This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Nuts and Bolts: suppletion.

So, why is it that I go tomorrow, but yesterday I went?
It makes no sense at all. I mean, it should be: I go, I goed, I have gone.

Shouldn't it?

How on earth could any language manage to get went out of go?
Well, the thing is, it didn't.

Long. long ago, when the word go was still gān, we used to have the lovely geēode to describe what we'd done when we'd gone somewhere. 
We also had the word wendan which meant...well, more or less the same thing. 
How we ended up using wendan for past events and n for present ones is something of a mystery; but if this seems a bit of a nuisance be glad you're not Portuguese, whose verb to go comes from FOUR different words: the Latin words vadere, to advance, ire, to go, ambulare, to walk, and even fui, which is part, bizarrely, of the Latin word to be.
Makes the English seem almost sensible, really. 
On a technical note, a word's having forms which have completely different histories is called suppletion.
Word To Use Today: wended
Well, why not? Using suppletion is, let's face it, close to impossible.


  1. SUPPLETION is a word I've never heard of or seen before. I failed the Philology part of my final exam, so it's no surprise that my eyes slightly glaze over when you get all TECHNICAL, Word Den. But yes, languages are amazing. I like WENDING my has a different sort of meaning from 'going along' or any other variant on 'going.'

  2. Oh dear, Adele, I didn't mean to bore you!
    I shall have to get an anorak, sew words all over it, and hang it up by my computer as a dreadful warning.
    Or I could just possibly continue to ramble on as usual...
    Anyway, next week's Nuts and Bolts concerns Mrs Marcus Volumnis Tenax, Boris Johnson, and a divine visitation; so I hope you'll find that livelier!