Strong Verbs are verbs in which the vowel in the stem is changed to indicate tense, person, and mood.
Some strong verbs remain in Modern English:
Ring ==> Rang ==> Rung
is an example of a strong verb; the vowel changes from "i" to "a" to "u" depending upon the verb tense.
To conjugate a Strong Verb you need to know four pieces of information:
|Note: for probably 80% or more of the Strong Verbs you'll be translating, you won't need the past participle, but it's a good idea to learn it anyway, since it's the principle part from which Modern English forms of Old English strong verbs are drawn.|
There are seven classes of strong verbs.
You can use the following poem to help place a verb in its proper class:
The cat will bite the bird that will not fly
and spring upon the mouse when he comes by.
He gives no quarter, and he takes no guff.
A fool he holds him who falls for such stuff.
-- by Patrick W. Conner (minor improvements by David Howlett)
|Mnemonic Tip: Memorize the poem.|
Taking the Modern English verbs from the sentence in order gives us examples from the seven Old English Strong Verb classes:
Class I: bite = bitan
Class II: fly = fleon
Class III: spring = springan
Class IV: come = cuman
Class V: give = giefan
Class VI: take = tacan
Class VII: hold = healdan
If you learn the principle parts of each of these verbs, you'll have the Strong Verb system.
Since strong verb classes are based upon a word's vowel or diphthong, you'll be able to match new words with the patterns you've memorized. For example, if you encounter the word "dreogan" ("to endure"), you'll notice that the diphthong "eo" is the same as the diphthong in "fleon." You'll then know that "dreogan" is a class 2 strong verb and follows that particular paradigm.
|Infinitive||3rd Person Singular Past||All Plurals Past||Past Participle|
You can use these principle parts to construct a complete conjugation. Simply use the basic Weak Verb endings, but plug the appropriate Strong Verb stems into the paradigm.
Just as in a Weak Verb, the stem plus an ending creates the present tense forms for the various persons.
First find the stem of the verb by removing "an" from the infinitive.
We'll use bitan as an example.
Subtract "an" from the infinitive "bitan." We see that the stem is bit.
|1st, 2nd and 3rd Persons||bitað|
For the Past Tense we use the 3rd Person Singular Past for the singulars (you just need to add "e" to the 2nd person), and the All Plurals Past for the plurals.
|1st, 2ndand 3rd Persons||biton|
The Subjunctive Mood uses the stem for the present tense and the 3rd Person Singular Past for the past tense, adding "e" in the singular and "en" in the plural.
|1st, 2nd and 3rd Persons||bite|
|1st, 2nd and 3rd Persons||biten|
|1st, 2nd, 3rd Person||bate|
|1st, 2nd and 3rd Persons||baten|
The Imperative Mood uses just the stem for the singular and the stem plus "að" for the plural.
Present Participle: stem + ende
Chapter 13 Vocabulary Words
Some exercises to practice translating Strong Verbs