|There are three classes of weak verbs in OE, corresponding to classes I – III of weak verbs in Gothic. Class IV of Gothic verbs (the type fullnan, fullnōda, fullnōdedum ‘get filled’) has no counterpart in other Germanic languages. Every weak verb is characterized by three forms: infinitive, past tense, and second participle. As the past plural can be derived from the past singular by replacing the -e-ending of the singular by the -on-ending of the plural, there is no need to quote the past plural as one of the main forms of verb. The stem of the second participle is always identical with that of the past tense. |
Class I. Regular verbs.
The regular class I verbs always have mutation of their root vowel due to an original i-element in the suffix.
(I) Verbs with the long root vowel drop the -i- no matter what consonant followed the root vowel.
(II a) Verbs with the short root vowel followed by -r- keep the -i-, and the -r- is not lengthened. (II b) Verbs with a short root vowel followed by a consonant other than r drop the -i- and their consonant is lengthened (West Germanic consonant lengthening)
(I) dēman ‘judge’
(II a) nerian ‘save’
(II b) fremman ‘commit’
cnyssan ‘push’ Past
cnysede Second participle
When the -d- of the suffix is preceded by a voiceless consonant it changes into -t-; in the second participle both -t and -ed are found.
cēpan ‘keep’ cēpte cēpt, cēped
rētan ‘greet’ rētte rēt, rēted
If the verb stem ends in “consonant + d” or “consonant + t” the second participle can end either in -d, -t or in -ded, -ted.
sendan ‘send’ sende send, sended
restan ‘rest’ restet rest, rested
Irregular class I verbs had the -i-, which produced mutation, in the infinitive only. In the past and in the second participle there had not been any -i-, and so these forms have no mutation. As a result, the vowel of the past and the second participle differs from that of the infinitive. Besides, in these verbs the final consonant of the stem comes into immediate contact with the initial consonant of the suffix, and this causes some phonetic changes, which widen the difference between the infinitive and the past and participle still further. With some verbs, e.g. byc an ‘buy’ the difference goes so far that only the initial consonant remains as an element common to all forms of the verb. Consequences of this development make themselves felt in the language down to the modern period.
sellan ‘give’ sealed seald
tellan ‘tell’ tealde teald
cwellan ‘kill’ cwealde cweald
tæc(e)an ‘teach’ tāhte tāht
ræc(e)an ‘reach’ rāhte rāht
læcc(e)an ‘snatch’ læhte læht
byc (e)an ‘buy’ bohte both
sēc(e)an ‘seek’ sōhte sōht
wyrc(e)an ‘work’ worhte worth
ðenc(e)an ‘think’ ðōhte ðōht
ðync(e)an ‘seem’ ðūht ðūht
The verb brin an ‘bring’ stands apart from other verbs in that it is strong and weak at the same time. It belongs to class III strong verbs and has the alternation brin -/bran -, but its past tense and second participle are derived by means of the dental suffix. The resulting forms are those of class I weak verbs: brin an brōhte(<*branhte) brōht (<*branht). The verb būan ‘cultivate’, ‘inhabit’ also has a peculiar system of forms: its past tense is that of a weak verb, but its second participle takes the n-suffix, like a strong verb:
būan būde būn
Many class I verbs are causative, i.e. they are derived from strong verbs, and their meaning is ‘make somebody or something perform the action denoted by the strong verb’, e.g.: drenc(e)an ‘give to drink’ (<*drancion), from drincan ‘drink’; senc(e)an ‘plunge’ (<*sancian), from sincan ‘sink’; āswebban ‘make (somebody) sleep’, ‘kill’ (<*swæfian) from swefan ‘sleep’, lædan ‘lead’ (<*lāþian) from līþan ‘go’; ræran ‘raise’, ‘rear’ (<*rāsian) from rīsan ‘rise’. As will be seen from these examples, the root of causative verb corresponds, as far as gradation goes, to the past singular of the strong verb from which it is derived. Examples of class I weak verbs are: berian ‘beat’, derian ‘hat\rm’, erian ‘plough’, ferian ‘go’, heran ‘rraise’