Introduction to Gothic VerbsEdit
Gothic has the most complex verbal system of all attested Germanic languages. There exist two voices: active and passive; three numbers: singular, dual, and plural; two tenses: present and past; and finally two moods: indicative and subjunctive (also called optative). In Gothic, as in other Germanic languages, there is a distinction between strong and weak verbs. The difference between the two depends on the formation of the preterite, or past tense. The section will deal with weak verbs.
How to Conjugate Gothic VerbsEdit
In the present tense all verbs follow a similar conjugation. All infinitives end in a combination similar to -an. To conjugate a verb, one must isolate the verb stem by removing the -an ending of the infinitive, then add the desired endings. Using the verb siggwan "to sing" as an example, we can see its -an ending. If we remove the -an ending, we are left with siggw-; this is the verb stem. To this we add the endings: -a, -is, -iþ, etc. We use this formula to conjugate all Gothic verbs in the present tense. Some verbs take a different conjugation in the 3rd person singular and 2nd person plural, namely the class I and class III of weak verbs. The average Gothic verb is conjugated thus:
|ik siggwa||I sing|
|þu siggwis||you (thou) sing|
|is siggwiþ||he sings|
|wit siggwōs||we two sing|
|jut siggwats||you two sing|
|weis siggwam||we sing|
|jus siggwiþ||you all sing|
|eis siggwand||they sing|
Weak verbs form their past tense by means of a dental suffix. Weak verbs are divided into four classes according to the ending of the infinitive. The following table shows the possible infinitive endings of a weak verb, each representing a class. On the right is their preterite ending.
Class I Weak VerbsEdit
Class I weak verbs end in -jan. Verbs within this class are subdivided into two subgroups: (1) verbs with a short stem-syllable, such as nasjan "to save", or verbs with a long open syllable, such as stōjan "to judge"; (2) verbs with a long closed syllable, such as sōkjan "to seek". Verbs with a polysyllabic root behave like sōkjan regardless of the nature of the last syllable of the root; hence, glitmunjan "to shine" behaves like sōkjan. These two subgroups only differ slightly in their conjugation; namely in the 2nd person and 3rd person singular, in the 2nd person plural of the present indicative, and in the second person plural imperative.
Notice sōkeis instead of *sōkjis
All class I weak verbs follow the same conjugation in the past tense regardless of which subgroup they belong to.
Some class I verbs have an irregular past.
Class II Weak VerbsEdit
Class II weak verbs end in -ōn. The verb salbōn (to anoint) will serve as a model for class II weak verbs.
Their past tense ends similarly to class I weak verbs, but with /ō instead of /i.
Class III Weak VerbsEdit
Verbs in this class have infinitives that end in -an. Verbs in this class have /ai/ in the 2nd person singular, 3rd person singular, and 2nd person singular. All persons have /ai/ in the past tense. The verb haban will serve as a model for class III weak verbs.
Class IV Weak VerbsEdit
Verbs in this class have infinitives that end in -nan, which becomes -noda in the past tense. Verbs of this class denote entering into a state. Example: fullnan "to become full"; andbundnan "to become unbound", compare with fulls "full" and andbindan "to unbind". The verb fullnan will serve as a model for class IV weak verbs.