short vowels, occurring in open syllables, have regularly become long in Modern English: we-fan, to weave; e-tan, to eat; ma-cian, to make; na-cod, naked; a-can, to ache; o-fer, over. And Old English long vowels, preceding two or more consonants, have generally been shortened: brēost,breast; hǣlð, health; slǣpte, slept; lǣdde, led.


  1. The accent in Old English falls usually on the radical syllable, never on the inflectional ending: bríngan, to bring; stā́nas, stones; bérende, bearing; ī́delnes, idleness; frḗonscipe, friendship.

But in the case of compound nouns, adjectives, and adverbs the first member of the compound (unless it be ge- or be-) receives the stronger stress: héofon-rīce, heaven-kingdom; ǫ́nd-giet, intelligence; sðo-fæst, truthful; gód-cund, divine; éall-unga, entirely; blíðe-līce,blithely. But be-haā́t, promise; ge-béd, prayer; gefḗalīc, joyous; be-sṓne, immediately.

Compound verbs, however, have the stress on the radical syllable: for-gíefan, to forgive; of-línnan, to cease; ā-cnā́wan, to know; wið-stǫ́ndan, to withstand; on-sácan, to resist.

NOTE.—The tendency of nouns to take the stress on the prefix, while verbs retain it on the root, is exemplified in many Modern English words: préference, prefér; cóntract (noun), contráct (verb); ábstinence, abstaín; pérfume (noun), perfúme (verb).




  1. There are five cases in Old English: the nominative, the genitive, the dative, the accusative, and the instrumental.1 Each of them, except the nominative, may be governed by prepositions. When used without propositions, they have, in general, the following functions:

(a) The nominative, as in Modern English, is the case of the subject of a finite verb.

(b) The genitive (the possessive case of Modern English) is the case of the possessor or source. It may be called the of case.

(c) The dative is the case of the indirect object. It may be called the to or for case.

(d) The accusative (the objective case of Modern English) is the case of the direct object.

(e) The instrumental, which rarely differs from the dative in form, is the case of the means or the method. It may be called the with or by case.

The following paradigm of mūð, the mouth, illustrates the several cases (the article being, for the present, gratuitously added in the Modern English equivalents):

Singular. Plural.

N. mūð = the mouth. mūð-as = the mouths.

G. mūð-es2 = of the mouth mūð-a = of the mouths.

(= the mouth’s). (= the mouths’).

D. mūð-e = to or for the mouth. mūð-um = to or for the mouths.

A. mūð = the mouth. mūð-as = the mouths.

I. mūðe = with or by means of mūð-um = with or by means of

the mouth. the mouths.


  1. The gender of Old English nouns, unlike that of Modern English, depends partly on meaning and partly on form, or ending. Thus mūð, mouth, is masculine; tunge, tongue, feminine; ēage, eye, neuter.

No very comprehensive rules, therefore, can be given; but the gender of every noun should be learned with its meaning. Gender will be indicated in the vocabularies by the different gender forms of the definite article, for the masculine, sēo for the feminine, and ðæt for the neuter: sē, mūð, sēo tunge, ðæt ēage = the mouth, the tongue, the eye.

All nouns ending in –dōm, -hād, -scipe, or –ere are masculine (cf. Modern English wisdom, childhood, friendship, worker). Masculine, also, are nouns ending in –a.

Those ending in –nes or –ung are feminine (cf. Modern English goodness, and gerundial forms in –ing: see-ing is believing).

Thus sē wīsdōm, wisdom; sē cildhād, childhood; sē frēondscipe, friendship; sē fiscere, fisher (man); sē hunta, hunter; sēo gelīcnes, likeness; sēo leornung, learning.


  1. There are two great systems of declension in Old English, the Vowel Declension and the Consonant Declension. A noun is said to belong to the Vowel Declension when the final letter of its stem is a vowel, this vowel being then known as the stem-characteristic; but if the stem-characteristic is a consonant, the noun belongs to the Consonant Declension. There might have been, therefore, as many subdivisions of the Vowel Declension in Old English as there were vowels, and as many subdivisions of the Consonant Declension as there were consonants. All Old English nouns, however, belonging to the Vowel Declension, ended their stems originally in a, ō, i, or u. Hence there are but four subdivisions of the Vowel Declension: a-stems, ō-stems, i-stems, and u-stems.

The Vowel Declension is commonly called the Strong Declension, and its nouns Strong Nouns.

NOTE.—The terms Strong and Weak were first used by Jacob Grimm (1785-1863) in the terminology of verbs, and thence transferred to nouns and adjectives. By a Strong Verb, Grimm meant one that could form its preterit out of its own resources; that is, without calling in the aid of an additional syllable: Modern English run, ran; find, found; but verbs of the Weak Conjugation had to borrow, as it were, an inflectional syllable: gain, gained; help, helped.

  1. The stems of nouns belonging to the Consonant Declension ended, with but few exceptions, in the letter n (cf. Latin homin-em, ration-em, Greek ποιμν-a). They are called, therefore, n-stems, the Declension itself being known as the n-Declension, or the Weak Declension. The nouns, also, are called Weak Nouns.

  1. If every Old English noun had preserved the original Germanic stem-characteristic (or final letter of the stem), there would be no difficulty in deciding at once whether any given noun is an a-stem, ō-stem, i-stem, u-stem, or n-stem; but these final letters had, for the most part, either been dropped, or fused with the case-endings, long before the period of historic Old English. It is only, therefore, by a rigid comparison of the Germanic languages with one another, and with the other Aryan languages, that scholars are able to reconstruct a single Germanic language, in which the original stem-characteristics may be seen far better than in any one historic branch of the Germanic group (§ 5, Note).

This hypothetical language, which bears the same ancestral relation to the historic Germanic dialects that Latin bears to the Romance tongues, is known simply as Germanic (Gmc), or as Primitive Germanic. Ability to reconstruct Germanic forms is not expected of the students of this book, but the following table should be examined as illustrating the basis of distinction among the several Old English declensions (O.E. = Old English, Mn.E. = Modern English):

Gmc. staina-z,

(1) a-stems

O.E. stān,

Mn.E. stone.

Gmc. hallō.

(2) ō-stems

O.E. heall,

Mn.E. hall.

I. Strong or Vowel Declensions

Gmc. bōni-z,

(3) i-stems

O.E. bēn,

Mn.E. boon.

Gmc. sunu-z,

(4) u-stems

O.E. sunu,

Mn.E. son,

(1) n-stems (Weak

Gmc. tungōn-iz


O.E. tung-an,

Mn.E. tongue-s.

Gmc. ƒōt-iz,


O.E. fēt,

II. Consonant Declensions

(2) Remnants of

Mn.E. feet.

other Con-

Gmc. frijōnd-iz,

sonant De-


O.E. frīend,


Mn.E. friend-s.

Gmc. brōðr-iz,


O.E. brōðor,

Mn.E. brother-s.

NOTE.—“It will be seen that if Old English ēage, eye, is said to be an n-stem, what is meant is this, that at some former period the kernel of the world ended in –n, while, as far as the Old English language proper is concerned, all that is implied is that the word is inflected in a certain manner.” (Jespersen, Progress in Language, § 109).

This is true of all Old English stems, whether Vowel or Consonant. The division, therefore, into a-stems, ō-stems, etc., is made in the interests of grammar as well as of philology.


  1. There are, likewise, two systems of conjugation in Old English: the Strong or Old Conjugation, and the Weak or New Conjugation.

The verbs of the Strong Conjugation (the so-called Irregular Verbs of Modern English) number about three hundred, of which not one hundred remain in Modern English (§ 101, Note). They form their preterit and frequently their past participle by changing the radical vowel of the present stem. This vowel change or modification is called ablaut (pronounced) áhp-lowt): Modern English sing, sang, sung; rise, rose, risen. As the radical vowel of the preterit plural is often different from that of the preterit singular, there are four principal parts or tense stems in an Old English strong verb, instead of the three of Modern English. The four principal parts in the conjugation of a strong verb are (1) the present indicative, (2) the preterit indicative singular, (3) the preterit indicative plural, and (4) the past participle.

Strong verbs fall into seven groups, illustrated in the following table:






Bītan to bite:

Ic bīt-e, I bite or shall bite.1

Ic bāt, I bit.

Wē bit-on, we bit.

Ic hæbbe ge2-bit-en, I have bitten.


Bēodan, to bid:

Ic bēod-e, I bid or shall bid.

Ic bēad, I bade.

Wē bud-on, we bade.

Ic hæbbe ge-bod-en, I have bidden.


Bindan, to bind:

Ic bind-e, I bind or shall bind.

Ic bǫnd, I bound.

Wē bund-on, we bound.

Ic hæbbe ge-bund-en, I have bound.


Beran. to bear:

Ic ber-e, I bear or shall bear.

Ic bær, I bore.

Wē bǣr-on, we bore.

Ic hæbbe ge-bor-en, I have borne.


Metan, to measure:

Ic mēt-e, I measure or shall measure.

Ic mæt, I measured.

Wē mǣton, we measured.

Ic hæbbe ge-met-en, I have measured.


Faran, to go:

Ic far-e, I go or shall go.

Ic fōr, I went.

Wē fōron, we went.

Ic eom3ge-far-en, I have (am) gone.


Feallan, to fall:

Ic faell-e, I fall or shall fall.

Ic fēoll, I fell.

Wē fēoll-on, we fell.

Ic eom3ge-feall-en, I have (am) fallen.

  1. The verbs of the Weak Conjugation (the so-called Regular Verbs of Modern English) form their preterit and past participle by adding to the present stem a suffix4 with d or t: Modern English love, loved; sleep, slept.

The stem of the preterit plural is never different from the stem of the preterit singular; hence these verbs have only three distinctive tense-stems, or principal parts: viz., (1) the present indicative, (2) the preterit indicative, and (3) the past participle.

Weak verbs fall into three groups, illustrated in the following table:





Fręmman, to perform:

Ic fręmm-e, I perform or shall perform

Ic fręm-ede, I performed.

Ic hæbbe ge-fręm-ed, I have performed.


Bodian, to proclaim:

Ic bodi-e, I proclaim or shall proclaim.

Ic bod-ode, I proclaimed.

Ic hæbbe ge-bod-od, I have proclaimed.


Habban, to have:

Ic hæbbe, I have or shall have.

Ic hæf-de, I had.

Ic hæbbe ge-hæf-d, I have had.

  1. There remain a few verbs (chiefly the Auxiliary Verbs of Modern English) that do not belong entirely to either of the two conjugations mentioned. The most important of them are, Ic mæg I may, Ic mihte I might; Ic cǫn I can, Ic cūðe I could; Ic mōt I must, Ic mōste, I must; Ic sceal I shall, Ic sceolde I should; Ic eom I am, Ic wæs I was; Ic wille I will, Ic wolde I would; Ic dō I do, Ic dȳde I did; Ic gā I go, Ic ēode I went.

All but the last four of these are known as Preterit-Present Verbs. The present tense of each of them is in origin a preterit, in function a present. Cf. Modern English ought (= owed).



  1. The order of words in Old English is more like that of Modern German than of Modern English. Yet it is only the Transposed order that the student will feel to be at all un-English; and the Transposed order, even before the period of the Norman Conquest, was fast yielding place to the Normal order.

The three divisions of order are (1) Normal, (2) Inverted, and (3) Transposed.

    1. Normal order = subject + predicate. In Old English, the Normal order is found chiefly in independent clauses. The predicate is followed by its modifiers: Sē hwæl bið micle lǣssa þonne ōðre hwalas, That whale is much smaller than other whales; Ǫnd hē geseah twā scipu, And he saw two ships.

(2) Inverted order= predicate + subject. This order occurs also in independent clauses, and is employed (a) when some modifier of the predicate precedes the predicate, the subject being thrown behind. The words most frequently causing Inversion in Old English prose are þā then, þonne then, and þǣr there: Ðā fōr , Then went he; Ðonne ærnað hȳ ealle tōweard þǣm feo, Then gallop they all toward the property; ac pǣr bið medo genōh, but there is mead enough.
Inversion is employed (b) in interrogative sentences: Lufast ðū mē? Lovest thou me? And (c) in imperative sentences: Cume ðīn rīce, Thy kingdom come.

(3) Transposed order = subject . . . predicate. That is, the predicate comes last in the sentence, being preceded by it modifiers. This is the order observed in dependent clauses:1 Ðonne cymeð sē man sē þæt swift-oste hors hafað, Then comes the man that has the swiftest horse (literally, that the swiftest horse has); Ne mētte hē ǣr nān gebūn land, siþþan hē frǫm his āgnum hām fōr, Nor did he before find any cultivated land, after he went from his own home (literally, after he from his own home went).

21. Two other peculiarities in the order of words require a brief notice.

(1) Pronominal datives and accusatives usually precede the predicate: Hē hine oferwann, He overcame him (literally, He him overcame); Drȳhten him andwyrde, The Lord answered him. But substantival datives and accusatives, as in Modern English, follow the predicate.

The following sentence Illustrates both orders: Hȳ genāmon Ioseph, ǫnd hine gesealdon cīpemǫnnum, ǫnd hȳ hine gesealdon in Ēgypta lǫnd, They took Joseph, and sold him to merchants, and they sold him into Egypt (literally, They took Joseph, and him sold to merchants, and they him sold into Egyptians’ land).

NOTE.—The same order prevails in the case of pronominal nominatives used as predicate nouns: Ic hit eom It is I (literally, I, it am); Ðū hit eart, It is thou (literally, Thou it art).

(2) The attributive genitive, whatever relationship it expresses, usually precedes the noun which it qualifies: Breoton is gārsecges īgland, Britain is an island of the ocean (literally, ocean’s island); SwiIce hit is ēac berende on węcga ōrum, Likewise it is also rich in ores of metals (literally metals’ ores); Cyninga cyning, King of kings (literally, Kings’ king); Gē witon Godes rīces gerȳne, Ye know the mystery of the kingdom of God (literally, Ye know God’s kingdom’s mystery).

A preposition governing the word modified by the genitive, precedes the genitive:1 On eldra manna sægenum, In old men’s sayings; Æt ðǣra strǣta ęndum, At the ends of the streets (literally, At the streets’ ends); For ealra ðīnra hālgena lufan, For all thy saints’ love. See, also, § 94, (5).



22. In the study of Old English, the student must remember that he is dealing not with a foreign or isolated language but with the earlier forms of his own mother tongue. The study will prove profitable and stimulating in proportion as close and constant comparison is made of the old with the new. The guiding principles in such a comparison are reducible chiefly to two. These are (1) the regular operation of phonetic laws, resulting especially in certain Vowel Shiftings, and (2) the alterations in form and syntax that are produced by Analogy.

(1) “The former of these is of physiological or natural origin, and is perfectly and inflexibly regular throughout the same period of the same language; and even though different languages show different phonetic habits and predilections, there is a strong general resemblance between the changes induced in one language and in another; many of the particular laws are true for many languages.

(2) “The other principle is psychical, or mental, or artificial, introducing various more or less capricious changes that are supposed to be emendations; and its operation is, to some extent, uncertain and fitful.”1

(1) Vowel-Shiftings.

  1. It will prove an aid to the student in acquiring the inflections and vocabulary of Old English to note carefully at the following shiftings that have taken place in the gradual growth of the Old English vowel system into that of Modern English.

(1) As stated in § 3, the Old English inflectional vowels, which were all short and unaccented, weakened in early Middle English to e. This e in Modern English is frequently dropped:


stān-as ston-es stones

sun-u sun-e son

sun-a sun-e sons

ox-an ox-en oxen

swift-ra swift-er swifter

swift-ost swift-est swiftest

lōc-ode lok-ede looked

  1. The old English long vowels have shifted their phonetic values with such uniform regularity that it is possible in almost every case to infer the Modern English sound; but our spelling is so chaotic that while the student my infer the modern sound, he cannot always infer the modern symbol representing the sound.


=no; stān=stone; bān=

bone; rād=road; āc=oak;

ā o (as in no)1 hāl=whole; hām=home;

sāwan=to sow; gāst=


=he; =we; ðē=thee;

=me; =ye; hēl=heel;

ē e (as in he) wērig=weary; gelēfan=to

believe; gēs=geese.

mīn=mine; ðīn=thine; wīr

=wire; mȳs=mice; rīm=

rime (wrongly spelt rhyme);

ī (ȳ) i (y) (as in mine) lȳs=lice; bī=by; scīnan=

to shine; stīg rāp=sty-rope

(shortened to stirrup, stīgan

meaning to mount).

=I do; =too, to; gōs=

goose; tōð=tooth; mōna=

ō o (as in do) moon; dōm=doom; mōd=

mood; wōgian=to woo;

slōh=I slew.

ðū=thou; fūl=foul; hūs=

house; =now; =how;

ū ou (ow) (as in thou) tūn=town; ūre=our; ūt=

out; hlūd=loud; ðūsend=


ǣ: sǣ=sea; mǣl=meal;

dǣlan=to deal; clǣne=

clean; grǣdig=greedy.

ǣ, ēa, ēo ea (as in sea) ēa: ēare=ear; ēast=east;

drēam=dream; gēar=year;

bēatan=to beat.

ēo: ðrēo=three; drēorig=

dreary; sēo=she; hrēod=

reed; dēop=deep.

  1. Analogy.

  1. But more important than vowel shifting is the great law of Analogy, for Analogy shapes not only words but constructions. It belongs, therefore, to Etymology and to Syntax, since it influences both form and function. By this law, minorities tend to pass over to the side of the majorities. “The greater mass of cases exerts an assimilative influence upon the smaller.”1 The effect of Analogy is to simplify and to regularize. “The main factor is getting rid of irregularities is group-influence, or Analogy—the influence exercised by the members of an association-group on one another. . . . Irregularity consists in partial isolation from an association-group through some formal difference.”2

Under the influence of Analogy, entire declensions and conjugations have been swept away, leaving in Modern English not a trace of their former existence. There are in Old English, for example, five plural endings for nouns, -as, -a, -e, -u, and –an. No one could well have predicted3 that –as (Middle English –es) would soon take the lead, and become the norm to which the other endings would eventually conform, for there were more an-plurals than as-plurals; but the as-plurals were doubtless more often employed in everyday speech. Oxen (Old English oxan) is the sole pure survival of the hundreds of Old English an-plurals. No group of feminine nouns in Old English had –es as the genitive singular ending; but by the close of the Middle English period all feminines formed their genitive singular in –es (or –s, Modern English ’s) after the analogy of the Old English masculine and neuter nouns with es-genitives. The weak preterits in –ode have all been leveled under the ed-forms, and of the three hundred strong verbs in Old English more than two hundred have become weak.

These are not cases of derivation (as are the shifted vowels): Modern English –s in sons, for example, could not possibly be derived from Old English –a and suna, or Middle English –e in sune23, (1)). They are cases of replacement of Analogy.
A few minor examples will quicken the student’s appreciation of the nature of the influence exercised by Analogy:
(a) The intrusive l in could (Chaucer always wrote coud or coude) is due to association with would and should, in each of which l belongs by etymological right.

(b) He need not (for He needs not) is due to the assimilative influence of the auxiliaries may, can, etc., which have never added –s for their third person singular (§ 137).

(c) I am friends with him, in which friends is a crystallized form on good terms, may be traced to the influence of such expressions as He an I are friends, They are friends, etc.

(d) Such errors as are seen in runned, seed, gooses, badder, hisself, says I (usually coupled with says he) are all analogical formations. Though not sanctioned by good usage, it is hardly right to call these forms the products of “false analogy.” The grammar involved is false, because unsupported by literary usages and traditions; but the analogy on which these forms are built is no more false than the law of gravitation is false when it makes a dress sit unconventionally.






  1. Masculine a-Stems.

[O.E. M.E. and Mn.E. will henceforth be used for Old English, Middle

English, and Modern English. Other abbreviations employed are self-explaining.]

25. The a-Declension, corresponding to the Second or o-Declension of Latin and Greek, contains only (a) masculine and (b) neuter nouns. To this declension belong most of the O.E. Masculine and neuter nouns. At a very early period, many of the nouns belonging properly to the i- and u-Declensions began to pass over to the a-Declension. This declension may therefore be considered the for all masculine and neuter nouns belonging to the Strong Declension.

26. Paradigms of sē mūð, mouth; sē fiscere, fisherman; sē hwæl, whale; sē mearh, horse; sē finger, finger:

Sing. N.A. mūð fiscer-e hwæl mearh finger

G. mūð-es fiscer-es hwæl-es mēar-es fingr-es

D.I. mūð-e fiscer-e hwæl-e mēar-e fingr-e

Plur. N.A. mūð-as fiscer-as hwal-as mēar-as fingr-as

G. mūð-a fiscer-a hwal-a mēar-a fingr-a

D.I. mūð-um fiscer-um hwal-um mēar-um fingr-um

NOTE.—For meanings of the cases, see § 12. The dative and instrumental are alike in all nouns.

27. The student will observe (1) that nouns whose nominative ends in –e (fiscere) drop this letter before adding the case endings; (2) that æ before a consonant (hwæl) changes to a in the plural; 1 (3) that h, preceded by r (mearh) or l (seolh, seal), is dropped before an inflectional vowel, the stem vowel being then lengthened by way of compensation; (4) that dissyllables (finger) having the first syllable long, generally syncopate the vowel of the second syllable before adding the case endings.2

28. Paradigm of the Definite Article3 sē, sēo, ðæt=the:

Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

Sing. N. sē sēo ðæt

G. ðæs ðǣre ðæs

D. ðǣm (ðām) ðǣre ðǣm (ðām)

A. ðone ðā ðæt

I. ðȳ, ðon — ðȳ, ðon

All Genders.

Plur. N.A. ðā

G. ðāra

D. ðǣm (ðām)


sē bōcere, scribe [bōc].

sē hierde, herdsman [shep-herd].

sē cyning, king.

ǫnd (and), and.

sē dæg, day.

sē sęcg, man, warrior.

sē ęnde, end.

sē seolh, seal.

sē ęngel, angel [angelus].

sē stān, stone.

sē frēodōm, freedom.
sē fugol (G. sometimes fugles), bird [fowl].

sē wealh, foreigner, Welshman [wal-nut].
sē weall, wall.

sē gār, spear [gore, gar-fish].

sē wīsdōm, wisdom.

sē heofon, heaven.

sē wulf, wolf.


I. 1. Ðāra wulfa mūðas.

2. Ðæs fisceres fingras.

3.Ðāra Wēala cyninge.

4. Ðǣm ęnglum ǫnd ðǣm hierdum.

5. Ðāra daga ęnde.

6. Ðǣm bōcerum ǫnd ðǣm sęcgum ðæs cyninges.

7. Ðǣm sēole ǫnd ðǣm fuglum.

8. Ðā stānas ǫnd ðā gāras.

9. Hwala ǫnd mēara.

10. Ðāra ęngla wīsdōm.

11. Ðæs cyninges bōceres frēodōm.

12. Ðāra hierda fuglum.

13. Ðȳ stāne.

14. Ðǣm wealle.

II. 1. For the horses and seals.

2. For the Welshmen’s freedom.

3. Of the king’s birds.

4. By the wisdom of men and angels.

5. With the spear and the stone.

6. The herdsman’s seal and the warrior’s spears.

7. To the king of heaven.

8. By means of the scribe’s wisdom.

9. The whale’s mouth and the foreigner’s spear.

10. For the bird belonging to (=of) the king’s scribe.

11. Of that finger.


(b) Neuter a-Stems.

  1. The neuter nouns of the a-Declension differ from the masculines only in the N.A. plural.

  1. Paradigms of ðæt hof, court, dwelling; ðæt bearn, child; ðæt bān, bone; ðæt rīce, kingdom; ðæt spere, spear; ðæt werod, band of men; ðæt tungol, star:

Sing. N.A. hof bearn bān rīc-e sper-e werod tungol

G. hof-es bearn-es bān-es rīc-es sper-es werod-es tungl-es

D.I. hof-e bearn-e bān-e rīc-e sper-e werod-e tungl-e

Plur. N.A. hof-u bearn bān rīc-u sper-u werod tungl-u

G. hof-a bearn-a bān-a rīc-a sper-a werod-a tungl-a

D.I. hof-um bearn-um bān-um rīc-um sper-um werod-um tungl-um

33. The paradigms show (1) that monosyllables with short stems (hof) take -u in the N.A. plural; (2) that monosyllables with long stems (bearn, bān) do not distinguish the N.A. plural from the N.A. singular; 1 (3) that dissyllables in –e, whether the stem be long or short (rīce spere), have –u in th N.A. plural; (4) that dissyllables ending in a consonant and having the first syllable short2(werod) do not usually distinguish the N.A. plural from the N.A. singular; (5) that dissyllables ending in a consonant and having the first syllable long (tungol) more frequently take –u in the N.A. plural.

NOTE.—Syncopation occurs as in the masculine a-stems. See § 27, (4).

34. Present and Preterit Indicative of habban, to have:


Sing. 1. Ic hæbbe, I have, or shall have.3

  1. ðū hæfst (hafast), thou hast, or wilt have.

  2. hē, hēo, hit hæfð (hafað), he, she, it has, or will have.

Plur. 1. wē habbað, we have, or shall have.

  1. gē habbað, ye have, or will have.

  2. hīe habbað, they have, or will have.


Sing. 1. Ic hæfde, I had.

  1. ðū hæfdest, thou hadst.

  2. hē, hēo, hit hæfde, he, she, it had.

Plur. 1. wē hæfdon, we had.

  1. gē hæfdon, ye had.

  2. hīe hæfdon, they had.

NOTE.—The negative ne, not, which always precedes its verb, contracts with all the forms of habban. The negative loses its e, habban its h. Ne + habban = nabban; Ic ne hæbbe = Ic næbbe; Ic ne hæfde = Ic næfde, etc. The negative forms may be gotten, therefore, by simply substituting in each case n for h.


ðæt dæl, dale.

ðæt hūs, house.

ðæt dēor, animal [deer1].

ðæt līc, body [lich-gate].

ðæt dor, door.

ðæt fæt, vessel [vat].

ðæt lim, limb.

on (with the dat.), in.

ðæt fȳr, fire.

ðæt spor, track.

ðæt gēar, year..

ðæt wǣpen, weapon.

ðæt geoc, yoke.

ðæt geset, habitation [settlement].

ðæt hēafod, head.

ðæt wīf, wife, woman.

ðæt wīte, punishment.

ðæt word, word.


I. 1. Hē hafað ðæs cyninges bearn.

2. Ðā Wēalas habbað ðā speru.

3. Ðā wīf habbað ðāra sęcga wǣpnu.

4. Ðū hæfst ðone fugol and ðæt hūs ðæs hierdes.

5. Hæfð2 hēo ðā fatu3?

6. Hæfde hē ðæs wīfes līc on ðǣm hofe?

7. Hē næfde ðæs wīfes līc; hē hæfde ðæs dēores hēafod.

8. Hæfð sē cyning gesetu on ðǣm dæle?

9. Sē bōcere hæfð ðā sēolas on ðǣm hūse.

10. Gē habbað frēodōm.

II. 1. They have yokes and spears.

2. We have not the vessels in the house.

3. He had fire in the vessel.

4. Did the woman have (= Had the woman) the children?

5. The animal has the body of the woman’s child.

6. I shall have the heads of wolves.

7. He and she have the king’s houses.

8. Have not (= Nabbað) the children the warrior’s weapons?



  1. The ō-Declension, corresponding to the First or ā-Declension of Latin and Greek, contains only feminine nouns. Many feminine i-stems and u-stems soon passed over to this Declension. The ō-Declension may, therefore, be considered the normal declension for all strong feminine nouns.

38. Paradigms of sēo giefu, gift; sēo wund, wound; sēo rōd, cross; sēo leornung, learning, sēo sāwol, soul:

Sing. N. gief-u wund rōd leornung sāwol

G. gief-e wund-e rōd-e leornung-a (e) sāwl-e

D.I. gief-e wund-e rōd-e leornung-a (e) sāwl-e

A. gief-e wund-e rōd-e leornung-a (e) sāwl-e

Plur. N.A. gief-a wund-a rōd-a leornung-a sāwl-a

G. gief-a wund-a rōd-a leornung-a sāwl-a

D.I. gief-um wund-um rōd-um leornung-um sāwl-um

  1. Note (1) that monosyllables with short stems (giefu) take u in the nominative singular; (2) that monosyllables with long stems (wund, rōd) present the unchanged stem in the nominative singular; (3) that dissyllables are declined as monosyllables, except that abstract nouns in –ung prefer a to e in the singular.

NOTE.—Syncopation occurs as in masculine and neuter a-stems. See § 27, (4).

  1. Present and Preterit Indicative of bēon (wesan), to be:

PRESENT (first form). PRESENT (second form). PRETERIT.

Sing. 1. Ic eom 1. Ic bēom 1. Ic wæs

2. ðū eart 2. ðū bist 2. ðū wǣre

3. hē is 3. hē bið 3. hē wæs

Plur. 1. wē 1. wē 1. wē

2. gē sind (on), sint 2. gē bēoð 2. gē wǣron

3. hīe 3. hīe 3. hīe

NOTE 1.—The forms bēom, bist, etc. are used chiefly as future tenses in O.E. They survive to-day only in dialects and in poetry. Farmer Dobson, for example, in Tennyson’s Promise of May, uses be for all persons of the present indicative, both singular and plural; and there be is frequent in Shakespeare for there are. The Northern dialect employed aron as well as sindon and sind for the present plural; hence Mn.E. are.

NOTE 2.—Fusion with ne gives neom and nis for the present; næs, nǣre, nǣron for the preterit.

NOTE 3.—The verb to be is followed by the nominative case, as in Mn.E.; but when the predicate noun is plural, and the subject a neuter pronoun in the singular, the verb agrees in number with the predicate noun. The neuter singular æt is frequently employed in this construction: Ðæt wǣron eall Finnas, They were all Fins; Ðæt sind ęnglas, They are angels; Ðǣt wǣron ęngla gāstas, They were angels’ spirits.

Notice, too, that O.E. writers do not say It is I, It is thou, but I it am, Thou it art: Ic hit eom, ðū hit eart. See § 21, (1), Note 1.


sēo brycg, bridge,

sēo geoguð, youth.

sēo costnung, temptation.

sēo cwalu, death [quail, quell].

sēo fōr, journey [faran].

sēo frōfor, consolation, comfort.

hwā, who?

hwær, where?

sēo lufu, love.

sēo mearc, boundary [mark, marches1].

sēo mēd, meed, reward.

sēo glōf, glove.

sēo hālignes2, holiness.

sēo heall, hall.

hēr, here.

sēo mildheortnes, mild-heartedness, mercy.

sēo stōw, place [stow away].

ðǣr, there.

sēo ðearf, need.

sēo wylf, she wolf.


I. 1. Hwǣr is ðǣre brycge ęnde?

2. Hēr sind ðāra rīca mearca.

3. Hwā hæfð Þā glōfa?

4. Ðǣr bið ðǣm cyninge frōfre ðearf.

5. Sēo wund is on ðǣre wylfe hēafde.

6. Wē habbað costnunga.

7. Hīe nǣron on ðǣre healle.

8. Ic hit neom.

9. Ðæt wǣron Wēalas.

10. Ðæt sind ðæs wīfes bearn.

II. 1. We shall have the women’s gloves.

2. Where is the place?

3. He will be in the hall.

4. Those (Ðæt) were not the boundaries of the kingdom.

5. It was not I.

6 Ye are not the king’s scribes.

7. The shepherd’s words are full (full + gen.) of wisdom and comfort.

8. Where are the bodies of the children?

9. The gifts are not here.

10. Who has the seals and the birds?




  1. The i-Declension, corresponding to the group of i-stems in the classical Third Declension, contains chiefly (a) masculine and (b) feminine nouns. The N.A. plural of these nouns ended originally in –e (from older i).

(a) Masculine i-Stems.

  1. These stems have almost completely gone over to the a-Declension, so that –as is more common than –e as the N.A. plural ending, whether the stem is long or short. The short stems all have –e in the N.A. singular.

  2. Paradigms of sē wyrm, worm; sē wine, friend.

Sing. N.A. wyrm win-e

G. wyrm-es win-es

D.I. wyrm-e win-e

Plur. N.A. wyrm-as win-as (e)

G. wyrm-a win-a

D.I. wyrm-um win-um

Names of Peoples.

  1. The only i-stems that regularly retain -e of the N.A. plural are certain names of tribes or peoples used only in the plural.

  2. Paradigms of ðā Ęngle, Angles; ðā Norðymbre, Northumbrians; ðā lēode, people:

Plur. N.A. Ęngle Norðymbre lēode

G. Ęngla Norðymbra lēoda

D.I. Ęnglum Norðymbrum lēodum

(b) Feminine i-Stems

  1. The short stems (fręm-u) conform entirely to the declension of short ō-stems; long stems (cwēn, wyrt) differ from long ō-stems in having no ending for the A. singular. They show, also, a preference for –e rather than –a in the N.A. plural.

  2. Paradigms of sēo fręm-u, benefit; sēo cwēn, woman, queen [quean]; sēo wyrt, root [wort]:

Sing. N. fręm-u cwēn wyrt

G. fręm-e cwēn-e wyrt-e

D.I. fręm-e cwēn-e wyrt-e

A. fręm-e cwēn wyrt

Plur. N.A. fręm-a cwēn-e (a) wyrt-e (a)

G. fręm-a cwēn-a wyrt-a

D.I. fręm-um cwēn-um wyrt-um

The u-Declension.

  1. The u-Declension, corresponding to the group of u-stems in the classical Third Declension, contains no neuters, and but few (a) masculines and (b) feminines. The short-stemmed nouns of both genders (sun-u, dur-u) retain the final u of the N.A. singular, while the long stems (feld, hǫnd) drop it. The influence of the masculine a-stems is most clearly seen in the long-stemmed masculines of the u-Declension (feld, feld-es, etc.).

NOTE.—Note the general aversion of all O.E. long stems to final –u: cf. N.A. plural hof-u, but bearn, bān; N. singular gief-u, but wund, rōd; N. singular fręm-u, but cwēn, wyrt; N.A. singular sun-u, dur-u, but feld, hǫnd.

    1. Masculine u-Stems.

  1. Paradigms of sē sun-u, son; sē feld, field:

Sing. N.A. sun-u feld

G. sun-a feld-a (es)

D.I. sun-a feld-a (e)

Plur. N.A. sun-a feld-a (as)

G. sun-a feld-a

D.I. sun-um feld-um

  1. Feminine u-Stems.

  1. Paradigms of sēo dur-u, door; sēo hǫnd, hand:

Sing. N.A. dur-u hǫnd

G. dur-a hǫnd-a

D.I. dur-a hǫnd-a

Plur. N.A. dur-a hǫnd-a

G. dur-a hǫnd-a

D.I. dur-um hǫnd-um

53. Paradigm of the Third Personal Pronoun, hē, hēo, hit = he, she, it:

Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

Sing. N. hē hēo hit

G. his hiere his

D. him hiere him

A. hine, hiene hīe hit

All Genders.

Plur. N.A. hīe

      1. G. hiera

D. him



sē cierr, turn, time [char, chare, chore].

sēo dǣd, deed.

sē dǣl, part [a great deal].

ðā Dęne, Danes.

sē frēondscipe, friendship.

seō hȳd, skin, hide.

ðā lǫndlēode, natives.

ðā Mierce, Mercians.

ðā Rōmware, Romans.

ðā Seaxe, Saxons.

sē stęde, place [instead of].


sēo flōr, floor.

sēo nosu, nose.

se sumor (gen. sumeres, dat. sumera), summer.

sē winter (gen. wintres, dat. wintra), winter.

sē wudu, wood, forest.

Note.—The numerous masculine nouns ending in –hād,—cild-hād (childhood), wīfhād (womanhood),—belong to the u-stems historically; but they have all passed over to the a-Declension.


I. 1. Ðā Seaxe habbað ðæs dēores hȳd on ðǣm wuda.

2. Hwā hæfð ðā giefa?

3. Ðā Mierce hīe1 habbað.

4. Hwǣr is ðæs Wēales fugol?

5. Ðā Dęne hine habbað.

6. Hwǣr sindon hiera winas?

7. Hīe sindon on ðæs cyninges wuda.

8. Ðā Rōmware ǫnd ðā Seaxe hæfdon ðā gāras ǫnd ðā geocu.

9. Hēo is on ðǣm hūse on wintra, ǫnd on ðǣm feldum on sumera.

10. Hwǣr is ðǣs hofes duru?

11. Heo1 (= sēo duru) nis hēr.

II. 1. His friends have the bones of the seals and the bodies of the Danes.

2. Art thou the king’s son?

3. Has she her gifts in her hands?

4. Here are the fields of the natives.

5. Who had the bird?

6. I had it.2

7. The child had the worm in his fingers.

8. The Mercians were here during (the) summer (on + dat.).



56. The unchanged stem of the present indicative may always be found by dropping –an of the infinitive: feall-an, to fall; cēos-an, to choose; bīd-an, to abide.

57 The personal endings are:

Sing. 1. -e Plur. 1.

2. -est 2. -að

3. -ēð 3.


  1. The 2d and 3d singular endings were originally not –est and -eð, but –is and –ið; and the i of these older endings has left its traces upon almost every page of Early West Saxon literature. This i, though unaccented and soon displaced, exerted a powerful back influence upon the vowel of the preceding accented syllable. This influence, a form of regressive assimilation, is known as i-umlaut (pronounced oóm-lowt). The vowel i or j (= y), being itself a palatal, succeeded in palatalizing every guttural vowel that preceded it, and in imposing still more of the i-quality upon diphthongs that were already palatal.1 The changes produced were these:

a became ę(æ): męnn (<*manni-iz), men.

ā “ ǣ ǣnig (<*ān-ig), any.

u “ y wȳllen (*wull-in), woollen.

ū “ ȳ mȳs (<*mūs-iz), mice.

oę dęhter (<*dohtr-i), to or for the daughter.

ō “ ē fēt (<*fōt-iz), feet.

ea “ ie wiexð (<*weax-ið), he grows (weaxan = to grow).

ēaīe hīewð (<*hēaw-ið), he hews (hēawan = to hew).

eoie wiercan (<*weorc-jan), to work.

ēoīe līehtan (<*lēoht-jan), to light.

The Unchanged Present Indicative.

  1. In the Northumbrian and Mercian dialects, as well as in the dialect of Late West Saxon, the 2d and 3d singular endings were usually joined to the present stem without modification either of the stem itself or of the personal endings. The complete absence of umlauted forms in the present indicative of Mn.E. is thus accounted for.

In Early West Saxon, however, such forms as the following are comparatively rare in the 2d and 3d singular:

Sing. 1. Ic feall-e (I fall) cēos-e (I choose) bīd-e (I abide)

2. ðū feall-est cēos-est bid-est

3. hē feall-eð cēos-eð bīd-eð

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē feall-að cēos-að bīd-að

3. hīe

The Present Indicative with i-Umlaut and Contraction.

  1. The 2d and 3d persons singular are distinguished from the other forms of the present indicative in Early West Saxon by (1) i-umlaut of the vowel of the stem, (2) syncope of the vowel of the ending, giving –st and –ð for –est and –eð, and (3) contraction of –st and –ð with the final consonant or consonants of the stem.


  1. The changes produced by i-umlaut have been already discussed. By these changes, therefore, the stems of the 2d and 3d singular indicative of such verbs as (1) stǫndan (=standan), to stand, (2) cuman, to come, (3) grōwan, to grow, (4) brūcan, to enjoy, (5) blāwan, to blow, (6) feallan, to fall, (7) hēawan, to hew, (8) weorpan, to throw, and (9) cēosan, to choose, become respectively (1) stęnd-1(2) cym-,(3) grēw-, (4) brȳc-, (5) blǣw-, (6) fiell-, (7) hīew-, (8) wierp-, and (9) cīes-.

If the unchanged stem contains the vowel e, this is changed in the 2d and 3d singular to i (ie): cweðan to say, stem cwið-; beran to bear, stem bier-. But this mutation2 had taken place long before the period of O.E., and belongs to the Germanic languages in general. It is best, however, to class the change of e to i or ie with the changes due to umlaut, since it occurs consistently in the 2d and 3d singular stems of Early West Saxon, and outlasted almost all of the umlaut forms proper.

If, now, the syncopated endings –st and –ð are added directly to the umlauted stem, there will frequently result such a massing of consonants as almost to defy pronunciation: cwið-st, thou sayest; stęnd-st, thou standest, etc. Some sort of contraction, therefore, is demanded for the sake of euphony. The ear and eye will, by a little practice, become a sure guide in these contractions. The following rules, however, must be observed. They apply only to the 2d and 3d singular of the present indicative:

    1. If the stem ends in a double consonant, one of the consonants is dropped:

1. feall-e (I fall) 1. winn-e (I fight) 1. swimm-e (I swim)

2. fiel-st 2. win-st 2. swim-st

3. fiel-ð 3. win-ð 3. swim-ð

(2) If the stem ends in-ð, this is dropped:

1. cweð-e (I say) 1. weorð-e (I become)

2. cwi-st 2. wier-st

3. cwi-ð 3. wier-ð

(3) If the stem ends in –d, this is changed to –t. The –ð of the ending is then also changed to –t, and usually absorbed. Thus the stem of the 2d singular serves as stem and ending for the 3d singular:

1. stǫnd-e (= stand-e) (I stand) 1. bind-e (I bind)

2. stęnt-st 2. bint-st

3. stęnt 3. bint

1. bīd-e (I abide) 1. rīd-e (I ride)

2. bīt-st 2. rīt-st

3. bīt(-t) 3. rīt (-t)

(4) If the stem ends already in –t, the endings are added as in (3), being again changed to –t and absorbed:

1. brēot-e (I break) 1. feoht-e (I fight) 1. bīt-e (I bite)

2. brīet-st 2. fieht-st 2. bīt-st

3. brīet (-t) 3. fieht 3. bīt (-t)

(5) If the stem ends in –s, this is dropped before –st (to avoid –sst), but is retained before –ð, the latter being changed to –t. Thus the 2d and 3d singulars are identical:1

1. cēos-e (I choose) 1. rīs-e (I rise)

2. cīe-st 2. rī-st

3. cīes-t 3. rīs-t


I 1. Sē cyning fielð.

2. Ðā wīf cēosað ðā giefa.

3. Ðū stęntst on ðǣm hūse.

4. Hē wierpð ðæt wǣpen.

5. Sē sęcg hīewð ðā līc.

6. Ðæt sǣd grēwð ǫnd wiex (Mark iv. 27).

7. Ic stǫnde hēr, ǫnd ðū stęntst ðǣr.

8. “Ic hit eom,” cwið hē.

9. Hīe berað ðæs wulfes bān.

10. Hē hīe bint, ǫnd ic hine binde.

11. Ne rītst ðū?


1. We shall bind him.

2. Who chooses the child’s gifts?

3. “He was not here,” says she.

4. Wilt thou remain in the hall?

5. The wolves are biting (= bite) the fishermen.

6. He enjoys1 the love of his children.

7. Do you enjoy (= Enjoyest thou) the consolation and friendship of the scribe?

8. Will he come?

9. I shall throw the spear, and thou wilt bear the weapons.

10. The king’s son will become king.

11. The army (werod) is breaking the doors and walls of the house.



The Weak or n-Declension.

  1. The n-Declension contains almost all of the O.E. nouns belonging to the Consonant Declensions. The stem characteristic n has been preserved in the oblique cases, so that there is no difficulty in distinguishing n-stems from the preceding vowel stems.

The n-Declension includes (a) masculines, (b) feminines, and (c) neuters. The masculines far outnumber the feminines, and the neuters contain only ēage, eye and ēare, ear. The masculines end in –a, the feminines and neuters in –e.

  1. Paradigms of (a) sē hunta, hunter; (b) sēo tunge, tongue; (c) ðæt ēage, eye:

Sing. N. hunt-a tung-e ēag-e

G.D.I. hunt-an tung-an ēag-an

A. hunt-an tung-an ēag-e

Plur. N.A. hunt-an tung-an ēag-an

G. hunt-ena tung-ena ēag-ena

D.I. hunt-um tung-um ēag-um


sē adesa, hatchet, adze.

sē ǣmetta, leisure [empt-iness].

sē bǫna (bana), murderer [bane].

sēo cirice, church [Scotch kirk].

sē cnapa (later, cnafa), boy [knave].

sē cuma, stranger [comer].

ðæt ēare, ear.

sēo eorðe, earth.

sē gefēra, companion [co-farer].

sē guma, man [bride-groom1].

sēo heorte, heart.

gescieppan, to create [shape, land- scape, friend-ship].

giefan (with dat. of indirect object), to give.

healdan, to hold.

helpan (with dat.), to help.

sē mōna, moon.

sēo nǣdre, adder [a nadder >an adder2].

sē oxa, ox.

sē scēowyrhta, shoe-maker [shoe-wright].

sēo sunne, sun.

sē tēona, injury [teen].

biddan (with dat. of person and gen. of thing3), to request, ask for.

cwelan, to die [quail].

scęððan (with dat.), to injure [scathe].

wiðstǫndan (-standan) (with dat.), to withstand.

wrītan, to write.


I. 1. Sē scēowyrthta brȳcð his ǣmettan.

2. Dā guman biddað ðǣm cnapan ðæs adesan.

3. Hwā is sē cuma?

4. Hielpst ðū ðǣm bǫnan?

5. Ic him ne helpe.

6. Dā bearn scęððað ðæs bǫnan ēagum and ēarum.

7. Sē cuma cwielð on ðǣre cirican.

8. Sē hunta wiðstęnt ðǣm wulfum.

9. Dā oxan berað ðæs cnapan gefēran.

10. Sē mona ǫnd ðā tunglu sind on ðǣm heofonum.

11. Ðā huntan healdað ðǣre nǣdran tungan.

12. Hē hiere giefð ðā giefa.

13. Ðā werod scęððað ðæs cyninges feldum.

II. 1. Who will bind the mouths of the oxen?

2. Who gives him the gifts?

3. Thou art helping him, and I am injuring him.

4. The boy’s companion is dying.

5. His nephew does not enjoy his leisure.

6. The adder’s tongue injures the king’s companion.

7. The sun is the day’s eye.

8. She asks the strangers for the spears.

9. The men’s bodies are not here.

10. Is he not (Nis hē) the child’s murderer?

11. Who creates the bodies and souls of men?

12. Thou withstandest her.

13. He is not writing.



67. The nouns belonging here are chiefly masculines and feminines. Their stem ended in a consonant other than n. The most important of them may be divided as follows: (1) The foot Declension, (2) r-Stems, and (3) nd-Stems. These declensions are all characterized by the prevalence, wherever possible, of i-umlaut in certain cases, the case ending being then dropped.

  1. (1) The nouns belonging to the foot Declension exhibit umlaut most consistently in the N.A. plural.

Sing. N.A. sē fōt (foot) sē mǫn (man) sē tōð (tooth) sēo cū (cow)

Plur. N.A. fēt męn tēð cȳ

NOTE.—The dative singular usually has the same form as the N.A. plural. Here belong also sēo bōc (book), sēo burg (borough), sēo gōs (goose) sēo lūs (louse), and sēo mūs (mouse), all with umlauted plurals. Mn.E. preserves only six of the foot Declension plurals: feet, men, teeth, geese, lice, and mice. The c in the last two is an artificial spelling, intended to preserve the sound of voiceless s. Mn.E. kine (= cy-en) is a double plural formed after the analogy of weak stems; Burns in The Twa Dogs uses kye.

No umlaut is possible in sēo niht(night) and sē mōnað (month), plural niht and mōnað (preserved in Mn.E. twelvemonth and fortnight).

    1. The r-Stems contain nouns expressing kinship, and exhibit umlaut of the dative singular.

Sing. N.A. sē fæðer sē brōðor sēo mōdor sēo dohtor sēo swuster

(father) (brother) (mother) (daughter) (sister)

D. fæder brēðer mēder dęhter swyster

NOTE.—The N.A. plural is usually the same as the N.A. singular. These umlaut datives are all due to the presence of a former i. Cf. Lat. dative singular patri, frātri, mātri, sorori (<*sosori), and Greek θνϓατρί.

    1. The nd-Stems show umlaut both in then N.A. plural and in the dative singular:

Sing. N.A. sē frēond (friend) sē fēond (enemy)

D. friēnd fīend

Plur. N.A. frīend fīend

NOTE.—Mn.E. friend and fiend are interesting analogical spellings. When s had been added by analogy to the O.E. plurals frīend and fīend, thus giving the double plurals friends and fiends, a second singular was formed by dropping the s. Thus friend and fiend displaced the old singulars frend and fend, both of which occur in the M.E. Ormulum, written about the year 1200.

Summary of O.E. Declensions.

  1. A brief, working summary of the O.E. system of declensions may now be made on the basis of gender.

All O.E. nouns are (1) masculine, (2) feminine, or (3) neuter.

      1. The masculines follow the declension of mūð 26), except those ending in

-a, which are declined like hunta64):

Sing. N.A. mūð hunta

G. mūðes huntan

D.I. mūðe huntan

Plur. N.A. mūðas huntan

G. mūða huntena

D.I. mūðum huntum

(2) The short-stemmed neuters follow the declension of hof 32); the long-stemmed, that of bearn32):

Sing. N.A. hof bearn

G. hofes bearnes

D.I. hofe bearne

Plur. N.A. hofu bearn

G. hofa bearna

D.I. hofum bearnum

(3) The feminines follow the declensions of giefu and wund38) (the only difference being in the N. singular), except those ending in –e, which follow the declension of tunge64):

Sing N. giefu wund tunge

G. giefe wunde tungan

D.I. giefe wunde tungan

A. giefe wunde tungan

Plur. N.A. giefa wunda tungan

G. giefa wunda tungena

D.I. giefum wundum tungum


ac, but.

būtan (with dat.), except, but, without.

sē Crīst, Christ.

sē eorl, earl, alderman, warrior.

ðæt Ęnglalǫnd, England [Angles land].

faran, to go [fare].

findan, to find.

sē God, God.

hātan, to call, name.

sē hlāford, lord [hlāf-weard].

mid (with dat.), with.

on (with acc.), on, against, into.

(with dat.), to.

uton (with infin.), let us.

NOTE.—O.E. mǫn (man) is frequently used in an indefinite sense for one, people, they. It thus takes the place of a passive construction proper: And man nam þā gebrotu þe þār belifon, twęlf cȳpan fulle, And there were taken up of fragments that remained there twelve baskets full; but more literally, And one (or they) took the fragments, etc; Ǫnd Hæstenes wīf ǫnd his suna twēgen mǫn brōhte tō ðǣm cyninge, And Hæsten’s wife and his two sons were brought to the king.


I. 1. Mǫn hine hǣt Ælfred.

2. Uton faran on ðæt scip.

3. God is cyninga cyning ǫnd hlāforda hlāford.

4. Sē eorl ne giefð giefa his fīend.

5. Ic næs mid his frīend.

6. Sēo mōdor færð mid hiere dęhter on ðā burg.

7. Fintst ðū ðæs bōceres bēc?

8. Hē bint ealle (all) ðā dēor būtan ðǣm wulfum.

9. Dū eart Crīst, godes sunu.

10. “Uton bindan, ðæs bǫnan fēt,” cwið hē.

II. 1. Christ is the son of God.

2. Let us call him Cædmon.

3. He throws his spear against the door.

4. Thou art not the earl’s brother.

5. He will go with his father to England, but I shall remain (abide) here.

6. Gifts are not given to murderers.

7. Who will find the tracks of the animals?

8. They ask their lord for his weapons. (§ 65, Note 3).



  1. Personal Pronouns.

    1. Paradigms of ic, I, ðū, thou. For hē, hēo, hit, see §53.

Sing. N. ic ðū

G. mīn ðin

D. mē ðē

A. ðē

Dual N. wit (we two) git (ye two)

G. uncer (of us two) incer (of you two)

D. unc (to or for us two) inc (to or for you two)

A. unc (us two) inc (you two)

Plur. N.

G. ūser (ūre) ēower

D. ūs ēow

A. ūs ēow

Note 1.—The dual number was soon absorbed by the plural. No relic of it now remains. But when two and only two are referred to, the dual is consistently used in O.E. An example occurs in the case of the two blind men (Matthew ix. 27-31): Gemiltsa unc, Davīdes sunu! Pity us, (thou) Son of David! Sīe inc æfter incrum gelēafan, Be it unto you according to your faith.

NOTE 2.—Mn.E. ye (<), the nominative proper, is fast being displaced by you (<ēow), the old objective. The distinction is preserved in the King Jame’s version of the Bible: Ye in me, and I in you (John xiv, 20); but not in Shakespeare and later writers.

  1. Demonstrative Pronouns.

  1. Paradigm of ðēs, ðēos, ðis, this. For the Definite Article as a demonstrative, meaning that, see § 28, Note 3.

Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

Sing. N. ðēs ðēos ðis

G. ðisses ðisse ðisses

D. ðissum ðisse ðissum

A. ðisne ðās ðis

I. ðȳs — ðȳs

All Genders.

Plur. N.A. ðās

G. ðissa

D. ðissum

(3) The Interrogative Pronoun.

74. Paradigm of hwā, hwæt, who, what?

Masculine. Neuter.

Sing. N. hwā hwæt

G. hwæs hwæs

D. hwǣm hwǣm

A. hwone hwæt

I. — hwȳ

Note 1.—The derivative interrogatives, hwǣðer (<*hwā-ðer), which of two? and hwilc (<*hwā-līc), which? are declined as strong adjectives (§§ 79-82).

Note 2.—The instrumental case of hwā survives in Mn.E. why = on what account; the instrumental of the definite article is seen in the adverbial the: The sooner, the better = by how much sooner, by so much better.

Note 3.—How were the Mn.E. relative pronouns, who and which, evolved from the O.E. interrogatives? The change began in early West Saxon with hwæt used in indirect questions (Wülfing, l.c. § 310,β): Nū ic wāt eall hwæt ðū woldest, Now I know all that thou desiredst. The direct question was, Hwæt woldest ðū? But the presence of eall shows that in Alfred’s mind hwæt was, in the indirect form, more relative than interrogative.

(4) Relative Pronouns.

75. O.E. had no relative pronoun proper. It used instead (1) the Indeclinable Particle ðe, who, whom, which, that, (2) the Definite Article (§ 28), (3) the Definite Article with the Indeclinable Particle.

The forms of the Definite Article agree, of course, in gender and number with the antecedent, the case depending upon the construction. The bird which I have may, therefore, be expressed in three ways:

  1. Sē fugol ðe ic hæbbe;

  2. Sē fugol ðone ic hæbbe;

  3. Sē fugol ðone ðe (= the which) ic hæbbe.

NOTE.—O.E. ðe agrees closely in construction with Mn.E. relative that: (1) Both are indeclinable. (2) Both refer to animate or inanimate objects. (3) Both may be used with phrasal value: ðȳ ylcan dæge ðe hī hine tō ðǣm āde beran wyllað, On the same day that (= on which) they intend to bear him to the funeral pile. (4) Neither can be preceded by a preposition.

(5) Possessive Pronouns.

76. The Possessive Pronouns are mīn, mine; ðīn, thine; ūre, our; ēower, your; [sīn, his, her, its]; uncer, belonging to us two; incer, belonging to you two. They are declined as strong adjectives. The genitives of the Third Personal Pronoun, his, his, hiere, her, hiera, their, are indeclinable.

(6) Indefinite Pronouns.

77. These are ǣlc, each, every; ān, a, an, one; ǣnig (<ān-ig), any; nǣnig (<ne-ǣnig), none; ōðer, other; sum, one, a certain one; swilc, such. They are declined as strong adjectives.

NOTE.—O.E. had three established methods of converting an interrogative pronoun into an indefinite: (1) By prefixing ge, (2) by prefixing ǣg, (3) by interposing the interrogative between swā . . . swā: (1) gehwā, each; gehwæðer, either, gehwilc, each; (2) ǣghwā, each; ǣghwæðer, each; ǣghwilc, each; (3) swā hwā whosoever; swā hwæðer swā, whichsoever of two; swā hwilc swā, whosoever.



  1. The declension of adjectives conforms in general to the declension of nouns, though a few pronominal inflections have influenced certain cases. Adjectives belong either to (1) the Strong Declension or to (2) the Weak Declension. The Weak Declension is employed when the adjective is preceded by or ðēs the, that, or this; otherwise, the Strong Declension is employed: ðā gōdan cyningas, the good kings; ðēs gōda cynig, this good king; but gōde, cyningas, good kings.

Note.—The Weak Declension is also frequently used when the adjective is employed in direct address, or preceded by a possessive pronoun: Dryhten, ælmihtiga God . . . ic bidde ðē for ðīnre miclan mildheortnesse, Lord, almighty God, I pray thee, for thy great mercy.

  1. Strong Declension of Adjectives.

(a) Monosyllables.

79. The strong adjectives are chiefly monosyllabic with long stems: gōd, good; eald, old; lǫng, long; swift, swift. They are declined as follows.

80. Paradigm of gōd, good:

Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

Sing. N. gōd gōd gōd

G. gōdes gōdre gōdes

D. gōdum gōdre gōdum

A. gōdne gōde gōd

I. gōde — gōde

Plur. N.A. gōde gōda gōd

G. gōdra gōdra gōdra

D.I. gōdum gōdum gōdum

81. If the stem is short, -u is retained as in giefu39, (1)) and hofu33, (1)). Thus glæd27, Note 1), glad, and til, useful, are inflected:

Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

glæd gladu glæd

Sing. N. til tilu til

glade glada gladu

Plur. N.A. tile tila tilu

(b) Polysyllables.

82. Polysyllables follow the declension of short monosyllables. The most common terminations are –en, -en; -fæst, -fast; -full, -ful; -lēas, -less; -līc, -ly; -ig, -y: hǣð-en (hǣð=heath), heathen; stęde-fæst (stęde = place), steadfast; sorg-full (sorg= sorrow), sorrowful; cyst-lēas (cyst = worth), worthless; eorð-līc (eorðe = earth), earthly; blōd-ig (blōd = blood), bloody. The present and past participles, when inflected and not as weak adjectives, may be classed with the polysyllabic adjectives, their inflection being the same.

Syncopation occurs as in a-stem (§ 27, (4)). Thus hālig, holy, blīðe, blithe, berende, bearing, geboren, born, are thus inflected:

Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

hālig hālgu hālig

blīðe blīðu blīðe

Sing. N. berende berendu berende

geboren geborenu geboren

hālge hālga hālgu

blīðe blīða blīðu

Plur. N.A. berende berenda berendu

geborene geborena geborenu

  1. Weak Declension of Adjectives.

  1. The Weak Declension of adjectives, whether monosyllabic or polysyllabic does not differ from the Weak Declension of nouns, except that –ena of the genitive plural is usually replaced by –ra of the strong adjectives.

Masculine. Feminine. Neuter.

84. Sing. N. gōda gōde gōde

G. gōdan gōdan gōdan

D.I. gōdan gōdan gōdan

A. gōdan gōdan gōde

All Genders.

Plur. N.A. gōdan

G. gōdra (gōdena)

D.I. gōdum


Adjectives agree with their nouns in gender, number, and case; but participles, when used predicatively, may remain uninflected138, § 140).


dēad, dead.

eall, all.

hāl1, whole, hale.

heard, hard.

ðæt hors, horse.

lēof, dear [as lief].

lȳtel, little.

micel, great, large.

mǫnig, many.

niman, to take [nimble, numb].

nīwe, new.

rīce, rich, powerful.

sōð, true [sooth-sayer].

stælwierðe,2 serviceable [stalwart].

swīðe, very.

sē tūn, town, village.

sē ðegn, servant, thane, warrior.

ðæt ðing, thing.

sē weg, way.

wīs, wise.

wið (with acc.), against, in a hostile sense [with-stand].

sē ilca, the same [of that ilk].


I. 1. Ðās scipu ne sind swīðe swift, ac hīe sind swīðe stælwierðu.

2. Sēo gōde cwēn giefð ǣlcum ðegne mǫniga giefa.

3. Dēs wīsa cyning hæfð mǫnige micele tūnas on his rīce.

4. Nǣnig mǫn is wīs on eallum ðingum.

5. Ðȳ ilcan dæge (§ 98, (2)) mǫn fǫnd (found) ðone ðegn ðe mīnes wines bēc hæfde.

6. Ealle ðā segas ðā ðe swift hors habbað rīdað wið ðone bǫnan.

7. Ðīne fīend sind mīne frīend.

8. Sē micela stān ðone ðe ic on mīnum hǫndam hæbbe is swīðe heard.

9. Hīe scęððað ðǣm ealdum horsum.

10. Uton niman ðās tilan giefa ǫnd hīe beran tō ūrum lēofum bearnum.

II. 1. These holy men are wise and good.

2. Are the little children very dear to the servants (dat. without )?

3. Gifts are not given to rich men.

4. All the horses that are in the king’s fields are swift.

5. These stones are very large and hard.

6. He takes the dead man’s spear and fights against the large army.

7. This new house has many doors.

8. My ways are not your ways.

9. Whosoever chooses me, him I also (ēac) choose.

10. Every man has many friends that are not wise.



  1. Numerals are either (a) Cardinal, expressing pure number, one, two, three; or (b) Ordinal, expressing rank or succession, first, second, third.

(a) Cardinals.

89. The Cardinals fall into the three following syntactic groups:


        1. ān

        2. twēgen [twain]

        3. ðrīe

These numeral are inflected adjectives. Ān, one, an, a, being a long stemmed monosyllable, is declined like gōd 80). The weak form, āna, means alone.

Twēgen and ðrie, which have no singular, are thus declined:







Plur. N.A.



twā (tū)





















90. Group II.

4. fēower

12. twęlf

5. fīf

13. ðrēotīene

6. siex

14. fēowertīene

7. seofon

15. fíftīene

8. eahta

16. siextīene

9. nigon

17. seofontīene

10. tīen

18. eahtatīene

11. ęndlefan

19. nigontīene

These words are used chiefly as uninflected adjectives: on gewitscipe ðrēora oþþe fēower bisceopa, on testimony of three or four bishops; on siex dagum, in six days; ān nǣdre ðe hæfde nigon hēafdu, a serpent which had nine heads; æðeling eahtatīene wintra, a prince of eighteen winters.

91. Group III.

20. twēntig

80. hundeahtatig

21. ān ǫnd twēntig

90. hundnigontig

30. ðrītig

100. hund

40. fēowertig

200. twā hund

50. fiftig

1000. ðūsend

60. siextig

2000. twā ðūsend

70. hundseofontig

All these numbers are employed as neuter singular nouns, and are followed by the genitive plural: Næfde hē þēah mā ðonne twēntig hrȳðera, and twēntig scēapa, and twēntig swȳna, He did not have, however, more than twenty (of) cattle, and twenty (of) sheep, and twenty (of) swine; Hīe hæfdon hundeahtatig scipa, They had eighty ships; twā hund mīla brād, two hundred miles broad; ðǣr wǣron seofon hund gūðfanena genumen, there were seven hundred standards captured; ān ðūsend mǫnna, a thousand men; Hannibales folces wæs twā ðūsend ofslagen, Of Hannibal’s men there were two thousand slain; Hīe ācuron ęndlefan ðūsend mǫnna, They chose eleven thousand men.

NOTE 1.—Group III is rarely inflected. Almost the only inflectional endings that are added are (1) -es, a genitive singular termination for the numerals in –tig, and (2) –e, a dative singular for hund. (1) The first is confined to adjectives expressing extent of space or time, as, eald, old; brād, broad; hēah, high; and lǫng, long: ðæt is ðrītiges mīla lǫng, that is thirty miles long; Hē wæs ðrītiges gēara eald, He was thirty years old. (2) The second is employed after mid: mid twǣm hunde scipa, with two hundred ships; mid ðrim hunde mǫnna, with three hundred men; Ðǣr wearð . . . Reg-ulus gefangen mid V hunde mǫnna, There was Regulus captured with five hundred men.

The statement made in nearly all the grammars that hunde occurs as a nominative and accusative plural is without foundation.

NOTE 2.—Many numerals, otherwise indeclinable, are used in the genitive plural with the indefinite pronoun sum, which then means one of a certain number. In this peculiar construction, the numeral always precedes sum: fēowera sum, one of four (= with three others); Hē sǣde þæt hē syxa sum ofslōge syxtig, He said that he, with five others, slew sixty (whales); Hē wæs fēowertigra sum, He was one of forty.

NOTE 3.—These are the most common constructions with the Cardinals. The forms in –tig have only recently been investigated. As study of Wülfing’s citations shows that Alfred occasionally uses the forms in –tig (1) as adjectives with plural inflections: mid XXXgum cyningum, with thirty kings; and (2) as nouns with plural inflections: æfter siextigum daga, after sixty days. But both constructions are rare.

  1. Ordinals.

  1. The Ordinals, except the first two, are formed from the Cardinals. They are:

1. forma, ǣresta, fyrsta

11. ęndlefta

2. ōðer, æfterra

12. twęlfta

3. ðridda

13. ðrēotēoða

4. fēorða

14. fēowertēoða

5. fīfta

15. fīftēoða etc.

6. siexta

20. twēntigoða

7. seofoða

21. ān ǫnd twēntigoða

8. eahtoða

30. ðrītigoða etc.

9. nigoða

10. tēoða

Note.—There are no Ordinals corresponding to hund and ðūsend.

With the exception of ōðer 77), all the Ordinals are declined as Weak Adjectives; the article, however, as in Mn.E., is frequently omitted: Brūtus wæs sē forma consul, Brutus was the first consul; Hēr ęndað sēo ǣreste bōc, ǫnd onginneð sēo ōðer, Here the first book ends, and the second begins; ðȳ fīftan dæge, on the fifth day; on ðǣm tēoðan gēare hiera gewinnes, on the tenth year of their strife; Hēo wæs twęlfte, She was twelfth; Sē wæs fēorða frǫm Agusto, He was fourth from Augustus.




93. (1) Adverbs are formed by adding –e or –līce to the corresponding adjectives: sōð, true; sōðe or sōðlīce, truly; earmlīc, wretched; earmlīce, wretchedly; wīd, wide; wīde, widely; micel, great; micle (micele), greatly, much.

(2) The terminations –e and –līce are replaced in some adverbs by –unga or -inga: eallunga, entirely; fǣringa, suddenly; grundlunga, from the ground, completely.

Note 1.—The l is intrusive in the last adverb. In Mn.E. headlong, originally an adverb, we have not only a similar intrusive l, but the only survival of O.E. –unga.

(3) The genitive case is frequently used adverbially: sūðeweardes, southwards; ealles, altogether, entirely; dæges, by day; nihtes, by night; ðæs, from that time, afterwards. Cf. hys (=his) weges in Ðonne rīdeð ǣlc hȳs weges, Then rides each his way.

Note 2.—The adverbial genitive is abundantly preserved in Mn.E. Always, crossways, sideways, needs (=necessarily), sometimes, etc., are not plurals, but old genitive singulars. The same construction is seen in of course, of a truth, of an evening, of old, of late, and similar phrases.

(4) Dative and instrumental plurals may be used as adverbs: hwīlum, at times, sometimes [whilom]; stundum (stund = period), from time to time; miclum, greatly. Especially common is the suffix –mǣlum (mǣl = time [meal]), preserved adverbially in Mn.E. piecemeal: dropmǣlum, drop by drop; styccemǣlum (stycce = piece), piecemeal, here and there.

(5) The suffix –an usually denotes motion from:

hēr, here. hider, hither. heonan, hence.

ðǣr, there. ðider, thither. ðǫnan, thence.

hwǣr, where? hwider, whither? hwǫnan, whence?

norðan, from the north.

ēastan, from the east.

hindan, from behind.

feorran, from far.

ūtan, from without.

(6) The adverb rihte (riht = right, straight) denotes motion toward in norðrihte, northward, due north; ēast rihte, due east; sūðrihte, due south; westrihte, due west.


  1. The nominative is the only case in O.E. that is never governed by a preposition. Of the other cases, the dative and accusative occur most frequently with prepositions.

(1) The prepositions that are most frequently found with the dative are:

æfter, after.

frǫm (fram), from, by.

æt, at.

mid, with.

be (bī), by, near, about.

of, of, from

betwēonan (betuh), between.

tō, to.

būtan (būton), except.

tōforan, before.

for, for.

tōweard, toward.

(2) The following prepositions require the accusative:

geond, throughout.

ðurh, through.

ofer, over, upon.

ymbe, about, around.

, until, up to.

  1. The preposition on (rarely in), meaning into, is usually followed by the accusative, but meaning in, on, or during, it takes the dative or instrumental. The preposition wið meaning toward, may be followed by the genitive, dative, or accusative; but meaning against, and implying motion or hostility, the accusative is more common.

(4) The following phrases are used prepositionally with the dative:

be norðan, north of.

tō ēacan, in addition to.

be ēastan, east of.

on emnlange (efn-lang =

evenly long), along.

be sūðan, south of.

tō emnes, along.

be westan, west of.

(5) Prepositions regularly precede the noun or pronoun that they introduce; but by their adverbial nature they are sometimes drawn in front of the verb: And him wæs mycel męnegu tō gegaderod, And there was gathered unto him a great multitude. In relative clauses introduced by ðe, the preceding position is very common: sēo scīr . . . ðe hē on būde, the district, . . . which he dwelt in (= which he in-habited); Hē wæs swȳðe spēdig man on ðǣm ǣhtum ðe hiera spēda on bēoð, He was a very rich man in those possessions which their riches consist in; nȳhst ðǣm tūne ðe sē dēada man on līð, nearest the town that the dead man lies in.


95. (1) The most frequently occurring conjunctions are:

ac, but.

for ðȳ, therefore.

ǣr, before, ere.

gif, if.

būtan, (būton), except that, unless.

hwæðer, whether.

ēac, also [eke].

ǫnd (and), and.

for ðǣm

oððe, or.

for ðǣm ðe,

ðæt, that, so that.

for ðon because.

ðēah, though, however.

for ðon ðe,

(2) The correlative conjunctions are:

ǣgðer ge . . . . . . . ge

both . . . . . . . . . . and.

ǣgðer. . . . . . . . . . ōðer

either . . . . . . . . . or.

oððe . . . . . . . . . . oððe

nē. . . . . . . . . . . . . nē

neither . . . . . . . nor.

sam . . . . . . . . . . . sam,

whether . . . . . . or.

swā. . . . . . . . . . . swā

the . . . . . . . . . . . the.

ðā . . . . . . . . . . . . . ðā

as . . . . . . . . . . . . as.

ðonne. . . . . . . . . . ðonne

when . . . . . . . . . then.




96. (1) Adjectives are regularly compared by adding –ra for the comparative, and –ost (rarely –est) for the superlative:




earm, poor



rīce, rich



smæl, narrow



brād, broad

brādra (brǣdra)


swift, swift



(2) Forms with i-umlaut usually have superlative in –est:




eald, old



lǫng, long



strǫng, strong



geong, young



hēah, high



(3) The following adjectives are compared irregularly:




gōd, good



lȳtel, little, small



micel, great, much



yfel, bad



(4) The positive is sometimes supplied by an adverb:




feor, far



nēah, near



ǣr, before

ǣrra, former

ǣrest, first

(5) The comparatives all follow the Weak Declension. The superlatives, when preceded by the definite article, are weak; but when used predicatively they are frequently strong: sē lǣsta dǣl, the least part; Ðonne cymeð sē man sē ðæt swiftoste hors hafað tō ðǣm ǣrestan dǣle and tō ðǣm mǣstan, Then comes the man that has the swiftest horse to the first part and to the largest. But, ðæt bȳne land is ēasteweard brādost (not brādoste), the cultivated land is broadest eastward; and (hit) bið ealra wyrta mǣst, and it is largest of all herbs; Ac hyra (= hiera) ār is mǣst on ðǣm gafole ðe ðā Finnas him gyldað, But their income is greatest in the tribute that the Fins pay them.

(6) The comparative is usually followed by ðonne and the nominative case: Sē hwæl bið micle lǣssa ðonne ōðre hwalas, That whale is much smaller than other whales; Ðā wunda ðæs mōdes bēoð dīgelran ðonne ðā wunda ðæs līchaman, The wounds of the mind are more secret than the wounds of the body.

But when ðonne is omitted, the comparative is followed by the dative: Ūre Ālīesend, ðe māra is ǫnd mǣrra eallum gesceaftum, Our Redeemer, who is greater and more glorious than all created things; nē ongeat hē nō hiene selfne bętran ōðrum gōdum mǫnnum, nor did he consider himself better than other good men.


97. (1) Adverbs are regularly compared by adding –or for the comparative and –ost (rarely –est) for the superlative:




georne, willingly



swīðe, very, severely

swīðor, more

swīðost, most, chiefly

ǣr, before

ǣror, formerly

ǣrest, first

norð, northwards



  1. The comparatives of a few adverbs may be found by dropping –ra of the corresponding adjective form:




lǫnge, long



micle, much


wel, well



Expressions of Time.

98. (1) Duration of time and extent of space are usually expressed by the accusative case: Ealle ðā hwīle ðe ðæt līc bið inne, All the time that the body is within; twēgen dagas, for two days; ealne weg, all the way, always.

(2) Time when is more often expressed by the instrumental case when no preposition is used: ðȳ ilcan dæge, the same day; ǣlce gēare, each year; ðȳ gēare, that year; ǣlce dæge, each day.

(3) Time or space within which is expressed by on and the dative: on sumera, in summer; on wintra, in winter; on fīf dagum, in five days; on fīf mīlum, in five miles; on ðissum gēare, in this year; on ðǣm tīman, in those times. Sometimes by the genitive without a preceding preposition: ðǣs gēares, in that year.


ðæt gefylce [folc], troop, division.

ðæt lǫnd, (land), land.

sēo mīl, mile.

ōðer . . . ōðer, the one . . . the other, the former . . . the latter.

sė sige, victory.

sige1 habban, to win (the) victory.

sprecan, to speak.

ðæt swīn (swȳn), swine, hog.

wēste, waste.


I. 1. Hē hæfð ðrēo swīðe swift hors.

2. Ic hæbbe nigontīene scēap ǫnd mā ðonne twēntig swīna.

3. Sēo gōde cwēn cīest twā hund mǫnna.

4. Uton feohtan wið ðā Dęne mid ðrīm hunde scipa.

5. Ǫnd hīe wǣron on twǣm gefylcum≥: on ōðrum wæs2 Bāchsęcg ǫnd Halfdęne ðā hǣðnan cyningas, ǫnd on ōðrum wǣron ðā eorlas.

6. Ðū spricst sōðlīce.

7. Ðonne rīt ǣlc mǫn his weges.

8. Æfter mǫnigum dagum, hæfde Ælfred cyning1 sige.

9. Ðis lǫnd is wēste styccemǣlum.

10. Ðēs feld is fīftiges mīla brād.

11. Ælfred cyning hæfde mǫnige frīend, for ðǣm ðe hē wæs ǣgðer ge wīs ge gōd.

12. Ðā hwalas, ðe ðū ymbe spricst, sind micle lǣssan ōðrum hwalum.

13. Hēo is ieldre ðonne hiere swuster, ac mīn brōðor is ieldra ðonne hēo.

14. Wē cumað tō ðǣm tūne ǣlce gēare.

15. Ðā męn ðe ðā swiftostan hors hǣfdon wǣron mid ðǣm Dęnum fēower dagas.


1. Our army (werod) was in two divisions: one was large, the other was small.

2. The richest men in the kingdom have more () than thirty ships.

3. He was much wiser than his brother.

4. He fights against the Northumbrians with two ships.

5. After three years King Alfred gained the victory.

6. Whosoever chooses these gifts, chooses well.

7. This man’s son is both wiser and better than his father.

8. When the king rides, then ride his thanes too.

9. The richest men are not always (ā) the wisest men.



Syntax of Moods.

101. Of the three hundred simple verbs belonging to the O.E. Strong Conjugation, it is estimated1 that seventy-eight have preserved their strong inflections in Mn.E., that eighty-eight have become weak, and that the remaining one hundred and thirty-four have entirely disappeared, their places being taken in most cases by verbs of Latin origin introduced through the Norman-French.
NOTE.—Only the simple or primitive verbs, not the compound forms, are here taken into consideration. The proportionate loss, therefore, is really much greater. O.E. abounded in formative prefixes. “Thus from the Anglo-Saxon flōwan, to flow, ten new compounds were formed by the addition of various prefixes, of which ten, only one, oferflōwan, to overflow, survives with us. In a similar manner, from the verb sittan, to sit, thirteen new verbs were formed, of which not a single one is to be found to-day.” Lounsbury, ib. part I, p. 107.

  1. Class I: The “Drive” Conjugation.

Vowel Succession: ī, ā, i, i.


Ðrīf-an drāf drif-on gedrif-en, to drive.





Sing. 1. Ic drīf-e

  1. ðu drīf-st (drīf-est)

  2. hē drif-ð (drīf-eð)

Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū drīf-e

3. hē

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē drīf-að

3. hīe

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē drīf-en

3. hīe



Sing. 1. Ic drāf

  1. ðū drif-e

  2. hē drāf

Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū drif-e

3. hē

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē drif-on

3. hīe

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē drif-en

3. hīe



Present Participle.

Sing. 2. drīf



Plur. 1. drīf-an

2. drīf-að


tō drīf-anne (-enne)

Past Participle.


Tense Formation of Strong Verbs.

103. (1) It will be seen from the conjugation of drīfan that the present stem in all strong verbs is used throughout the present indicative, the present subjunctive, the imperative, the infinitive, the gerund, and the present participle. More than half of the endings, therefore, of the Strong Conjugation are added directly to the present stem.

(2) That the preterit singular stem is used in only two forms of the verb, the 1st and 3d persons singular of the preterit indicative: Ic drāf, hē drāf.

(3) That the preterit plural stem is used in the preterit plural indicative, in the 2d person of the preterit singular indicative, and in the singular and plural of the preterit subjunctive.

(4) That the stem of the past participle (gedrif-) is used for no other form.

Syntax of the Verb.

104. The Indicative Mood1 represents the predicate as a reality. It is used both in independent and in dependent clauses, its function in O.E. corresponding with its function in O.E. corresponding with its function in Mn.E.

  1. The Subjunctive Mood represents the predicate as an idea.2 It is of far more frequent occurrence in O.E. than in Mn.E.

        1. When used in independent clauses it denotes desire, command, or entreaty, and usually precedes its subject: Sīe ðīn nama gehālgod, Hallowed be Thy name; Ne swęrigen gē, Do not swear.

        2. In dependent clauses it denotes uncertainty, possibility, or mere futurity.3 Concessive clauses (introduced by ðēah, though) and temporal clauses (introduced by ǣ, ǣr ðǣm ðe, before) are rarely found with any other mood than the subjunctive. The subjunctive is also regularly used in Alfredian prose after verbs of saying, even when no suggestion of doubt or discredit attaches to the narration.1 “Whether the statement refer to a fact or not, whether the subject-matter be vouched for by the reporter, as regards its objective reality and truth, the subjunctive does not tell. It simply represents a statement as reported”2 ðēah man āsętte twēgen fǣtels full ealað oððe wæteres,though one set two vessels full of ale or water; ǣr ðǣm ðe hit eall forhęrgod wære, before it was all ravaged; Hē sǣde ðæt Norðmanna land wǣre swȳðe lang and swȳðe smæl, He said that the Norwegians’ land was very long and very narrow.

  1. The Imperative is the mood of command or intercession: Iōhannes, cum tō mē, John, come to me; And forgyf ūs ūre gyltas, And forgive us our trespasses; Ne drīf ūs fram ðē, Do not drive us from thee.

  2. (1) The Infinitive and Participles are used chiefly in verb-phrases (§§ 138-141); but apart from this function, the Infinitive, being a neuter noun, may serve as the subject or direct object of a verb. Hātan (to command, bid), lǣtan (to let, permit), and onginnan (to begin) are regularly followed by the Infinitive: Hine rīdan lyste, To ride pleased him; Hēt ðā bǣre sęttan, He bade set down the bier;3 Lǣtað ðā lȳtlingas tō mē cuman, Let the little ones come to me; ðā ongann hē sprecan, then began he to speak.

(2) The Participles may be used independently in the dative absolute construction (an imitation of the Latin ablative absolute), usually for the expression of time:4 Him ðā gȳt sprecendum, While he was yet speaking; gefylledum dagum, the days having been fulfilled.

108. The Gerund, or Gerundial Infinitive, is used: (1) To express purpose: Ūt ēode sē sāwere his sǣd tō sāwenne, Out went the sower his seed to sow. (2) To expand or determine the meaning of a noun or adjective: Sȳmōn, ic hæbbe ðē tō sęcgenne sum ðing, Simon, I have something to say to thee; Hit is scǫndlīc ymb swelc tō sprecanne, It is shameful to speak about such things.

(3) After bēon (wesan) to denote duty or necessity: Hwæt is nū mā ymbe ðis tō sprecanne, What more is there now to say about this? ðonne is tō geðęncenne hwæt Crīst self cwæð, then it behooves to bethink what Christ himself said.

NOTE.—The Gerund is simply the dative case of the Infinitive after . It began very early to supplant the simple Infinitive; hence the use of to with the Infinitive in Mn.E. As late as the Elizabethan age the Gerund sometimes replaced the Infinitive even after the auxiliary verbs:

“Some pagan shore,

Where these two Christian armies might combine

The blood of malice in a vein of league,

And not to spend it so unneighbourly.”

King John, V, 2, 39.

When to lost the meaning of purpose and came to be considered as a merely formal prefix, for was used to supplement the purpose element: What went ye out for to see?1



109. Class II: The “Choose” Conjugation.

Vowel Succession: ēo, ēa, u, o.


cēos-an, cēas, cur-on, gecor-en, to choose.

Indicative. Subjunctive.


Sing. 1. Ic cēos-e Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū cīest (cēos-est) 2. ðū cēos-e

3. hē cīest (cēos-eð) 3. hē

Plur. 1. wē Plur. 1. wē

2. gē cēos-að 2. gē cēos-en

3. hīe 3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic cēas Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū cur-e 2. ðū cur-e

3. hē cēas 3. hē

Plur. 1. wē Plur. 1. wē

2. gē cūr-on 2. gē cur-en

3. hīe 3. hīe

Imperative. Infinitive. Present Participle.

Sing. 2. cēos cēos-an cēos-ende

Plur. 1. cēos-an

2. cēos-að Gerund. Past Participle.

tō cēos-anne (-enne) gecor-en

  1. Class III: The “Bind” Conjugation.

i u

Vowel Succession: e , a, u, o .

The present stem ends in m, n, l, r, or h, + one or more consonants:


m: belimp-an, belamp , belump-on, belump-en, to belong.


n: bind-an, band , bund-on, gebund-en, to bind.

l: help-an, healp, hulp-on, geholp-en, to help.

r: weorð-an, wearð, wurd-on, geword-en, to become.

h: gefeoht-an, gefeaht, gefuht-on, gefoht-en, to fight.

NOTE 1.—If the present stem ends in a nasal (m, n) + a consonant, the past participle retains the u of the pret. plur.; but if the present stem ends in a liquid (l, r) or h, + a consonant, the past participle has o instead of u.

NOTE 2.—Why do we not find *halp, *warð, and *faht in the pret. sing.? Because a before l, r, or h, + consonant, underwent “breaking” to ea. Breaking also changes every e followed by r or h, + a consonant, to eo: weorðan (<*werðan), feohtan (<*fehtan).

111. Indicative. Subjunctive.


Sing. 1. Ic bind-e Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū bintst (bind-est) 2. ðū bind-e

3. hē bint (bind-eð) 3. hē

Plur. 1. wē Plur. 1. wē

2. gē bind-að 2. gē bind-en

3. hīe 3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic bǫnd Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū bund-e 2. ðū bund-e

3. hē bǫnd 3. hē

Plur. 1. wē Plur. 1. wē

2. gē bund-on 2. gē bund-en

3. hīe 3. hīe

Imperative. Infinitive. Present Participle.

Sing. 2. bind bind-an bind-ende

Plur. 1. bind-an

2. bind-að Gerund. Past Participle.

to bind-anne (-enne) gebund-en


ðæt gefeoht, fight, battle.

sēo geręcednes, narration [ręcan].

ðæt gesceap, creation [scieppan].

sēo hęrgung39, (3)),harrying, plundering [hęrgian].

sē medu (medo) (§ 51), mead.

sēo meolc, milk.

sē middangeard, world [middle-yard].

sē munuc, monk [monachus].

sēo mȳre, mare [mearh].

hē sǣde, he said.

hīe sǣdon, they said.

sēo spēd, riches [speed].

spēdig, rich, prosperous [speedy].

sēo tīd, time [tide].

unspēdig, poor.

sē westanwind, west-wind.

ðæt wīn, wine.

ārīsan ārās ārison ārisen to arise

bīdan bād bidon, gebiden to remain, expect (with gen.)

drēogan1 drēag drugon gedrogen to endure, suffer

drincan drǫnc druncon gedruncen to drink

findan fǫnd fundon gefunden to find

geswīcan geswāc geswicon gegeswicen to cease, cease from (with gen.)

iernan (yrnan) ǫrn urnon geurnen to run

onginnan ongǫnn ongunnon geongunnen to begin

rīdan rād ridon geriden to ride

singan sǫng sungon gesungen to sing

wrītan wrāt writon gewriten to write


I. 1. Æfter ðissum wordum, sē munuc wrāt ealle ðā geręcednesse on ānre bēc.

2. Ðā eorlas ridon ūp ǣr ðǣm ðe ðā Dęne ðæs gefeohtes geswicen.

3. Cædmon sǫng ǣrest be middangeardes gesceape.

4. Sē cyning ǫnd ðā rīcostan męn drincað mȳran meolc, ǫnd ðā unspēdigan drincað medu.

5. Ǫnd hē ārās ǫnd sē wind geswāc.

6. Hīe sǣdon ðæt hīe ðǣr westwindes biden.

7. Hwæt is nū mā ymbe ðās ðing tō sprecanne?

8. Ðā sęcgas ongunnon geswīcan ðǣre hęrgunga.

9. Ðā bēag ðæt lǫnd ðær ēastryhte, oððe sēo sǣ in on ðæt lǫnd.

10 Ðās lǫnd belimpað tō ðǣm Ęnglum.

11. Ðēah ðā Dęne ealne dæg gefuhten, gīet hæfde Ælfred cyning sige.

12. Ǫnd ðæs (afterwards) ymbe ānne mōnað gefeaht Ælfred cyning wið ealne ðone hęre æt Wiltūne.

II. 1. The most prosperous men drank mare’s milk and wine, but the poor men drank mead.

2. I suffered many things before you began to help me (dat.).

3. About two days afterwards (Ðæs ymbe twēgen dagas), the plundering ceased.

4. The king said that he fought against all the army (hęre).

5. Although the Danes remained one month (§ 98, (1)),they did not begin to fight.

6. These gifts belonged to my brother.

7. The earls were glad because their lord was (indicative) with them.

8. What did you find?

9. Then wrote he about (be) the wise man’s deeds.

10. What more is there to endure?




[The student can now complete the conjugation for himself (§ 103). Only the principal parts will be given.]

  1. Class IV: The “Bear” Conjugation.

Vowel Succession: e, æ, ǣ, o.

The present stem ends in l, r or m, no consonant following:

l: hel-an hæl, hǣl-on, gehol-en, to conceal.

r: ber-an, bær, bǣr-on gebor-en, to bear.

The two following verbs are slightly irregular:

m: nim-an, nōm (nam), nōm-on (nām-on), genum-en, to take.

īī cum-an, c(w)ōm, c(w)ōm-on, gecum-en, to come.

  1. Class V: The “Give” Conjugation.

Successon of Vowels: e (ie), æ, ǣ, e.

The present stem ends in a single consonant, never a liquid or nasal:

met-an, mæt, mǣton, gemet-en, to measure, mete.

gief-an, geaf, gēaf-on, gegief-en, to give.

NOTE 1.—The palatal consonants, g, c, and sc, convert a following e into ie, æ into ea, and ǣ into ēa. Hence giefan (<*gefan), geaf (<*gæf), gēafon (<*gǣfon), gegiefen (<*gegefen). This change is known as Palatalization. See § 8.

NOTE 2.—The Infinitives of the following important verbs are only apparently exceptional:

biddan, bæd, bǣd-on, gebed-en, to ask for [bid].

licgan, læg, lǣg-on, geleg-en, to lie, extend.

sittan, sæt, sǣt-on, geset-en, to sit.

The original e reappears in the participial stems. It was changed to i in the present stems on account of a former –jan in the infinitive (bid-jan, etc.). See § 61. To the same cause is due the doubling of consonants in the infinitive. All simple consonants in O.E., with the exception of r, were doubled after a short vowel, when an original j followed.

  1. Class VI: The “Shake” Conjugation.

Succession of Vowels: a, ō, ō, a.

scac-an, scōc, scōc -on, gescac-en, to shake.

far-an, fōr, fōr-on, gefar-en, to go [fare].

  1. Class VII: The “Fall” Conjugation.

ea ea

ā ā ēa

Vowel Succession: ǣ , ē ē, ǣ ; or ō , ēo, ēo, ēa


to call, name,

(1) hāt-an, hēt, hēt-on, gehāt-en, command.

lǣt-an, lēt lēt-on, gelǣt-en, to let.

(2) feall-an, fēoll, fēoll-on, gefeall-en, to fall.

heald-an, hēold, hēold-on, geheald-en, to hold.

hēaw-an, hēow, hēow-on, gehēaw-en, to hew.

grōw-an, grēow, grēow-on, gegrōw-en, to grow.

NOTE 1.—This class consists of the Reduplicating Verbs; that is, those verbs that originally formed their preterits not by internal vowel change (ablaut), but by prefixing to the present stem the initial consonant + e (cf. Gk. Λέ-λoιπa and Lat. dĕ-di). Contraction then took place between the syllabic prefix and the root, the fusion resulting in ē or ēo: *he-hat >heht>hēt.

NOTE 2.—A peculiar interest attaches to hātan: the forms hātte and hātton are the sole remains in O.E. of the origial Germanic passive. They are used both as presents and as preterits: hātte = I am or was called, he is or was called. No other verb in O.E. could have a passive sense without calling in the aid of the verb to be141).

Contact Verbs.

The few Contract Verbs found in O.E. do not constitute a new class; they fall under Classes I, II, V, VI, and VII, already treated. The present stem ended originally in h. This was lost before –an of the infinitive, contraction and compensatory lengthening being the result. The following are the most important of these verbs:


I. ðēon (<*ðīhan), ðāh, ðig-on, geðig-en, to thrive.


II. tēon (<*tēohan), tēah, tug-on, getog-en, to draw, go


V. sēon (<*sehwan), seah, sāw-on, gesew-en, to see.

VI. slēan (<*slahan), slōh, slōg-on, geslæg-en, to slay.

VII. fōn (<*fōhan), fēng fēng-on, gefǫng-en, to seize.


  1. The Present Indicative of these verbs runs as follows (see rules of i-umlaut, § 58):

Sing. 1. Ic ðēo tēo sēo slēa fō

2. ðū ðīhst tīehst siehst sliehst fēhst

3. hē ðīhð tīehð siehð sliehð fēhð

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē ðēoð tēoð sēoð slēað fōð

3. hīe

The other tenses and moods are regulary formed from the given stems.


sēo ǣht, property, possession [āgan].

aweg, away [on weg].

sēo fierd, English army [faran].

sē hęre, Danish army [hęrgian].

tō rīce fōn, to come to the throne.1

ðæt wæl, slaughter, carnage (Val-halla].

sē wælsliht, slaughter, carnage.

on gehwæðre hǫnd, on both sides.

sige niman (=sige habban), to win (the) victory.

sēo sprǣc, speech, language.

sē weall, wall, rampart.

ðæt wildor, wild beast, reindeer.

sē wīngeard, vineyard.

ābrecan2 ābræc ābrǣcon ābrocen to break down.

cweðan cwæð cwǣdon gecweden to say [quoth].

gesēon geseah gesāwon gesewen to see.

grōwan grēow grēowon grōwen to grow.

ofslēan ofslōh ofslōgon ofslægen to slay.

sprecan spræc sprǣcon gesprecen to speak.

stelan stæl stǣlon gestolen to steal.

stǫndan stōd stōdon gestǫnden to stand.

weaxan wēox wēoxon geweaxen to grow, increase [wax].


I. 1. Æfter ðǣm sōðlīce (indeed) ealle męn sprǣcon āne (one) sprǣce.

2. Ǫnd hē cwǣð: “Ðis is ān folc, ǫnd ealle hīe sprecað āne sprǣce.”

3. On sumum stōwum wīngeardas grōwað.

4. Hē hēt ðā nǣdran ofslēan.

5. Ðā Ęngle ābrǣcon ðone lǫngan weall, ǫnd sige nāmon.

6. Ǫnd ðæt sǣd grēow ǫnd wēox.

7. Ic ne geseah ðone mǫn sē ðe ðæs cnapan adesan stæl.

8. Hē wæs swȳðe spēdig man on ðǣm ǣhtum ðe hiera spēda on1 bēoð, ðæt is, on wildrum.

9. Ǫnd ðǣr wearð (was) micel wælsliht on gehwæðre hǫnd.

10. Ǫnd æfter ðissum gefeohte, cōm Ælfred cyning mid his fierde, ǫnd gefeaht wið ealne ðone here, ǫnd sige nam (nōm).

11. Ðēos burg hātte Æscesdūn (Ashdown).

12. Ðǣre cwēne līc læg on ðǣm hūse.

13. Ǫnd sē dǣl ðe ðǣr aweg cōm wæs swȳðe lȳtel.

14. Ǫnd ðæs ðrēotīene dagas Æðered to rīce fēng.

II. 1. The men stood in the ships and fought against the Danes.

2. Before the thanes came, the king rode away.

3. They said (sǣdon) that all the men spoke one language.

4. They bore the queen’s body to Wilton.

5. Alfred gave many gifts to his army (dat. without ) before he went away.

6. These men are called earls.

7. God sees all things.

8. The boy held the reindeer with (mid) his hands.

9. About six months afterwards, Alfred gained the victory, and came to the throne.

10. He said that there was very great slaughter on both sides.


WEAK VERBS (§ 18).

122. The verbs belonging to the Weak Conjugation are generally of more recent origin than the strong verbs, begin frequently formed from the roots of strong verbs. The Weak Conjugation was the growing conjugation in O.E. as it is in Mn.E. We instinctively put our newly coined or borrowed words into this conjugation (telegraphed, boycotted); and children, by the analogy of weak verbs, say runned for ran, seed for saw, teared for tore, drawed for drew, and growed for grew. So, for example, when Latin dictāre and breviāre came into O.E., they came as weak verbs, dihtian and brēfian.

The Three Classes of Weak Verbs.

  1. There is no difficulty in telling, from the infinitive alone, to which of the three classes a weak verb belongs. Class III has been so invaded by Class II that but three important verbs remain to it: habban, to have; libban, to live; and sęcgan, to say. Distinction is to be made, therefore, only between Classes II and I. Class II contains the verbs with infinitive in –ian not preceded by r. Class I contains the remaining weak verbs; that is, those with infinitive in –r-ian and those with infinitive in –an (not –ian).

Class I.

  1. The preterit singular and past participle of Class I end in –ede and –ed, or –de and –ed respectively.

NOTE.—The infinitives of this class ended originally in –jan (= -ian). This accounts for the prevalence of i-umlaut in these verbs, and also for the large number of short-voweled stems ending in a double consonant (§ 115, Note 2). The weak verb is frequently the causative of the corresponding strong verb. In such cases, the root of the weak verb corresponds in form to the preterit singular of the strong verb: Mn.E. drench (= to make drink), lay (= to make lie), rear (= to make rise), and set (= to make sit), are the umlauted forms of drǫnc (preterit singular of drincan), læg (preterit singular of licgan), rās (preterit singular of rīsan), and sæt (preterit singular of sittan).

Preterit and Past Participle in –ede and –ed.

  1. Verbs with infinitive in –an preceded by ri- or the double consonants mm, nn, ss, bb, cg (= gg), add –ede for the preterit, and –ed for the past participle, the double consonant being always made single:

ri: nęri-an, nęr-ede, genęr-ed, to save.

mm: fręmm-an, fręm-ede, gefręm-ed, to perform, [frame].

nn: ðęnn-an, ðęn-ede, geðęn-ed, to extend.

ss: cnyss-an, cnys-ede, gecnys-ed, to beat.

bb: swębb-an swęf-ede, geswęf-ed, to put to sleep.

cg: węcg-an, węg-ede, gewęg-ed, to agitate.

Note.—Lęcgan, to lay, is the only one of these verbs that syncopates the e: lęcgan, lęgde (lēde), gelęgd (gelēd), instead of lęgede, gelęged.

Preterit and Past Participle in –de and –ed.

  1. All the other verbs belonging to Class I add –de for the preterit and -ed for the past participle. This division includes, therefore, all stems long by nature:




to deal out, divide [dǣl].




to judge [dōm].




to greet.




to hear.




to lead.

NOTE 1.—A preceding voiceless consonant (§ 9, Note) changes –de into –te: *grēt-de > grēt-te; *mēt-de; >mēt-te; *īec-de > īec-te. Syncope and contraction are also frequent in the participles: gegrēt-ed > *gegrēt-d > gegrēt(t); gelǣd-ed > gelǣd(d).

NOTE 2.—Būan, to dwell, cultivate, has an admixture of strong forms in the past participle: būan, būde, gebūd (bȳn, gebūn). The present participle survives in Mn.E. husband = house-dweller.

  1. It includes, also, all stems long by position except those ending in mm, nn, ss, bb, and cg 125):




to send.




to set [sittan].




to sail.




to spend.




to tread.

NOTE.—The participles frequently undergo syncope and contraction: gesęnded > gesęnd; gesęted > gesęt(t); gespęnded>gespęnd; getręded > getręd(d).

Irregular Verbs of Class I.

  1. There are about twenty verbs belonging to Class I that are irregular in having no umlaut in the preterit and past participle. The preterit ends in –de, the past participle in –d; but, through the influence of a preceding voiceless consonant (§ 9, Note), -ed is generally unvoiced to –te, and –d to –t. The most important of these verbs are as follows:




to bring.




to buy.




to seek.




to give, sell.




to teach.




to count [tell].




to think.




to seem [methinks].




to work.

NOTE.—Such of these verbs as have stems in c or g are frequently written with an inserted e: bycgean, sēcean, tǣcean, etc. This e indicates that c and g have palatal value; that is, are to be followed with a vanishing y-sound. In such cases, O.E. c usually passes into Mn.E. ch: tǣc(e)an > to teach; rǣc(e)an > to reach; stręcc(e)an > to stretch. Sēc(e)an gives beseech as well as seek. See § 8.

Conjugation of Class I.

  1. Paradigms of nęrian, to save; fręmman, to perform; dǣlan, to divide:



Sing. 1. Ic nęrie fręmme dǣle

2. ðū nęrest fręmest dǣlst

3. hē nęreð fręmeð dǣlð

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē nęriað fręmmað dǣlað

3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic nęrede fręmede dǣlde

2. ðū nęredest fręmedest dǣldest

3. hē nęreðe fręmede dǣlde

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē nęredon fręmedon dǣldon

3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic PRESENT.

2. ðū nęrie fręmme dǣle

3. hē

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē nęrien fręmmen dǣlen

3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū nęrede fręmede dǣlde

3. hē

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē nęreden fręmeden dǣlden

3. hīe


Sing. 2. nęre fręme dǣl

Plur. 1. nęrian fręmman dǣlan

2. nęriað fręmmað dǣlað


nęrian fręmman dǣlan


tō nęrianne (-enne) tō fręmmanne (-enne) tō dǣlanne (-enne)

Present Participle.

nęriende fręmmende dǣlande

Past Participle.

genęred gefręmed gedǣled

NOTE.—The endings of the preterit present no difficulties; in the 2d and 3d singular present, however, the student will observe (a) that double consonants in the stem are made single: fręmest,fręmeð (not *fręmmest, *fręmmeð); ðęnest, ðęneð; sętest (sętst), sęteð (sętt); fylst, fylð, from fyllan, to fill; (b) that syncope is the rule in stems long by nature: dǣlst (<dǣlest), dǣlð (<dǣleð); dēmst (<dēmest), dēmð (<dēmeð); hīerst (<hīerest), hīerð (<hīereð). Double consonants are also made single in the imperative 2d singular and in the past participle. Stems long by nature take no final –e in the imperative: dǣl, hīer, dēm.

Class II.

  1. The infinitive of verbs belonging to this class ends in –ian (not –r-ian), the preterit singular in –ode, the past partciple in –od. The preterit plural usually has –edon, however, instead of –odon:




to dwell [eorðe].




to love [lufu].




to rule [rīce].




to anoint [salve].




to sail [segel].

NOTE.—These verbs have no trace of original umlaut, since their –ian was once –ōjan. Hence, the vowel of the stem was shielded from the influence of the j (= i) by the interposition of ō.

Conjugation of Class II.

  1. Paradigm of lufian, to love:

Indicative. Subjunctive.


Sing. 1. Ic lufie Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū lufast 2. ðū lufie

3. hē lufað 3. hē

Plur. 1. wē Plur. 1. wē

2. gē lufiað 2. gē lufien

3. hīe 3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic lufode Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū lufodest 2. ðū lufode

3. hē lufode 3. hē

Plur. 1. wē Plur. 1. wē

2. gē lufedon (-odon) 2. gē lufeden (-oden)

3. hīe 3. hīe

Imperative. Infinitive. Present Participle.

Sing. 2. lufa lufian lufiende

Plur. 1. lufian

2. lufiað Gerund. Past Participle.

tō lufianne (-enne) gelufod

NOTE. 1.—The –ie (-ien) occurring in the present must be pronounced as a dissyllable. The –y-sound thus interposed between the i and e is frequently indicated by the letter g: lufie, or lufige; lufien, or lufigen. So also for ia: lufiað, or lufigað; lufian, or lufig(e)an.

NOTE. 2.—In the preterit singular, -ade, -ude, and –ede are not infrequent for –ode.

Class III.

  1. The few verbs belonging here show a blending of Classes I and II. Like certain verbs of Class I 128), the preterit and past participle are formed by adding –de and –d; like Class II, the 2d and 3d present indicative singular end in –ast and –að, the imperative 2d singular in –a:

habb-an, hæf-de gehæf-d, to have.

libb-an, lif-de gelif-d, to live.

sęcg-an sǣd-e (sæg-de), gesǣd (gesæg-d), to say.

  1. Paradigms of habban, to have; libban, to live; sęcgan, to say.



Sing. 1. Ic hæbbe libbe sęcge

2. ðū hæfst (hafast) lifast sægst (sagast)

3. hē hæfð (hafað) lifað sægð (sagað)

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē habbað libbað sęcgað

3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic hæfde lifde sǣde

2. ðū hæfdest lifdest sǣdest

3. hē hæfde lifde sǣde

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē hæfdon lifdon sǣdon

3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic PRESENT.

2. ðū hæbbe libbe sęcge

3. hē

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē hæbben libben sęcgen

3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū hæfde lifde sǣde

3. hē

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē hæfden lifden sǣden

3. hīe


Sing. 2. hafa lifa saga

Plur. 1. habban libban sęcgan

2. habbað libbað sęcgað


habban libban sęcgan


tō habbane (-enne) tō libbane (-enne) tō sęcganne (-enne)

Present Participle.

hæbbende libbende sęcgende

Past Participle.

gehæfd gelifd gesǣd



Anomalous Verbs. (See § 19.)

  1. These are:

bēon (wesan), wæs, wǣron, —, to be.

willan, wolde, woldon, —, to will, intend.

dōn, dyde, dydon, gedōn, to do, cause.

gān, ēode, ēodon, gegān, to go.

NOTE.—In the original Indo-Germanic language, the first person of the present indicative singular ended in (1) ō or (2) mi. Cf. Gk. Λύ-ω, εί-µί, Lat. am-ō, su-m. The Strong and Weak Conjugations of O.E. are survivals of the ō-class. The four Anomalous Verbs mentioned above are the sole remains in O.E. of the mi-class. Note the surviving m in eom I am, and dōm I do (Northumbrian form). These mi-verbs are sometimes called non-Thematic to distinguish them from the Thematic or ō-verbs.

Conjugation of Anomalous Verbs.

  1. Only the present indicative and subjunctive are at all irregular:



Sing. 1. Ic eom (bēom) wille dō gā

2. ðū eart (bist) wilt dēst gǣst

3. hē is (bið) wille dēð gǣð

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē sind (on) willað dōð gāð

3. hīe


Sing. 1. Ic PRESENT.

2. ðū sīe wille dō gā

3. hē

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē sīen willen dōn gān

3. hīe

NOTE.—The preterit subjunctive of bēon is formed, of course, not from wæs, but from wǣron. See § 103, (3).

Preterit-Present Verbs. (See § 19.)

  1. These verbs are called Preterit-Present because the present tense (indicative and subjunctive) of each of them is, in form, a strong preterit, the old present having been displaced by the new. They all have weak preterits. Most of the Mn.E. Auxiliary Verbs belong to this class.


witan, wisse, wiston, gewiten, to know [to wit, wot].

āgan, āhte, āhton. āgen (adj.), to possess [owe].

gecunnen to know, can [uncouth, cunning].

cunnan, cūðe, cūðon, cūð (adj.),

durran, dorste, dorston, — to dare.

sculan, sceolde, sceoldon,shall.

meahte, meahton,

magan, mihte, mihton, — to be able, may.

mōtan, mōste, mōston, — may, must.

NOTE.—The change in meaning from preterit to present, with retention of the preterit form, is not uncommon in other languages. Several examples are found in Latin and Greek (cf. nōvi and oἶδa, I know). Mn.E. has gone further still: āhte and mōste, which had already suffered the loss of their old preterits (āh, mōt), have been forced back again into the present (ought, must). Having exhausted, therefore, the only means of preterit formation known to Germanic, the strong and the weak, it is not likely that either ought or must will ever develop distinct preterit forms.

Conjugation of Preterit-Present Verbs.

  1. The irregularities occur in the present indicative and subjunctive:



Sing. 1. Ic wāt āh cǫn (can) dear sceal mæg mōt

2. ðū wāst āhst cǫnst (canst) dearst scealt meaht mōst

3. hē wāt āh cǫn (can) dear sceal mæg mōt

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē witon āgon cunnon durron sculon magon mōton

3. hīe



Sing. 1. Ic

2. ðū wite āge cunne durre scule (scyle) mæge mōte

3. hē

Plur. 1. wē

2. gē witen āgen cunnen durren sculen (scylen) mægen mōten

3. hīe

NOTE. 1—Willan and sculan do not often connote simple futurity in Eary West Saxon, yet they were fast drifting that way. The Mn.E. use of shall only with 1st person and will only with the 2d and 3d, to express simple futurity, was wholly unknown even in Shakespeare’s day. The elaborate distinctions drawn between these words by modern grammarians are not only cumbersome and foreign to the genius of English, but equally lacking in psychological basis.

NOTE 2—Sculan originally implied the idea of (1) duty, or compulsion (=ought to, or must), and this conception lurks with more or less prominence in almost every function of sculan in O.E.: Dryhten bebēad Moyse hū hē sceolde beran ðā earce, The Lord instructed Moses how he ought to bear the ark; Ǣlc mann sceal be his andgietes mǣðe . . . sprecan ðæt he spricð, and dōn ðæt ðæt hē dēð, Every man must, acccording to the measure of his intelligence, speak what he speaks, and do what he does. Its next most frequent use is to express (2) custom, the transition from the obligatory to the customary being an easy one: Sē byrdesta sceall gyldan fīftȳne mearðes fell, The man of highest rank pays fifteen marten skins.

NOTE 3—Willan expressed originally (1) pure volition, and this is its most frequent use in O.E. It may occur without the infinitive: Nylle ic ðæs synfullan dēað, ac ic wille ðæt hē gecyrre and lybbe, I do not desire the sinner’s death, but I desire that he return and live. The wish being father to the intention, Willan soon came to express (2) purpose: Hē sǣde ðæt hē at sumum cirre wolde fandian hū longe ðæt land norðrȳhte lǣge, He said that he intended, at some time, to investigate how far that land extended northward.

Verb-Phrases with habban, bēon (wesan), and weorðan.

Verb-Phrases in the Active Voice.

  1. The present and preterit of habban, combined with a past participle, are used in O.E., as in Mn.E., to form the present perfect and past perfect tenses:


Sing. 1. Ic hæbbe gedrifen Sing. 1. Ic hæfde gedrifen

2. ðū hæfst gedrifen 2. ðū hæfdest gedrifen

3. hē hæfð gedrifen 3. hē hæfde gedrifen


Plur. 1. wē Plur. 1. wē

2. gē habbað gedrifen 2. gē hæfdon gedrifen

3. hīe 3. hīe

The past participle is not usually inflected to agree with the direct object: Norðymbre ǫnd Ēastęngle hæfdon Ælfrede cyninge āðas geseald (not gesealde, § 82), The Northumbrians and East Anglians had given king Alfred oaths; ǫnd hæfdon miclne dǣl ðāra horsa freten (not fretenne), and (they) had devoured a large part of the horses.

NOTE.—Many sentences might be quoted in which the participle does agree with the direct object, but there seems to be no clear line of demarcation between them and the sentences just cited. Originally, the participle expressed a resultant state, and belonged in sense more to the object than to habban; but in Early West Saxon habban had already, in the majority of cases, become a pure auxiliary when used with the past participle. This is conclusively proved by the use of habban with intransitive verbs. In such a clause, therefore, as oð ðæt hīe hine ofslægenne hæfdon, there is no occasion to translate until they had him slain (= resultant state); the agreement here is more probably due to the proximity of ofslægenne to hine. So also ac hī hæfdon þā hiera stemn gesętenne, but they had already served out (sat out) their military term.

  1. If the verb is intransitive, and denotes a change of condition, a departure or arrival, bēon (wesan) usually replaces habban. The past participle, in such cases, partakes of the nature of an adjective, and generally agrees with the subject: Mīne welan þe ic īo hæfde syndon ealle gewitene ǫnd gedrorene, My possessions which I once had are all departed and fallen away; wǣron þā męn uppe on lǫnde of āgāne, the men had gone up ashore; ǫnd þā ōþre wǣron hungre ācwolen, and the others had perished of hunger; ǫnd ēac sē micla hęre wæs þā þǣr tō cumen, and also the large army had then arrived there.

  2. A progressive present and preterit (not always, however, with distinctively progressive meanings) are formed by combining a present participle with the present and preterit of bēon (wesan). The participle remains uninflected: ǫnd hīe alle on ðone cyning wǣrun feohtende, and they all were fighting against the king; Symle hē bið lōciende, nē slǣpð hē nǣfre, He is always looking, nor does He ever sleep.

NOTE.—In most sentences of this sort, the subject is masculine (singular or plural); hence no inference can be made as to agreement, since –e is the participial ending for both numbers of the nominative masculine (§ 82). By analogy, therefore, the other genders usually conform in inflection to the masculine: wǣron þā ealle þā dēoflu clypigende ānre stefne, then were all the devils crying with one voice.

Verb-Phrases in the Passive Voice.

  1. Passive constructions are formed by combining bēon (wesan) or weorðan with a past participle. The participle agrees regularly with the subject: hīe wǣron benumene ǣgðer ge þæs cēapes ge þæs cornes, they were deprived both of the cattle and the corn; hī bēoð āblęnde mid ðǣm þīostrum heora scylda, they are blinded with the darkness of their sins; and sē wælhrēowa Domiciānus on ðām ylcan gēare wearð ācweald, and the murderous Domitian was killed in the same year; ǫnd Æþelwulf aldormǫn wearð ofslægen, and Æthelwulf, alderman, was slain.

NOTE 1—To express agency, Mn.E. employs by rarely of; M.E. of, rarely by; O.E. frǫm (fram), rarely of: Sē ðe Godes bebodu ne gecnǣwð, ne bið hē oncnāwen frǫm Gode, He who does not recognize God’s commands, will not be recognized by God; Betwux þǣm wearð ofslagen Ēadwine . . . fram Brytta cyninge,Meanwhile, Edwin was slain by the king of the Britons.

NOTE 2—O.E. had no progressive forms for the passive, and could not, therefore, distinguish between He is being wounded and He is wounded. It was not until more than a hundred years after Shakespeare’s death that being assumed this function. Weorðan, which originally denoted a passage from one state to another, was ultimately driven out by bēon (wesan), and survives now only in Woe worth (= be to).


ðā Beormas, Permians.

ðā Dęniscan, the Danish (men), Danes.

ðā Finnas, Finns.

ðæt gewald, control [wealdan].

sēo sǣ, sea.

sēo scīr, shire, district.

sēo wælstōw, battle-field.

āgan wælstōwe gewald, to maintain possession of the battle-field.

sē wealdend, ruler, wielder

geflīeman geflīemde geflīemed to put to flight.

gestaðelian gestaðelode gestaðelod to establish restore.

gewissian gewissode gewissod to guide direct.

wīcian wīcode gewīcod to dwell [wic=village].


I. 1. Ǫnd ðǣr wæs micel wæl geslægen on gehwæþre hǫnd, ǫnd Æþelwulf ealdormǫn wearþre

ofslægen; ǫnd þā Dęniscan āhton wælstōwe gewald.

2. Ǫnd þæs ymb ānne mōnaþ gefeaht Ælfred cyning wiþ ealne þone hęre, and hine geflīemde.

3. Hē sǣde þēah þæt þæt land sīe swīþe lang norþ þǫnon.

4. Þā Beormas hæfdon swīþe wel gebūd (§ 126, Note 2) hiera land.

5. Ohtere sǣde þæt sēo scīr hātte Hālgoland, þe hē on (§ 94, (5)) būde.

6. Þā Finnas wīcedon be þǣre sǣ.

7. Dryhten, ælmightiga, (§ 78, Note) God, Wyrhta and Wealdend ealra gesceafta, ic bidde ðē for ðīnre miclan mildheortnese ðæt ðū mē gewissie tō ðīnum willan; and gestaðela mīn mōd tō ðīnum willan and tō mīnre sāwle ðearfe.

8. Þā sceolde hē ðǣr bīdan ryht-norþanwindes, for ðǣm æt land bēag Þǣr sūðryhte, oþþe sēo sǣ

in on ðæt land, hē nysse hwæðer.

9. For ðȳ, mē ðyncð betre, gif ēow swā ðyncð, ðæt wē ēac ðās bēc on ðæt geðēode wenden ðe wē

ealle gecnāwan mægen.

II. 1. When the king heard that, he went (=then went he) westward with his army to Ashdown.

2. Lovest thou me more than these?

3. The men said that the shire which they lived in was called Halgoland.

4. All things were made (wyrcan) by God.

5. They were fighting for two days with (=against) the Danes.

6. King Alfred fought with the Danes, and gained the victory; but the Danes retained

possession of the battle-field.

7. These men dwelt in England before they came hither.

8. I have not seen the book of (ymbe) which speak (sprecan).

1 This unfortunate nomenclature is due to the term Angli Saxones, which Latin writers used as a designation for the English Saxons as distinguished from the continental or Old Saxons. But Alfred and Ælfric both use the term Englisc, not Anglo-Saxon. The Angles spread over Northumbria and Mercia, far outnumbering the other tribes. Thus Englisc (= Angel + isc) became the general name for the language spoken.

2 As a small as England is, there are six distinct dialects spoken in her borders to-day. Of these the Yorkshire dialect is, perhaps, the most peculiar. It preserves many Northumbrian survivals. See Tennyson’s Northern Farmer.

1 Vowels are said to be round, or rounded, when the lip-opening is rounded; that is, when the lips are thrust out and puckered as if preparing to pronounce w. Thus o and u are round vowels: add –ing to each, and phonetically you have added –wing. E.g. gowing, suwing.

1A little practice will enable the student to see the appropriateness of calling these consonants voiced and voiceless. Try to pronounce a voiced consonant,—d in den, for example, but without the assistance of en,—and there will be heard a gurgle, or vocal murmur. But in t, of ten, there is no sound at all, but only a feeling of tension in the organs.

1 Taken separately, every syllable ending in a single consonant is long. It may be said, therefore, that all closed syllables are long; but in the natural flow of language, the single final consonant of a syllable so often blends with a following initial vowel, the syllable thus becoming open and short, that such syllables are not recognized as prevailingly long. Cf. Modern English at all (= a-tall).

1Most grammars add a sixth case, the vocative. But it seems best to consider the vocative as only a function of the nominative form.

2 Of course our “apostrophe and s” (= ’s) comes from the Old English genitive ending –es. The e is preserved in Wednesday (= Old English Wōdnes dæg). But at a very early period it was thought that John’s book, for example, was a shortened form of John his book. Thus Addison (Spectator, No. 135) declares’s a survival of his. How, then, would he explain the s of his? And how would he dispose of Mary’s book?

1 Early West Saxon had no distinctive form for the future. The present was used both as present proper and as future. Cf. Modern English “I go home tomorrow,” or “I am going home tomorrow” for “I shall go home tomorrow.”

2 The prefix ge- (Middle English y-), cognate with Latin co (con) and implying completeness of action, was not always used. It never occurs in the past participles of compound verbs: oþ-feallan, to fall off, past participle oþ-feallen (not oþ-gefeallen). Milton errs in prefixing it to a present participle:

“What needs my Shakespeare, for his honour’d bones,

The labour of an age in piled stones?

Or that his hallow’d reliques should be hid

Under a star-ypointing pyramid.”

Eptiaph on William Shakespeare.

And Shakespeare misuses it in “Y-ravished,” a preterit (Pericles III, Prologue 1. 35).

It survives in the archaic y-clept (Old English ge-clypod, called). It appears as a in aware (Old English ge-wær), as e in enough (Old English ge-nōh), and as i in handiwork (Old English hand-ge-weorc).

3 With intransitive verbs denoting change of condition, the Old English auxiliary is usually some form of to be rather than to have. See § 139.

4 The theory that loved, for example, is a fused form of love-did has been generally given up. The dental ending was doubtless an Indo-Germanic suffix, which became completely specialized only in the Teutonic languages.

1  But in the Voyages of Ohthere and Wulfstan, in which the style is apparently more that of oral than of written discourse, the Normal is more frequent than the Transposed order in dependent clauses. In his other writings Alfred manifests a partiality for the Transposed order in dependent clauses, except in the case of substantival clauses introduced by þæt. Such clauses show a marked tendency to revert to their Normal oratio recta order. The norm thus set by the indirect affirmative clause seems to have proved an important factor in the ultimate disappearance of Transposition from dependent clauses. The influence of Norman French helped only to consummate forces that were already busily at work.

1  The positions of the genitive are various. It frequently follows its noun: þā bearn þāra Aðeniensa, The children of the Athenians. It may separate an adjective and a noun: Ān lȳtel sǣs earm, A little arm of (the) sea. The genitive may here be construed as an adjective, or part of a compound = A little sea-arm; Mid mǫnegum Godes gifum, With many God-gifts = many divine gifts.

1 Skeat, Principles of English Etymology, Second Series, § 342. But Jespersen, with Collitz and others, stoutly contests “the theory of sound laws and analogy sufficing between them to explain everything in linguistic development.”

1 But Old English ā preceded by w sometimes gives Modern English o as in two: twā=two; hwā =who; hwām=whom.

1 Whitney, Life and Growth of Language, Chap. IV.

2 Sweet, A New English Grammar, Part I., § 535.

3 As Skeat says (§ 22, (2)), Analogy is “fitful.” It enables us to explain many linguistic phenomena, but not to anticipate them. The multiplication of books tends to check its influence by perpetuating the forms already in use. Thus Chaucer employed nine en-plurals, and his influence served for a time to check the further encroachment of the es-plurals. As soon as there is an acknowledged standard in any language, the operation of Analogy is fettered.

1 Adjectives usually retain æ in closed syllables, changing it to a in open syllables: hwæt (active), glæd (glad), wær (wary) have G. hwates, glades, wares; D. hwatum, gladum, warum; but A. hwætne, glædne, wærne. Nouns, however, change to a only in open syllables followed by a guttural vowel, a or u. The æ in the open syllables of the singular is doubtless due to the analogy of the N.A. singular, both being closed syllables.

2 Cf. Mn.E. drizz’ling, rememb’ring, abysmal (abysm = abizum), sick’ning, in which the principle of syncopation is precisely the same.

3 This may mean four things: (1) The, (2) That (demostrative), (3) He, she, it, (4), Who, which, that (relative pronoun). Mn.E. demonstrative that is, of course, the survival of O.E. neuter ðæt in its demonstrative sense. Professor Victor Henry (Comparative Grammar of English and German, § 160, 3) sees a survival of dative plural demonstrative ðǣm in such an expression as in them days. It seems more probable, however, that them so used has followed the lead of this and these, that and those, in their double function of pronoun and adjective. There was doubtless some such evolution as, I saw them. Them what? Them boys.
An unquestioned survival of the dative singular feminine of the article is seen in the –ter of Atterbury (= æt ðǣre byrig, at the town); and ðǣm survives in the –ten of Attenborough, the word borough having become an uninflected neuter. Skeat, Principles, First Series, § 185.

1 The brackets contain etymological hints that may help the student to discern relationships otherwise overlooked. The genitive is given only when not perfectly regular.

1 Note the many nouns in Mn.E. that are unchanged in the plural. These are either survivals of O.E. long stems, swine, sheep, deer, folk, or analogical forms, fish, trout, mackerel, salmon, etc.

2 Dissyllables whose first syllable is a prefix are, of course, excluded. They follow the declension of their last member: gebed, prayer, gebedu, prayers; gefeoht, battle, gefeoht, battles.

3 See § 17, Note 1. Note that (as in hwæl, § 27, (2)) æ changes to a when the following syllable contains a: hæbbe, but hafast.

1 The old meaning survives in Shakespeare’s “Rats and mice and such small deer,” King Lear, III, 4, 144.

2 See § 20, (2), (b).

3 See § 27, (2).

1  All words ending in –nes double the –s before adding the case endings.

2  As in warden of the marches.

1 See § 21, (1).

1 Pronouns agree in gender with the nouns for which they stand. Hit, however, sometimes stands for inanimate things of both masculine and feminine genders. See Wülfing (l.c.) I, § 238.

1 The palatal vowels and diphthongs were long or short æ, e, i, (ie), y, ea, eo; the guttural vowels were long or short a, o, u.

1 The more common form for stems with a is æ rather than ę: faran, to go, 2d and 3d singular stem fær-; sacan, to contend, stem sæc-. Indeed, a changes to ę via æ (Cosijn, Altwestsächsische Grammatik, I, § 32).

2 Umlaut is frequently called Mutation. Metaphony is still another name for the same phenomenon. The term Metaphony has the advantage of easy adjectival formation (metaphonic). It was proposed by Professor Victor Henry (Comparative Grammar of English and German, Paris, 1894), but has not been naturalized.

1 This happens also when the infinitive stem ends in st:

  1. berst-e (I burst)

  2. bier-st

  3. bierst.

1Brūcan, to enjoy, takes the genitive case, not the accusative. It means “to have joy of anything.”

1 The r is intrusive in –groom, as it is in cart-r-idge, part-r-idge, vag-r-ant, and hoa-r-se.

2 The n has been appropriated by the article. Cf. an apron (<a napron), an auger (<a nauger), an orange (<a norange) , and umpire (<a numpire).

3 In Mn.E. we say “I request a favor you”; but in O.E. it was “I request you (dative) of a favor” (gentive). Cf. Cymbeline, III, 6, 92: “We’ll mannerly demand thee of thy story.”

1 Hālig, holy, contains, of course, the same root. “I find,” says Carlyle, “that you could not get any better definition of what ‘holy’ really is than ‘health—completely healthy.’”

2This word has been much discussed. The older etymologists explained it as meaning worth stealing. A more improbable conjecture is that it means worth a stall or place. It is used of ships in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. As applied to men, Skeat thinks it meant good or worthy at stealing; but the etymology is still unsettled.

1 This is really a double superlative, m being itself an old superlative suffix. Cf. Latin opti-m-us. In Mn.E. northmost and hindmost, -m-est has been confused with –most, with which etymologically it has nothing to do.

1Sige usually, but not invariably, precedes habban.

2See p. 100, note on gefeaht.

1The proper noun comes first in appositive expressions: Ælfred cyning, Sidroc eorl, Hēahmund bisceop.

1 Lounsbury, English Language, Part II, § 241.

1 Usage sanctions mood, but the better spelling would be mode. It is from the Lat. modus, whereas mood (= temper) is O.E. mōd.

2 Gildersleeve’s Latin Grammar, § 255.

3 Thus when Alfred writes that an event took place before the founding of Rome, he uses the subjunctive: ǣr ðǣm ðe Rōmeburh getimbrod wǣre = before Rome were founded; but, æfter ðǣm ðe Rōmeburh getimbrod wæs = after Rome was founded.

1 “By the time of Ælfric, however, the leveling influence of the indicative [after verbs of saying] has made considerable progress.”—Gorrell, Indirect Discourse in Anglo-Saxon (Dissertation, 1895), p. 101.

2 Hotz, On the Use of the Subjunctive Mood in Anglo-Saxon (Zürich, 1882).

3 Not, He commanded the bier to be set down. The Mn.E. passive in such sentences is a loss both in force and directness.

4 Callaway, The Absolute Participle in Anglo-Saxon (Dissertation, 1889), p. 19.

1 This not the place to discuss the Gerund in Mn.E., the so-called “infinitive in –ing.” The whole subject has been befogged for the lack of an accepted nomenclature, one that shall do violence neither to grammar nor to history.

1 A few verbs of Class II have ū instead of ēo in the infinitive:
brūcan, brēac, brucon, gebrocen, to enjoy [brook].
būgan, bēag, bugon, gebogen, to bend, bow.

2 By a law known as Grammatical Change, final ð, s, and h of strong verbs generally become d, r, and g, respectively, in the preterit plural and past participle.

1 Cf. the Scotch “to dree one’s weird” = to endure one’s fate.

1 Literally, to take to (the) kingdom. Cf. “Have you anything to take to?” (Two Gentlemen of Verona, IV, 1, 42).

2 Brecan belongs properly in Class V, but it has been drawn into Class IV possibly through the influence of the r in the root.

1 See § 94, (5).