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Key Points

  • Verbs don't change based on subject.
  • Verbs don't change between present tense and simple past tense.
  • Use drey to clearly express past tense, "drey krif" = "did fight".

What are Verbs?

A verb is a word that expresses action or state. The most common verb of English is "to be". Nearly half of the languages ~640 words can be used as verbs. There are two main topics to cover when dealing with verbs: verb tense and verb conjugation. Verbs can be the toughest part of learning any language. As we'll see, the dragon language takes a simplified approach. Nevertheless there is plenty to cover in this lesson.

As mentioned above, an important term related to verbs is conjugation. Conjugation is how a verb changes form. Verbs are conjugated in English mainly according to tense ("give" vs "gave") and subject ("I give" vs "she gives"). The dragon language has very little conjugation to worry about, but there are still some important ways that verbs can conjugate, which we'll get to below.

"The language concept that emerged abandoned tense, conjugation, and even upper and lower case letters, preferring that the context imply those ideas." - Skyrim's Dragon Shouts

Kos

Kos is dragon for "to be". Like English's "to be", it has a number of different forms, though considerably fewer. The forms of kos are:

Be kos
Am/Are/Is los
Was/Were lost

Kos is the infinite form, los is used for present tense, and lost is used for past tense. Unlike English, this doesn't change no matter if the subject is "I", "you", "they", etc. "I am" would be "zu'u los", "you are" would be "hi los", and "she is" would be "rek los".

The verb kos can be used to make adjectives out of verbs. "Rek siiv" would mean "she finds", but with the kos we can make "Rek los siiv", or "she is found". Likewise "rek lost siiv" could mean "she was found".

"Lost" also used to from present perfect tense ("She has found him"). Therefore it can be tricky to try and distinguish "she was found" from "she has found". An object can help distinguish the two.

Like the articles fin and aan discussed in Nouns & Articles, the verb kos is often cut to shorten speech. This occurs most often in conversation. If you were to say "I am the Dragonborn!", you could translate it simply as "Zu'u dovahkiin!" Along the same lines, "I am not the Dragonborn!" could be "Zu'u ni dovahkiin!" or even "Ni dovahkiin!". These simple steps can go a long way towards making your dragon language more authentic.


"Los hi" ("are you") can contract to "Losei" ("you're") in questions. For example, "Ful, los hi dovahkiin?" ("So, are you the dragonborn?") could contract to "Ful, losei dovahkiin?".

Dreh

Another important verb is dreh, which means "to do". Like kos it's an irregular verb that has a past tense conjugation. The conjugations of dreh are as follows:

Do/Does dreh
Did drey

Dreh can help clearly express past or present tense. "Rek dreh siiv" means "she does find" and clearly establishes that siiv here is present tense. "Rek drey siiv" means "she did find" and clearly establishes that siiv here is past tense. Seeing dreh used in this way is not very common, but drey is used a lot for this, especially in places like Word Walls where present tense may be used one sentence and past tense the next.

What is Tense?

Tense is when a verb is happening. On a very basic level, a tense can be past (the action has happened), present (the action is happening), or future (the action will happen). English has a vast number of tenses. The dragon language has only four main tenses. Use the table below as a quick guide for how to use verbs:

Tense English Dragon
Simple Present I fly Zu'u bo
Simple Past I flew Zu'u bo
Zu'u drey bo
Present Perfect I have flown Zu'u lost bo
Zu'u boaan
Zu'u lost boaan
Simple Future I will fly Zu'u fen bo
Zu'u fent bo

When considering tense, all verb usage must fall under one of the above tenses. Do not attempt to use tenses that exist in English but do not exist in the dragon language. For example, progressive tense ("I'm going to Whiterun") should instead be expressed as simple present tense ("I go to Whiterun").

"Bo" ("to fly/move/go") is not used for future tense in the same way that "go" is in English ("I'm going to slay a dragon"). Use "fen" ("will") or "fent" ("shall") instead.

Conditional verbs like "would", "could", or "should" also do not have dragon equivalents. Use straightforward language instead; "I will not betray you" rather than "I would not betray you".

Simple Past Tense

Just as verbs do not change between subjects, they also do not change between simple present tense and simple past tense. Where English's "I find" would become "I found", "zu'u siiv" could mean both "I find" or "I found" depending on the context. This is most clearly seen on the Word Walls, which are largely written in simple past tense. Context is king when it comes to tense.

As discussed above, you can indicate simple past tense with the use of drey. "Zu'u drey siiv" can only mean "I did find". This is one way to provide additional clues that you want siiv to mean "found" rather than "find".

Present Perfect Tense

Present perfect tense indicates action that has taken place in the past or possibly continues into the present ("I have eaten", "You have conquered"). There are three ways to express present perfect tense in the dragon language:

The third method is extremely rare. Usually present perfect tense can be implied with lost or a past participle alone. Lost is more common in writing while past participles are more common in speech. See Adjectives & Adverbs for more on how to form past participles.

The Suffix -a

A verb in its most basic, unmodified form is said to be an infinitive. For example, "fight" is an infinitive while "fights" and "fought" are not. An infinitive with the word "to" ("to fight") is called a full infinitive or to-infinitive.

One way to express to-infinitives is to simply use wah "to" ("wah krif", "to fight"). The verb suffix -a offers another way to express this. "Wah krif" instead becomes "krifa." This is more commonly seen in speech than writing, where wah is most often cut in all its forms.

The suffix -a can also be used as a contraction of wah. "Rok funt wah koraav" ("He failed to see") can instead become "Rok funta koraav." In both cases -a stands for wah either before or after the verb. You can use context clues to determine which is meant.

When a verb ends with a vowel, -a becomes -ha instead. For example, "wah vokrii" becomes "vokriiha."

Exercises

1. The word for "brave" is kril. Use the verb kos to express these in the dragon language:

  1. I am brave.
  2. You are brave.
  3. She is brave.
  4. I was brave.
  5. You were brave.

See answer

  1. Zu'u los kril.
  2. Hi los kril.
  3. Rek los kril.
  4. Zu'u lost kril.
  5. Hi lost kril.

2. Krii means "to kill", naal means "by", and kodaav means "bear". What is the difference between these two sentences?

  • Rek lost krii kodaav.
  • Rek lost krii naal kodaav.

See answer

The first means "She has killed a bear". The second means "She was killed by a bear".

3. The word for "battle" is grah and the word for "dragon" is dovah. Translate the following into English:

  1. Zu'u grah dovah.
  2. Zu'u grahlaan dovah.
  3. Zu'u fen grah dovah.
  4. Zu'u fent grah dovah.

See answer

  1. I battle the dragon.
  2. I have battled the dragon.
  3. I will battle the dragon.
  4. I shall battle the dragon.

4. You challenge a fellow student of the dragon language to say, "The Dragonborn is strong. She killed a dragon." They offer you this translation: "Dovahkiin los mul. Rek krii dovah." What would you change in their translation to make clear that the second sentence is past tense?

See answer

You could use drey to make "rek drey krii dovah" ("she did kill a dragon"), or you could use a past participle to make "rek kriaan dovah" or "she has killed a dragon".

5. Rephrase the following sentences to only use the tenses found in the dragon language:

  1. He is fighting the warrior.
  2. It has been a good day.
  3. I was watching the road.
  4. The dragon had been sleeping when we attacked.

See answer

  1. He fights the warrior.
  2. The day was good.
  3. I watched the road. / I did watch the road.
  4. The dragon slept when we attacked. / The dragon did sleep when we attacked.
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