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Writer Resources: Archaic Grammar Cheat Sheet

Archaic grammar, what a pain in the butt to write when you’re not well-versed.  Even when you are, it’s easy to get lost in modern vernacular and get it wrong.  And I so hate getting things wrong.

I have a tonne of research and reference material stuffed into my office, as you know. When I’m going to write something long, my normal process is to go through all my available info, find more if I need it (any excuse for an extra shopping trip to the book store).  After I’ve read everything over to put it into the forefront of my mind, I make myself a cheat sheet.  I do this for any subject.

archaic grammar

I don’t know if this works for anyone else, but for myself, I’ve found it prevents stopping the creative flow that can happen when I get stuck for a specific detail that can’t be fantasied or fictioned away in a creative manner.  I hate when that happens. Since I often reference real history as a framework, those things can’t be faked, so I came up with this cheat sheet method to hit the highlights for easy reference and have used it for a long time.

Here’s one of them and with luck, it might help someone else out.

If you’re writing magical fantasy, for instance, and really want to use archaic grammar / language (though this really does make it difficult to read, so I’d suggest a distilled form and a very light application if you must go that route), here’s a quick overview of English archaic grammar. This is in no way complete or definitive – this is the bare bones for reference only after having already studied archaic grammar. However, if you only want the flavour of it and don’t need to be Shakespearean-ly accurate (which was already inaccurate in his time, just fyi), this archaic grammar cheat sheet can probably give you a hand.

 

Archaic Grammar Cheat Sheet

General:
Pronominal possessives: hers, its, theirs

Nominative pronouns: functions as a subject or subject compliment: I, we, you, he, she, it, they, who.

Possessive case nouns: ours, mine

Indefinite pronouns (unspecified): anybody, anything, something
Transitive verb requires a direct object to complete its meaning
Intransitive verb does not require a direct object

Pronoun Case
Thou: nominative objective case of YOU and YE
*also the plural possessive of YOU and YOURS
*nominative second person singular of the personal pronoun:
thee – objective case
thy or thine – possessive case
thyself – intensive and reflexive cases

1100 – 1500 AD and evolving thereafter:
THOU, THY, THEE – familiars, children, inferiors, also used in contempt
YE, YOUR, YOU – superiors, nobles to kings, servants to masters, or anyone to unfamiliar equals

**Later, the “polite” forms were used in all direct address and the accusative YOU replaced the nominative YE as it was deemed more polite. YE was already archaic by 1100 AD.

Verbs end in -eth rather than -es except for the words DOTH, HATH, and SAITH.

THOU used in address to God and supernatural beings / ghosts

Neuter singular pronoun use of HIM rather than ITS

Tense Exemplar
past tense ‘broke’ becomes BRAKE
past tense ‘helped’ becomes HOLP
-ly adverbs drop the -ly altogether (-ly is the modern development)

Case
THEE – objective case of THOU
THY – of, belonging to, or done by THEE – archaic of YOUR
THINE – absolute case of THY – that or those belonging to THEE/YOU

FIRST PERSON ——– I DO
SECOND PERSON —- THOU DOEST/DOST
THIRD PERSON ——- THEY/THEM DOETH/DOTH

Second Person singular, past indicative of DO – THOU DIDST

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