Strong verb conjugation

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Though textbooks usually provide a list of the strong verb classes and their principal parts, they don't normally come with an easy way of checking whether you have mastered the art of reconstructing a full paradigm. For that purpose, I have drawn up a paradigm showroom here. The present page should be understood in conjunction with that facility, providing the main rules needed to arrive at the inflected forms there found, or conversely, to bring an inflected form back to its infinitive.

The problem of conjugation is threefold: you will need to find the form of the stem, that of the ending, and any variation (phonological or lexical). The endings are consistent, so they provide little difficulty. Variation within verb classes is the most problematic, but this results primarily from phonological rules whose effects surface in several verbs each, so these rules will start to make sense as you become acquainted with the affected verbs. Until then, the first thing to be tackled is the stem.


Given the infinitive or an inflected form of a strong verb, the first thing to check is the class to which it belongs. A number of clues are available to this end. These may be summarized as follows:

class first fronted second third fronted fourth
1 í ei i i
2 jú (jó) ý au (ó) u y o
3 eCC (iCC) aCC uCC yCC uCC (oCC)
4 e a á æ o
5 e (i) a (á) á æ e
6 a e ó ó œ a (e)
7 X X-fronted Y Y Y-fronted X

This table lists the characteristic stem vowels of each of the principal parts of the strong verb, namely (1) infinitive, (2) singular preterite, (3) plural preterite, and (4) past participle. The greyed-out columns demonstrate not further principal parts, but the i-mutated realizations of the vowels in the first and third principal parts respectively. It is important to realize that the first of these mutations (found in the singular forms of the present indicative) only applies to three classes at most: classes II and VI have a back vowel in their first principal parts, and most subtypes of class VII do, but all the rest have front vowels there, normally í, e, or i. However, the second fronting in the paradigm (found throughout the preterite subjunctive) applies to most strong verbs, as only class I and most of class VII already have a front vowel in their third principal part. This leads to our first rule of reconstruction:

  1. An infinitive or present tense form with a back vowel in the stem can only be class II, VI, or VII, or weak.

However, present indicative singular forms are slightly less reliable as clues to class:

  1. Present indicative singular forms always have a front vowel. If the infinitive has a back vowel, it here appears fronted by regular i-mutation.

The CC following the vowel in class III represents two consonants, which may or may not be identical. Such a configuration is optional in class VII, which is actually a container for reduplicating verbs from all the other classes; class VII verbs with two consonants following the stem vowel are thus reduplicating class III verbs. This stem configuration contrasts with classes I, II, and IV–VI, which normally have a single consonant following their stem vowel in all the forms of the verb (not counting a second consonant j or v). However, there are two exceptions to this rule: gemination and the nasal infix. In verbs, gemination, or the doubling of a consonant, is mostly limited to g if preceded by a short vowel and followed by j. The only commonly found strong instances of this are liggja (V “lie, rest”) and þiggja (“receive, accept”), and these actually behave like weak class 1a in the present tense (in that they retain their -j- before a or u). The resulting double consonant occurs throughout the present system (including imperative and present participle) but disappears in the preterite and the past participle. Though gemination also takes place for k under the same and similar circumstances, this is less common in verbs; when kk occurs, this is more commonly a result of assimilation from nk. In strong verbs, kk is limited to class III (drekka “drink”, støkkva “jump”). Both gemination and nk-assimilation are more common in weak verbs (hyggja 1a “think”, sløkkva 1b “extinguish”). However, the strong forms hǫggva (VII “strike”), hnǫggva (defective “strike”), and -ggva variants on -ggja verbs must also be taken into account. The nasal infix is an -n- occurring either before or after the regular stem consonant throughout the present conjugation of such verbs as fregna (V) and standa (VI). We may thus construct the following rule:

  1. A verb whose stem vowel is followed by two consonants (not counting any forms including j, v, gemination, or a nasal infix) is probably class III, VII, or weak.

The stem vowels of the preterite indicative abide by the following rules:

  1. Classes I–IV and usually class V have two different stem vowels in the preterite indicative: one for the singulars, one for the plurals.
  2. Classes VI and VII always have the same stem vowel across the preterite indicative.
  3. All classes except I and usually except VII have back vowels across the preterite indicative.

Subjunctives only have one stem vowel per tense, which may be found as follows:

  1. The stem vowel of the present subjunctive is always identical to that of the infinitive.
  2. The stem vowel of the preterite subjunctive is the i-mutated form (see vowel diagram) of the preterite indicative plural forms, or identical with the preterite indicative plural vowel if it is already a front vowel (namely in class I and usually in class VII).

The following rules hold true of the past participle:

  1. In classes V–VII, the stem vowel of the past participle is normally identical to that of the infinitive.
  2. Classes II–IV have a rounded back vowel (o for II and IV, u or o for III).

And the imperatives are formed as follows:

  1. All three imperatives use the infinitive stem, without i-mutation (but with labial mutation where applicable).

Inflectional endings

As indicated above, the personal endings are regular across the classes. In the present tense, they are in fact identical to those of the weak verbs, with the one difference that strong verbs have no thematic vowels, so the endings are immediately joined to the stem. Preterite endings are different for strong verbs, following these rules:

  1. First and third person singular have a zero ending (i.e. they end in the root-final consonant: bar, fór).
  2. Second person singular adds -t to the stem: bart, fórt.
  3. Plurals take the endings -um, -uð, -u.
  4. Past participles end in -in plus gender-suffix n (from r), zero, or t; the last of these subsumes n (hence -inn, -in, or -it).
  5. Preterite subjunctive endings are identical to those of the present tense, i.e. -a, -ir, -i, -im, -ið, -i.
  6. The second person singular imperative has a zero ending (ber, far); the other imperatives are identical to the present indicative forms (berum, farið).

In the case of the second person singular preterite indicative endings, it should be added that the presence of a stem-final dental (ð or t) was originally turned into z (pronounced /ts/) before the personal ending -t: þú hézt (for heita “call”). However, in many words that zt-sequence was simplified to tt (hence usually reitt not reizt for ríða I “ride”, bautt not bauzt for bjóða II “offer”). In others, such as heita, the z was consistently retained.


With the help of the above rules, you should be largely able to reconstruct paradigms like those set out below. However, verða “become” is affected by a further sound change, and other verbs not listed here display far more complex variations. For these, you may want to read up on the phonological changes that took place in the Proto-Norse and early Norse periods (e.g. Gordon §§30–76).

ríða I “ride” (active voice)
present indicative present subjunctive
1sg ek ríð 1pl vér ríðum 1sg ek ríða 1pl vér ríðim
2sg þú ríðr 2pl ér ríðið 2sg þú ríðir 2pl ér ríðið
3sg hann ríðr 3pl þeir ríða 3sg hann ríði 3pl þeir ríði
preterite indicative preterite subjunctive
1sg ek reið 1pl vér riðum 1sg ek riða 1pl vér riðim
2sg þú reizt 2pl ér riðuð 2sg þú riðir 2pl ér riðið
3sg hann reið 3pl þeir riðu 3sg hann riði 3pl þeir riði
past participle m. riðinn f. riðin n. riðit
imperative 2sg ríð 1pl ríðum 2pl ríðið
ljúga II “(tell a) lie” (active voice)
present indicative present subjunctive
1sg ek lýg 1pl vér ljúgum 1sg ek ljúga 1pl vér ljúgim
2sg þú lýgr 2pl ér ljúgið 2sg þú ljúgir 2pl ér ljúgið
3sg hann lýgr 3pl þeir ljúga 3sg hann ljúgi 3pl þeir ljúgi
preterite indicative preterite subjunctive
1sg ek laug 1pl vér lugum 1sg ek lyga 1pl vér lygim
2sg þú laugt 2pl ér luguð 2sg þú lygir 2pl ér lygið
3sg hann laug 3pl þeir lugu 3sg hann lygi 3pl þeir lygi
past participle m. loginn f. login n. logit
imperative 2sg ljúg 1pl ljúgum 2pl ljúgið
verða III “become” (active voice)
present indicative present subjunctive
1sg ek verð 1pl vér verðum 1sg ek verða 1pl vér verðim
2sg þú verðr 2pl ér verðið 2sg þú verðir 2pl ér verðið
3sg hann verðr 3pl þeir verða 3sg hann verði 3pl þeir verði
preterite indicative preterite subjunctive
1sg ek varð 1pl vér urðum 1sg ek yrða 1pl vér yrðim
2sg þú vart 2pl ér urðuð 2sg þú yrðir 2pl ér yrðið
3sg hann varð 3pl þeir urðu 3sg hann yrði 3pl þeir yrði
past participle m. orðinn f. orðin n. orðit
imperative 2sg verð 1pl verðum 2pl verðið
bera IV “bear” (active voice)
present indicative present subjunctive
1sg ek ber 1pl vér berum 1sg ek bera 1pl vér berim
2sg þú berr 2pl ér berið 2sg þú berir 2pl ér berið
3sg hann berr 3pl þeir bera 3sg hann beri 3pl þeir beri
preterite indicative preterite subjunctive
1sg ek bar 1pl vér bárum 1sg ek bæra 1pl vér bærim
2sg þú bart 2pl ér báruð 2sg þú bærir 2pl ér bærið
3sg hann bar 3pl þeir báru 3sg hann bæri 3pl þeir bæri
past participle m. borinn f. borin n. borit
imperative 2sg ber 1pl berum 2pl berið
gefa V “give” (active voice)
present indicative present subjunctive
1sg ek gef 1pl vér gefum 1sg ek gefa 1pl vér gefim
2sg þú gefr 2pl ér gefið 2sg þú gefir 2pl ér gefið
3sg hann gefr 3pl þeir gefa 3sg hann gefi 3pl þeir gefi
preterite indicative preterite subjunctive
1sg ek gaf 1pl vér gáfum 1sg ek gæfa 1pl vér gæfim
2sg þú gaft 2pl ér gáfuð 2sg þú gæfir 2pl ér gæfið
3sg hann gaf 3pl þeir gáfu 3sg hann gæfi 3pl þeir gæfi
past participle m. gefinn f. gefin n. gefit
imperative 2sg gef 1pl gefum 2pl gefið
fara VI “travel” (active voice)
present indicative present subjunctive
1sg ek fer 1pl vér fǫrum 1sg ek fara 1pl vér farim
2sg þú ferr 2pl ér farið 2sg þú farir 2pl ér farið
3sg hann ferr 3pl þeir fara 3sg hann fari 3pl þeir fari
preterite indicative preterite subjunctive
1sg ek fór 1pl vér fórum 1sg ek fœra 1pl vér fœrim
2sg þú fórt 2pl ér fóruð 2sg þú fœrir 2pl ér fœrið
3sg hann fór 3pl þeir fóru 3sg hann fœri 3pl þeir fœri
past participle m. farinn f. farin n. farit
imperative 2sg far 1pl fǫrum 2pl farið
heita VII “call” (active voice)
present indicative present subjunctive
1sg ek heit 1pl vér heitum 1sg ek heita 1pl vér heitim
2sg þú heitr 2pl ér heitið 2sg þú heitir 2pl ér heitið
3sg hann heitr 3pl þeir heita 3sg hann heiti 3pl þeir heiti
preterite indicative preterite subjunctive
1sg ek hét 1pl vér hétum 1sg ek héta 1pl vér hétim
2sg þú hézt 2pl ér hétuð 2sg þú hétir 2pl ér hétið
3sg hann hét 3pl þeir hétu 3sg hann héti 3pl þeir héti
past participle m. heitinn f. heitin n. heitit
imperative 2sg heit 1pl heitum 2pl heitið

Go ahead and practise these verbs at verb flashcard sets 2 and 3.

© Paul Langeslag 2011, 2013