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Verbs

At a glance

The key differences between Early Middle English (eME) and Modern English (ModE):

  1. in ModE, only the 3rd person singular of the present tense, has an ending: -(e)s (e.g. he asks, she sings); but eME also has endings for the 1st and 2nd person singular, and for plurals:
    • 1st person singular has -e in the present (e.g. ic aske, singe), and in the past of weak verbs (e.g. ic askede);
    • 2nd person singular has -est in the present (e.g. t`u_ askest, singest), and in the past of weak verbs (e.g. t`u_ askedest), but -e in the past of strong verbs (e.g. t`u_ sunge);
    • 3rd person singular has -et` in the present (e.g. he_ asket`, singet`), and -e in the past of weak verbs (e.g. sce_ askede);
    • all plurals have -en in both the present (e.g. hi_ asken, singen) and the past (e.g. hi_ askeden, sungen), for both weak and strong verbs;
  2. eME has 7 strong verb classes strong classes; in ModE, only 4 of these remain in force;
  3. the first 5 eME strong verb classes have two different vowels in the stem of past tense forms, one shared by the 1st and 3rd person singular (e.g. ic/he_ sang) and another shared by the 2nd person singular and the plural (e.g. t`u_ sunge, hi_ sungen);
  4. the eME present participle, corresponding to ModE -ing, is -ende;
  5. in eME, the subjunctive mood affects all 2nd person singular forms, as well as 1st and 3rd person singular past strong verbs;
  6. eME has a plural imperative form ending in -et`;
  7. in eME, the future tense is indicated by context, not through willen or sculen;
  8. in eME, some common irregular verbs (preterite-present) have meanings which differ from their ModE counterparts;
  9. eME has a few more weak verbs which change their stem vowel in the past tense; ModE examples are teach/taught and sell/sold;

an introduction

The verb system in ModE is essentially the same as that in eME.

In ModE, most verbs can be divided into two groups - strong and weak. Strong verbs change their root vowel in the past tense, e.g. sing/sang/sung, while weak verbs add -(e)d or -t in the past tense, e.g. walk/walked and keep/kept. Note that within the weak group there are some verbs which change their root vowel in the past tense, e.g. teach/taught.

Outside the strong and weak groups, there is also a group of irregular verbs in which the past tense forms follow neither the strong nor weak pattern, e.g. am/was, go/went, can/could.

eME has all that. However eME has more strong verbs, and a few more weak verbs which change their stem vowel. eME also has and a few more verb endings within each of the groups.

Let's look first of all, at the three main groups of verbs - strong, weak and irregular, in eME, then move on to the few differences between eME and ModE verbs that are found in all groups.

weak verbs

The largest group of verbs, in both ModE and eME is the weak group. These add -(e)d or -t in the past tense, for example in ModE - walk/walked and keep/kept.

In the present tense, there are some differences between ModE and eME. In ModE, only the 3rd person singular of the present tense, has an ending: -s. Compare for example I ask with he asks. A similar contrast is found in eME: Ic aske vs he_ asket`. Note that the 3rd person singular ending in eME is -t` rather than -s. More importantly however, eME also has endings for the 2nd person singular, and for plurals: t`u_ askest and we_ asken.

Verb endings for the present tense are illustrated in the table below:

Present tense
eME ModE
1 sg ic hae_l-e I heal
2 sg t`u_ hae_l-est thou healest
3 sg he_/sce_/it hae_l-et` he/she/it heal-s
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ hae_l-en we/you/they heal

In the past tense of weak verbs, ed is added to the stem. This is true for both eME and ModE.

In eME, the endings which follow ed are similar to the present tense endings, except that the 3rd person singular form is identical to the 1st person. ModE of course, has no endings after ed, not even in the 3rd person.

Past tense
eME ModE
1 sg ic hae_led-e I healed
2 sg t`u_ hae_led-est thou healedest
3 sg he_/sce_/it hae_led-e he/she/it healed
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ hae_led-en we/you/they healed

Weak verbs which change their stem vowel in the past tense

ModE has a small number of weak verbs in which the past tense isn't formed by simply adding -(e)d or -t. These have an internal vowel change as well.

There are two such groups in ModE. The first has an ending in -ght: teach - taught, seek - sought, think - thought, bring - brought, buy - bought1. The second has an ending in in -old: sell - sold, tell - told.

eME had these same two groups of irregular weak verbs, but they were slightly larger.

Below you will find a series of tables containing all the eME weak verbs which belong to these two groups, together with their ModE equivalents.

Regarding all tables, note:

  • the eME past tense forms provided in the tables below, are 1st and 3rd person singular
  • eME past tense forms which differ from their ModE counterparts are highlighted in yellow
  • eME verbs which didn't survive to ModE are also highlighted in yellow

-ht

In eME, past tense forms in this group can have one of three vowels preceding -ht: a, o or u. In ModE only the -aht and -oht forms have survived, as -aught and -ought:

eME infinitive eME preterite ModE infinitive ModE preterite
past tense in -aht
cweccen cwahte [quake] [quaked]
dreccen drahte - -
streccen strahte stretch stretched
t`eccen t`ahte thatch thatched
weccen wahte [wake] [waked]
haccen hahte hatch hatched
laccen lahte latch latched
bepae_cen bepahte - -
rae_cen rahte reach reached
tae_cen tahte teach taught
past tense in -oht
reccen rohte [reck-less] -
se_cen sohte seek sought
t`encen t`ohte think thought
bringen brohte bring brought
biggen bohte buy bought
wircen wrohte work wrought/worked
past tense in -uht
t`inken t`uhte [me thinks] -

-ld

These behave similarly in eME and in ModE. In the present tense, the root vowel is short - e and the consonant - l, is doubled. In the past tense the root vowel is long and changes - a_ (in ModE - o). The e of the past tense suffix is elided and the double l, is reduced to a single.

The group is slightly larger in eME than in ModE.

eME infinitive eME preterite ModE infinitive ModE preterite
cwellen cwa_lde quell quelled
dwellen dwa_lde dwell dwelled
sellen sa_lde sell sold
stellen sta_lde - -
tellen ta_lde tell told

elision of -e in -ed

The e in the weak past tense marker -ed-, may be dropped. In eME sources, e is often dropped after stems ending in d, f, l, m, n and r.

Hence brae_den, hafen, dae_len, de_men, we_nen, he_ren > brae_dde, hafde, dae_lde, de_mde, we_nde, he_rde.

NB - dropping the e is optional. Thus both hae_lede and hae_lde are acceptable. For most verbs with stems ending in d, f, l, m, n, the MED has examples of past tense forms with and without e.

Note that in ModE, the e is often silent, even if it appears in the spelling, e.g. healed, deemed. Only rarely is it dropped in the spelling as well, e.g. heard.

-ed becomes -t

When e is dropped from the weak past tense marker, the remaining -d becomes -t after certain consonants: c, p, ss, t, x. Examples are cwencen/cwencte, kissen/kiste, gre_ten/gre_tte.

eME infinitive eME preterite ModE infinitive ModE preterite
gre_ten gre_tte2 greet greeted
kissen kiste kiss kissed

In this group, verbs which have an infinitive in -encen, and a past tense in -enct-, merit special attention.

Take for example - cwencen/cwencte. Note the different quality of the final c in the eME stem. In the infinitive and present tense forms it is palatalised, e.g. /kwentS`@`n/, while in the past tense, it is not, e.g. /kweN`kt@`/.

Here is a table of all the verbs which displayed a past tense form in -enct-, in eME sources. Many of these verbs no longer exist in ModE. Those that did survive, form their past tense with -ed.

eME infinitive eME preterite ModE infinitive ModE preterite
cwencen cwencte quench quenched
drencen drencte drench drenched
scencen scencte - (pour out) -
sencen sencte - (plunge) -
srencen srencte - (shrivel) -
swencen swencte - (oppress) -
wrencen wrencte wrench wrenched

-ett

Note that if the stem ends in -ett, a third -t is not added. The past tense ending -t is effectively absorbed.

All verbs in -etten follow this pattern:

eME infinitive eME preterite ModE infinitive ModE preterite
setten sette set set
letten lette2 - let

like ModE - shortened stem vowel and elision of -(e)d

So far, in our dealings with weak verbs, we have seen examples of eME verbs which behave differently to their ModE counterparts. From this point on, there is no divergence. A shortened vowel and elision of the past tense ending is only reflected in eME verbs for which the ModE counterpart also has a shortened vowel or elided past tense ending.

This affects a small group of weak verbs with stems which end in one of the following: e_d, ae_d, e_p, e_t, end.

Note that this doesn't affect all eME verbs with the stem endings listed above. The rule is simple - ModE is the guide. Where a ModE reflex of an OE past tense form has a shortened vowel, the eME reflex also has a shortened vowel. The same applies to the elision of -(e)d in the past tense form or the past participle. All the affected verbs are listed below. There are minor differences between eME and ModE forms.

shortened vowel

-e_d and -ae_d > -ed

ModE has a small number of weak verbs in which the past tense (preterite) form has a shortened vowel. The preterite ending -(e)d is also elided: bleed - bled, breed - bred, feed - fed, speed - sped, lead - lead, read - read and spread - spread1.

In eME, this shortened vowel occurs in the same verbs2. However, (e)d is only dropped in the past participle:

eME infinitive eME preterite eME past participle ModE infinitive ModE preterite
ble_den bledde ibled bleed bled
bre_den bredde ibred breed bred
fe_den fedde ifed feed fed
spe_den spedde isped speed sped3
lae_den ledde iled lead led4
-e_p > -ep

Again, these behave the same way in eME as in ModE. In the present tense, the root vowel is long. In the past tense the root vowel is short. The e of the past tense suffix is elided and the d, in contact with p, becomes t (see above).

eME infinitive eME preterite ModE infinitive ModE preterite
ke_pen kepte keep kept
sle_pen slepte2 sleep slept
-e_t > -et

As above, In the present tense, the root vowel is long, but in the past tense the root vowel is short. The e of the past tense suffix is elided and the d, in contact with t, becomes t (see above).

eME infinitive eME preterite ModE infinitive ModE preterite
me_ten mette meet met

elision of -(e)d

-end
eME infinitive eME preterite ModE infinitive ModE preterite
senden sende send sent
benden bende bend bent
wenden wende wend went
  1. ModE also has catch - caught, but this is not found in OE, Orm or PC2; it was borrowed from AN cachier early in the 13th century; the MED entry cacchen (cahte), has quotations from i.a. Lmn, AW and Ch;
  2. eME sle_pen also has the strong preterite form sle_p, which is more usual;
  3. grae_den he_den ne_den we_den brae_den drae_den belong to the same group in eME, but in ModE, either there is no reflex of the verb, or -ed is added without a change in vowel in the preterite; Orm has examples of short vowels for some of these, e.g. - dredde, but corroboration in PC2 and secondary eME sources is either lacking or inconclusive; in any case, when the ModE test is applied to a group, the sole criterion becomes the ModE form; if ModE doesn't support a particular variation from OE, then the OE form is retained; for these reasons, the vowel remains unchanged - and long, as it is in OE, in the eME preterite forms;
  4. /li:d/ vs /lE`d/, together with simple 'e' in the spelling; note that rae_den and sprae_den are similar to lae_den in that the ModE preterite and past participle do not add -ed; however there is a key difference: the ModE preterite and past participle do not have a simple 'e' in their spelling;
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strong verbs

The key difference between strong and weak verbs is that in the past tense, neither d nor t is added. And the root vowel of a strong verb always changes. Sometimes there is a separate vowel change in the past participle. So, you sing today but you sang yesterday and you have sung often. And I grow vs I grew and I have grown.

That vowel change doesn't follow a single pattern. eME has seven strong verb classes classes. In ModE, four of these are well represented. Scores of common ModE verbs belong to these classes and display the same root vowel change in the past tense, as their eME counterparts.

Three of the eME strong verb classes are only partially represented in ModE. Most of their verbs (if not all) have either become 'weak', i.e. in ModE they form their past tense by adding -ed, or have not survived.

Beyond the reduced number of strong classes and verbs, there are three main points of difference between ModE and eME:

  1. the distinction between 1st (and 3rd) person and 2nd person singular forms, lasts at least until Ch which has pt sg2 songe;

present tense

Present-tense endings in strong verbs are identical to those in weak verbs. These verb endings are illustrated in the table below:

Present tense
eME ModE
1 sg ic sing-e I sing
2 sg t`u_ sing-est thou singest
3 sg he_/sce_/it sing-et` he/she/it sing-s
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ sing-en we/you/they sing

the 7 strong verb classes

Where strong and weak verbs differ, is in the past tense. That is as true for ModE as it is for eME.

ModE and eME have several classes of strong verbs, each with a different sets of past-tense endings.

Below is a table which gives an example from each of eME's 7 strong verb classes as well as the corresponding ModE forms. Those classes which are not well represented in ModE have been highlighted.

eME ModE
class infinitive past sg1/3 past pl past part. inf. past - past part.
1 ri_den ra_d riden iriden ride rode - ridden
2 cle_fen clae_f clufen iclofen cleave1 clave - cloven2
3 singen sang sungen isungen sing sang - sung
4 stelen stal stae_len istolen steal stole1 - stolen
5 y`efen y`af y`ae_fen iy`efen give1 gave1 - given1
6 scaken sco_k sco_ken iscaken shake shook - shaken
7 fallen fe_ll fe_llen ifallen fall fell - fallen
  1. vowel spelling or sound doesn't follow expected eME to ModE development;
  2. now an adjective only;

h-stems

In the vast majority of strong verbs, the consonant at the end of the infinitive and present tense stem is carried throughout the paradigm. So for example, in ri_den s v1, the consonant <d> is found at the end of the stem in ri_den inf ri_de ri_dest ri_det` pr ra_d riden pt iriden p ptc.

In a small group of eleven strong verbs however, the consonant at the end of the infinitive and present tense stem is <h>, while the consonant at the end of the preterite plural and past participle forms, is <g>. Those eleven verbs belong to the following strong classes:

  • s1 eME wri_hen inf, wri_he wri_hst wri_ht` wri_hen pr, wra_h wrigen pt iwrigen p ptc
  • s2 eME te_hen inf, te_he te_hst te_ht` te_hen pr, tae_h tugen pt itogen p ptc
  • s5 eME sehen inf, sehe sehst seht` sehen pr, sah sae_gen pt isegen p ptc
  • s6 eME slahen inf, slahe slahst slaht` slahen pr, slo_h slo_gen pt islagen p ptc

Like

wri_hen s1
li_hen ti_hen t`i_hen s1
te_hen s2
fle_hen s2
sehen s5
(i)fehen s5
slahen s6
flahen t`wahen s6

In all the verbs listed above, the <h> can be omitted in the infinitive and the present tense1. Note however that in class 1 and class 6 strong verbs, the root vowel of the infinitive and present tense forms changes when the <h> drops - to <e_> and <ae_> respectively.

Alternative forms without <h>:

  • s1 eME wre_n inf, wre_ wre_st wre_t` wre_n pr, wra_h wrigen pt iwrigen p ptc
  • s2 eME te_n inf, te_ te_st te_t` te_n pr, tae_h tugen pt itogen p ptc
  • s5 eME se_n inf, se_ se_st se_t` se_n pr, sah sae_gen pt isegen p ptc
  • s6 eME slae_n inf, slae_ slae_st slae_t` slae_n pr, slo_h slo_gen pt islagen p ptc

ng-stems

There are two related class 7 verbs. Their usual forms are:

  • fangen inf, fange fangst fangt` fangen pr, fe_ng fe_ngen pt ifangen p ptc
  • hangen inf, hange hangst hangt` hangen pr, he_ng he_ngen pt ihangen p ptc

These have the following alternative forms in the infinitive and present tense. Note that <ng> is dropped and the stem vowel becomes <o_>:

  • fo_n inf, fo_ fo_st fo_t` fo_n pr
  • ho_n inf, ho_ ho_st ho_t` ho_n pr

Note that in this site, I tend to drop the <h> only in those verbs which have survived to ModE, without <h> - fle_n se_n flae_n slae_n (ModE flee see flay slay). The choice of form is left to the user.

  1. the instability of <h> in these verbs began in OE; generally <h> was dropped in the infinitive and in the 1st person and plural present tense forms in OE, though there were exceptions; multiple instances of the retention and restoration of <h> are found in the MED; for more detail, see the simplification of verb paradigms in eME
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Irregular verbs

In eME, it's useful to distinguish between preterite-present and anomalous verbs. In ModE, both these categories are usually lumped together as "irregular" verbs.

preterite-present verbs

The preterite-present verbs are so called, because the present tense forms resemble the past tense forms of strong verbs. This is still the case in the ModE counterparts of these verbs. Think of I can and he can, as opposed to I ask and he asks. The 1st and 3rd person forms are identical. The same is true for he may, he shall and he must.

In eME there is a further difference - the vowel of the 1st and 3rd person singular present tense forms, differs from the root vowel of the infinitive and plural present tense form. This is another feature of the past tense in strong verbs. Take for example - ic can vs we_ cunnen.

A few very common eME irregular verbs have somewhat different meanings to their counterparts (reflexes) in ModE. In fact, a rather neat shift in meaning has taken place between the first 4 verbs listed below: cunnen means 'know how to' rather than 'can', mugen means 'can' rather than 'may', moten means 'may' rather than 'must', and sculen means 'must', rather than 'will (in future)'.

preterite-present verbs in eME 8
12 know how1 can2 may3 must4 know6 dare need avail11 own
inf cunnen mugen mo_ten sculen witen durren t`urfen dugen agen
pr ptc cunnende mug~ ende mo_t~ ende scul~ ende wit~ ende - t`arf~ ende dug~ ende -
p ptc - - - - iwiten - - - agen
present
sg1 can may` mo_t scal wa_t dar t`arf dae_h a_h
sg2 canst miht most scalt5 wa_st darst t`arft - a_hst
sg3 can may` mo_t scal wa_t7 dar t`arf dae_h a_h
pl cunnen mugen mo_ten sculen witen durren t`urfen dugen agen
past
sg1 cu_t`e9 mihte moste10 sculde wiste durste t`urfte dohte a_hte
sg2 cu_t`est mihtest mostest sculdest wistest durstest t`urftest dohtest a_htest
sg3 cu_t`e mihte moste sculde wiste durste t`urfte dohte a_hte
pl cu_t`en mihten mosten sculden wisten dursten t`urften dohten a_hten
  1. the sense of 'know how' is preserved in ModE canny, cunning, and the related ken, as in beyond my ken;
  2. or to be able to; eME Ic may` = ModE I am able to;
  3. or to be allowed to; eME Ic mo_t = ModE I am allowed to;
  4. or to be obliged to; eME Ic scal = ModE I am obliged to;
  5. the sense of 'must' (obligation) is preserved in the 10 Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount in the King James version of the Bible: Thou shalt not kill etc
  6. the sense of 'know' survives in ModE to wit (namely, to know), wits (mental faculties, as in keep your wits about you), witless and nitwit i.a.;
  7. wa_t > wot (knows), which can be found in the King James version of the Bible: Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias?
  8. OE g`emunen (to remember) was preterite-present; its eME counterpart - (i)munen, appears to have become a weak verb; the only surviving example of a 3rd person singular present form in eME, is imynaed` where OE had g`eman;
  9. eME cut`e became ModE could, first by the replacement of t` with d and then the insertion of l, under the influence of would;
  10. note that as well as the shift in meaning (see paragraph above), the preterite form (and 2nd person singular present) - most, has been generalised throughout the present tense en ModE; must now has no distinct past tense and we resort instead to had to or was obliged to;
  11. or to be useful (worthy); eME t`at t`ing dae_h = ModE that thing is useful;
  12. 1st - ic, 2nd - t`u_, 3rd - he_/sce_/it, pl - we_/y`e_/hi_

anomalous verbs

It's interesting that willen is usually branded as 'anomalous' when it closely resembles sculen (see table above). It has that characteristic feature of the preterite-present verbs, - identical forms for 1st and 3rd person singular. Note also that willen means 'want'. It is not used to indicate a future action. So, Ic wille ga_n means I want to go, not I will go.

anomalous verbs in eME
ModE do go want be
inf do_n ga_n willen wesen
pr ptc do_nde ga_ngende willende wesende
p ptc - - - -
present
sg1 ic do_ ga_ wille am
sg2 t`u_ do_st ga_st wilt art
sg3 he_/sce_/it do_t` ga_t` wille is
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ do_n ga_n willen aren / sind(en)
past
sg1 ic dide y`e_de wolde was
sg2 t`u_ didest y`e_dest woldest wae_re
sg3 he_/sce_/it dide y`e_de wolde was
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ diden y`e_den wolden wae_ren
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All verbs - beyond present and past

infinitive - present participle - imperative and subjunctive moods - future tense

This section looks at differences between eME and ModE across all three verb groups - weak, strong and irregular.

Infinitive

In ModE the infinitive is simply the combination of to and the verb in question, e.g. - to sing, to heal, to be. The equivalent in eME is -en added to the end of the verb, e.g. - singen, hae_len, be_n.

So, ModE I like to sing and you want to be become me_ li_keth singen and t`u_ wilt be_n in eME.

Present participle

The eME present participle, corresponding to ModE -ing, is -ende.

Examples are askende hae_lende singende.

Note that in eME, participles can be used as adjectives or adverbs, but not as nouns. So note the eME equivalents of these ModE phrases:

  • the singing nun = t`e singende minecen (adjective);
  • singing softly, she approached us = singende softe, sce_ ge_ng ony`ae_n us (adverb);
  • his singing is terrible = his singing is atel (noun);

Subjunctive forms

Unfamiliar with the term? Get a brief description »

In Modern English, the subjunctive generally only affects the form of the 3rd person singular. But in Early Middle English it affects the 2nd person singular form as well. So we get:

  • T`e king be_det` t`at t`u_ singe for him - The king commands that you sing for him

Note the form of the 2nd person singular verb - singe, not singest. All three singular subjunctive forms end in -e. The plural subjunctive forms end in -en, which is the same as the indicative. In irregular verbs, the stem for the present subjunctive, both singular and plural, is generally the plural stem, e.g. cunn~e ~en, scul~e ~en, mug~e ~en and be_ ~n.

The other difference is that eME has a past subjunctive. There are only two different past subjunctive forms in any given verb - one for singular and one for plural. In weak verbs, the past subjunctive singular form is identical to the past indicative 1st and 3rd person form. In strong verbs, on the other hand, the past subjunctive singular form is identical to the past indicative 2nd person form.

Perhaps a simpler way to think of it is this: the stem for the subjunctive, both past and present, in all verbs, is the plural stem, e.g. cut`~e ~en, sculd~e ~en, miht~e ~en, wae_r~e ~en, hae_led~e ~en and sung~e ~en.

In The following table, hae_len is a weak verb, while singen is a strong verb.

A comparison of subjunctive forms in eME and ModE
eME ModE
weak strong weak strong
present tense
sg ic/t`u_/he_/sce_/it hae_le singe I/thou/he/she/it heal sing
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ hae_len singen we/you/they heal sing
past tense
sg ic/t`u_/he_/sce_/it hae_lede sunge I/thou/he/she/it heal sing
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ hae_leden sungen we/you/they heal sing
subjunctive forms are based on the plural stem

That principle is clearly illustrated in the following table. The only exception - si_e and si_en from wesen (to be), is highlighted.

Note - subjunctive forms are in bold type:

Subjunctive forms in irregular verbs
present tense past tense
indicative subjunctive indicative subjunctive
pr sg1/3 pr pl pr sg pr pl pt pl pt sg pt pl
pr sg1/3 pr pl sbj pr sg sbj pr pl pt pl sbj pt sg sbj pt pl
preterite-present verbs
can cunnen cunne cunnen cu_t`en cu_t`e cu_t`en
may` mugen muge mugen mihten mihte mihten
mo_t mo_ten mo_te mo_ten mosten moste mosten
scal sculen scule sculen sculden sculde sculden
wa_t witen wite witen wisten wiste wisten
dar durren durre durren dursten durste dursten
t`arf t`urfen t`urfe t`urfen t`urften t`urfte t`urften
dae_h dugen duge dugen dohten dohte dohten
a_h agen age agen a_hten a_hte a_hten
anomalous verbs
do_ do_n do_ do_n diden dide diden
ga_ ga_n ga_ ga_n y`e_den y`e_de y`e_den
wille willen wille willen wolden wolde wolden
am aren si_e si_en wae_ren wae_re wae_ren

Note also that the subjunctive is used more often in eME than in ModE. That's because an infinitive construction has replaced some previous uses of the subjunctive. For example, we would say "I order you to stand down", where eME has only the equivalent of "I order that you stand down".

imperative plural

ModE has only one form for the imperative mood in each verb. It's identical to the 1st person (and most common) form. Examples are: Move! Look! Go! eME has this ending-less form for the singular as well as an -et` ending for the plural.

  • Stir! Beha_ld! Ga_! (t`u_)
  • Stiret`! Beha_ldet`! Ga_t`! (y`e_)

no future tense

There is no future tense in eME. The forms of the verb do not change to indicate a future action or state. That's true for ModE as well. However, neither are willen and sculen used to indicate a future action or state, as will and shall are in ModE.

Instead, it is context which indicates that an action takes place in the future, in eME. Often, this will involve a temporal adverb or adverbial phrase like 'tomorrow' or 'soon' or 'in the coming days'. But sometimes, the present tense alone is enough.

  • Ic ga_ to_ Wintencester (so_ne_) = I'll go to Winchester
  • Ic ga_ to_morgen = I'll go tomorrow
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putting it all together

an overview of verb endings in eME and ModE

Points of difference are indicated in italics.

hae_len is a weak verb. singen is strong.

eME ModE
weak strong weak strong
inf hae_len singen to heal to sing
pr ptc hae_lende singende healing singing
p ptc ihae_led isungen healed sung
indicative present
sg1 ic hae_le singe I heal sing
sg2 t`u_ hae_lest singest thou healest1 singest1
sg3 he_/sce_/it hae_let` singet` he/she/it heals sings
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ hae_len singen we/you/they heal sing
indicative past
sg1 ic hae_lede sang I healed sang
sg2 t`u_ hae_ledest sunge thou healedest1 sangest1
sg3 he_/sce_/it hae_lede sang he/she/it healed sang
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ hae_leden sungen we/you/they healed sang
subjunctive present
sg1 ic hae_le singe I heal sing
sg2 t`u_ hae_le singe thou heal sing
sg3 he_/sce_/it hae_le singe he/she/it heal sing
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ hae_len singen we/you/they heal sing
subjunctive past
sg1 ic hae_lede sunge I heal sing
sg2 t`u_ hae_lede sunge thou heal sing
sg3 he_/sce_/it hae_lede sunge he/she/it heal sing
pl we_/y`e_/hi_ hae_leden sungen we/you/they heal sing
imperative
sg Hae_l! Sing! Heal! Sing!
pl Hae_let`! Singet`! Heal! Sing!
  1. The second and third person forms in -est and -eth can be found in Shakespeare and in the King James Bible;
in a nutshell
plural -en
1st 2nd 3rd
singular present -e -est -et`
singular past, weak -e -est -e
singular past, strong - -e -