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  • Print publication year: 1975
  • Online publication date: January 2010

5 - Verbs: basic patterns


Verb classes

OFr verbs fall into three classes, and can be grouped according to their infinitive endings, namely:

Class Ia: Infinitives in -er, e.g. chanter.

Most verbs belong to this class (well over 1000 in the twelfth century).

Class Ib: Infinitives in -ier e.g. laissier.

These are fairly numerous (well over 500 in the twelfth century). They are conjugated like Class ia verbs, except for a diphthong ie instead of e in the infinitive and in five other verb forms.

Class II: Infinitives in -ir, present participle with the infix -iss-, e.g.

florir, flor-iss-ant.

This class contains a few score verbs in the twelfth century, but the number slowly increases with the absorption of -ir verbs from Class III.

Class III: Infinitives in -ir, -re, and -eir > oir, e.g. servir, dire, deveir > devoir.

Nearly 200 verbs belong to this class in the twelfth century, and many show irregular forms. Some of the -ir verbs however gradually adopt the infix -iss- and are absorbed into Class II (§68.2).


Tense endings of all verb classes are given in Table 5. A sample verb from each class is conjugated in Table 6 and the verb boivre has been added as an example of vocalic alternation (§§65, 76). For the auxiliary verbs avoir (to have) and estre (to be) see Tables 7 and 8.

Early twelfth-century endings which provide more information are shown in Table 5, but standard twelfth-century forms (after 1150) are used in Table 6 for comparison.