Additional Verb Forms

Before we move on to looking at strong verbs, there are some additional features of Old English verbs that it is worth knowing about, namely, modal auxiliaries, the inflected infinitive, participles, and the use of prefixes.

Modal Auxiliaries

A modal auxiliary is a verb that is used with another verb to express a mood or tense. As in modern English, Old English makes frequent use of modal verbs such as 'can', 'should', and 'must'. When these modal verbs are used in Old English, the verb that follows often goes to the end of the sentence.

Inflected Infinitive

The inflected infinitive is often used in clauses expressing a purpose, and can often be translated as 'in order to' + the verb in question. This form always follows the preposition 'to' and usually ends with -enne.


Participles are verb forms which function as adjectives, but they are also often used in the formation of tenses in modern English. Modern English has a present participle, ending in -ing and a past participle ending in -ed for weak verbs. We can use the present participle of a verb like 'to talk' both to form tenses like the past continuous 'I was talking' and as an adjective, 'The talking dog'. We will see that participles in Old English can be used in much the same way.


Finally, Old English makes extensive use of prefixes which change the meaning of the verb they are attached to. In addition to modern English 'lock' lucan and 'unlock' onlucan, Old English had 'belucan - to lock up'; 'tolucan - to pull or twist apart' and 'gelucan - to lock, but with purpose.

We will cover these handy prefixes at the end of this lesson, but first we will look at modal auxiliaries. If you need a recap of verbs before continuing, you can review Weak Verbs. Otherwise, continue with the lesson.

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