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The History of English (методичка).doc
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Preterite-Present verbs



Past sg

Past pl


Strong verbs

(cl. 1)


write sg

wraþ pl







wāt sg

witon pl




Weak verbs

(cl. 1)


cēpe sg

cēpaþ pl




In OE there were 12 preterite-present verbs.

These verbs have a peculiar formation of basic stems and forms. Their Present Tense corresponds to the Past of strong verbs while their Past is derived from the Past weak verbs. Thus, the Present Tense sg. of the verb “witan” (знать) is “wāt” while its Past is “wiste, wisse”.

Aspects in I-E languages

Pre-Old Germanic: Continuous Momentaneous Resultative

       a new stage

Old Germanic: Pr. T. Past T. Pr.T.

The Preterite-Present verbs originated from the so-called resultative aspect. It is believed that in the Pre-Old Germanic languages the distinction was not between tenses but between aspects, which show the way the action is developing.

There used to be 3 aspects: the continuous, momentaneous & resultative. The Continuous aspect presents actions as developing in time, without reference to any completion.

The Momentaneous aspect presents the action as heading towards completion.

The Resultative aspect presents the action as completed and having brought about a new stage of things.

From these 3 aspects the Tenses of Germanic strong verbs were developed. The Continuous aspect yielded (произвел, дал плоды) the Present Tense.

The Momentaneous aspect yielded the Past Tense.

The Resultative aspect developed in 2 directions: 1) it joined the momentaneous aspect; 2) it gave rise to the preterite-present verbs to form their Present Tense.

Preterite-present verbs signify the present result of a past action. In some verbs the Present Tense meaning derived from the resultative aspect can be well seen: the meaning “know” (знаю) develops from a meaning “have learnt” (узнал); the meaning “can” (могу) from a meaning “have learnt”(научился), managed (смог). Most of the preterite-present verbs did not indicate actions, but expressed a kind of attitude to an action denoted by another verb in the Infinitive. In other words, they were used like modal verbs, and 6 of them eventually developed into modern modal verbs – NE ought, dare, shall, can, may, must.

Suppletive verbs bēon, wesan; ʒān

Suppletive verbs are verbs whose paradigm is made up of several roots. In other words suppletive verbs build up different forms from different roots. E.g. I am, he was; Я хожу, он шел.

Supplition is one of the oldest means of form-building. All IE languages have suppletive verbs: Germ.: sein – war – ich bin;Rus.: быть, есть; Fr.: aller – je vais.

In OE there were two suppletive verbs: ʒān and bēon,wesan.

The verb ʒān built its Past from a different root – eode.

ʒān – eode – ʒe-ʒān

The forms of the verb “be” are derived from three roots: wes-, es-, and be-.

The Past forms were built from the root wes- on the pattern of strong verbs of Class 5.

wesan – wæs – wæron – Ø

The present tense forms were different modifications of the root es- and be- (IE wes- and bhu-)

Sg. 1p. eom, bēo Pl. sind(on), bēoþ, sīen, sīn, syn, bēon, sint.

2p. eart, bist

3p. is, biþ

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