Strong, Weak and Mixed Verbs

Jana337

Senior Member
čeština
This is a discussion of why strong verbs are called strong. It originated here.

One of my hypotheses was:

"Are strong verbs perhaps strong because they have been resisting all waves of grammar simplification?"

Another:

"Or they are strong enough to change the root (which they typically do...)."

Elroy's rejoinder to my first hypothesis:

"Hm...interesting theory. Although you could also think of the strong ones as those that stick to the rule!"

It was all started by Gaer who maintains that

"Weak" and "strong" are two of the most confusing grammatical lables I've ever heard. During the one and only German course I took, when I heard "weak", I immeidately assumed this must mean IRREGULAR. :)

I would suggest sticking to these terms, and I won't repeat your examples, since they are fine…

1) Regular
2) Irregular
3) Mixed


Now, Wiki says that

he term "weak verb" was originally coined by Jakob Grimm and in his sense refers only to Germanic philology. However, the term is sometimes applied to other language groups to designate phenomena which are not really analagous. For example, Hebrew irregular verbs are sometimes called weak verbs because one of their radicals is weak.

I haven't yet discovered why Grimm chose the terms weak and strong.

Wiki also suggests that strong and irregular are not identical.

The terms "weak" and "strong" rarely overlap with the idea of "regular" and "irregular"; some descriptions of English verbs contrast "weak" with "irregular", but this is misleading. It is true that most English or German weak verbs are regular, whereas Germanic strong verbs, despite the regularity of the system, are normally taught as irregular verbs; but there are also irregular weak verbs in English and German, and in Hebrew the weak verbs are the most irregular ones. In the case of the German noun, the strong noun is the norm, while the weak noun is usually taught as the anomalous form, though in fact it has its own regularity. In the German adjective, both systems are equally regular and equally common.

Jana
 
  • gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Jana337 said:
    but there are also irregular weak verbs in English and German, and in Hebrew the weak verbs are the most irregular ones.
    What in the name of heaven is an "irregular weak verb" in English? :confused:

    Gaer
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    gaer said:
    What in the name of heaven is an "irregular weak verb" in English? :confused:

    Gaer

    Weak verbs are often thought of as having a regular inflection, but not all weak verbs are regular verbs; some have been made irregular by ellipsis or contraction, such as hear ~ heard; while others are merely irregular due to the eccentricities of English spelling, such as lay ~ laid. In German, verbs ending in -eln or -ern have slightly different inflection patterns. There are many other examples. The Preterite-present verbs are in a sense weak verbs with very significant irregularities; but usually they are not bracketed under weak verbs.

    Source

    Jana
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Jana,

    Thanks for the explanation. Frankly, I could not understand the site. It was over my head. Seriously!

    But I do see your point. You are absolutely correct.

    Some verbs are obviously regular. They add "s" for third person singular and add "ed" for past and past participle:

    love, help, admire, etc.

    Then there are verbs that are obviously irregular (see, saw; set, set; find, found, and many others)

    There IS another group that is what I would call "almost regular", and there are a lot of them.

    Some have two forms: learn, learned or learnt.
    Some end in "y": try, tries, tried.
    Some are like one of your examples: hear, heard (change in pronunciation). I would be inclined to call that one irregular, since it does not do what "fear" and "tear" do, but it's a judgement call.

    And I never THOUGHT about lay, laid. :( It's the same as pay, paid, then you run into say, said, which has the same spelling problem but a change in pronunciation too.

    I keep saying I know less about my own language than German many times. I had simply never thought about this. I always suspected learning English verbs must be pure hell for those who do not speak English as children. :)

    Gaer
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    I always suspected learning English verbs must be pure hell for those who do not speak English as children. :)

    English (and German) verbs are still a breeze compared to what you must go through in Romance languages...

    Jana
     

    Jana337

    Senior Member
    čeština
    ... not to speak of the Slavic ones! I am not in a position to judge it but Ralf could certainly utter some pungent comments on Russian verbs (that still obey the rules to a greater degree than the Czech ones).

    Jana
     

    MrMagoo

    Senior Member
    Westphalia, Germany; German
    The terms "weak" and "strong" were used by Jacob Grimm. In his opinion, weak verbs were those verbs that needed to add -te (or English -ed) for building their past tense form, i.e. these verbs are to weak to form a past tense on their own but need a helping hand by a suffix to do that.
    Strong verbs don't add a suffix but change their stem vowel in order to form a past tense form (e.g. write - wrote/ schreiben - schrieb).

    Both weak and strong verbs are "regular" verbs.
    I can explain the difference between weak, strong, regular and irregular verbs to you later on if you want to - it's a bit more complex than it seems.
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    MrMagoo said:
    The terms "weak" and "strong" were used by Jacob Grimm. In his opinion, weak verbs were those verbs that needed to add -te (or English -ed) for building their past tense form, i.e. these verbs are to weak to form a past tense on their own but need a helping hand by a suffix to do that.
    Strong verbs don't add a suffix but change their stem vowel in order to form a past tense form (e.g. write - wrote/ schreiben - schrieb).

    Both weak and strong verbs are "regular" verbs.
    I can explain the difference between weak, strong, regular and irregular verbs to you later on if you want to - it's a bit more complex than it seems.
    I'd be interested in your information. However, in German I find "classes" of verbs to be much more helpful than any descriptive terminology.

    In other words, it's useful to me to know which verbs do the same thing. For the most part, the terminology for which verbs are strong, weak, regular and irregular does not help me much.

    Gaer
     

    MrMagoo

    Senior Member
    Westphalia, Germany; German
    Hi again gaer (and everyone else),

    you'll see that these class-paradigms also work for English (until a certain degree).

    German and English work quite similar when it comes to verbs (both languages are Germanic ones of course). You can divide all verbs into these groups:


    I) REGULAR VERBS

    I, 1) WEAK Verbs

    ENGLISH:
    ---> Past tense form and Past Participle are built by adding "-(e)d" to the stem
    GERMAN:
    ---> No extra-Umlaut in 2nd and 3rd person Singular Present tense.
    ---> Past tense form is built by adding "-te" to the stem plus (except 1st and 3rd person singular) the personal ending which is the same as in the present tense.
    ---> The past participle consists of ge+ stem +t.

    Example:
    (Present) I/you/we/you/they live, he lives
    (Past) I/you/he/we/you/they lived
    (Past Participle) lived

    (Present) ich lebe, du lebst, er lebt, wir/sie leben, ihr lebt
    (Past) ich/er lebte, du lebtest, wir/sie lebten, ihr lebtet
    (Past Participle) gelebt


    I, 2) STRONG Verbs

    ENGLISH:
    ---> Past tense is formed by the ablauted stem
    GERMAN:
    ---> Past tense is formed by ablauted stem + (except 1st and 3rd person singular) personal ending of the present tense.
    ---> Past Participle consists of ge + another ablauted stem + en.
    ---> Very often, an Umlaut occurs in 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense.

    Ablaut:
    ---> Ablaut means the regular change of the stem vowel in related words or verbforms, e.g. in German the change of ei - i(e) - i(e) in
    schreiben - schrieb - geschrieben as this goes exactly like
    bleiben - blieb - geblieben or like
    reiten - ritt - geritten
    or in English
    write - wrote - written as this goes exactly like
    drive - drove - driven etc.

    These changes used to be very regular - and still, at least for German, you can point out 6 or 7 special "Ablaut rows" that strong verbs can be classified into.
    However, these rows have been messed up more or less and for some verbs it's hard to find out what row they actually belonged to but all these verbs are usually said to be "regular" as they built their past tense forms by regular patterns.

    Many Grammars classify these strong verbs to be irregular - this might be helpful for language learners as they have to learn all the forms anyway. On the other hand it is no help when the learner knows that these "Ablaut rows" exist, as some people prefer learning by structured paradigms.

    To sum it up:
    Actually, both weak and strong verbs are regular - but many Grammars have their reasons to classify strong verbs to be irregular, too.


    II) IRREGULAR VERBS

    Irregular verbs do not fit in one of the groups above. They are usually very old verbs and form their past (or even present) tense forms in an ancient way.
    Verbs belonging to this group are (English as well as German) e.g.
    be (sein), have (haben), go (gehen), bring (bringen), do (tun), stand (stehen) and the modal helping verbs.

    Most irregularities can be explained of course and show quite clearly then that even most of these verbs are not that irregular as one might think... .


    I hope this was helpful for you.
    It's up to you whether you call a verb "strong" or "irregular" but you should keep the old distinction in mind if it happens you need to deal with language a bit more detailedly.

    All the best
    -MrMagoo
     

    MrMagoo

    Senior Member
    Westphalia, Germany; German
    Oh, gear

    I have a list somewhere where there are German strong verbs already classified into their Ablaut rows.
    I'll be passing it on to you when I find it if you want. ;)

    -MrMagoo
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    MrMagoo said:
    Oh, gear

    I have a list somewhere where there are German strong verbs already classified into their Ablaut rows.
    I'll be passing it on to you when I find it if you want. ;)

    -MrMagoo
    We are using different terms for the same thing, I believe.

    I think grouping verbs is incredibly useful in any language, if it can be done logically. I don't think it works as well in English as in German. The problem for me is that the labels often get in the way.

    Let me start out with "leben":
    (Present) ich lebe, du lebst, er lebt, wir/sie leben, ihr lebt
    (Past) ich/er lebte, du lebtest, wir/sie lebten, ihr lebtet
    (Past Participle) gelebt
    In English speaking countries, grammar tends to be more descriptive. When I think of regular verbs, I think of verbs that use the same "stem" in all verb forms, in all tenses. For me your choice of verb is a "model" (not modal!) verb. Once you know it, you can conjugate countless similar verbs.

    Here is how we classify regular verbs—no stem change.

    First, there are those that add "ge" at the beginning and "t" on the end of the participle.

    Second, there are those that have non-separable prefixes that never change their stems but that do not add ge:
    bedeuten, ersparen, gefallen, etc.

    You will think of many more in a heartbeat.

    Third, there verbs that end in "ieren" and that do not add ge:
    interessieren, existieren

    I believe that many of these have foreign origins.

    Regardless of lables, there are already three groups.
    ====
    We define as irregular those verbs that have some kind of stem change in any form. But we are aware that MOST of them fall into tidy groups.

    Those verbs that have a stem change but that end in "t" are called irregular mixed verbs:
    denken, wissen, etc. I think there are about 10.

    Next come verbs that we call irregular that fit into groups based on vowel changes in the stem. I believe this is what you mean by "Ablaut rows". Seeing these and understanding them was tremendously important to me as I was learning to read. I've forgotten almost all of them because they are now natural. I would not write "er sprecht" or "er schribt" (er spricht, er schreibt) simply because these sound wrong. For the same reason I would not write gedenkt or gedenken or gedanken because they sound wrong. For the same reason you would not write: "He seed, he thinked, he writed, he runned". In the end, we outgrow such patterns, but only after our "ear" is fine-tuned.

    But if you have a list of verb groups that you could post easily, other people might find it very useful. Many students do not know they exist. I believe such verbs as haben, sein, kommen, gehen, tun and werden then become easy because there are so few verbs like these. You might call them "super-irregular". :) So far in all the languages I've studied, the most irregular verbs seem to be the most basic and the most common.

    In the end, I don't think the labels are important, as I said. I think it's only important to find out which verbs do the same thing, while you are learning.

    And let's not forget that after all this, you still have to absorb which verbs use "haben" and which "sein". :)

    I think if we listed groups of verbs, the only thing that would be different would be what we called the groups, not the verbs in the groups!

    Gaer
     

    Gainas

    New Member
    Portuguese (Brazil)
    Hello!

    I have bumped into this concept of strong, weak and mixed verbs, but don't fully understand it. Is there any rules to classify the verbs into these categories?

    Danke im Voraus!
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    The concepts of strong and weak on the one side and regular and irregular are different.

    "Regular" means, you can apply rules to generate the forms according to a pattern. "Irregular" means, you cannot apply such rules.


    Strong verbs are following rules in several classes, the rules are almost forgotten, and in the English language the corresponding forms are called "irregular", because the regularity is not seen anymore. S. Pinker wrote, they are stored in the brain as whole words.

    Weak verbs are following strict and simple rules, so erverybody can see the rules, and Pinker thinks, only the stems are stored and the verbs are built by the rules.

    In German irregular ("unregelmäßige") verbs are verbs not fitting into "strong" or "weak" verb forms, for example, they have both "ablauts" and "endings", or they have complete different forms (ich war, ich bin, ich werde)

    These are basics only.
    The area is complicate, and it is not fully consistent, and you will get different information in some details depending on which source you are using. You will see this, for example, in the Wikipedia.
    Regelmäßig: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unregelm%C3%A4%C3%9Figes_Verb,
    Unregelmäßig: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regelmäßiges_Verb

    The terms "unregelmäßige Verben" and "irregular verbs" are false friends.

    There is a slight correspondence between

    English regular and German weak,

    and also between the

    English irregular and German strong verbs.

    German "strong" forms would be called "irregular" forms in English.
    German "unregelmäßig" would also be called "irregular" in English.
    German "weak" would mostly be called "regular" in English.
     

    Kajjo

    Senior Member
    Ich habe den alten Thread erstmalig gelesen und bin überrascht, welche Vielfalt an Thesen und Vermutungen zu schwach/stark-Nomenklatur angestellt werden können. Ich finde folgende Regel am einfachsten:

    Schwache Verben ändern sich beim Konjugieren nur schwach.
    Starke Verben ändern sich beim Konjugieren stark.


    I have bumped into this concept of strong, weak and mixed verbs, but don't fully understand it. Is there any rules to classify the verbs into these categories?
    Kurze Antwort: Man muß leider auswendig lernen, welche Verben wie konjugiert werden.

    Schwache Verben behalten dabei ihren Stamm bei: fragen, fragte, gefragt
    Starke Verben ändern ihren Stamm: helfen, half, geholfen

    Kajjo
     

    Hutschi

    Senior Member
    Die am häufigsten verwendeten Verben werden meist stark konjugiert. Die meisten Verben werden schwach konjugiert.

    Man kann sich die häufig verwendeten starken Verben relativ leicht merken, weil es nicht sehr viele sind.

    Die allermeisten Verben werden schwach konjugiert.
     
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