Strong Neuter Nouns

Neuter nouns are nouns which end in consonants but whose plurals use 'u' instead of 'as'. In fact, the only real difference between masculine and neuter nouns is that the nominative and accusative plurals sometimes use 'u' or drop the suffix altogether. The rest of the paradigm is identical. Examine the two sentences below: 'The kings saw the ships' and 'The thanes took the cups'.

Þa cyningas
Plural Subject 
seah
Past Verb
þa scipu
Plural Direct Object

Þa þegnas
Plural Subject
feng
Past Verb
þa fatu
Plural Direct Object

Nominative plurals and accusative plurals of the Strong Neuter declension use -u only after short syllables. A short syllable is one which ends with one short vowel and one consonant, for example, scip and god.

Neuter nouns with long syllables have no ending. A long syllable can be a short vowel and two consonants, like word, a long vowel with one consonant, like wif, or two vowels, like bearn.

So scip - ship and god - deity become scipu and godu in the nominative and accusative plural, while word - word, wif - woman, and bearn - child stay as word, wif, and bearn in the nominative and accusative plural. Examine the two sentences below: The bishop heard the words of the king and The thanes saw the children and compare them to the two sentences above.

Þa biscopas
Plural Subject 
hierde
Past Verb
þæs cyninges
Posessive
word
Plural Direct Object

Þa þegnas
Plural Subject
seah
Past Verb
þa bearn
Plural Direct Object

As you may have noticed, the lack of a suffix for plural neuter nouns can sometimes make it difficult to know whether a word is in the singular or the plural. If it cannot be infered from context, look for a plural demonstrative pronoun such as þa in the example above.

How a word is pronounced plays a major role in how it is declined, so examine the stems of scip - ship, word - word, bearn - child, wif - woman, and god - deity in the following table closely and consider which ones have a suffix and which do not, and what this might mean for how they are pronounced.

Strong Neuter Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt scip þa scipu
Accusative þæt scip þa scipu
Genitive þæs scipes þara scipa
Dative þæm scipe þæm scipum
Strong Neuter Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt word þa word
Accusative þæt word þa word
Genitive þæs wordes þara worda
Dative þæm worde þæm wordum
Strong Neuter Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt bearn þa bearn
Accusative þæt bearn þa bearn
Genitive þæs bearnes þara bearna
Dative þæm bearne þæm bearnum
Strong Neuter Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt wif þa wif
Accusative þæt wif þa wif
Genitive þæs wifes þara wifa
Dative þæm wife þæm wifum
Strong Neuter Nouns
Singular Plural
Nominative þæt god þa godu
Accusative þæt god þa godu
Genitive þæs godes þara goda
Dative þæm gode þæm godum

While 'wif' looks like its vowel should sound similar to 'scip', in Old English 'wif' has a long 'i' and so is pronounced like 'weef'. 'Þing' is pronounced similarly as 'theeng'.

Remember, when an 's' is followed by 'c', as with 'scip', 'biscop', and 'scyld', the sound is pronounced like modern 'sh'. So 'scip' is pronounced identically to 'ship', 'biscop' is identical to 'bishop' and 'scyld' is almost identical to 'shield', though spelled very differently.

The proper noun 'God' and the word for deity 'god' decline differently. When discussing the Christian god 'God', the word is declined like a strong neuter noun. When discussing 'gods' in a more general sense, it is declined as a neuter noun.

Return to Intro to Strong Neuter and Feminine Nouns Continue to Strong Neuter Demonstratives

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