Old French

Old French
Old French
Spoken in northern France, parts of Belgium (Wallonia) and Switzerland, England, Ireland, Kingdom of Sicily, Principality of Antioch, Kingdom of Cyprus
Extinct evolved into Middle French by the 14th century
Language family
Language codes
ISO 639-2 fro
ISO 639-3 fro

Old French (franceis, françois, romanz; Modern French ancien français) was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories that span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from the 9th century to the 14th century. It was then known as the langue d'oïl (oïl language) to distinguish it from the langue d'oc (Occitan language, also then called Provençal), whose territory bordered that of Old French to the south. The Norman dialect was also spread to England, Ireland, the Kingdom of Sicily and the Principality of Antioch in the Levant.


Grammar and phonology

Roland pledges his bacon fealty to Charlemagne; from a manuscript of a chanson de geste

Historical influences


Gaulish, one of the survivors of the continental Celtic languages in Roman times, slowly became extinct during the long centuries of Roman dominion. Only several dozen words (perhaps 200) of Gaulish etymology survive in modern French, for example chêne, ‘oak tree’ and charrue ‘plough'; Delamarre (2003, pp. 389–90) lists 167. Due to the expansion of the Roman Empire, Latin began to be spoken more often, explaining the limited influence and longevity of Gaulish.[citation needed]


Old French began when the Roman Empire conquered Gaul during the campaigns of Julius Caesar, which were almost complete by 51 BC. The Romans introduced Latin to southern France by 120 BC when it came under Roman occupation.

Beginning with Plautus's time (254–184 BC), the phonological structure of classical Latin underwent change, which would eventually yield vulgar Latin, the common spoken language of the western Roman empire. This latter form differed strongly from its classical counterpart in phonology; it was the ancestor of the Romance languages, including Old French. Some Gaulish words influenced Vulgar Latin and, through this, other Romance languages. For example, classical Latin equus was replaced in common parlance by vulgar Latin caballus, derived from Gaulish caballos (Delamare 2003 p. 96), giving Modern French cheval, Catalan cavall, Occitan caval (chaval), Italian cavallo, Portuguese cavalo, Spanish caballo, Romanian cal, and (borrowed from Anglo-Norman) English cavalry and chivalry.


The Old Frankish language had a significant influence on the vocabulary, syntax, and the pronunciation of Old French after the conquest, by the Germanic tribe of the Franks, of the portions of Roman Gaul that are now France and Belgium during the Migration Period. The name français is derived from the name of this tribe. A number of other Germanic peoples, including the Burgundians and the Visigoths, were active in the territory at that time; the Germanic languages spoken by the Franks, Burgundians, and others were not written languages, and at this remove it is often difficult to identify from which specific Germanic source a given Germanic word in French is derived. Philologists such as Pope (1934) estimate that perhaps fifteen percent of the vocabulary of modern French derives from Germanic sources, including a large number of common words like haïr ‘to hate’, bateau ‘boat’, and hache ‘axe’. It has been suggested that the passé composé and other compound verbs used in French conjugation are also the result of Germanic influences.[citation needed]

Other Germanic words in Old French appeared as a result of Norman, i.e. Viking, settlements in Normandy during the 10th century. The settlers spoke Old Norse and their settlement was legitimised and made permanent in 911 under Rollo of Normandy.

Earliest written Old French

At the third Council of Tours in 813, priests were ordered to preach in the vernacular language (either Romance or Germanic), since the common people could no longer understand formal Latin.

The earliest documents said to be written in French after the Reichenau and Kassel glosses (8th and 9th centuries) are the Oaths of Strasbourg (treaties and charters into which King Charles the Bald entered in 842):

Pro Deo amur et pro Christian poblo et nostro commun salvament, d’ist di en avant, in quant Deus savir et podir me dunat, si salvarai eo cist meon fradre Karlo, et in aiudha et in cadhuna cosa... (For the love of God and for the Christian people, and our common salvation, from this day forward, as God will give me the knowledge and the power, I will defend my brother Charles with my help in everything...)

The second-oldest document in Old French is the Eulalia sequence, which is important for linguistic reconstruction of Old French pronunciation due to its consistent spelling.

The royal House of Capet, founded by Hugh Capet in 987, inaugurated the development of northern French culture in and around Ile-de-France, which slowly but firmly asserted its ascendency over the more southerly areas of Aquitaine and Tolosa (Toulouse). The Capetians' Langue d'oïl, the forerunner of modern standard French, did not begin to become the common speech of all of France, however, until after the French Revolution.


Old French was constantly changing and evolving. However, the form in the late 12th century, as attested in a great deal of mostly poetic writings, can be considered standard. The writing system at this time was more phonetic than that used in most subsequent centuries. In particular, all written consonants (including final ones) were pronounced, except for s preceding non-stop consonants and t in et, and final e was pronounced [ə]. The phonological system can be summarised as follows:[1]


Old French consonants
Bilabial Labio-
Velar Glottal
Nasal      m      n      ɲ
Plosive p   b t   d k   ɡ
Fricative f   v s   z (h)
Affricate ts   dz  
Lateral      l      ʎ
Trill r


  • The affricates /ts/, /dz/, /tʃ/, /dʒ/ became fricatives ([s], [z], [ʃ], [ʒ]) in Middle French. /ts/ was written as c, ç, -z, as in cent, chançon, priz ("a hundred, song, price"). /dz/ was written as -z-, as in doze "twelve".
  • /ʎ/ (l mouillé), as in conseil, travaillier ("advice, to work"), became /j/ in Modern French.
  • /ɲ/ appeared not only in the middle of a word, but also at the end, as in poing "hand". At the end of a word, /ɲ/ was later lost, leaving a nasalized vowel.
  • /h/ was found only in Germanic loanwords and was later lost. In native Latin words, /h/ was lost early on, as in om, uem, from Latin homō.


In Old French, the nasal vowels were not separate phonemes, but occurred as allophones of the oral vowels before a nasal consonant. This nasal consonant was fully pronounced; thus bon was pronounced /bõn/ (Modern French [bɔ̃]). Nasal vowels were present even in open syllables before nasals, where Modern French has oral vowels, as in bone /bõnə/ (Modern French bonne [bɔn]).


Old French vowels
  Front Central Back
Close oral i   y   u
nasal (ĩ)   (ỹ)  
Close-mid oral e ə  
nasal (ẽ) (õ)
Open-mid ɛ   ɔ
Open oral a    
nasal (ã)


  • /o/ had formerly existed, but closed to /u/; it would later appear again when /aw/ monophthongized, and also when /ɔ/ closed in certain positions (e.g. when followed by original /s/ or /z/, but not by /ts/, which later became /s/).

Diphthongs and triphthongs

Late Old French diphthongs and triphthongs
  IPA Example Meaning
f a l l i n g
Oral /aw/ chevaus horse
/oj/ toit roof
/ow/ coup blow
/ew/ ~ /øw/ neveu nephew
Nasal /ẽj/ plein full
/õj/ loing far
r i s i n g
Oral /je/ pié foot
/ɥi/ fruit fruit
/we/ ~ /wø/ cuer heart
Nasal /jẽ/ bien well
/ɥĩ/ juignet July
/wẽ/ cuens count (nom. sg.)
t r i p h t h o n g s
stress always falls on middle vowel
Oral /e̯aw/ beaus beautiful
/jew/ dieu god
/wew/ jueu Jew


  • In Early Old French (up to about the mid-12th century), the spelling ⟨ai⟩ represented a diphthong /aj/, instead of the later monophthong /ɛ/,[2] and ⟨ei⟩ represented the diphthong /ej/, which became /oj/ in Late Old French.
  • In Early Old French the diphthongs described above as "rising" may have been falling diphthongs (/ie̯/, /yj/, /ue̯/). In earlier works with vowel assonance, the diphthong written ⟨ie⟩ did not assonate with any pure vowels, suggesting that it cannot have simply been /je/.
  • The pronunciation of the vowels written ⟨ue⟩ and ⟨eu⟩ is debated. In very early Old French, they represented (and were written as) /uo/, /ou/, and by Middle French, they had both merged as /ø ~ œ/, but it is unclear what the transitional pronunciations were.



Old French maintained a two-case system, with a nominative case and an oblique case, for longer than did some other Romance languages (e.g. Spanish and Italian). Case distinctions, at least in the masculine gender, were marked on both the definite article and on the noun itself. Thus, the masculine noun li voisins, "the neighbour" (Latin vicínus /wiˈkiːnus/ > Proto-Romance */veˈtsinu(s)/ > OF voisins /vojˈzĩns/; Modern French le voisin) was declined as follows:

Latin Old French
Singular Nominative ille vicīnus li voisins
Oblique illum vicīnum le voisin
Plural Nominative illī vicīnī li voisin
Oblique illōs vicīnōs les voisins

In later Old French, these distinctions became moribund. As in most other Romance languages, it was the oblique case form that usually survived to become the modern French form: l'enfant (the child) represents the old oblique; the OF nominative was li enfes. But in some cases where there were significant differences between nominative and oblique forms, the nominative form survives, or sometimes both forms survive with different meanings:

  • Both li sire (nominative, Latin sénior) and le seigneur (oblique, Latin seniórem) survive in the vocabulary of later French as different ways to refer to a feudal lord.
  • Modern French sœur "sister" is the nominative form (OF suer < Latin nominative sóror); the OF oblique form seror (< Latin nominative sorórem), no longer survives.
  • Modern French prêtre "priest" is the nominative form (OF prestre < présbyter); the OF oblique form prevoire, later provoire (< presbýterem) survives only in the Paris street name Rue des Prouvaires.
  • Modern French indefinite pronoun on "one" continues OF nominative om "man" (< hómo); homme "man" continues the oblique form (OF ome < hóminem).

In a few cases where the only distinction between forms was the nominative -s ending, the -s was preserved in spelling to distinguish otherwise homonymous words. An example is fils "son" (< Latin nominative filius), spelled as such to distinguish it from fil "wire". In this case, a later spelling pronunciation has resulted in the modern pronunciation /fis/ (earlier /fi/).

As in Spanish and Italian, the neuter gender was eliminated, and old neuter nouns became masculine. Some Latin neuter plurals were re-analysed as feminine singulars, though; for example, Latin gaudiu(m) was more widely used in the plural form gaudia, which was taken for a singular in Vulgar Latin, and ultimately led to modern French la joie, "joy" (feminine singular).

Nouns were declined in the following declensions:

Class I (feminine) Class II (masculine)
Class I normal Class Ia Class I normal Class IIa
meaning "woman" "thing" "city" "neighbor" "servant" "father"
sg. nominative la fame la riens la citéz li voisins li sergenz li pere
oblique la rien la cité le voisin le sergent le pere
pl. nominative les fames les riens les citéz li voisin li sergent li pere
oblique les voisins les sergenz les peres
Class III (both)
Class IIIa Class IIIb Class IIIc Class IIId
meaning "singer" "baron" "nun" "sister" "child" "priest" "lord" "count"
sg. nominative li chantere li ber la none la suer li enfes li prestre li sire li cuens
oblique le chanteor le baron la nonain la seror l'enfant le prevoire le seigneur le conte
pl. nominative li chanteor li baron les nones les serors li enfant li prevoire li seigneur li conte
oblique les chanteors les barons les nonains les serors les enfanz les prevoires les seigneurs les contes

Class I is derived from the Latin first declension. Class Ia mostly comes from feminine third-declension nouns in Latin. Class II is derived from the Latin second declension. Class IIa generally stems from second-declension nouns ending in -er and from third-declension masculine nouns; note that in both cases, the Latin nominative singular did not end in -s, and this is preserved in Old French.

Those classes show various analogical developments, like -es from the accusative instead of (-e after a consonant cluster) in Class I nominative plural (Latin -ae), li pere instead of *li peres (Latin illi patres) in Class IIa nominative plural, modelled on Class II, etc.

Class III nouns show a separate form in the nominative singular that does not occur in any of the other forms. IIIa nouns ended in -átor, -atórem in Latin, and preserve the stress shift; IIIb nouns likewise had a stress shift from -o to ónem. IIIc nouns are an Old French creation and have no clear Latin antecedent. IIId nouns represent various other types of third-declension Latin nouns with stress shift or irregular masculine singular (sóror, sorórem; ínfans, infántem; présbyter, presbýterem; sénior, seniórem; cómes, cómitem).

Regular feminine forms of masculine nouns are formed by adding an 'e' to the masculine stem, apart from when the masculine stem already ends in e. For example bergier (shepherd) becomes bergiere (Modern French berger and bergère).


Adjectives agree in terms of number, gender and case with the noun they are qualifying. Thus a feminine plural noun in the nominative case requires any qualifying adjectives to be feminine, plural and in the nominative case. For example, in femes riches, riche has to be in the feminine plural form.

Adjectives can be divided into three declensional classes:[3]

Class I adjectives have a feminine singular form (nominative and oblique) ending in -e. This class can be further subdivided into two subclasses based on the masculine nominative singular form. Class Ia adjectives have a masculine nominative singular ending in -s:

E.g. bon "good" (< Latin bonus, > modern French bon)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular
Nominative bons bon bone bones bon
Oblique bon bons

For Class Ib adjectives, the masculine nominative singular ends in -e, like the feminine. This subclass contains descendants of Latin 2nd and 3rd declension adjectives ending in -er in the nominative singular.

E.g. aspre "harsh" (< Latin asper, > modern French âpre)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular
Nominative aspre aspre aspre aspres aspre
Oblique aspres

For Class II adjectives, the feminine singular is not marked by the ending -e.

E.g. granz "big, great" (< Latin grandis, > modern French grand)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular
Nominative granz grant granz/grant granz grant
Oblique grant granz grant

An important subgroup of Class II adjectives are the present participial forms in -ant.

Class III adjectives exhibit stem alternation resulting from stress shift in the Latin imparisyllabic declension, and a distinct neuter form:

E.g. mieudre "better" (< Latin melior, > modern French meilleur)
Masculine Feminine Neuter
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular
Nominative mieudre(s) meillor mieudre meillors mieuz
Oblique meillor meillors meillor


Verbs in Old French show the same extreme phonological deformations as other Old French words. Morphologically, however, Old French verbs are extremely conservative, preserving intact most of the Latin alternations and irregularities that had been inherited in Proto-Romance. Old French has much less analogical reformation than in Modern French, and significantly less than the oldest stages of other languages (e.g. Old Spanish), despite the fact that the various phonological developments in Gallo-Romance and Proto-French led to complex alternations in the majority of commonly-used verbs.

For example, the Old French verb laver "to wash" is conjugated je lef, tu leves, il leve in the present indicative and je lef, tu les, il let in the present subjunctive, in both cases regular phonological developments from Latin indicative lavō, lavās, lavat and subjunctive lavem, lavēs, lavet. This paradigm is typical in showing the phonologically regular but morphologically irregular alternations of most paradigms:

  • The alternation je lef ~ tu leves is a regular result of final devoicing, triggered by loss of final /o/ but not /a/.
  • The alternation laver ~ tu leves is a regular result of the diphthongization of stressed (but not unstressed) open syllable /a/ into /ae/ > /æ/ > /e/.
  • The alternation je lef ~ tu les ~ il let in the subjunctive is a regular result of the simplification of the final clusters /fs/,/ft/ resulting from loss of /e/ in final syllables.

Modern French, on the other hand, has je lave, tu laves, il lave in both indicative and subjunctive, reflecting significant analogical developments: analogical borrowing of unstressed vowel /a/; analogical -e in the first singular (from verbs like j'entre, where the -e is regular); and wholesale replacement of the subjunctive with forms modeled on -ir/-oir/-re verbs. All of these serve to eliminate the various alternations in the Old French verb paradigm. Even modern "irregular" verbs are not immune from analogy: For example, Old French je vif, tu vis, il vit (vivre "to live") has yielded to modern je vis, tu vis, il vit, eliminating the "unpredictable" -f in the first-person singular.

The simple past also shows extensive analogical reformation and simplification in Modern French as compared with Old French.

The Latin pluperfect was preserved in very early Old French as a past tense with a value similar to a preterite or imperfect. For example, the Sequence of Saint Eulalia (878 AD) has past-tense forms such as avret (< Latin habuerat), voldret (< Latin voluerat), alternating with past-tense forms from the Latin perfect (continued as the modern "simple past"). Old Occitan also preserved this tense, with a conditional value; Spanish still preserves this tense (the -ra imperfect subjunctive), as does Portuguese (in its original value as a pluperfect indicative).

Verb alternations

In Latin, stress was determined automatically by the number of syllables in a word and the weight (length) of those syllables. This resulted in certain automatic stress shifts between related forms in a paradigm, depending on the nature of the suffixes added. For example, in pen "I think", the first syllable was stressed, while in penmus "we think", the second syllable was stressed. In many Romance languages, vowels diphthongized in stressed syllables under certain circumstances, but not in unstressed syllables, resulting in alternations in verb paradigms: e.g. Spanish pienso "I think" vs. pensamos "we think" (pensar "to think"), or cuento "I tell" vs. contamos "we tell" (contar "to tell").

In the development of French, no fewer than five vowels diphthongized in stressed, open syllables. Combined with other stress-dependent developments, this yielded 15 or so types of alternations in so-called strong verbs in Old French. For example, /a/ diphthongized to /ai/ before nasal consonants in stressed, open syllables, but not in unstressed syllables, yielding aim "I love" (Latin a) but amons "we love" (Latin amus).

The different types are as follows:

Vowel alternations in Old French verbs
Vowel alternation Environment Example (-er conjugation) Example (other conjugation)
Stressed Unstressed Latin etymon 3rd singular
pres. ind.
Infinitive meaning Latin etymon 3rd singular
pres. ind.
/ Other Form
/e/ /a/ free /a/ lavāre leve laver "to wash" parere >
pert parir "to give birth"
/ãj̃/ /ã/ free /a/ + nasal amāre aime amer "to love" manēre maint manoir "to remain"
/je/ /e/ palatal + free /a/ *accapāre achieve achever "to achieve"
/i/ /e/ palatal + /a/ + palatal *concacāre conchie concheer "to shit out?" jacēre gist gesir "to lie (down)"
/a/ /e/ palatal + blocked /a/ *accapitāre achate acheter "to buy" cadere >
chiet cheoir "to fall"
/a/ /e/ intertonic /a/ + palatal? *tripaliāre travaille traveillier "to work"
/je/ /e/ free /ɛ/ levāre lieve lever "to raise" sedēre siet seoir "to sit"
/jẽ/ /ẽ/ free /ɛ/ + nasal *cremere crient cremant "to fear"
/i/ /oj/ /ɛ/ + palatal pretiāre prise proisier "to value" exīre ist oissir "to go out"
/ɛ/ /e/ intertonic /ɛ,e/ + double cons. appellāre apele apeler "to call"
/oj/ /e/ free /e/ *adhaesāre >
adoise adeser "to touch"
/ẽj̃/ /ẽ/ free /e/ + nasal mināre meine mener "to lead"
/i/ /e/ palatal + free /e/
/oj/ /i/ intertonic /e/ + palatal *carridiāre? charroie charrier "?"
/we/ /u/ free /ɔ/ *tropāre trueve trouver "to find" morī >
muert mourir "to die"
/uj/ /oj/ /ɔ/ + palatal *appodiāre apuie apoiier "to lean"
/ew/ /u/ free /o/ dēmōrāri demeure demourer "to stay" cōnsuere >
queust cousdre "to sew"
/u/ /e/ intertonic blocked /o/ *corruptiāre courouce courecier "to get angry"
/ũ/ /ã/ intertonic blocked /o/ + nasal *calumniāre chalonge chalengier "to challenge"

In Modern French the verbs in the -er class have been systematically leveled. Generally the "weak" (unstressed) form predominates, but there are some exceptions (e.g. modern aimer/nous aimons). The only remaining alternations are in verbs like acheter/j'achète and jeter/je jette, where unstressed /ǝ/ alternates with stressed /ɛ/, and in (largely learned) verbs like adhérer/j'adhère, where unstressed /e/ alternates with stressed /ɛ/. Many of the non-er verbs have become obsolete and many of the remaining verbs have been leveled. A few alternations remain, however, in what are now known as irregular verbs, such as je tiens, nous tenons or je meurs, nous mourons.

Some verbs had a more irregular alternation between different-length stems, with a longer stressed stem alternating with a shorter unstressed stem. This was a regular development stemming from the loss of unstressed intertonic vowels, which remained when stressed:

  • j'aiu/aidier "help" < adiūtō, adiūtāre
  • j'araison/araisnier "speak to" < adratiōnō, adratiōnāre
  • je deraison/deraisnier "argue" < dēratiōnō, dēratiōnāre
  • je desjun/disner "dine" < disjējūnō, disjējūnāre
  • je manju/mangier "eat" < mandūcō, mandūcāre
  • je parol/parler "speak" < parabolō, parabolāre

The alternation of je desjun, disner is particularly complicated; it appears that disjējūnāre > Western Romance /desjejuˈnare > /desjejˈnare/ (preliminary intertonic loss) > /desiˈnare/ (triphthong reduction) > /disiˈnare/ (metaphony) > /disˈner/ (further intertonic loss and other proto-French developments). Note the both of the stems have become full verbs in modern French, déjeuner "to have lunch" and dîner "to dine". Furthermore, déjeuner does not derive directly from je desjun (< *disj(ēj)ūnō with total loss of unstressed -ēj-). Instead, it comes from Old French desjeüner, based on the alternative form je desjeün (< *disjē(j)ūnō with loss only of -j-, likely influenced by jeûner "to fast" < Old French jeüner < je jeün "I fast" < jē(j)ūnō, where jē- is an initial rather than intertonic syllable and hence the vowel -ē- cannot disappear).

Example of a regular -er verb

Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Future Present Imperfect Present


je dur durai duroie durerai dur durasse dureroie
tu dures duras durois dureras durs durasses durerois dure
il dure dura duroit durera durt durast dureroit
nous durons durames duriiens/-ïons durerons durons durissons/-issiens dureriions/-ïons durons
vous durez durastes duriiez dureroiz/-ez durez durissoiz/-issez/-issiez dureriiez/-ïez durez
ils durent durerent duroient dureront durent durassent dureroient

Non-finite forms:

  • Infinitive: durer
  • Present participle: durant
  • Past Participle: duré

Auxiliary verb: avoir

Example of a regular -ir verb

Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Future Present Imperfect Present


je fenis feni fenissoie fenirai fenisse fenisse feniroie
tu fenis fenis fenissoies feniras fenisses fenisses fenirois fenis
il fenist feni(t) fenissoit fenira fenisse(t) fenist feniroit
nous fenissons fenimes fenissiiens fenirons fenissons feniss-ons/-iens feniriiens fenissons
vous fenissez fenistes fenissiiez fenir-oiz/-ez fenissez feniss-oiz/-ez/-iez feniriiez fenissez
ils fenissent fenirent fenissoient feniront fenissent fenissent feniroient

Non-finite forms:

  • Infinitive: fenir
  • Present participle: fenissant
  • Past Participle: feni(t)

Auxiliary verb: avoir

Example of a regular -re verb

Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Future Present Imperfect Present


je cor corui coroie corrai core corusse corroie
tu cors corus coroies corras cores corusses corroies cor
il cort coru(t) coroit corra core(t) corust corroit
nous corons corumes coriiens corrons corons coruss-ons/-iens corriiens corons
vous corez corustes coriiez corr-oiz/-ez corez coruss-oiz/-ez/-iez corriiez corez
ils corent corurent coroient corront corent corussent corroient

Non-finite forms:

  • Infinitive: corre
  • Present participle: corant
  • Past Participle: coru(t)

Auxiliary verb: estre

Examples of the auxiliary verbs

avoir (to have)
Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Future Present Imperfect Present


je ai eus avoie aurai ai eusse auroie
tu ais (later as) eus avois auras ais eusses aurois ave
il ai (later a) eut avoit aura ai eusst auroit
nous avons eumes aviens/-ïons aurons aions eussons/-issiens auravons/-ïons avons
vous avez eustes aviez auroiz/-ez aiez eussoiz/-issez/-issiez auravez/-ïez avez
ils ont eurent avoient auront ont eussent auroient

Non-finite forms:

  • Infinitive: avoir (earlier aveir)
  • Present participle: aiant
  • Past Participle: eut

Auxiliary verb: avoir

estre (to be)
Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Future Present Imperfect Present


je suis fui (i)ere ; esteie > estoie (i)er; serai; estrai seie > soie fusse soi sereie > seroie; estreie > estroie
tu es, ies fus (i)eres ; esteies > estoies (i)ers; seras; estras seies > soies fusses sereies > seroies; estreies > estroies seies > soies
il est fu(t) (i)ere(t), (i)ert ; esteit > estoit (i)ert; sera(t); estra(t) seit > soit fust sereit > seroit; estreit > estroit
nous somes, esmes fumes eriiens, erions ; estiiens, estions (i)ermes; serons; estrons seiiens, seions > soiiens, soions fuss-ons/-iens seriiens, serions; estriiens, estrions seiiens > soiiens, seions > soions
vous estes fustes eriiez ; estiiez --; sere(i)z; estre(i)z seiiez > soiiez fuss-eiz/-ez/-iez seriiez; estriiez seiiez > soiiez
ils sont furent (i)erent ; esteient > estoient (i)erent; seront; estront seient > soient fussent sereient > seroient; estreient > estroient

Non-finite forms:

  • Infinitive: estre
  • Present participle: estant
  • Past Participle: esté(t)

auxiliary verb: avoir

Other parts of speech

Adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections are generally invariable. One notable exception being the adverb tot (same as modern French tout; all, every).


Since Old French did not consist of a single standard, competing administrative varieties were propagated by the provincial courts and chanceries.

The French of Paris was one of a number of standards, including:

Derived languages

This Oïl language is the ancestor of several languages spoken today, including:


See also


  1. ^ The chart is based on phonologies given in Laborderie, Noëlle, Précis de Phonétique Historique, Nathan 1994; and in Rickard, Peter, A History of the French Language, 2nd edition, Routledge 1989, pp. 47-8.
  2. ^ Zink (1999), p. 132
  3. ^ Moignet (1988, p. 26–31), Zink (1992, p. 39–48), de La Chaussée (1977, p. 39–44)


  • de la Chaussée, François (1977). Initiation à la morphologie historique de l'ancien français. Paris: Klincksieck. ISBN 2-252-10922-0. 
  • Cole, William (2005). First and Otherwise Notable Editions of Old French Texts Printed from 1742 to 1874: A Bibliographical Catalogue of My Collection. Sitges: Cole & Contreras. 
  • Delamarre, X.; P.-Y. Lambert (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise : Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental (2nd ed.). Paris: Errance. ISBN 2-87772-237-6. 
  • Einhorn, E. (1974). Old French: A Concise Handbook. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20343-0. 
  • Kibler, William (1984). An Introduction to Old French. New York: Modern Language Association of America. 
  • Lanly, André (2002). Morphologie historique des verbes français. Paris: Champion. ISBN 2-7453-0822-X. 
  • Moignet, Gérard (1988). Grammaire de l'ancien français (2nd ed.). Paris: Klincksieck. ISBN 2-252-02642-4. 
  • Pope, Mildred K. (1934). From Latin to Modern French with Especial Consideration of Anglo-Norman Phonology and Morphology. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 
  • Zink, Gaston (1999). Phonétique historique du français (6th ed.). Paris: PUF. ISBN 2-13-046471-8. 
  • Zink, Gaston (1992). Morphologie du français médiéval (2nd ed.). Paris: PUF. ISBN 2-13-044766-X. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Old French — n. the French language from c.A.D. 800 to c.A.D. 1500, esp. French from the 9th to the 14th cent.: cf. MIDDLE FRENCH …   English World dictionary

  • Old French — Old′ French′ n. peo the French language of the 9th through the 13th centuries Abbr.: OF • Etymology: 1885–90 …   From formal English to slang

  • Old French — ► NOUN ▪ the French language up to c.1400 …   English terms dictionary

  • Old French — noun the earliest form of the French language; 9th to 15th century • Hypernyms: ↑French * * * noun Usage: capitalized O&F : the French language from the time of the earliest documents preserved until the time of Modern French or approximately… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Old French Sign Language — Signed in France Native signers Estimated 200 in Paris in the 1750s Language family French Sign Language family. Dialects French Sign Language …   Wikipedia

  • Old French — French language from the 9th 16th century …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Old French — noun Date: 1708 the French language from the 9th to the 16th century; especially French from the 9th to the 13th century see Indo European languages table …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Old French — /oʊld ˈfrɛntʃ/ (say ohld french) noun the French language spoken before 1400 …  

  • Old French — the French language of the 9th through the 13th centuries. Abbr.: OF [1885 90] * * * …   Universalium

  • Old French — noun The French language as spoken or written from the 9th to the early 16th centuries …   Wiktionary

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