NOTABLE POINTS OF DIFFERENCE IN SEVENTEENTH CENTURY GRAMMAR
2020/08/10 Revision 6
Henry Jason, Jr.
1. Older verbal endings, e.g.:
-est: Thou eatest the apple. = You are eating the apple (singular).
-eth: He knoweth the place. = He knows the place.
2. Older second person pronouns:
Thou, thee, thy, thine (singular only)
Ye, you, your (plural). Kings started claiming that God was on the throne with them, and started referring to themselves as “We” instead of “I”, As time went all, other persons who considered themselves special, elite, also demanded the “lower classes” to address them in the plural. Friends refused to use a plural pronoun to address a single person because to do otherwise was dishonest.
3. Different word order:
That so… = so that…
There am I = there I am
In the power of God dwell. = Dwell in the power of God.
Therefore do not his servants fight = Therefore his servants do not fight.
I know it not. = I do not know it.
4. Long sentences
5. Count vs. non-count nouns – differences in what words were or were not count nouns:
(v. the difference between the modern non-count noun “thinking” and the count noun”thought”. One can count “thoughts” one cannot count “thinking”.)
imagination (This was a count noun in the 17th Century) = an imagining, something imagined
mercies (This was a count noun in the 17th Century) = acts of mercy
compassions (This was a count noun in the 17th Century) = acts of compassion
6. Contractions are uncommon but several occur, e.g.:
‘Twas = It was
‘Tis = It is
7. No progressive, continuous verbal tenses, or very rare:
I go = I am going
They go = They are going.
8. No “ ‘do’ support” for questions or for negative constructions (but see #9):
See ye the castle? = Do you see the castle?
I see not the castle. = I do not see the castle.
9. The use of forms of “do” (i.e., do, did, does) used with verbs as a mild intensification of the verb (compared to the usually emphatic use today):
I do go. = I go. I am going.
10. Verbs of motion or of change of state (These are always intransitive verbs)
use forms of the verb “be” (e.g. am, is, are, was, were, been), not forms of “have” (e.g. have, had, has) to make the perfect verb tenses:
I am come. = I have come. We are come. = We have come.
Ye were run. = You had run. He was run. = He had run.
He is become = He has become.
We are come. = We have come.
11. “One”; as an indefinite object of a verb is not used.
This brings to conclude… = This brings one to conclude…
12. Omission of the pronouns “he, they, we, etc.” before the word “who.”
Who doth good shall be rewarded. = He who does good shall be rewarded.
13. Abstract nouns may be used with the definite article “the” where this is omitted in Modern English:
He is the Life. = He is Life.
“I am the Truth” = I am Truth.
14. Older verbal forms, dialectal forms, or variant forms not considered to be educated language in Modern English occur:
He spake = He spoke.
He digged = He dug.
It was hid. = It was hidden.
They was there. = They were there.
They writ = They wrote.
He eat (pronounced as “et” in the past tense) the apple. = He ate the apple.
They is true. = They are true.
Thou goes = thou goest = you go (singular).
It was holden… = It was held…
15. Double negative usage:
Nor do they never understand… = Nor do they ever understand…
I cannot give you no certain notice of our return. = I cannot give you any certain notice of our return.
He could not write one word to me never since he went from this place. = He could not write one word to me ever since he went from this place.
16. Older relative pronouns, beginning with where-, here-, or there- plus preposition:
wherein, etc. = in what, in which.
herein, etc. = in this, in it
therein, etc. = in that, in it
thereunto = to that, for that, for it
17. “That” as part of a conjunctional phrase:
because that = because
for that = for
how that = how
18. “The same” (referring to something just mentioned) = it, he, him, she, her, they, them
19. Forms of the subjunctive mood vary from the indicative, e.g.:
indicative: thou goest vis-à-vis subjunctive: thou go
indicative: he goeth vis-à-vis subjunctive: he go
indicative: he doth vis-à-vis subjunctive: he do
20. Omission of “that”,”who”, “which”, or “what” used as relative pronouns where they cannot be omitted in modern English:
It is the Lord’s Word and work must do it. = It is the Lord’s Word and work which must do it.
For it was their counsel was the ruin of thy father. = For it was their counsel which was the ruin of thy father.
21. Possessive forms of the noun sometimes spelt out as the noun plus “his”:
I intend to visit Thomas Dry his wife. = I intend to visit Thomas Dry’s wife.
22. Adjectives can be nominalized, (i.e., used as a noun) in the plural as well as in the singular form.
Tenders = tender things, sensitive things
Spirituals = spiritual things, spiritual matters
23. Adverbs ending in -ly in modern English, which may also modify adjectives, omit the -ly in older English.
An Apology for the True Christian Divinity = An Apology for the Truly Christian
Divinity (= Modern English: A Defense of the Truly Christian Theology)
24. Certain suffixes such as –ward(s) and -soever are separated from the word they qualify:
How far soever = howsoever far
To you-wards = towards you
25. Linguistic markedness: unmarked vs. marked categories
“she” is marked as female. It can only refer to a female. It is exclusive.
“he” is unmarked as to femaleness. Therefore “he” is inclusive. It can refer to either male or female.
“tomcat” is marked as male. It can only refer to a male. It is exclusive.
“cat” is unmarked as to maleness. Therefore “cat” is inclusive. It can refer to either male or female.
26. Punctuation: Punctuation may vary from current modern usage.
27. Orthography/Spelling: a standardized orthography had not yet arisen in English of the 1600’s. Multiple spellings may occur for the same word. These are usually standardized in reprints in later centuries. However, some older spellings may actually represent earlier pronunciations that are no longer current, e.g.:
shew = show
murther = murder
burthen = burden