Chapter 3: Irregular Verbs

Grammatical sentences require at the very minimum a subject and a verb. We can use the personal pronouns from chapter 1 for subjects, and now we will add verbs to them to make our first sentences in Old English.

The first verbs we learn are irregular verbs (verbs which behave differently than most verbs in the language). There are two reasons to begin with the irregular verbs: first, they're very common (verbs like "is" "do" and "go" are all irregular in Anglo-Saxon). Second, you can just memorize them as a group without having to worry (yet) about working through conjugation patterns.

The four Old English irregular verbs are:

  1. beon = to be
  2. willan = to wish
  3. don = to do
  4. gan = to go


Beon ("to be")

Beon has two forms in the present tense which correspond (very roughly) with Modern English "is" and "be".

Though Old English does not have a future tense, a good rule of thumb is that the "eom" forms are generally present tense while "beon" forms may indicate future (you'll need to use the context of the word in these cases).

Indicative Mood: Beon

  Present Present Past
First Person Singular (I) eom beo wæs
Second Person Singular (you) eart bist wære
Third Person Singular (he, she, it) is bið wæs
All Plurals sind or sint or sindon beoð wæron

Subjunctive Mood: Beon

Present Present Past
All Singulars sie beo wære
All Plurals sien beon wæren

Imperative Mood: Beon

Second Person Singular beo or wes
Second Person Plural beoð or wesað

Inflected Infinitive: to beonne


beonde, wesende

Willan ("to wish")

Translating tip: One of the most common mistakes students make in beginning Old English is to translate forms of "willan" as "will" rather than "wish".

This mistake is natural given the lack of a future tense in Old English, but you need to avoid it by remembering that "willan," while it looks like "will," is a false friend and should not be relied upon.

Memorize: "'Willan'does not mean 'will.'"


Indicative Mood: Willan

  Present Past
First Person Singular (I) wille or wile wolde
Second Person Singular (you) wilt woldest
Third Person Singular (he, she, it) wille or wile wolde
All Plurals willað woldon

Subjunctive Mood: Willan

  Present Past
All Singulars wille or wile wolde
All Plurals willen wolden

Imperative Mood: Willan

Second Person Plural nyllað or nellað (only used in this negative form)

Participle: willende



Don ("to do")


Indicative Mood: Don

  Present Past
First Person Singular (I) do dyde
Second Person Singular (you) dest dydest
Third Person Singular (he, she, it) deþ dyde
All Plurals doð dydon


Subjunctive Mood: Don

  Present Past
All Singulars do dyde
All Plurals don dyden


Imperative Mood: Don

Second Person Singular do
Second Person Plural doð

Inflected Infinitive: to donne

Present Participle: donde

Past Participle: don



Gan ("to go")


Indicative Mood: Gan

Present Past
First Person Singular (I) ga eode
Second Person Singular (you) gæst eodest
Third Person Singular (he, she, it) gæþ eode
All Plurals gað eodon

Subjunctive Mood: Gan

  Present Past
All Singulars ga eode
All Plurals gan eoden

Imperative Mood: Gan

Second Person Singular ga
Second Person Plural gað

Inflected Infinitive: to ganne

Present Participle: gande

Past Participle: gan


Chapter 3 Vocabulary Words

Translation Practice for Irregular Verbs