Top Contents Bibliography 10.1. Quick Start 10.2. Adverbs
10.2.1. Comparison of adverbs
10.3. Conjunctions 10.4. Correlation 10.5. Prepositions

10. Adverbs, Conjunctions and Prepositions

10.1. Quick Start

Adverbs, Conjunctions and Prepositions are relatively easy because they are not inflected. Many of them, however, have changed their meanings since the end of the Old English period; further, some have been lost and others have taken their places, so many of these exceedingly common words will be unfamiliar to you at first. You should memorize the most common of them early on, especially the adverbs ǣr ‘before’, ēac ‘also’, siððan ‘afterwards’ and þā ‘then’; the conjunctions ac ‘but’, for þām þe ‘because’, oð þæt ‘until’ and þā ‘when’; and the prepositions be ‘by, near’, mid ‘with’, of ‘from’, wið ‘opposite, against’ and ymb(e) ‘near, by’.

10.2. Adverbs

An adverb may be made from an adjective by adding -e; since many adjectives are made by adding -liċ to nouns or other adjectives, you will often see adverbs ending in -līċe.[1] Examples: wearme ‘warmly’ from wearm ‘warm’, sārlīċe ‘painfully’ from sār, sārliċ ‘painful’. The adverb corresponding to gōd ‘good’, however, is wel.

The suffix -liċ is generally thought to have had a long vowel when an ending followed, but otherwise a short vowel.

Adverbs may also be made by adding case endings to nouns, for example, genitive dæġes ‘by day’, unþances ‘unwillingly’; dative nēode ‘necessarily’, hwīlum ‘at times’. Some of the most common adverbs are conjunctive or prepositional: that is, they are related (and sometimes identical) to certain conjunctions and prepositions. Such adverbs often relate to place, time, extent, degree, negation or affirmation.

Some of the most common adverbs are listed in table 10.1.[2] Adverbs marked with † in the box at left have corresponding conjunctions that are identical in form and related in meaning.

The word-lists in this chapter do not display all definitions of the words they contain. For complete collections of definitions, you must consult a dictionary.
Table 10.1. Common adverbs
  ā ‘always’   heonan ‘hence’   sōna ‘immediately’
  ādūn(e) ‘down’   hēr ‘here’ swā ‘so’
  ǣfre ‘ever’   hider ‘hither’ swelċe ‘likewise’
  æfter ‘after’   hūru ‘indeed’   swīðe ‘very’
ǣr ‘before’   hwæðre ‘nevertheless’   ‘too’
  ætgædere ‘together’   hwīlum ‘at times’ þā ‘then’
  ēac ‘also’   in ‘in’ þanon ‘thence’
  eall ‘entirely’   innan ‘from within’ þǣr ‘there’
  eft ‘afterwards’   ‘not at all’   þæs ‘afterwards’
  fela ‘much’   nǣfre ‘never’ þēah ‘nevertheless’
  feor ‘far’   ne ‘not’ þenden ‘while’
  forð ‘forwards’   neoðan ‘from below’ þider ‘thither’
for þām ‘therefore’   nese ‘no’ þonne ‘then’
  ful ‘very’   niðer ‘down’   þus ‘thus’
  furðum ‘even’ ‘now’   ufan ‘from above’
  ġēa ‘yes’   ofdūne ‘down’   ūp ‘up’
  ġeāra ‘formerly’   oft ‘often’   ūt ‘out’
  ġīese ‘yes’   on ‘on, in, forward’   ūtan ‘from outside’
  ġīet ‘yet’ siððan ‘afterwards’   wel ‘well’

Interrogative adverbs, used (of course) in asking questions, are listed in table 10.2.

Table 10.2. Interrogative adverbs
‘how’ hwǣr ‘where’
hwider ‘whither’ hwonne ‘when’
hwanon ‘whence’ hwȳ ‘why’

The Modern English interrogatives (where, when, etc.) can be used to introduce adverb clauses (e.g. “I know where you live”) or adjective clauses (e.g. “on the street where you live”), but the same is rarely true for Old English, which instead will use one of the conjunctions listed in below or the relative particle þe.

10.2.1. Comparison of adverbs

Adverbs made from adjectives normally add -or to make the comparative and -ost to make the superlative: ġearwor and ġearwost from ġearwe ‘readily’ (adjective ġearo ‘ready’), lēoflīcor, lēoflīcost from lēoflīċe ‘lovingly’ (adjective lēof, lēofliċ ‘beloved’).

Other adverbs may add -rra or -ra for the comparative and -mest for the superlative (e.g. norþerra, norþmest from norþ ‘northwards’).

A few common adverbs make their comparatives by applying i-mutation to the root vowel (omitting the ending); the superlatives may or may not have i-mutation:

ēaðe ‘easily’ īeð ēaðost
feorr ‘far’ fierr fierrest
lange ‘long’ lenġ lenġest
sōfte ‘softly’ sēft sōftost

Others are anomalous:

lȳtle, lȳt ‘a little’ lǣs lǣst, lǣsest
miċle ‘much’ mǣst
nēah ‘near’ nīer nīehst, nēxt
wel ‘well’ bet, sēl betst, sēlest
yfle ‘badly’ wiers(e) wierrest, wierst

10.3. Conjunctions

The coordinating conjunctions and/ond ‘and’, ac ‘but’ and oððe ‘or’ will cause you no difficulty. The subordinating conjunctions are more difficult, for they do not always resemble the Modern English words to which they correspond in function. The most common subordinating conjunctions are listed in table 10.3. Here, as in table 10.1, conjunctions with matching adverbs are marked †.

Table 10.3. Subordinating conjunctions
  æfter þām (þe) ‘after’ ‘now that’ þǣr ‘where’
ǣr ‘before’   oð þæt ‘until’   þæs þe ‘after’
  ǣr þām (þe) ‘before’ siððan ‘after’   þæt ‘that, so that’
  būtan ‘unless’ swā ‘as’ þēah (þe) ‘though’
for þām (þe) ‘because’ swelċe ‘as if’ þenden ‘while’
  ġif ‘if’ þā ‘when’ þider (þe) ‘whither’
  hwæðer ‘whether’   þā hwīle þe ‘while’ þonne ‘when’
  nemþe ‘unless’ þanon ‘whence’   wið þām þe ‘provided that’

The ambiguity of some of the conjunctions with matching adverbs may optionally be resolved by adding the particle þe, which marks the word as a conjunction: these are indicated in the table. A few others may be doubled to mark them as conjunctions: swā may mean ‘so’ or ‘as’, but swā swā always means ‘as’; similarly þā þā means ‘when’ and þǣr þǣr means ‘where’.

The correlative conjunctions (like Modern English both . . . and) are as follows:

ǣġðer . . . ġe ‘both . . . and’
hwæðer . . . oððe ‘whether . . . or’
nā þæt ān . . . ac ēac swilċe ‘not only . . . but also’
nāðor . . . ne ‘neither . . . nor’
ne . . . ne ‘neither . . . nor’
þȳ . . . þȳ ‘the . . . the’ (as in “the more, the merrier”)

10.4. Correlation

Correlation is a construction in which an adverb at the beginning of an independent clause recapitulates or anticipates an adverb clause. The conjunction that begins the adverb clause is related in sense to the adverb in the independent clause (e.g. “when . . . then”); these two words are said to be correlative.

Correlation is much rarer in Modern English than in Old English, but it is still fairly common with conditional clauses:

If you were in Philadelphia, then you must have seen Independence Hall.

Other correlations can be used in Modern English for emphasis or rhetorical effect. The King James Bible (1611) has

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

We understand this perfectly well, though it sounds a bit archaic.

Most instances of correlation in Old English will cause you no difficulty. Here are some examples:

And ðēah ðe hē ġehēran ne wolde, hwæðre hē ġeðyldelīċe wæs from him eallum āræfned.
[And though he would not obey, nevertheless he was patiently tolerated by all of them.]
þider þe hē sylfa tōweard wæs æfter dēaþe, þider hē his ēagan sende ǣr his dēaðe, þæt hē þȳ blīþelīcor þrōwade.
[where he himself was headed after death, there he directed his eyes before his death, so that he could suffer more happily.]

Correlation can cause difficulties when the conjunction and adverb have the same form, as they often do (see tables 10.1 and 10.3):

þā . . . þā ‘when . . . then’
þonne . . . þonne ‘when . . . then’
þǣr . . . þǣr ‘where . . . there’
swā . . . swā ‘as . . . so’

In such cases you must sometimes allow context to guide you to the correct reading. But with certain conjunction/adverb pairs, word-order can help you decide which is the conjunction and which the adverb: see further 12.5 and 15.2.5.

10.5. Prepositions

Here we will briefly list the most common prepositions and offer notes on their usage. The information you will need about each preposition, in addition to its meanings, is what case the object of the preposition may take and whether the case of that object influences the meaning of the preposition. This information is usually, but not always, supplied by glossaries and dictionaries.

æfter. after, according to, usually with dative, sometimes with accusative.
ǣr. before (in time), usually with dative, sometimes with accusative.
æt. with dative, at, from; with accusative, until, up to.
be. by, near, along, about, in relation to, with dative.
beforan. before, in front of, in the presence of, ahead of, with dative or (usually with an added sense of motion) accusative.
betweox. between, among, with dative or accusative.
binnan. with dative, within; with accusative, to within.
bufan. with dative, above; with accusative, upwards.
būtan. outside, except, without, with dative or accusative.
ēac. besides, in addition to, with dative.
for. before, in front of, because of, in place of, for the sake of, usually with dative, sometimes with accusative.
fram. from, by, with dative.
ġeond. throughout, through, usually with accusative, sometimes with dative.
in. with dative, in; with accusative, into.
innan. with dative, in, within, from within; with accusative, into.
mid. with, and, by means of, usually with dative, sometimes with accusative.
of. from, of, with dative.
ofer. with dative, over, upon, throughout; with accusative (usually with an added sense of motion), over, across, throughout, more than.
on. with dative, in, on; with accusative, into, onto. In West Saxon, on is usual where you would expect in.
onġēan. opposite, towards, in opposition to, with dative or (usually with an added sense of motion) accusative.
oð. up to, as far as, until, usually with accusative, sometimes with dative.
tō. with dative, to, towards, at, for; with genitive, at. With dative, often forms an idiom to be translated with “as”: tō ġefēran ‘as a companion’.
tōġēanes. towards, in preparation for, in opposition to, with dative.
þurh. through, by means of, usually with accusative, sometimes with dative or genitive.
under. under, with dative or (usually with an added sense of motion) accusative.
wið. towards, opposite, against, in exchange for, with accusative, dative or genitive.
ymb(e). near, by, about, after, usually with accusative, sometimes with dative.

Some prepositions have the same meaning whatever the case of the object: for these, some authors favor the dative while others favor the accusative. But several prepositions have different meanings depending on the case of the object. For these, the dative is generally associated with location while the accusative is associated with movement towards.

Study this list of prepositions carefully, for you will meet with a number of these words in every text you read.