How many forms does an Old Norse verb have? If you've worked through
the ONfB lessons you are already familiar with the 6 forms of the
ek tek vér tökum
þú tekr þér takið
hann tekr þeir taka
But this is not all of the present tense. This is only the indicative mood.
There is a subjunctive mood as well - with another set of forms.
It looks like this:
ek taka vér takim
þú takir þér takið
hann taki þeir taki
Twelve forms so far. But that isn't all. All the forms above are in active voice.
There is a middle voice as well. If you don't already know what a mood and a voice
is don't worry. For now all we are thinking about is the forms.
ek tekumk vér tökumk
þú teksk þér takizk
hann teksk þeir takask
ek tökumk vér takimk
þú takisk þér takizk
hann takisk þeir takisk
That gives us 12 more forms to a total of 24. But we're still not there. Old Norse
has two tenses - past and present. The past is also split into indicative and subjunctive,
active voice and middle voice. We're up to 48 forms for one verb! And that's still not
all. The verbs have an imperative, an infinitive, and participles.
So what do we do? Do you have to memorize more than 50 forms of every single verb?
We don't want that. There is a whole lot of regularity in the system. We want to exploit
that to work out a general method for extracting all 50+ forms from only a few. It turns out that is
enough to memorize three or four forms of each verb. Even better those four forms fall into
certain classes. Thus many verbs follow the exact same pattern. When you've learnt
to conjugate 'bjóða; invite' you can also conjugate 'sjóða; boil', 'hljóta; receive',
'skjóta; shoot', 'brjóta; break' and many more.
We now turn our attention to the
form_1 - form_2 - form_3 - form_4
The present indicative can be extracted from the first form (the infinitive) only
according to these rules:
ek form_1 * i-umlaut -a vér form_1 -a + um
þú form_1 * i-umlaut -a + r þér form_1 -a + ið
hann form_1 * i-umlaut -a + r þeir form_1
Look complex? Let's try an example. We take the verb 'hljóta - hlaut - hlutum - hlotit; receive'.
The fyrst form is 'hljóta' and we know the i-umlaut of /jó/ is /ý/. This enables us to work out
the present indicative.
|ek hlýt vér hljótum|
|þú hlýtr þér hljótið|
|hann hlýtr þeir hljóta|
What about the present subjunctive? That can also be worked out using only the first form.
ek form_1 vér form_1 -a + im
þú form_1 - a + ir þér form_1 -a + ið
hann form_1 -a + r þeir form_1 -a + i
|ek hljóta||vér hljótim|
|þú hljótir||þér hljótið|
|hann hljóti||þeir hljóti|
Exercise 1: Work out the present indicative and subjunctive of the following verbs.
|bera - bar - báru - borit; carry, bear|
|fara - fór - fórum - farit; go|
|bíta - beit - bitu - bitit; bite|
Now we turn our attention to the past tense.
ek form_2 vér form_3 -a + um
þú form_2 + st þér form_3 -a + uð
hann form_2 þeir form_3
Our example strikes again.
|ek hlaut|| vér hlutum|
|þú hlauzt|| þér hlutuð|
|hann hlaut||þeir hlutu|
Note that instead of *hlautst we get *hlauzt. The /tz/ is contract to /z/.
And the past subjunctive. It is derived entirely from form_3.
ek form_3 * i-umlaut + a vér form_3 * i-umlaut + im
þú form_3 * i-umlaut + ir þér form_3 * i-umlaut + ið
hann form_3 * i-umlaut + i þeir form_3 * i-umlaut + i
|ek hlyta||vér hlytim|
|þú hlytir||vér hlytið|
|hann hlyti||þeir hlyti|
And that's all, folks - or almost all. Deriving the middle voice from the active voice
is nearly trivial. It involves adding those endings in certain ways.
+ umk + mk
+ sk + sk
+ sk + sk
Things to watch out for:
- The 'u' of the first person ending overrides an existing 'a'
thus ek hljóta + umk = ek hljótumk
- U-umlaut will occur in the first person singular.
- A dental (t or ð) that ends up next to the /s/ gets contracted to 'z'.
Now we are in a position to derive all the forms of the verb
1st ablaut: bíta - beit - bitu - bitit
tear: slíta - sleit - slitu - slitit
look: líta - leit - litu - litit
crawl: skríða - skreið - skriðu - skriðit
2nd ablaut: bjóða - bauð - buðu - boðit
smear: rjóða - rauð - ruðu - roðit
boil: sjóða - sauð - suðu - soðit
receive: hljóta - hlaut - hlutu - hlotit
shoot: skjóta - skaut - skutu - skotit
break: brjóta - braut - brutu - brotit
3rd ablaut: bresta - brast - brustu - brostit
4th ablaut: bera - bar - báru - borit
skera - skar - skáru - skorit
nema - nam - námu - numit
5th ablaut: gefa - gaf - gáfu - gefit
6th ablaut: fara - fór - fóru - farit
wade: vaða - óð - óðu - vaðit (/v/ is always dropped before /o/)
load: hlaða - hlóð - hlóðu - hlaðit
There are variations within the ablaut rows - but you shouldn't worry about
that until you've made some progress memorizing the basic patterns.
From these four forms all the other forms of the verb can be derived.
Present indicative is formed from the 1st common form.
ek bít vér bítum
þú bítr þér bítið
hann bítr þeir bíta
If possible i-umlaut
occurs in the singular.
ek býð vér bjóðum
þú býðr þér bjóðið
hann býðr þeir bjóða
ek brest vér brestum
þú brestr þér brestið
hann brestr þeir bresta
ek ber vér berum
þú berr þér berið
hann berr þeir bera
ek gef vér gefum
þú gefr þér gefið
hann gefr þeir gefa
As usually u-umlaut
occurs before a u.
ek fer vér förum
þú ferr þér farið
hann ferr þeir fara
The present subjunctive is also formed from the first kennimynd.
ek bjóða vér bjóðim
þú bjóðir þér bjóðið
hann bjóði þeir bjóði
ek fara vér farim
þú farir þér farið
hann fari þeir fari
The preterite indicative is derived from the second and third kennimynd.
Awkard clusters sometimes occur in the 2nd person singular. Sometimes they are
resolved with a 'z'. Don't worry about it.
ek beit vér bitum
þú beizt þér bituð
hann beit þeir bitu
ek bauð vér buðum
þú bauðst þér buðuð
hann bauð þeir buðu
ek brast vér brustum
þú brastst þér brustuð
hann brast þeir brustu
ek gaf vér gáfum
þú gafst þér gáfuð
hann gaf þeir gáfu
The past indicative is derived from the third kennimynd with i-umlaut.
ek gæfa vér gæfim
þú gæfir þér gæfið
hann gæfi þeir gæfi