Chapter 6: Strong Adjectives

 

Adjectives are words that are used to describe nouns.

 

Alfred was a great king.

"great" describes the noun "king", so it is an adjective.

 

There are two types of adjectives in Old English:

Strong Adjectives, which are the subject of this chapter, and weak adjectives, which we cover in the next chapter. Almost all Old English adjectives can be either strong or weak, depending on how they are used in a sentence. That's right: the same word is a strong adjective in some contexts and weak in others. Fortunately the rules for determining whether an adjective is strong or weak are very simple, and in any event, "strong" and "weak" are just labels that tell you what ending the adjective takes depending on the case (which, you'll remember, marks the grammatical function) of the noun it is modifying,

Strong Adjectives can stand on their own; they do not need a demonstrative to assist them:

 

Wise kings are kind to their subjects.

Notice there is no demonstrative assisting the adjective. "Wise" is therefore, in this sentence, a Strong Adjective.

If an adjective has a demonstrative assisting it, it will be weak. If the same adjective has no demonstrative, it will be strong. (If the sentence read: "The wise king is kind to his subjects," "wise" would be a weak adjective).

This characteristic of Old English adjectives is important, because there are different declensions that are used depending on whether or an an adjective is used in a grammatically strong or weak manner. A "declension" is simply a list of the different endings that go on a word to indicate that it is in a certain case (i.e., that it is fulfilling a certain grammatical function).

Strong Declension Adjectives Paradigms

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

Singular Strong Declension Adjectives

Case Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative - - u
Genitive es es re
Accusative ne - e
Dative um um re
Instrumental e e re

Plural Strong Declension Adjectives

Case Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative e u a
Genitive ra ra ra
Accusative e u a
Dative and Instrumental um um um

 

 

Strong Declension Adjectives Examples

til = good

Singular Strong Declension Adjectives (Examples)

Case Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative til til tilu
Genitive tiles tiles tilre
Accusative tilne til tile
Dative tilum tilum tilre
Instrumental tile tile tilre

 

Plural Strong Declension Adjectives (Examples)

Case Masculine Neuter Feminine
Nominative tile tilu tila
Genitive tilra tilra tilra
Accusative tile tilu tila
Dative and Instrumental tilum tilum tilum

Note:The genitive personal pronouns (possessive pronouns) min, þin, sin, eower, uncer and incer (see Chapter 1) can be used as adjectives ("My sword looked old," "Alfred spoke to your friend"). When possessive pronouns are used adjectivally, they are declined like the strong adjective "til" (good).

 


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