Chapter 8: Strong Nouns

 

Noun Classes

Like adjectives and pronouns, Old English nouns are declined: different endings are attached to the stem of a word, and these endings indicate what case a word belongs to (and therefore, what grammatical function that word is fulfilling in a sentence.

Old English nouns are divided into three main groups, strong, weak, and "minor," based on the noun's stem and the endings that each noun takes in different grammatical cases.

A useful rule of thumb is that nouns whose stems end with a consonant are strong, while nouns whose stems end with a vowell (except for "u") are weak (we'll go over the paradigms for weak nouns in the next chapter).

The strong declension is itself subdivided into first, second, and third declensions, which are also called "masculine," "neuter," and "feminine."

Note: Some grammar books will give you complicated and confusing explanations as to how masculine nouns are often masculine words but sometimes not, etc., etc.. Don't even bother. If you just think of Masculine, Neuter and Feminine as arbitrary names for categories (it would be better if they were called alpha, beta, and gamma) then you won't get confused. We'll call label the declensions "first declension," "second declension," "third declension," and "fourth declension," but we'll also put in the "masculine," "neuter," and "feminine" labels since these are used so frequently in dictionaries and editions of Old English texts.

 

 

Strong First Declensions (Masculine) Nouns

While we'll use "first declension" to label these nouns which end in consonants, other dictionaries will call the "masculine." You may think of this group of nouns as the "spear-stone-king" group, since all of those words have traditional "masculine" associations and all are "masculine" strong first declension nouns.

Some Strong First Declension (Masculine) Nouns:

Old English Modern English
gar spear
stan stone
cyning king
fugol bird
dream joy

You'll find the endings for these nouns in the table below

(a dash - in the paradigm indicates that the stem gets no additional ending)

 

Strong First Declension (Masculine) Nouns Paradigm

Case Singular Plural
Nominative - as
Genitive es a
Accusative - as
Dative and Instrumental e um

 

Strong First Declension (Masculine) Singulars: Examples

Case OldEnglish Translation
Nominative cyning king (subject)
Genitive cyninges of the king
Accusative cyning king (direct object)
Dative and Instrumental cyninge

with the king

king (indirect object)

 

 

Strong First Declension (Masculine) Plurals: Examples

Case OldEnglish Translation
Nominative cyningas kings (subject)
Genitive cyninga of the kings
Accusative cyningas kings (direct object)
Dative and Instrumental cyningum

with the kings

kings (indirect object)

 

Strong Second Declension (Neuter)

We'll use "second declension" to label those nouns which end in consonants but whose plurals use "u" instead of "as." Some dictionaries will call these nouns "neuter."

Some Strong Second Declension(Neuter) Nouns:

Old English Modern English
deor animal
riht law
mægen power
tungol star

 

The endings for these nouns are given in the table below.

(the dash - indicates that the stem gets no additional ending)

Strong Second Declension (Neuter) Nouns Paradigm

Case Singular Plural
Nominative - u
Genitive es a
Accusative - u
Dative and Instrumental e um

Note that the only real difference between the first declension (masculine) and second declension (neuter) ending occurs in the nominative and accusative plurals, which are "u ." The rest of the paradigm is the same for both first declensions and second declension nouns.

 

Strong Second Declension (Neuter) Singulars: Examples

Case OldEnglish Translation
Nominative deor animal (subject)
Genitive deores of the animal
Accusative deor animal (direct object)
Dative/Instrumental deore

with the animal

animal (indirect object)

 

 

Strong Second Declension (Neuter) Plurals: Examples

Case OldEnglish Translation
Nominative deoru animals (subject)
Genitive deora of the animals
Accusative deoru animals (direct object)
Dative and Instrumental deorum

with the animals

animals (indirect object)

 

Strong Third Declension(Feminine) Nouns

What we'll call "third declension" nouns, dictionaries may label as "feminine." They include the Old English words for "help," "need" and "gift."

Some Strong Third Declensions (Feminine) Nouns

Old English Modern English
liornung learning
þearf need
rest rest
geoc help
giefu gift

 

The endings for these nouns are given in the table below

(the dash - indicates that the stem gets no additional ending)

 

Strong Third Declension (Feminine) Nouns Paradigm

Case Singular Plural
Nominative - a or e
Genitive e a or ena
Accusative e a or e
Dative and Instrumental e um

Yes, there really are two possibilities for the nominative, genitive and accusative plurals.

 

 

Strong Third Declension (Feminine) Singulars: Examples

Case OldEnglish Translation
Nominative giefu gift (subject)
Genitive giefe of the gift
Accusative giefe gift (direct object)
Dative and Instrumental giefe

with the gift

gift (indirect object)

 

Strong Third Declension (Feminine) Plurals: Examples

Case OldEnglish Translation
Nominative giefa gifts (subject)
Genitive giefena of the gifts
Accusative giefa gifts (direct object)
Dative/Instrumental giefum

with the gifts

gifts (indirect object)

 

Chapter 8 Vocabulary Words

Some exercises to practice translating Strong Nouns

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