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The verb ‘to be’ in Old English was a compound made up of different sources (see Etymology, below). Bēon and wesan were the two infinitive forms, though they were only used in certain tenses. Bēon was used in the present tense to express permanent truths (the ‘gnomic present’), while wesan was used for the present participle and the preterite. In addition, there was a set of ‘simple present’ forms, for which no infinitive existed.
The simple present forms go back to Proto-Indo-European *h₁es- (“‘to be’”), *es- (first-person *ēsmi, third-person *ēsti, from an earlier *h₁esmi, *h₁esti). Cognates include Old Saxon is (Dutch is), Old High German ist, sind (German ist, sind), Old Norse em, est, es, Gothic 𐌹𐌼, 𐌹𐍃, 𐌹𐍃𐍄, and with Avestan ahmi (Persian budan, be, am, i, ast, im, id, hand), Greek ειμί, εῖ, εστί, Latin esse, sum, es, est, sumus, estis, sunt, (from which French être, Italian essere, Spanish ser), Slavic *jesmь (Old Church Slavonic ѥстъ, Russian есть), Baltic *es- (Lithuanian esu), Albanian jam.
Bēon comes from Germanic *bu- ‘dwell’, the source also of Old English būan.
Wesan comes from Germanic *wīsan, from Indo-European *wes- ‘to dwell, to be’. Cognates include Old Saxon wesan (Dutch wezen), Old High German wesan (German war), Old Norse vesa (Swedish vara), Gothic 𐍅𐌹𐍃𐌰𐌽, Celtic *westi- (Old Irish feiss).
- IPA: /beːon ˈwezɑn/
- to be
|1st person||eom ‧ bēo||sindon, sint ‧ bēoþ|
|2nd person||eart ‧ bist|
|3rd person||is ‧ biþ|
|subjunctive||sīe ‧ bēo||sīen ‧ bēon|
|wes ‧ bēo||wesaþ ‧ bēoþ|
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