Archaic Verb Conjugation

English has changed over time. Many words have changed their forms and pronunciations. In this lesson, we will cover the verbs that were changed.

Archaic Verb Conjugation in English

In the Old English era, we had a lot more verb inflection than we have today.

What Is Its Use?

Many forms used in Early Modern English are now obsolete, but we still encounter some old forms in old texts such as Shakespeare, the King James Bible, and in archaisms.

Archaic Conjugation of 'Be'

'Be' was and still is an irregular verb. In the table below, you can see the different forms of 'be' as it was used in the old English:

Present Tense Past Tense
I am was
Thou art wert
He/She/It is was
We are were
You are were
They are were

As you can see the only difference between the archaic conjugation and the modern version is with the second person singular. Take a look at the following examples:

Unworthy though thou art, I'll cope with thee / And do some service to Duke Humphrey's ghost.

Unworthy though you are, I'll cope with you / And do some service to Duke Humphrey's ghost.

When thou wert regent for our sovereign...

When you were regent for our sovereign...

Unless thou wert more loyal than thou art.

Unless you were more loyal than you are.

Archaic Conjugation of Other Irregular Verbs

Here are the conjugations of some common verbs that have irregular differences:

The Verb 'Have'

Present Tense Past Tense
Thou hast hadst
He, She, It hath had

For example:

Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness! For thou hast given me in this beauteous face

Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness! For you have given me in this beauteous face

I thought thou hadst been resolute.

I thought you had been resolute.

He hath greatest cause.

He has greatest cause.

The Verb 'Do'

Present Tense Past Tense
Thou dost didst
He, She, It doth did

Check out these examples:

If thou dost love thy lord, Banish the canker of ambitious thoughts;

If you do love thy lord, Banish the canker of ambitious thoughts;

When thou didst ride in triumph through the streets.

When you did ride in triumph through the streets.

My troublous dreams this night doth make me sad.

My troublous dreams this night does make me sad.

archaic conjugation of the verb 'say'

The Verb 'See'

Present Tense Past Tense
Thou seest sawest
He, She, It seeth saw

Consider the following examples:

Thou seest I am pacified.

you see I am pacified.

Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands

you saw till that a stone was cut out without hands

The Lord seeth not as man seeth.

The Lord sees not as man sees.

Archaic Conjugation of Modals

you shall thou shalt
you will thou wilt
you would thou wouldst
you can thou canst
you might thou mightst
you may thou mayest

Here are some examples:

Thou shalt find me tractable to any honest reason.

You shall find me tractable to any honest reason.

Thou wouldst have me answer to.

You would have me answer to.

When thou mayest tell thy tale the nearest way?

When you may tell your tale the nearest way?

Archaic Conjugation of Regular Verbs

For the Third-Person Singular

All regular verbs have a different form in the third person singular form. The suffix -eth [əθ] was added to them.
This suffix has become the modern -s, for example, 'he sleepeth' has become 'he sleeps,' 'he runneth' has become 'he runs.'

  • he maketh = he makes
  • he goeth = he goes
  • he sayeth = he says

It maketh me to think.

It makes me think.

...traveling in the highway that goeth to Herne...

...traveling in the highway that goes to Herne...

Love thy neighbor, sayeth the Lord.

Love your neighbor, says the Lord.

For the Second-Person

Another different form occurs with the archaic second-person singular verbs. They have the suffix -est attached to them.

  • thou makest = you make
  • thou goest = you go
  • thou sayest = you say

Thou makest the triumviry...

You make the triumvirate...

Thou goest to Coventry...

You go to Coventry...

Thou villain, what sayest thou?

You villain, what says you?

In all other verbs, the past tense is formed by the base past tense form of the word (e.g. had, did, listened) plus -st, for example:

  • thou listenedst = you listened

Warning

All examples featured in this lesson are extracted from 'Complete Works of William Shakespeare' and 'The Bible.'

Review

Archaic verbs are the former conjugation of verbs that are used in historic contents. The following verbs have archaic conjugation in English.

  • be (second person)
  • modals
  • see (second and third person)
  • do (second and third person)
  • have (second and third person)
  • regular verbs (second and third person)

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