Introduction to Irregular Verbs

In addition to Weak and Strong verbs, Old English has five irregular verbs: beon - to be, wesan - to be, don - to do, gan - to go, willan - to wish.

These verbs are irregular as they do not follow the same conjugation patterns as weak or strong verbs, and some are a blend of older verbs meaning their present and past tense look very different. For example, look at the two examples below and compare 'Ic eom yrþlingc - I am a farmer' with 'Ic wæs yrþlingc - I was a farmer'. Similarly, look at the present and past tense of 'He gæþ to cyrcan - He goes to church' and 'He eode to cyrcan - He went to church'.

Ic
Personal
Pronoun
eom 
Present
Tense
yrþlingc
Direct
Object

Ic
Personal
Pronoun
wæs 
Past
Tense
yrþlingc
Direct
Object
He 
Personal
Pronoun
gæþ 
Present
Tense
to 
Prep.
 
cyrcan
Indirect
Object

He 
Personal
Pronoun
eode 
Past
Tense
to 
Prep.
 
cyrcan
Indirect
Object

These five verbs are some of the most commonly used verbs, so you will need to familiarise yourself with them. If you are familiar with other Germanic languages, such as German, Dutch, Russian or Swedish, you'll notice that most of those verbs are also irregular in those languages. We'll explore the oddities of these verbs in detail throughout the coming topics. Let's take a closer look at the related verbs 'beon' and 'wesan' first.

Return to Pronouns Overview Continue to Beon and Wesan