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In linguistics, conjugation is the creation of derived forms of a verb from its principal parts by inflection (regular alteration according to rules of grammar). Conjugation may be affected by person, number, gender, tense, aspect, mood, voice, or other grammatical categories. All the different forms of the same verb constitute a lexeme and the form of the verb that is conventionally used to represent the canonical form of the verb (one as seen in dictionary entries) is a lemma. Inflection of nouns and adjectives is known as declension.

Conjugated forms of a verb are called finite forms. In many languages there are also one or more forms that remain unchanged with all or most of grammatical categories: the non-finite forms, such as the infinitive or the gerund. A table giving all the conjugated variants of a verb in a given language is called a conjugation table or a verb paradigm.

Although conjugation tables are a useful tool for the beginner in a foreign language, they fail in irregular verbs. This limitation is particularly prominent in Latin-derived languages like French and Italian. The availability of high power computers has made possible to replace the conjugation tables with conjugation algorithms, that can handle without difficulty the conjugation and the grammar analysis of any verb. However, these are much less useful in understanding the structure of the conjugation forms of a given language. A couple of well known verbs conjugators freely available on Internet are Le Conjugateur for the French language and DIC_IT: il Verbiario for the Italian language, and many other exists.

A regular verb has a set of conventions for conjugation (paradigm) that derives all forms from a few specific forms or principal parts (maybe only one, such as the infinitive in English), in spelling or pronunciation. A verb that has conjugations deviating from this convention is said to be an irregular verb. Typically the principal parts are the root and/or several modifications of it (stems).

Conjugation is also the traditional name of a group of verbs that share a similar conjugation pattern in a particular language (a verb class). This is the sense in which teachers say that Latin has four conjugations of verbs. This means that any regular Latin verb can be conjugated in any person, number, tense, mood, and voice by knowing which of the four conjugation groups it belongs to, and its principal parts.

Contents

Examples

Indo-European languages usually inflect verbs for several grammatical categories in complex paradigms, although some, like English, have simplified verb conjugation to a large extent. Afrikaans and Swedish have gone even further and virtually abandoned verb conjugation altogether. Below is the conjugation of the verb to be in the present tense, indicative mood, active voice, in English, German, Dutch, Afrikaans, Icelandic, Swedish, Latvian, Bulgarian, Bosnian, Serbian, Croatian, Polish, Hindi, Persian, Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Albanian, Armenian, Ancient Attic Greek and Modern Greek. This is usually the most irregular verb. You may notice the similarities in corresponding verb forms. Some of the conjugations may be disused, like the English thou-form, or have additional meanings, like the English you-form, which can also stand for 2nd. person singular, or be impersonal.

"To be" in several Indo-European languages
Branch Germanic Italic
Language English German Dutch Afrikaans Icelandic Swedish Latin Italian French Spanish Portuguese Romanian
Infinitive be sein zijn wees vera vara esse essere être ser ser fi
I
(1st. sing.)
am bin ben is er är sum sono suis soy sou sunt
thou
(2nd. sing.)
art/are bist ben(t)/zijt12 is ert är es sei es eres és ești
he/she/it
(3rd. sing.)
is ist is is er är est è est es é este
we
(1st. plur.)
are sind zijn is erum är (äro1) sumus siamo sommes somos somos suntem
you/ye
(2nd. plur.)
are seid zijn/zijt12 is eruð är (äro1) estis siete êtes sois sois sunteți
they
(3rd. plur.)
are sind zijn is eru är (äro1) sunt sono sont son são sunt
Branch Greek Albanian Armenian9 Slavic Baltic Indo-Iranian
Language Ancient (Attic)2 Modern3 Polish Serbian4 Croatian Bulgarian5 Macedonian13 Latvian Lithuanian Persian Hindi
Infinitive eînai (eínai)7 none8 ĕllal10/linel11 być biti (biti)1 e būt būti būti hona
I
(1st. sing.)
eimí eímai jam em jestem jesam, sam sam săm sum esmu esu hastam, -am hũũ
thou
(2nd. sing.)
eísai je es jesteś jesi, si si si si esi esi hasti, -i hai
he/she/it
(3rd. sing.)
estí eínai është/asht6 ē jest jest(e), je je e e ir yra hast, ast, -e hai
we
(1st. plur.)
esmén eímaste jemi enk‘ jesteśmy jesmo, smo smo sme sme esam esame hastim, -im hãĩ
you
(2nd. plur.)
esté eíste jeni ēk‘10, ek‘11 jesteście jeste, ste ste ste ste esat esate hastid, -id ho
they
(3rd. plur.)
eisí eínai janë en jesu, su su se ir yra hastand, -and hãĩ
1 Disused in the modern language.
2 The verbs have been transliterated, to facilitate the comparison with other languages. In the Greek alphabet, they are written as follows, from top to bottom: εἶναι, εἰμί, εἶ, ἐστί, ἐσμέν, ἐστέ, εἰσί.
3 The verbs have been transliterated, to facilitate the comparison with other languages. In the Greek alphabet, they are written as follows, from top to bottom: είμαι, είσαι, είναι, είμαστε, είστε, είναι.
4 The verbs have been transliterated, to facilitate the comparison with other languages. In the Cyrillic alphabet, they are written as follows, from top to bottom: бити, јесам/сам, јеси/си, јест(е)/је, јесмо/смо, јесте/сте, јесу/су. The latter forms are clitics.
5 The verbs have been transliterated, to facilitate the comparison with other languages. In the Cyrillic alphabet, they are written as follows, from top to bottom: бити, съм, си, е, сме, сте, са.
6 In the Tosk and Geg dialects, respectively.
7 Used as a noun ("being, existence").
8 Ptc: qenë.
9 The verbs have been transliterated, to facilitate the comparison with other languages. In the Armenian alphabet, they are written as follows, from top to bottom: եմ, ես, է, ենք, էք10/եք11, են
10Denotes Western Armenian forms
11Denotes Eastern Armenian forms
12In Flemish dialects.
13 The verbs have been transliterated, to facilitate the comparison with other languages. In the Cyrillic alphabet, they are written as follows, from top to bottom: е, сум, си, е, сме, сте, се.

Verbal agreement

Verbal agreement or concord is a morpho-syntactic construct in which properties of the subject and/or objects of a verb are indicated by the verb form. Verbs are then said to agree with their subjects (resp. objects).

Many English verbs exhibit subject agreement of the following sort: whereas I go, you go, we go, they go are all grammatical in standard English, she go is not. Instead, a special form of the verb to go has to be used to produce she goes. On the other hand I goes, you goes etc. are not grammatical in standard English. (Things are different in some English dialects that lack agreement.) A few English verbs have no special forms that indicate subject agreement (I may, you may, she may), and the verb to be has an additional form am that can only be used with the pronoun I as the subject.

Verbs in written French exhibit more intensive agreement morphology than English verbs: je suis (I am), tu es ("you are", singular informal), elle est (she is), nous sommes (we are), vous êtes ("you are", plural), ils sont (they are). Historically, English used to have a similar verbal paradigm. Some historic verb forms are used by Shakespeare as slightly archaic or more formal variants (I do, thou dost, she doth, typically used by nobility) of the modern forms.

Some languages with verbal agreement can leave certain subjects implicit when the subject is fully determined by the verb form. In Spanish, for instance, certain subject pronouns do not need to be explicitly present, even though in French, its close relative, they are obligatory. The Spanish equivalent to the French je suis (I am) can be simply soy (lit. "am"). The pronoun yo (I) in the explicit form yo soy is only required for emphasis or to clear ambiguity in complex texts.

Some languages have a richer agreement system in which verbs also agree with some or all of their objects. Ubykh exhibits verbal agreement for the subject, direct object, indirect object, benefaction and ablative objects (a.w3.s.xe.n.t'u.n, you gave it to him for me).

Basque can show agreement not only for subject, direct object and indirect object, but it also on occasion exhibits agreement for the listener as the implicit benefactor: autoa digute means "they brought us the car" (neuter agreement for listener), but autoa zigunate means "they brought us the car" (agreement for feminine singular listener).

Languages with a rich agreement morphology facilitate relatively free word order without leading to increased ambiguity. The canonical word order in Basque is Subject-Object-Verb. However, all permutations of subject, verb and object are permitted as well.

Factors that affect conjugation

Common grammatical categories according to which verbs can be conjugated are the following:

Other factors which may affect conjugation are:

See also

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Conjugations by language

Related topics

External links


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