Class V Strong Verbs

Class V verbs have a (vowel + consonant) in their infinitive form when that consonant isn't l/r/m/n. For example, 'sprecan - to speak' or 'cweþan - to say'. 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 cweþe - I say', becomes 'ic cwæþ - I said' and 'hie cwædon - they said'. Examine the verb 'sprecan - to speak' in the sentences below.

Heo
Subject
spricþ
Verb
to
Prep.
him
Object

Heo
Subject
spræc
Verb
to
Prep.
him
Object

You may notice this makes Class V verbs very similar to Class IV verbs. The two classes conjugate identically in the present and past. However, there are two key differences between the classes. The first is how they conjugate to form the past participle - a verbal form which will be covered in a later module - and the second is that Class V verbs have a subclass of verbs which have an (i + double consonant). For example, 'sittan - to sit' or 'þicgan - to partake'.

Strong Verbs Class V
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic cweþe Ic cwæþ
2nd Person Singular Þu cwist Þu cwæde
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo cwiþ He/Hit/Heo cwæþ
Plural We/Ge/Hie cweþaþ We/Ge/Hie cwædon
Strong Verbs Class V
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic giefe Ic geaf
2nd Person Singular Þu giefst Þu geafe
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo giefþ He/Hit/Heo geaf
Plural We/Ge/Hie giefaþ We/Ge/Hie geafon
Strong Verbs Class V
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic sprece Ic spræc
2nd Person Singular Þu spricst Þu spræce
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo spricþ He/Hit/Heo spræc
Plural We/Ge/Hie sprecaþ We/Ge/Hie spræcon
Strong Verbs Class V
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic sitte Ic sæt
2nd Person Singular Þu sitst Þu sæte
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo sit He/Hit/Heo sæt
Plural We/Ge/Hie sittaþ We/Ge/Hie sæton
Strong Verbs Class V
Present Tense Past Tense
1st Person Singular Ic þicge Ic þeah
2nd Person Singular Þu þigst Þu þæge
3rd Person Singular He/Hit/Heo þigþ He/Hit/Heo þeah
Plural We/Ge/Hie þicgaþ We/Ge/Hie þægon


Strong Verbs with a double consonant in the infinitive, for example 'biddan - to ask', lose one of the letters when they gain a present suffix without a vowel or when conjugated in the past tense. So 'biddan' becomes 'bæd' in the singular past and 'bædon' in the plural past. You will see the same shortening of consonants in the verb 'sittan' in the table.

Don't forget, the vowels 'æ' and 'e' are changed into the diphthongs 'ea' and 'ie' in the past tense when preceded by an initial palatal (g, c, or sc). This is known as palatal diphthongization and is why the past tense is different for verbs like 'giefan - to give' and 'gietan - to get'.

The 'cg' (pronounced [dʒ]) of verbs like 'þicgan - to receive', 'licgan - to lie/rest' and 'fricgan - to ask' occurs due to palatalization of the original 'g' before the front vowel 'i'. This 'cg' reverts back to the original non-palatal equivalent 'g' when immediately before a consonant. This is why verbs like 'þicgan' appear to lose their 'c' in favour of a soft 'g' in the present tense.

Rememeber again that several of these strong verb vowel changes will be recognisable from their modern English descendants, such as give/gave and sit/sat. You can practice Class V strong verbs below.

Return to Strong Verbs IV Continue to Strong Verbs VI

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