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Subject: Alternative Verb Conjugations
Question: I am looking for examples of two alternative sets of verb
conjugations for the same tense, aspect, or mood that co-exist in
a language.

As an example, modern Spanish has two distinct conjugations for
the imperfect subjunctive. The older conjugation ends in -se and
comes from Latin's pluperfect subjunctive. The newer conjugation
ends in -ra and comes from Latin's pluperfect indicative. The -ra
set is more popular in the spoken language but -se is still used
in written Spanish, and I have occasionally heard it spoken.
There are some minor differences in usage but when it comes to
the primary functions of the imperfect subjunctive, -se and -ra
are interchangeable.

Do you know of other examples?

Judy Hochberg, Fordham University

Reply: It's not uncommon for languages to have parallel inflection between dialects or

Although the Spanish imperfect subjunctive forms are taught as being identical, your
comment that the -ra form is more current suggests that the -se form is being
phased out for whatever reason. The meaning is the same, but the register is
different with -se being considered more literary ("old fashioned"? archaic? formal?)
than the -ra form.

Other examples of this kind of phenomenon include the French simple past (passé
simple), which corresponds to the Spanish preterite, becoming a written tense only.
It is being replaced by the "passé composé" (similar to present perfect in other
languages). Both mean roughly the same thing, but the passé composé is definitely
more modern. However, French students still had to learn the passe simplé to read
older texts/newspapers - newspapers were still using the passé simple in the late

English also has future tense "will" and "shall". In the U.S., "will" is much more used
than "shall" which is generally considered more "British" or more old-fashioned.
Americans can use and understand "shall", but it may not be the same as using

A particularly interesting case is Connemara Irish (now the basis of "Standard Irish")
vs Munster Irish. Munster Irish preserves a lot of verbal endings lost in other

Finally, I should add that South American Spanish verbs are being restructured
depending if the pronoun "vos" is being used or not.

Hope this is helpful.
Reply From: Elizabeth J Pyatt      click here to access email
Date: 10-Jun-2013
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Alternative Verb Conjugations    Herbert Frederic Stahlke     (10-Jun-2013)
  2. Re: Alternative Verb Conjugations    Henrik Joergensen     (10-Jun-2013)
  3. Re: Alternative Verb Conjugations    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (10-Jun-2013)
  4. Re: Alternative Verb Conjugations    James L Fidelholtz     (10-Jun-2013)

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