Principal parts

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This article is about the grammar term. For the mathematical meaning, see Principal part.

In language learning, the principal parts of a verb are those forms that a student must memorize in order to be able to conjugate the verb through all its forms.

By language[edit]

English[edit]

The principal parts of an English verb are the bare infinitive, past tense and past participle. For example the verb 'to take' has the principal parts take–took–taken. The verb 'to do' has do–did–done and the verb 'to say' has say–said–said.

Most verbs are regular enough not to require a knowledge of the principal parts. For example the verb love derives all its forms systematically (love, loves, loved, loving), and since these can all be deduced from the basic form (the citation, dictionary, or lexicographic form, which in English is the bare infinitive), no other principal parts have to be learned. With irregular verbs like the verb sing, on the other hand, the forms sang and sung cannot be deduced, so the learner of English must memorize three principal parts, sing–sang–sung. From these, all other forms (like sings or singing) can be deduced.

There are a handful of verbs in English that are so irregular that the principal parts are not enough to conjugate them fully. For example the verb 'to be' has the principal parts be–was/were–been, showing an irregular past tense (was for the first- and third-person singular, and were for the rest), and an entirely irregular present tense (using am, is and are instead of forms derived from the first principal part be).

(See also English verbs, English irregular verbs, English as an additional language.)

Icelandic[edit]

There are four types of principal parts in the Icelandic language, determined by the type of verb:

Weak verbs[edit]

Icelandic weak verbs have the following principal parts:

First principal part Second principal part Third principal part
Infinitive First person singular past tense indicative mood Past participle
borða ("to eat") ég borðaði ("I ate") ég hef borðað ("I have eaten)
elska ("to love") ég elskaði ("I loved") ég hef elskað ("I have loved")

It's possible to make the present subjunctive mood (þótt ég borði, "though I eat") from the first principal part (að borða, "to eat"). It's also possible to make the past subjunctive mood (þótt ég borðaði, "though I ate") from the second principal part (ég borðaði, "I ate").

In some other classes of weak verbs without 'a' as the thematic vowel, the present indicative singular undergoes more changes, but they are still to a large extent predictable.

Strong verbs[edit]

Icelandic strong verbs have the following principal parts:

First principal part Second principal part Third principal part Fourth principal part
Infinitive First person singular past tense indicative mood First person plural past tense indicative mood Past participle
finna ("to find") Ég fann ("I found") Við fundum ("we found") Ég hef fundið ("I have found")

It's possible to make the present subjunctive mood (þótt ég finni, "though I find") from the first principal part (að finna, "to find"). It's also possible to make the past subjunctive mood (þótt ég fyndi, "though I found") from the second principal part (við fundum, "we found").

The present singular indicative in this class also undergoes more changes(i-umlaut, dental suffix assimilation etc.), which may let some verbs seem irregular at first glance. They are, however, mainly regular changes, like those in the weak verbs.

Preterite-present verb[edit]

Icelandic Preterite-present verbs have the following principal parts:

First principal part Second principal part Third principal part Fourth principal part
Infinitive First person singular present tense indicative mood First person singular past tense indicative mood Past participle
kunna ("to know") Ég kann ("I know") Ég kunni ("I knew") Ég hef kunnað ("I've known")

It's possible to make the present subjunctive mood (þótt ég kunni, "though I knew") from the first principal part (að kunna, "to know"). It's also possible to make the past subjunctive mood (þótt ég kynni, "though I knew") from the third principal part (ég kunni, "I knew").

Ri-verbs[edit]

Icelandic Ri-verbs have the following principal parts:

First principal part Second principal part Third principal part
Infinitive First person singular past tense indicative mood Past participle
snúa ("to turn") Ég sneri[1] ("I turned") Ég hef snúið ("I have turned")
gróa ("to heal") Ég greri'[1] ("I healed") Ég hef gróið ("I have healed")
núa ("to rub") Ég neri'[1] ("I rubbed") Ég hef núið ("I have rubbed")
róa ("to row") Ég reri'[1] ("I rowed") Ég hef róið ("I have rowed")

It's possible to make the present subjunctive mood (þótt ég snúi, "though I turn") from the first principal part (að snúa, "to turn"). It's also possible to make the past subjunctive mood (þótt ég sneri, "though I turned") from the second principal part (ég sneri, "I turned").

Latin[edit]

In Latin, most verbs have four principal parts. For example, the verb for "to carry" is given as portō – portāre – portāvī – portātum, where portō is the first-person singular present active indicative ("I carry"), portāre is the present active infinitive ("to carry"), portāvī is the first-person singular perfect active indicative ("I carried"), and portātum is the accusative supine. Most of the verb forms in Latin derive from the first two principal parts: portābō, "I shall carry", is derived from the root portā-, taken from the present infinitive. However, all active perfect forms are derived from the third principal part (so portāveram, "I had carried", is taken from portāv-) while the perfect participle (portātus, portāta, portātum, "having been carried") is derived from the supine and is used to form passive perfect tenses with the auxiliary verb sum (such as portātum est, "it has been carried").

For many Latin verbs, the principal parts are predictable: portō shown above uses a single stem, port-, and all principal parts are derived from them with the endings -ō – -āre – -āvī – -ātum. Others have more complicated forms: regō ("I rule") has the perfect form rēxī and supine rectum, derived as *reg-sī and *reg-tum. A handful of verbs, such as sum - esse - fuī - futūrum ("to be") are simply irregular.

A number of verbs have fewer than four principal parts: deponent verbs, such as hortŏr – hortāri – hortātus sum, "to exhort", lack a perfect form, as do semi-deponent verbs, such as audeō – audēre – ausus sum, "to dare"; in both cases, passive forms are treated as active, so all perfect forms are covered by the perfect participle. A handful of verbs are also defective, including the verb ōdī – ōdisse, "to hate", which only has perfect forms derived from a single stem.

Ancient Greek[edit]

Verbs in Ancient Greek have six principal parts: present (I), future (II), aorist (III), perfect (IV), perfect middle (V) and aorist passive (VI), each listed in its first-person singular form:

  • Part I forms the entire present system, as well as the imperfect.
  • Part II forms the future tense in the active and middle voices.
  • Part III forms the aorist in the active and middle voices.
  • Part IV forms the perfect and pluperfect in the active voice, and the (exceedingly rare) future perfect, active.
  • Part V forms the perfect and pluperfect in the middle voice, and the (rare) future perfect, middle.
  • Part VI forms the aorist and future in the passive voice.

One principal part can sometimes be predicted from another, but not with any certainty. For some classes of verbs, however, all principal parts can be predicted given the first one.

Spanish[edit]

In Spanish, verbs are traditionally held to have only one principal part, the infinitive, by which one can classify the verb into one of three conjugation paradigms (according to the ending of the infinitive, which may be -ar, -er or -ir). However, some scholars believe that the conjugation could be regularized by adding another principal part to vowel-alternating verbs, which shows the alternation. For example, herir "to hurt" is usually considered irregular because its conjugation contains forms like hiero "I hurt", hieres "you hurt", where the vowel in the root changes into a diphthong. However, by including the first person singular, present tense, indicative mood form (hiero) as a principal part, and noting that the diphthong appears only when that syllable is stressed, the conjugation of herir becomes completely predictable. (See also Spanish verbs, Spanish conjugation.)

Scottish Gaelic[edit]

In Scottish Gaelic there are two principal parts for the regular verb: the imperative and the verbal noun, for example pògpògadh 'to kiss'. All finite forms can be deduced from the imperative pòg ('kiss!'), all non-finite forms from the verbal noun pògadh ('kissing'). The ten irregular verbs can, with only two or three small aberrations (unexpected lenition), be deduced from four principal parts.

Ganda[edit]

The principal parts of a Ganda verb are the imperative (identical to the verb stem), the first person singular of the present tense and the modified stem. For example the verb okwogera 'to speak' has the principal parts yogera–njogera–yogedde.

The present tense, far past tense, near future tense, far future tense, subjunctive and infinitive are derived from the imperative. The present perfect, conditional and near past tense are derived from the modified stem.

In theory the second principal part can be derived from the first, but in practice this is so complicated that it's usually memorised as a separate principal part.

(See also Ganda verbs.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Ri-verbs are written with an e in the second principal part according the Icelandic Ministry of Education even though it is pronounced as if it were written with an é.

See also[edit]