Here is a collection of Old English grammar memes that I made to help explain elements of Old English grammar to my students. Please let me know (by e-mail or otherwise) whether you found these memes helpful in your endeavours to learn (or teach) Old English!
If you want memes in actual Old English, you can find those here:
MEMES RELATING TO OLD ENGLISH CASES
The five grammatical cases of Old English
A simple meme showing the difference between the case system in Old English and the case system in Middle English
The Germanic stress rule (which puts emphasis on the first syllable of a word) resulted in less emphasis falling on the final syllables of words and, as such, Germanic languages may be said to self-sabotage their case systems.
Two memes explaining the conflation of the instrumental and the dative in late Old English
A ‘Kalm Panik’-meme explaining dual case prepositions, where a dative object implies ‘stasis’ and an accusative object implies ‘movement’.
EMES RELATING TO OLD ENGLISH ADJECTIVES
Weak adjecives and weak nouns are characterised by the fact that the ending -an occurs frequently in their paradigms.
The fact that weak adjectives tend to end in -an is not the REASON why they are declined weak. The reason why adjectives are declined weak is because they are modified by a demonstrative pronoun, a genitive noun (phrase) or a possessive pronoun (or because they are in a vocative expression).
Here is an explanation of when adjectives are declined strong. However, there are two exceptions to this rule: comparative adjectives ending in -ra and ordinal numbers (except oþer [second]), which are always declined weak!
Usually, -um at the end of a word indicates dative plural; in the case of strong adjectives, it can be either dative singular or dative plural.
MEMES RELATING TO OLD ENGLISH NOUN (PHRASES)
Another buff doge vs cheems meme, demonstrating the difference between strong and weak nouns.
Another crucial distinction within nouns are those that have a short stem (like scip [ship]) and those that have a long stem (like þing [thing]).
Within a noun phrase, the noun, adjective and demonstrative pronoun all share the same case, gender and number. This is called concord.
A basic reminder that Old English does not have indefinite articles.
MEMES RELATING TO OLD ENGLISH VERBS
Old English has three verbal moods: indicative (used for FACTS), imperative (used for COMMANDS) and subjunctive (used for DOUBT, as well as the expression of desire, possibility and reported opinion).
Old English has strong and weak verbs. Commonly, strong verbs are defined as those verbs that change their stem (vowel) to form the past tense. However, as this meme demonstrates, there are some common weak verbs that also change their stem inthe past tense: brengan (brohte) , þencan (þohte) , secan (sohte) , tellan (tealde) and s ellan (sealde)
A more accurate distinction between strong and weak verbs: strong verbs do not add a dental suffix to mark the past tense (they do not have such weaknesses…).
Old English has three classes of weak verbs – the third class is a bit of an odd-one-out, since it consists of only four frequently used verbs with distinctive paradigms: libban [to live], habban [to have], secgan [to say] and hycgan [to think].
The PLURAL present tense indicative ending of weak verbs class 1 (-aþ) is the same ending as the third person SINGULAR present tense indicative ending of weak verbs class 2 (-aþ).
Distinguishing between class 1 and class 2 weak verbs is not difficult if they are in the past tense; class 2 weak verbs have an -a- or an -o- preceding the dental suffix (e.g., lufode [loved]), while class 1 weak verbs have an -e- if they have a short stem (e.g., fremede [did]) or no vowel before the dental suffix if they have a long stem (e.g., drencte [submerged]).
If you thought three classes of weak verbs was challenging, try out the seven classes of strong verbs!
A distinguishing feature of class III of the strong verbs (and some class VII strong verbs) is the fact that their stems end in two consonants (e.g., bind-an, drinc-an, swing-an, belg-an, sweorf-an, etc.)
While weak and strong verbs may be hard to grasp; the preterite-present verbs of Old English are notoriously difficult.
A meme explaining how preterite-present verbs came to be: the past tense of a strong verb was re-interpreted as a present tense.
The kind of questions that should keep you awake at night…
MEMES RELATING TO OLD ENGLISH POETRY
Old English poets would often bend some of the rules of Old English grammar so as to fit their metre or other aspects of their poetic form (e.g., alliteration), to the great frustration of students of Old English.
For instance, Old English poets could use adjectives as nouns (e.g., se gamela [the old (one)]).
Sometimes, poets used a weak adjective where you might actually expect a strong adjective (e.g., when the adjective is unmodified – gamola Scylding rather than gamol Scylding) .
In addition, poets would often leave out subjects, objects and prepositions, which means your reading tends to rely on your knowledge of cases and your understanding of the context.
I hope you enjoyed these; this page may be further updated in the future.