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THE VERB IN OLD ENGLISH

 

 

OE verb had 2 tenses – present and past. OE inherited the verb system from I.-E. Different conjugations: 2 main groups – weak and strong, also there were 2 numbers, 3 moods, 3 persons (in sing)

Strong conjugation

Strong conjugation included verbs which formed their past forms with the help of gradation (change of the root vowel). They were not numerous, but very frequently used. They had 4 basic forms in OE: 1) the infinitive 2) the past singular 3) the past plural 4) the past participle

There were 7 classes of strong verbs, different by the pattern of gradation (each class had its own variation of the vowel change). The number of classes is greater nowadays.

  Weak conjugation

These verbs form their past participle with the help of a dental suffix. In OE were 3 classes of weak verbs slightly different by the form of the dental suffix and the stem vowel that joined this suffix to the root. These weak verbs had 3 forms: 1) infinitive 2) preterite 3)participle II.

Mixed or preterite-present verb

They had vowel gradation in their present tense forms, corresponding to the vowel gradation of the strong verbs  their past was formed according to the pattern of weak verbs combined some characteristics from both strong and weak verbs. Many of them survive as our modal verbs (can, shall, will, must).

There was a small group of irregular verbs teach (taught), write (wrote, written), go (went), be (am, are, is, was, were).

Non-finite forms

2 non-finite forms: 2 infinitive, 2 participles. The infinitive had no verbal grammatical categories. Inflected (dative) infinitive was used in the independent syntactic positions, mainly as the adverbial modifier of purpose.

inflective infinitive was used in combinations with preterite-present verbs and another verbal collocations, the 2 infinitives were often but not always interchanging. 

2 types of participles

P. I had the ending –ende, it was declined according to the weak adjectival declensions. It might be used both as predicate, attribute. P. II had a stem of its own. In strong verbs it was marked by a certain grade of the root vowel interchange and by en. In weak verbs the P. II ended in –d or –t and was commonly marked by  .  P II was declined as an adjective and also could be used in syntactic functions of attribute and predicative.

 

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