Verbs indicate an action, occurrence or state. Events can be placed:
in present time i.e. the present tense e.g. is (is).
in past time i.e. the past tense e.g. wis; or
as having taken place in the past but are relevant to the present time, the perfect. e.g. haes (has) plus past participle.
The suffix (e)n may be used to form verbs from adjectives and nouns.
Dinna frichten the bairns wi thae auld yairns.
Don't frighten the children with those old yarns.
The gowans whiten the gress-green brae.
The daisies whiten the green hillside.
The suffix le alternating with er may be added for frequentative or diminutive emphasis.
Aiblins experience will knusle some wit intae ye.
Perhaps experience will squeeze some wisdom into you.
Whan winter cauld is bitin sair couter up at the ingle-cheek.
When winter's cold is really biting nestle round the fireside.
The prefix be can be used before verbs to strengthen them and to make nouns into verbs.
A begrudge no gaun tae see ma grannie.
I regret not going to visit my grandmother.
The reivers bewaves thair veectims.
The robbers lay in wait for their victims.
The Pape's gaun tae besaunt thon mairtyr.
The Pope is going to canonise that martyr.
Dinna ettle tae begowk me.
Don't attempt to fool me.
She beteacht aw her siller til the man frae the insurance.
She entrusted all her money to the insurance agent.
Ye'll hae tae besmairten yersel afore ye gae oot.
You'll have to tidy yourself up before you go out.
The infinitive and present indicative
The infinitive marker, for tae or for til means 'in order to'.
He cam for tae eat his denner.
He came to eat his dinner.
A gaed for tae get it.
I went to get it.
The war room for tae get yer haund in.
There was space to get your hand in.
Ye'll come for tae mak up a gemm.
You'll come to make up a game.
He ettelt for tae gang.
He meant to go.
Thay aw gaed for tae see't.
They all went to see it.
The present indicative (the mood of the present tense expressing fact) is usually formed by adding s to the infinitive.
She daes that aw the time.
She does that all the time.
He kens whaur tae gang.
He knows where to go.
She washes the fluir ilka Monanday.
She washes the floor every Monday.
It peys tae tak tent o yer caur.
It pays to look after your car.
The verb inflexion s (Northern Subject Rule).
When a verb immediately follows a personal pronoun in the present tense, the verb remains the same.
A come first.
I come first.
We gang thare.
We go there.
A ken that fine.
I know that well.
We ken that fine.
We know that well.
Thay come for tae dae't.
They come to do it.
Thay say he's ower auld.
They say he is too old.
Thay are comin an aw.
They are coming too.
The laddies? Thay'v went.
The boys? They have gone.
The verb ending s, occurs:
In all persons of the plural except immediately following a personal pronoun (see above).
Thaim that says he's ower auld tae draw straes afore thair een.
Those who say he is too old to hoodwink them.
It's us that gangs til the schuil.
It's us who go to school.
It's thaim an us that haes aw the graith.
It's they and we who have all the equipment
You anes says that ilka day.
You lot say that every day.
Us auld fowk kens that fine.
We old people know that well.
Thaim that daes thair hamewark gets sweeties efter.
Those who do their homework receive sweets afterwards.
Where the subject of the verb includes two pronouns.
Me an you kens that fine.
You and I know that well.
Thaim an us gangs thegither.
Us and them go together.
Him an her gies nae grief.
He and she don't cause trouble.
Me an her daes bonnie pentins.
She and I do nice paintings.
Thaim an him haes braw motors.
He and they have nice cars.
Where the subject is a plural noun.
Fowk that haes sair feet canna daunder.
People who have sore feet can't go for walks.
Ma brakes haes went.
My brakes have gone.
Fowk that comes unbiddensits unserred.
People who come uninvited sit unserved.
Whan the kye comes hame.
When the cows come home.
Auld men dees, an bairns suin forgets.
Old men die, and children soon forget.
Weemen kens that fine.
Women know that very well.
As the days lenthens the cauld strenthens.
As the days get longer the cold gets stronger.
Bairns that dis guid gangs tae heiven.
Children who do good go to heaven.
Where the plural pronoun is separated from the verb by some other word or words.
Us twa whiles gangs thare.
We two sometimes go there.
Us three whiles haes pizza.
We three sometimes have pizza.
You anes says whit you means.
You lot say what you mean.
You anes aye dis that on a Seturday.
You lot always do that on a Saturday.
Some fowk frae Jethart thinks he's richt, but ithers frae here mainteens the contrair.
Some people from Jedburgh thinks he's right, but others from here maintain the opposite.
In the narrative resent the verb sometimes takes the ending s, even in the first person singular and after a single personal pronoun.
A niver sees him nou.
I never see him now.
An in we comes.
And in we came.
Cut that oot the nou A says.
Stop that now I said.
A says no tae come the morn.
I said not to come tomorrow.
The past tense and past participle
Some verbs may have both weak and strong forms (see below).
Weak verbs that end with b, d, g, k, p and t usually form the past tense and the past participle by adding it including verbs with a final silent e, which is dropped. Some weak verbs also have strong forms (see below).
* In Mid Northern Scots note is used for the past tense and note(n) for the past participle of need.
Note that want and need are regularly followed by a past participle.
The bairn wants taen hame at fower oors.
The child would like to be be taken home at four o' clock.
Ma caur needs washt.
My car needs to be washed.
In Scots, besides 'to wish, to desire', want also has the meaning 'to be in need', 'to be lacking', 'to do without' or 'to go without'.
A didna want the will, but A wantit the means.
I didn't lack the will, but I lacked the means.
Sae lang's fowk's born barefit, the souter winna want a job.
As long as people are born barefoot, the cobbler won't lack a job.
That chield wants a penny o the shillin.
That fellow is a penny short of a shilling (i.e. "backward").
Weak verbs that end with ch (/ç, x/), f, s (/s/), sh (/ʃ/), (t)ch (/ʧ/) and th (/θ/) usually form the past tense and the past participle by adding t. If a final silent e follows the above sounds 't may be added.
Weak verbs that end with l, m, n, ng or r usually form past tense and the past participle by adding t or (e)d, the latter especially in the south. If a final silent e follows the above sounds 't may be added.
In some weak verbs a double l is rendered single and final le after a consonant is changed to elt to form the past tense and past participle.
* The past perfect of daur when followed by a noun or complex verb phrase is daurd. Durst is only used in the sense of ventured.
Weak verbs that end with (d)ge (/ʤ/), th(e) (/ð/), v(e) (/v/) and se or z(e) (/z/) usually form the past tense and the past participle by adding (e)d.
* Note the difference between the verb uise (use) and the noun uiss (use).
Uised wi means 'used to' in the sense of being in the habit of or familiar with. Uised tae (Central [ˈjɪste:], Northern [ˈistiː]) means 'used to' in the habitual sense.
Some weak verbs have assimilated the t or d past tense and the past participle and/or changed the vowel or undergone metathesis.
Some weak verbs distinguish the vowel in the past tenses and have final cht (/xt/).
caucht, catcht, cotch
caucht, catcht, cotcht(en)
to be able to
* Note the difference between the verb wirk (work) and the noun wark (work), but wirker (worker).
Some Verbs of Latin origin traditionally have no inflection in the past participle.
Weak verbs that end with a vowel usually form the past tense and the past participle by adding (e)d, except after final <ee> which add 'd.
* The alternative gang [gaŋ], [gjaŋ] or [gɪŋ] in Mid Northern Scots or gan [gan, gɑn] in Central and Southern Scots may be used in place of gae.
Some dialects with an unstressed pronunciation of the final ae, ie or y of weak verbs also form the past tense and the past participle by adding it.
Strong verbs usually form their past tenses by a change of vowel and in past participle usually add (e)n.
* Also dreeve in North Eastern varieties and past participle dri'en.
riven, ri'en, rived
chosen, chuisen, chuised
focht, feucht, fechtit
fochten, feuchten, fechtit
* Also choise in Southern varieties or chyse in Northern varieties, inflecting choised and chysed.
wand, windit, wint
barst, burstit/ brast
swutten, swatten, sweitit
wutten, wat(tit), weetit
* The verb see is used colloquially to indicate a desire to be handed something.
See's ower thon jurnal.
Pass me that magazine over.
Coud ye see's the teapat?
Could you pass me the teapot?
pit(ten), pat, putten
quitten, quat, quutten
sitten, sat(ten), sutten
spat, sput, spittit
spittit, spitten, sputten,
stickit, sticken, stucken
fuishen, fesht, feshen
huiden, hauden, haudit
* The prevalent forms are held and hauden, huid occurs in North Northern and Insular dialects, huild in Mid Northern dialects and some Insular dialects.
sheuken, shakken, shakkit
teuken, takken, taen
leuchen, lauchen, laucht*
* The prevalent forms are bakit, baken and laucht.
In simple sentences Scots prefers
the word order Subject - verb - adverb - (adjective)
He sneckit aff the licht.
He switched the light off.
She hingit oot the washin.
She hung the washing out.
The wirkers heezed up the wechty stanes.
The workers hoisted the heavy stones up.
Standard English prefers Subject - verb - (adjective) object - adverb.
In middle Scots the present participle (referring to an action that is roughly contemporaneous ) was formed by adding and to the verb. By the twentieth century the pronunciation had become indistinguishable from that of the verbal noun in most dialects. During the Scots revival some Scots writers started to revive the older form spelling the present participle an. In line with modern pronunciation the form in is used here.
In words like bide, side, ride and hate the final e is dropped when forming the present participle. Where the verb ends with ie the ie changes to y.
He cam beirin praisents.
He came bearing presents.
He wis bidin ootby.
He was staying outside.
The man wantin a leg isna at the fishin.
The man missing a leg isn't a fisherman.
She wis beatin the dug.
She was beating the dog.
He's aye cairyin on lik a daft fuil body.
He's always behaving like a stupid fool person.
The dug wis couryin doun whan the thunner clappit.
The dog was cowering when the thunder clapped.
The regular present participle of gae is gaein and of gang, gangin, however, the irregular present participle gaun is the most prevalent form.
A'm gaun hame; thare's nocht tae dae.
I'm going home; there is nothing to do.
Scots often uses the continuous tense with stative verbs where Standard English would have a simple tense.
A'm thinkin means much the same as 'I imagine' in Standard English.
A'm doutin expresses the sense of 'I suspect' or 'to anticipate something undesired'.
A'm thinkin we wad been telt tae gang
I imagine we would have been told to leave.
We warna wantin tae big a new hoose.
We didn't want to build a new house.
He wis hatin haein tae wirk on the Saubath.
He hated having to work on Sunday.
He's no liftin a wird, ye say.
He doesn't understand a word, you say.
A'm doutin that thare will be wittins anent the mishanter.
I suspect that there will be news about the accident.
He wisna likin it an the lassie he wis wi wisna likin it.
He didn't like it and the girl he was with didn't like it.
Ye're no intendin tae appen thon bottle o wine the nicht, are ye?
You don't intend to open that bottle of wine tonight, do you?
This also occurs with other tenses and verbs.
A'll pit ma buits on the morn an be rinnin ower the muir.
I'll put my boots on tomorrow and run over the moor.
Ye wad get a sair fricht, gin he wis comin alive again.
You would get a terrible fright if he came back to life.
Scots prefers the use of present participle to the infinitive.
Thay aye conteenas wirkin till the whistle blaws.
They always continue to work until the whistle blows.
He stairtit speakin til his feres.
He started to speak to his comrades.
It wis glaikit lea'in the dug in the hoose its lane.
It was thoughtless to leave the dog in the house on its own.
Ettle at eatin less gin ye're ower wechty.
Try to eat less if you're overweight.
In a few words the older past participle survives in various forms such as appearant, awnd, though now usually awin, farrant and willint now often willin.
He wis aye willint tae dae't.
He was always willing to do it.
The lamms willintly gaed til the slauchter.
The lambs willingly went to the slaughter.
Single syllable verbs used to be negated by affixing na.
A seena why.
I don't see why.
He kensna whaur she is.
He doesn't know where she is.
She camna hame.
She didn't come home.
He'll carena a tait.
He won't care a bit.
These are now usually replaced by modal verb forms or no.
A dinna see why.
I don't care a bit.
He disna ken whaur she is.
He doesn't know where she is.
She didna come hame.
She didn't come home.
He'll no care a tait.
He won't care a bit.
The usual negative with past tense verbs is niver.
A naurhaund coft the haliday, but A coudna gang till the hint-end o Augist sae A niver coft it.
I nearly bought the holiday, but I couldn't go until the end of August so I didn't buy it.
A niver gotten stairtit till nine.
I didn't get started until nine.
A will niver iver dae drogs.
I will at no time take drugs.
Negative or unpleasant attributes may be indicated by the prefix mis.
That wickit man mislippens his bairns.
That wicked man neglects his children.
A misdout wir lads'll win the gemm.
I doubt our boys will win the game.
The mediciner miskent the seemptoms.
The physician mistook the symptoms.
The penter wis sair mistrystit wi the onding.
The painter was extremely dismayed by the downpour.
Interrogative sentences (questions) may begin with a verb instead of an auxiliary.
Think ye sae?
Do you think so?
Cam ye by Athol?
Did you come past Athol?