Grammatical Categories of the Verbals

195.In OE there were two non-finite forms of the verb: the Infinitive and the Participle, In many respects they were closer to the nouns and adjectives than to the finite verb; their nominal features were far more obvious than their verbal features, especially at the morphological level. The verbal nature of the Infinitive and the Participle was revealed in some of their functions and in their syntactic "combinability": tike finite forms they could take direct objects and be modified by adverbs.

196.The Infinitive had no verbal grammatical categories. Being a verbal noun by origin, it had a sort of reduced case-system: two forms which roughly corresponded to the Nom. and the Dat. cases of nouns beran uninfected Infinitive ("Nom." case) tō berenne or tō beranne inflected Infinitive ("Dat." case) Like the Dat. case of nouns the inflected Infinitive with the preposition to could be used to indicate the direction or purpose of an action, e.g.:

Maniʒe cōmen tō bycʒenne pā pinʒ many (people) came to buy those things

pæt weorc is swipe plēolic mē ... tō underbeʒinenne that work is very difficult for me to undertake.

The uninflected Infinitive was used in verb phrases with modal verbs or other verbs of incomplete predication, e. g.; hie woldon hine forbærnan they wanted to burn him pū meaht sinʒan you can sinʒ (lit. "thou may sing") pa onʒon hē sōna sinʒan then began he soon to sing.

197.The Participle was a kind of verbal adjective which was characterised not only by nominal but also by certain verbal features. Participle I (Present Participle) was opposed to Participle II (Past Participle) through voice and tense distinctions: it was active and expressed present or simultaneous processes and qualities, while Participle II expressed states and qualities resulting from past action and was contrasted to Participle I as passive to active, if the verb was transitive. Participle II of intransitive verbs had an active meaning; it indicated a past action and was opposed to Participle I only through tense. The translations of the Participles in Table 10 explain the meanings of the forms (for the forms of Participles see also Table 9 in 190).

Table 10

Participles in Old English

Voice Tense Active Passive NE
Present berende bearing
  secʒende   saying
  ʒanʒende   going
  farende   travelling
Past ʒeʒān ʒeboren gone, born
  ʒefaren ʒesǣdd who has departed, said

As seen from the tables the forms of the two participles were strictly differentiated. Participle I was formed from the Present tense stem (the Infinitive without the endings -an, -ion)with the help of the suffix -ende. Participle II had a stem of its own in strong verbs it was marked by a certain grade of the root-vowel interchange and by the suffix -en; with weak verbs it ended in -d/-t (see morphological classification of verbs 199 ff.) Participle II was commonly marked by the prefix ʒe, though it could also occur without it, especially if the verb had other word-building prefixes, e. g.

Infinitive Participle I Participle II  
bindan bindende ʒe-bunden (NE bind)
ā-drencan ā-drencende ā-drenced (drown)

198. Participles were employed predicatively and attributively like adjectives and shared their grammatical categories: they were declined as weak and strong and agreed with nouns in number, gender and case. Sometimes, however, they remained uninfected. Cf. the following examples:

Hie hæfdon hira cyninʒ āworpenne they had their king deposed Participle II is in the Acc. sg Masc, strong declension it agrees with cyrtinʒ:

Ic nāt hwāēnne mine daʒas āʒāne bēop I don't know when my days will be over (lit. "my days are gone") āʒāne agrees with daʒas.

hæfde sē cyninʒ his fierd on tū tōnumen had that king his army into two (halves) divided the participle is uninllected, though the noun fierd (Fem., Acc. sg) suggests the ending -e.

It is probable that lack of agreement with participles-predicatives and with participles used in predicative constructions after habban (have) testifies to the gradual transition of these phrases into compound verb forms.


  1. Causes of Grammatical Changes
  2. Debated Problems within The Verbals
  3. Decay of Declensions and Grammatical Categories
  4. Development of Nominal Grammatical Categories
  5. Development of Verbal Grammatical Categories
  6. Divide the words below into the correct categories.
  7. Grammatical Categories of the Finite Verb
  8. Grammatical Categories of the Noun
  9. Grammatical Categories. The Use of Cases
  10. Grammatical meaning.
  11. Grammatical meaning.

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Grammatical Categories of the Finite Verb | Morphological Classification of Verbs

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