Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words that join two words, phrases, clauses or sentences. In modern English, these are words like 'and', 'but', or 'because'. Conjunctions function exactly the same in Old English as they do in modern English, and do not take a case, number, or gender.

Conjunctions are common and can appear multiple times in a single sentence. For example, examine the sentence, 'Ac þeah ðu nu fier sie ðonne ðu wære, ne eart ðu eall of ðæm earde adrifen ond ðu ðær on gedwolode- But though you are now farther than you were, you are not entirely driven from the country, and you wandered therein'.

Ac
Conj.
þeah
Conj.
ðu
Pronoun
nu
Adverb
fier
Adverb
sie
Verb
ðonne
Prep.
ðu
Pronoun
wære
Verb
ne
Negation
eart
Verb
ðu
Pronoun
eall
Adverb
of
Prep.
ðæm
Demon.
earde
Object
adrifen
Verb
ond
Conj.
ðu
Pronoun
ðæron
Adverb
gedwolode
Verb

Most conjunctions are standalone words, and because they are so common you will often find many variations of spelling. For example, 'ond' in some dialects is spelled 'and', and 'for þy þe', 'for þy', 'for þæm þe' and 'for þæm' are all valid spellings for 'because', with some scribes alternating which version they use on the same page.

Old
English
Modern
English
ac but
ond and
ne nor
oþþe or
for þæm þe because
swa þæt so that
þeah although

Correlative Conjunctions

Some conjunctions are found in pairs. This is true in modern English as well with phrases like 'if...then', or 'either...or'. The linguistic term for these conjunctions which work together is correlative conjunctions and Old English has four main ones.

Old
English
Modern
English
gif...þonne... if...then...
ne...ne neither...nor
oþþe...oþþe... either...or...
swa...swa... just...as...

Examine the sentences below and pay attention to how the conjunctions are translated, 'Gif hie nu gode sind, þonne wæron hie swa gesceapene - If they now are good, then they were so created' and 'Hie þa scipu eall oððe tobracon oððe forbærndon - They either destroyed or burned all the ships'.

Gif
Conj.
hie
Pronoun
nu
Adverb
gode
Adjective
sind
Verb
þonne
Conj.
wæron
Verb
hie
Pronoun
swa
Adverb
gesceapene
Verb

Hie
Pronoun
þa
Demon.
scipu
Object
eall
Adverb
oððe
Conj.
tobracon
Verb
oððe
Conj.
forbærndon
Verb
Old
English
Modern
English
gif...þonne... if...then...
ne...ne neither...nor
oþþe...oþþe... either...or...
swa...swa... just...as...

You'll notice some words like 'swa' and 'þonne' can be either an adverb or a conjunction, depending on their usage in a sentence. This is true in modern English also. For example, in the sentence 'he ran so fast I couldn't catch him', 'so' is an adverb. While in the sentence, 'I hurt my leg so I couldn't run', 'so' is a conjunction.

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