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Sambahsa conjugation in English

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on July 15, 2010 at 1:51:55 pm

3 -Sambahsa conjugation


Sambahsa, like many other languages, has two basic tenses : present and past (or « preterit »). All other tenses are derived from these two.

Its conjugation includes two numbers (singular and plural) and three persons in each, like English.

Unlike many other languages where each verb is called by its infinitive (ex: English to love, French aimer, Russian ljubitj), Sambahsa verbs are indicated by their stem. In this case : lieubh, while the “true” infinitive is liubhes.

From the verbal stem, you can deduce the whole conjugation, except for the three irregular verbs ses, habe & woide.


In Sambahsa, the conjugation is marked by the use of endings (i.e. suffixes added to the verbal stem) and/or modification of the verbal stem itself.


In English, the subject of a verb is always indicated.


I love you

Paul likes cats.


If we wrote just *love you, this sentence would have a different meaning. *Likes cats would not be correct, though we may conjecture that “like” is in the 3rd person singular of the present, since “s” is the ending of this person. Sambahsa functions as in this latter case; i.e. the personal pronoun is used only if necessary to avoid confusion or in order to stress the action. As the second person plural of the present tense sounds like the third person singular of the same tense, the corresponding pronoun “yu” = “you” is nearly always employed.


Example :

Lieubho te = I love you

Ego lieubho te = I do love you


Personal pronouns will be explained in the section on declension. As a reminder, their nominative (i.e. subject) forms are indicated in the table below


1st person singular

Io (Stressed form : Ego)

                             2nd person singular


3rd person singular

Is (male); ia (female), id (thing), el (undetermined)

1st person plural


2nd person plural


3rd person plural

Ies (male); ias (female), ia (thing), i (undetermined)


Conjugated forms will be always indicated in this order.

“Yu” can apply to a group of persons or to a single person as a sign of formal respect. “Tu” (cf. archaic English “thou”) is used only to address close relatives or friends and children, as, for example, in French, Russian or Farsi.


Before endings that begin in “s” or “t”, the final b, k, or g of verbal stems turns respectively to p, c, c. In the same conditions verbal stems ending in ehv, euv, eiv, turn to ehf, euf, eif.




Scrib = scrips, script  (think of the English words “descriBe”, “descriPtion”

Dreiv = dreifs, dreift  (think of the English words “driVe”, “driFt”)


Endings in “s” or “t” may disappear if the verbal stem already ends with the same letter.




Tu deurs (deurs + s) = you dare, thou darest

Is skehpt (klehpt + t) = he waits



3 – 1 Present tense and derived tenses


All regular Sambahsa verbs bear endings in the present tense. The rule is that the stress must always fall at the same place in all persons of the present tense (otherwise, this can’t be a verbal stem). There are small variations within the endings below, so that they can apply to a lot of stress patterns.


The endings of the present tense can be summarized this way:


1st person singular

-m after a vowel sound alone or followed by [y] / -o / nothing if the former cases can’t apply

2nd person singular


3rd person singular


1st person plural


2nd person plural


3rd person plural

-(e)nt, -e



Those endings are suffixed to the verbal stem to get the present tense conjugation (if necessary with the tiny modifications listed above, ex: g + t = ct, etc.).


However, there is a notable category of verbal stems in Sambahsa which require some alteration before being added the present endings. These are stems with a “nasal infix”. Such forms have an unstressed “e” as their last vowel, between consonants, and at least one of those consonants must be “n” or “m”. This “n” or “m” is called the “nasal infix”.



Linekw [lInëkw] = “to leave”

Pressem [prEsëm] = “to press”

Scinesd [sInësd] = “to split”

Annem [Anëm] = “to breathe”

Pregen [prEdjën] = “to imprint”


In the present tense (and in all derived tenses), those verbs lose their unstressed “e” wherever possible. If “s” or “ss”, after the deletion of “e”, finds itself between two consonants, it gets deleted too.

Therefore, we get:


Linkwo, linkws, linkwt, linkwm(o)s,yu linkwte, linkwnt [lInkunt]

Premo, prems, premt, premmos, yu premte, preme(nt)

Scindo, scinds, scindt, scindmos, yu scindte, scinde(nt)

Annmo, annems, annemt, annmmos, yu annemt, annment

(Here, *annmt and *annms would be unpronounceable).

Pregno [prEnyo], pregens [prEdjëns], pregent, pregnems [prEnyëms], yu pregent, pregne(nt)

(See the detailed explanation by R. Winter here: http://joyoflanguages.blogspot.com/2010/06/sambahsa-in-six-minutes-1-nasal-infixes.html )


With all verbs in the present tense (whether with nasal infix or not), an “e” can be put between the stem and the ending if there is no other way to make it pronounceable. Such a case often occurs after “-gn” [ny]. See the case of pregnems above, or the present conjugation of the verb storgn [storny]  “to stun”.


Storgno, storgnes, storgnet, storgnems, yu storgnet, storgne(nt).



Other verbs do not present particular difficulties.


Verbs ending with a stressed vowel sound alone or followed just by “y” conjugate this way:


“Dah–” (to give): dahm, dahs, daht, dahm(o)s, yu dahte, dahnt

“Bay–” (to fear): baym, bays, bayt, baym(o)s, yu bayte, baynt


Verbs ending with an unstressed “e” often correspond to English verbs ending in “-ate”; ex: “celebre” [cëlEbrë] = “to celebrate”


They conjugate this way:


“Entre–” (to enter) : io entre, entres, entret, entrems, yu entret, entre(nt)


Verbs whose last vowel is an unstressed « e » before a consonant (and with no nasal infix) tend to follow a similar pattern :


“Hinder” (to hinder) : io hinder, hinders, hindert, hinderms, yu hindert, hindernt


*hindere would be impossible because the stress would be altered: *[hindEr]



Verbs ending in a consonant after a stressed vowel represent the largest category.


“behr” (to carry, to bear) : behro, behrs, behrt, behrm(o)s, yu behrte, behrnt

“kwehk” (to seem) : kwehko, kwehcs, kwehct, kwehkmos, yu kwehcte, kwehke(nt)



The verbs “ses” and “habe” have irregular present conjugations:


“ses” (to be) : som, es, est, smos, ste, sont

“habe” (to have) : ho, has, hat, hams/habmos, habte, ha(be)nt



3-1-1 Infinitive:


Verbs ending in unstressed “e” do not change: “entre” = “to enter”.


Verbs with a nasal infix lose their unstressed “e” and add “-es”.

Likewise, verbal stems in “ei” or “eu” turn respectively to “i” and “u” and add “-es”.



Linekw = linkwes [lInkwës] (to leave)

Reik = rikes [riks] (to return to)

Pleuk = plukes [plüks] (to fly)


Other verbs add a final “-e” if it does not alter the accentuation; otherwise, nothing is added.




Sprehg [spre:g] = sprehge [spre:dj] (to ask to)

Hinder = hinder (to hinder)



The infinitive, in Sambahsa phrases, is used with the same prepositions as with substantives. The only difference is that infinitives have no articles (the, a) and cannot take endings.


Compare:      Tehrbo tod auto = “I need this car”

 And:              Tehrbo kaupe tod auto = “I need to buy this car”



3-1-2 Present active participle:


The ending is –(e)nd. –(e)nt is possible too, but seldom used, in order to avoid  confusions with the ending of the third person plural of the present tense.


Thus:   gwehm- = “come”;  gwehmend  = “coming”.


The gerund is made by adding the adverb ending “-ye” (with hyphen !).


Gwehmend-ye  = “while coming”


As in English, a periphrastic tense can be gotten by using the conjugated verb “ses” + the present active participle.


Som gwehmend = “I am coming”



3-1-3 Past active participle and infinitive:


This construction corresponds to the English use of “having” + past participle.


To get it, one has simply to add “-us” or “-vs” (following the phonetic possibilities) to the verbal stem.



“peit’ = “try” ;  “peitus” = “having tried”

“crehsce” [kre:s] = “grow” ; “crehscus” [krE:skus] = “having grown”

“ghyah” = “to become open” ; “ghyahvs” [gya:vz] = “having become open”



3-1-4 Imperative:


The imperative of the 2nd person singular corresponds to the bare verbal stem, with or without a final “e”.


Example:    Linekw ! [lInëkw] or Linkwe ! [linkw]  = “leave !”

“Be !” is irregular : sdi !


For the 2nd person plural, this is the same form as the present tense (without the personal pronoun you).


Linkwte ! [lInkut] = “leave ye !”


For the 1st person plural, the Sambahsa equivalent of English “let’s” is “smad”, before the infinitive.


Smad linkwes ! = “let’s leave !”


3-1-5 Future :


There are two possible future forms in Sambahsa.


For the first one, you take the verb in the 2nd person singular of the present tense, and add to it “-ie” + the conjugational endings.


Example :

Permitt = “permit, allow”

Permitts = “you permit” 


Then, its future conjugation is permittsiem, permittsies, permittsiet, permittsiem(o)s, yu permittsiete, permittsient


“Ses” has sessiem, sessies, sessiet, sessiem(o)s, yu sessiete, sessient

« Have » has habsiem, habsies, habsiet, habsiem(o)s, yu habsiete, habsient


The other form is analytic; the auxiliary “sie–” (“will”) is used with the infinitive.

It is conjugated like above: siem, sies, siet, siem(o)s, siete, sient


Sient antwehrde = “They will answer”

Siem vide = “I will see”


Sambahsa even has  a negative future auxiliary “nie–” much like English “won’t”.



Yu niete antwehrde = “You won’t answer”

Niem ghehde = “I won’t be able”



3-1-6 Conditional :


This tense corresponds to the use of “would” in English, and sometimes of the past tense, when expressing a possibility, a condition.


In Sambahsa, it is made by suffixing “ie” to the verbal stem + the present endings.


Example : “kwehk” = “seem”; then “would seem” = kwehkiem, kwehkies, kwehkiet, kwehkiem(o)s, yu kwehkiete, kwehkient


Verbal stems which already end in “-ie” replace it with “icie”.


Example: “publie” = “publish”;  “would publish” = publiciem, publicies, publiciet, publiciem(o)s, yu publiciete, publicient [publitsyEnt]


“Ses” has esiem, esies, esiet, esiem(o)s, yu esiete, esient.



3-1-7 The near future:


This corresponds to English  “to be about to” + verb. In Sambahsa, we use the auxiliary “vah–” + present endings before the infinitive.


Example: “to be about to open” is conjugated this way:


Vahm ghyane, vahs ghyane, vaht ghyane, vahm(o)s ghyane, yu vahte ghyane, vahnt ghyane.





3-2 Past tense and derived tenses


There are special endings for the past tense. Moreover, the verb stem often undergoes some alteration. If the stem undergoes such a modification, then the use of the endings is optional.


1st person singular


                             2nd person singular


3rd person singular


1st person plural


2nd person plural


3rd person plural

-eer (-r if the verb ends in a stressed vowel sound).


Between the verbal stem and those endings, an “s”, called the “sigmatic aorist”, may be used. Its use is not compulsory; nevertheless, it is recommended if the stem ends in a vowel sound and the ending begins likewise with a vowel.


Example:  “ghyah” (to become open) + it = (preferably)  “ghyahsit” [gyA:sit]


Otherwise, its use may follow Indo-European examples. For example, these two verbs behave like their Latin equivalents: 


“scrib” (to write): scripsim, scripst(a), scripsit, scripsam, scripsat, scripseer (but “scribim”, etc., are possible).

“duc” (to lead): duxim, ducst(a), duxit, duxam, duxat, duxeer [düksEër] (but “ducim”, etc., are possible too).



To predict the possible alteration of the stem, proceed in this order:


1°) Verbs ending with unstressed “e”.

The “e” disappears, and the use of the endings is compulsory


Example: “entre” (to enter): entrim, entrist, entrit, entram, entrat, entreer


Verbs ending in « ie » turn it to « ic ».


Exemple: “publie” (to publish) : publicim, publicist, publicit, publi(c)am, publi(c)at, publi(ce)er


2°) Verbs with « nasal infix ».


The stem loses both the unstressed « e » and the nasal infix.



“linekw” (leave)  = “likw” (left)

“pressem” (press) = “press” (pressed)

“annem” (breathe) = “ann” (breathed)


Moreover, the “Von Wahl rules” (see below) apply when it is possible:


“scinesd” (split; present tense: scindo)  = sciss (split)


This appears indeed in the Romance languages, where the verbal stem is “scind-”, but the stem for derived words is “sciss–” (ex: “scission”)


The use of the past tense endings is here optional.


3°) Verbs whose stressed vowel is “ehC”, “ei” or “eu” undergo an “ablaut”, i.e., those vowels turn respectively to “ohC”, “i” and “u”.



Ghehd (to be able) = ghohd

Peit (to try) = pit

Pleuk (to fly) = pluk


4°) Verbs whose stressed vowel is “aC”, “au” or “ay”, can undergo an ablaut and turn respectively to “ieC”, “ieu” and “iey”. Nevertheless, this ablaut is optional.



“ghyan” (to open) = “ghyien” [gyen]

“sayg” (to say) = “sieyg”

“aur” (to hear) = “ieur” [yör]


5°) Other verbs can be follow the “Von Wahl rules”, which can change their final consonants.


Verbal stem final consonants

Past tense final consonants















“decid” (decide) = “decis”

“permitt” (permit) = “permiss”

“curr” (run) = “curs”

“ volg” (turn round) = “vols”

“connect” = “connex”


Indeed, this phenomenon appears (irregularly) in English: “decide” but “decision”, “permit” but “permission”...


6°) The remaining verbs have the same stem in the present and the past tenses and must therefore bear the past endings.


An important category among them is the verbs ending with a stressed vowel sound.


Ex: “gwah–” (to go to) [notice the use of the sigmatic aorist in certain persons:

Gwahsim, gwahst(a), gwahsit, gwahsam, gwahsat, gwahr



Irregular verbs:


“Habe” has “hieb” as a past form, either with or without endings.


There is a third irregular verb in Sambahsa: “woide” (to know a certain fact, a certain thing; cf. French “savoir”, Spanish “saber”, German “wissen”).

It has the particularity of being conjugated in the present tense as in the past tense.


Thus, I know, you know, etc., is woidim, woidst(a), woidit, woidam, woidat, woideer.

Or, with the personal pronouns and without the endings, io woid, tu woid, etc.

The future is woidsiem, woidsies, etc., the conditional, woidiem, woidies, etc.

The past tense form is wois (by application of the Von Wahl rules), with or without the endings.


The verb “ses” has two different past tenses. The first one, the “imperfect”, refers to a lasting situation (cf “was being”, “used to be”):

Eem, ees, eet, eem(o)s, yu eete, eent  [Eëm, Eës, Eët...]


The other one, the “simple past”, refers to a single event:

Buim, buist(a), buit, buam, buat, buir.


Example: Eem in in id garden quando buim hihn ab id keraun = “I was (being) in the garden when I was hit by the thunderbolt”.



3-2-1 The passive participle:


Modern Sambahsa uses only the (former past) passive participle. A “present” passive participle can still be found in compounds. It consists of “-men” suffixed to the (present) verbal stem, if it is compatible with the accentuation.


Examples : “almen” = “pupil” (cf. “alumnus” = “who is bred up”; “al-“ = “to put upright, to breed up”


“deimen” = “(milk) nurse” (cf. Latin “femina” = “woman”; from “deih” = “to suck at”)


Nowadays, the (former past) passive participle is used everywhere. It consists of either “-t” or “-(e)n” suffixed to the verbal stem, sometimes with modifications. “-t” and “-en” have no difference in meaning.


The modifications are


a)     For verbs in “ehV”, “ei” and “eu” which undergo ablaut (as the irregular verbs in English)



“peit” (to try) = pit/piten (tried)

“kwehr” (to do) = kwohrt/kwohrn (done)

“neud” (to use) = nudt/nuden (used)


On the contrary, verbs in “a”, “ay”, “au” have no ablaut:


“nak” (to reach) = nact/naken (reached)

“aur” (to heard) = aurt/aur(e)n (heard)

“sayg” (to say) = sayct/saygen (said)


b)     The “-t” forms of the verbs subjected to the “Von Wahl rules” are the same as their past forms.



“decid” (to decide) = decis/deciden

“permitt” (to permit) = permiss/permitten

“connect” (to connect) = connex/connecten


c)      When there is no ablaut, verbal stems ending in “v” undergo modifications for their “-t” forms.


Verbs in “-uv” and “-ov” lose their final “v” and put “t” instead.


Example : “mov” (to move) = mot/moven


For other verbs, the “v” turns to “w”.


Example : “resolv” (to resolve) = resolwt [rëzOlut]/resolven


These forms may seem difficult to remember; in fact, just think at the English forms “move” and “motion”, “resolve” and “resolution”.


d)     Verbs with a nasal infix lose this infix and the unstressed “e”, and can be subjected to the “Von Wahl rules” above.


Examples :


“posen” (to lay down) = post/posen

“suppressem” (to suppress) = suppresst/suppressen

“pineg” (to paint) = pict/pigen

“confuned” (to confuse) = confus/confuden

“scinesd” (to split) = sciss/scisden

“annem” (to breathe) = annt/annen

“pregen” (to imprint) = prect/pregen


Irregular verbs:


“ses” = est/esen

“habe” = habt/haben

« woide » = wois/woiden



3-2-2 Use of the passive participle :


As in English, a “composed past” can be made with the verb “habe” + the past participle.


There is a difference with the English “present perfect”.


The Sambahsa “composed past” refers only to actions that took place in the past (even if their effects still last in the present time), and not to actions that have continued until presently. Otherwise the present tense is used.




Ho myohrst mien cleicha in mien auto = “I have forgotten my keys in my car”

(action took place in the past, but its consequences are still going on)


Smos prients pon nies miegve = « We have been friends since our childhood »

(*hams est prients pon nies miegve may imply that we are not friends anymore).



The other function of the passive participle is, as its name implies, the construction of passive sentences.


The more frequent way of forming the passive uses the verb “ses”, but, if the action is still going on, the verb “bih” (to become) is preferable. Sambahsa “ab” = “by”


Compare :

Id dwer est ghyant, ia fensters sont brohct : « The door is open(ed), the windows are broken »



El mus biht praess ab el cat : “The mouse is being eaten by the cat”.


Another possibility is to the active form with the reflexive pronoun “se”.


Tod buk se suapehrnt / Tod buk suapehrnt-se = “This book sells good”



3-3 Verbal affixes:


Sambahsa uses many optional verbal prefixes (though they did not exist in IE) in order to avoid heavy sequences of infinitives. Hyphens can be used to avoid the formation of new diphtongs or triphtongs.


Bi- : to begin to (“inchoative”)


Example : Id luce biattract insects : “The light begins to attract insects”


Na- = to keep on -ing(“continuative”)


Example : Is nieudh urgent-ye namove : “He needed urgently to keep moving”.


Re- = re- (the same as in English)


Vi = corresponds to the English adverb “finally”


Example : Is viemers ex id wed : “He finally emerged out of the water”


Za- = to stop doing

Example : Ibs sclavs buit permitten za-ermes : “The slaves were allowed to stop rowing”.

The following prefixes are special because they change the tense of the verb:

ee- : before a verb at the present, corresponds to English “used to”. This prefix, which already existed in IE, is called “augment”.


Example : Hermann ee(-)gwaht id scol siens urb : “Hermann used to go to the school of his town”.


Sa(l)- : to be about to + verb

Sa(l) is always written with the hyphen, as is often the case with ee-

Example : Is wir sa-khierk = “The man was about to drown”

Here are two widespread verbal suffixes, which already existed in Indo-European:

-skw : “desiderative”, has a general meaning of “to intend to do”, “to like to”; this is a shortened form of eiskw.

 It can be suffixed to verbs if it does not alter the place of the stressed syllable.


Example: Ies nauts gwahskweer id maykhana = “The sailors wanted to go to the inn”.


-eih: “factitive”.

 Examples: Is kaupt tod wogh = He buys this car. Kaupeihm iom tod wogh = I make him buy this car.

Note that it triggers a double accusative. Verbs ending in –ie turn to –iceih. Stems in ei turn it to i for euphonics.

 Not all the verbs ending in –eih are factitive (ex: credeih = to believe; vergeih = to avoid). Otherwise, one can use the English system with “to make” (kwehre) or “to have” (habe).


 –eih can be suffixed to adjectives; ex: rudh = “red”, rudheih = “ to make red”



3-4 Some literary verbal forms:


Due to its Indo-European heritage, Sambahsa has some verbal forms only encountered in literary usage.



The optional endings of the present indicative:


If these are compatible with the accentuation, verbs can bear these endings in the present indicative:

1° person singular: -mi

2° person singular : -si

3° person singular : -ti

3° person plural : -nti.


The corresponding forms for « ses » are : esmi, essi, esti, sonti.

The other conditions for the use of these forms are that the verb stands in absolute initial position in the clause, and that this clause contains no adverb. Those conditions are seldom fulfilled.



Old forms of imperative :


In the 2° person singular of the imperative, an option can be to suffix “-di” to the verbal stem at the “zero-grade”, i.e. verbs in “eu” and “ei” turn them to “u” or “i”, and verbs with nasal infix lose their unstressed “e”.



“kludi !” = “listen !” instead “kleu(e) !”

“ihdi !” = “go !” instead “eih(e) !”


An imperative of the 3° persons is possible by suffixing “-u” to the conjugated verb, if this does not alter the accentuation.


Examples :

Is maurdher nehct : “The murderer perishes” / Is maurdher nehctu ! : “Let the murderer perish !”

I slougs behrnt gwaur bermens : “The servants carry heavy burdens” / I slougs behrntu gwaur bermens ! : “Let the servants carry heavy burdens !”


Otherwise, it’s possible to use the verbal stem conjugated with “-e” as sole ending, and with a subject in the sentence.


Gwive is roy ! : Long live the king !



Subjunctive mood:


In clauses expressing a wish, a hope, the subjunctive mood can be used. However, it only exists in the singular.

1° & 3° person singular : -a

2° person singular : -as


This ending can be used as a “negative imperative” with the prohibitive adverb mae.


Example : Mae klehptas ! [may klE:ptas] = “Don’t steal !” or “Thou shalt not steal !”


Only “ses” has a full subjunctive conjugation: sia, sias, sia, siam(o)s, siate, siant.



The future active participle:


It is marked by the ending “tur”. To form it,


-          Add “-ur” to the passive participle in “t” of verbs which use the “Von Wahl rules”, or which end with “v”


Example : cedd = cessur “going to yield”

Emov = emotur  “going to emove”


-          Add “-ur” to the 3rd person singular of the present.


Example : baht = bahtur “going to speak”


The future active participle of “ses” is butur.



The old infinitive formations :


Two old infinitive formations are possible, on the same base as the future active participle below (i.e. use of the passive participle in “t” or of the 3rd person singular of the present) if this does not alter the accentuation.


The first formation ends in –(t)um and expresses an idea of purpose (in order to).



Abgwahsit pinctum in id widu : “He goes off to paint in the timberland”

Gwehmo essum con vos : “I come to eat with you”


Or, it can correspond to the English formations in –ing, used as a gerund:


Example :  Deictum exact reuls sienims almens : “Showing exact rules to one’s pupils”


The other formation ends in –tu and can be translated as “to be  -ed”. It often comes after adjectives of quality.


Example : Un garden amat spehctu : « A garden (that is) pleasant to be looked at »


Sometimes, it appears as an adjective of obligation.


Example : Ia kwehrtu opsa : “The tasks to be done”



The durative :


There is a durative suffix –neu that corresponds in general to the use of the English present perfect progressive with “since” or “for”.


Example : Stahneum her pon trigim minutes : “I’ve been standing here for thirty minutes”


Its past is made with the augment ee(-)


Example : Eeghangneut apter iom pon Orléans : “He had been walking behind him since Orleans”.



The perfect :


A perfect tense (which often corresponds to the English present perfect) can be obtained by prefixing the first letter of the verbal stem followed by “e” to the verb conjugated in the past tense. Likewise, the past perfect uses the augment ee-.


Example : Lelikwst id vetus wastu = “Thou hast left the olde city” (from the verb linekw).











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