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They were irregular verbs that combined the features of the weak and strong verbs. There were 4 of them – willan (will), bēon (to be), ζān (to go), dōn (to do).
Grammatical Categories oF the Finite Verb
The verb-predicate agreed with the subject of the sentence in two grammatical categories: number and person. Its specifically verbal categories were mood and tense.
Finite forms regularly distinguished between two numbers: sg and pi. The homonymy of forms in the verb paradigm did not affect number distinctions: opposition through number was never neutralised
The category of Person was made up of three forms: the 1st, the 2nd and the 3rd. unlike number, person distinctions were neutralised in many positions. Person was consistently shown only in the Pres. Tense of the Ind. Mood sg. In the Past Tense sg of the Ind. Mood the forms of the 1st and 3rd p. coincided and only the 2nd p. had a distinct form. Person was not distinguished in the pi; nor was it shown in the Subj. Mood,
The category of Mood was constituted by the Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive. there were a few homonymous forms which eliminated the distinction between the moods: Subj. did not differ from the Ind. in the 1st p. sg Pres. Tense — bere, deme— and in the 1st and 3rd p. in the Past.
The category of Tense in OE consisted of two forms. Pres. and Past. The tenses were formally distinguished by all the verbs in the Ind. and Subj. Moods, there being practically no instances of neutralisation of the tense opposition.
The use of the Subj. Mood in OE was in many respects different from its use in later ages. Subj. forms conveyed a very general meaning of unreality or supposition. In addition to its use in conditional sentences and other volitional, conjectural and hypothetical contexts Subj. was common in other types of construction: in clauses of time, clauses of result and in clauses presenting reported speech
The meanings of the tense forms were also very general, as compared with later ages and with present-day English. The forms of the Pres. were used to indicate present and future actions. With verbs of perfective meaning or with adverbs of future time the Pres. acquired the meaning of futurity
Future happenings could also be expressed by verb phrases with modal verbs
The Past tense was used in a most general sense to indicate various events in the past (including those which are nowadays expressed by the forms of the Past Continuous, Past Perfect, Present Perfect and olher analytical forms). Additional shades of meaning could be attached to it in different contexts
In addition to these categories we must mention two debatable categories: Aspect and Voice.
Until recently it was believed that in OE — as well as in other OG languages — the category of aspect was expressed by the regular contrast of verbs with and without the prefix 3e- verbs with the prefix had a perfective meaning while the same verbs without the prefix indicated a non-completed action, In some recent explorations, however, it has been shown that the prefix 3e- in OE can hardly be regarded as a marker of aspect, it could change the aspective meaning of the verb by making it perfective, but it could also change its lexical meaning, It has also been noticed that verbs without a prefix could sometimes have a perfective meaning: It follows that the prefix 3e- should rather be regarded as an element of word-building,
It is important to note that in OE texts there were also other means of expressing aspective meanings and the Past or Present Participle.
The category of voice in OE is another debatable issue. In OE texts we find a few isolated relics of synthetic Mediopassive forms (which may have existed in PG and were well developed in Gothic). The passive meaning was frequently indicated with the help of Participle 2 of transitive verbs used as predicatives with the verbs bion(NE be)and weorftan'become During the OE period these constructions were gradually transformed into the analytical forms of the Passive voice.
Morphological Classification of Verbs
Most forms of OE verbs were distinguished with the help of inflectional endings or grammatical suffixes; one form — Participle II — was sometimes marked by a prefix; many verbs made use of vowel interchanges in the root; some verbs used consonant interchanges and a few had suppJefive forms. The OE verb is remarkable for its complicated morphological classification which determined the application of form-building means in various groups of verbs. The majority of OE verbs fell into two great divisions: the strong verbs and the weak verbs. Besides these two main groups there were a few verbs which could be put together as "minor" groups. The main difference between the strong and weak verbs lay in the means of forming the principal parts, or the "stems" of the verb. There were also a few other differences in the conjugations.
All the forms of the verb, finite as well as non-finite, were derived from a set of "stems" or principal parls of the verb: the Present tense stem was used in all the Present tense forms. Indicative, Imperative and Subjunctive, and also in the Present Participle and the Infinitive; И is usually shown as the form of the Infinitive; all the forms of the Past tense were derived from tlie Past tense stems; the Past Participle had a separate stem.
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