Part 1: Nominal declensions
Strong masculine and neuter declensions
1. The general strong masculine and neuter declension
This is the most numerous class of nouns. Neuter nouns and masculine nouns of this class share many similarities of declension, to the point where it is sometimes impossible to tell from our surviving corpus whether a particular noun was in fact masculine or neuter.
The inflectional endings are the following:
|Nominative||ø||ø or -u|
|Accusative||ø||ø or -u|
Monosyllabic neuter nouns have the null ending (ø) in the nominative and accusative plural if they are heavy-stemmed, that is, if their stem-syllable (a.k.a. root-syllable) either has a long vowel or ends in a cluster of more than one consonant sound, and they have the ending -u if they are light-stemmed (i.e. have a short vowel and end in only one consonant sound). Polysyllabic neuter nouns most often follow the heavy-stemmed pattern, unless they are a) compound words in which the last element is a light-stemmed neuter monosyllabic noun or b) certain disyllabic words where the first syllable is heavy (has a long vowel or ends in a cluster of more than one consonant sound).
The endings given in this and the following tables of this section are those of classical Old English; late in the period (so in much of the surviving corpus) the tendency to remove stress from inflectional endings results in uncertainty of pronunciation, so the –u ending of neuter nouns in particular is often spelled as –o or –a, and the –um of the dative plural of both masculines and neuters as –an, with more sporadic alteration of the other endings, such as –as for –es and vice versa.
The largest class of a-stem nouns simply follow the paradigm above by adding these endings to the root or stem according to the following pattern:
Masculine stān (stone)
Neuter long-stemmed word (word, speech, etc.)
Neuter short-stemmed scip (ship)
1) Nouns with the short vowel æ in the stem change this to a in the plural:
Masculine hwæl (whale)
Neuter fæt (cup, vessel)
2) Nouns whose stems end in an -h lose it before vowels:
Masculine mearh (horse)
Neuter feorh (life)
3) Many disyllabic nouns lose the vowel of the second syllable when an inflectional ending adds a syllable:
Masculine fugol (bird)
Neuter hēafod (head)
4) Nouns ending in –e in the nominative/accusative singular work the same way as the general case except that the –e ending is replaced by the inflectional endings elsewhere in the paradigm (rather than having those endings added after the –e).
Masculine ende (end)