Class IV Strong Verbs

Class IV verbs have a (vowel + l/r) in their infinitive. For example, 'beran - to bear' or 'stelan - to steal'. When they conjugate, they follow the vowel change pattern e - æ - ǣ (with the macron included here indicating that it is a long vowel). So the root vowel in the present is 'e', the root vowel in the past first and third person singular is 'æ', and the root vowel in the second past and past plural is 'æ'. For example, 'ic cwele - I die', becomes 'ic cwæl - I died' or 'hie cwælon - they died'. Examine the verb 'beran - to bear' in the sentence, 'heo gar birþ - she carries a spear' and 'heo gar bær - she carried a spear'.

Heo
Subject
gar
Object
birþ
Verb

Heo
Subject
gar
Object
bær
Verb

There are two verbs which are considered Class IV verbs but which differ from the regular pattern of most verbs in this class: 'niman - to take' and 'cuman - to come'. They are classified as Class IV verbs because they were regular in Proto-Germanic, but became irregular by the time they entered Old English. These are two commonly used verbs so it is important to recognise their forms when you come across them in Old English texts. The vowel in both verbs becomes 'o' in the past singular and 'o' in the past plural.

Strong Verbs Class IV
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic stele Ic stæl
2nd Person Singular Þu stilest Þu stæle
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo stilþ He/Hit/Heo stæl
Plural We/Ge/Hie stelaþ We/Ge/Hie stælon
Strong Verbs Class IV
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic bere Ic bær
2nd Person Singular Þu birest Þu bære
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo birþ He/Hit/Heo bær
Plural We/Ge/Hie beraþ We/Ge/Hie bæron
Strong Verbs Class IV
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic cwele Ic cwæl
2nd Person Singular Þu cwilest Þu cwæle
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo cwilþ He/Hit/Heo cwæl
Plural We/Ge/Hie cwelaþ We/Ge/Hie cwælon
Strong Verbs Class IV
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic nime Ic nom
2nd Person Singular Þu nimest Þu nome
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo nimþ He/Hit/Heo nom
Plural We/Ge/Hie nimaþ We/Ge/Hie nomon
Strong Verbs Class IV
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic cume Ic com
2nd Person Singular Þu cymest Þu come
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo cymþ He/Hit/Heo com
Plural We/Ge/Hie cumaþ We/Ge/Hie comon


Aside from the two irregular Class IV verbs 'niman' and 'cuman', all other Class IV verbs should be straightforward to conjugate. A number of these verbs are still recognisable as the ancestors of modern English strong verbs such as steal/stole or bear/bore. You can practice them below.

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