accentual system

Old French

Old French was the Romance dialect continuum spoken in territories which span roughly the northern half of modern France and parts of modern Belgium and Switzerland from around 1000 to 1300. 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.

Grammar and phonology

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 a handful of Gaulish words survive in modern French—for example, chêne, ‘oak tree’ and charrue ‘plough’—and fewer than two hundred words in modern French — Delamarre (2003, pp.389-90) lists 167 — have a Gaulish etymology. Latin was the common language of almost the entire western Roman world, and its influence grew at the expense of that of Gaulish.


In one sense, 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 from around 120 BC (during the Punic Wars) when it came under Roman occupation.

Beginning with Plautus's time, 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; and 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, Italian cavallo, Portuguese cavalo, Spanish caballo, Romanian cal, and (borrowed from Norman) English cavalry.


The Old Frankish language had a large influence on the vocabulary 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.

Other Germanic words in Old French appeared as a result of Norman 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. A few seafaring terms, notably the four points of the compass, were also borrowed via the Normans from Old English.

Earliest written Old French

While the earliest documents said to be written in French are the Oaths of Strasbourg (treaties and charters into which King Charles the Bald entered in 842), it is probable that the text represents an older Langue d'oïl or Gallo-Romance, a transitional stage between Vulgar Latin and early Romance:

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 Royal House of Capet, founded by Hugh Capet in 987, inaugurated the development of northern French culture, 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 the entire nation of France, however, until after the French Revolution.

Another example of an early Langue d'oïl or Gallo-Romance text is the Eulalia sequence, which is probably much closer to the spoken language of the time than the Oaths of Strasbourg (based upon language differences). It is difficult to determine precisely how these extant Old French texts were pronounced.

From Vulgar Latin to Old French

A profound change in very late spoken Latin (i.e., early Common Romance, the forerunner of all the Romance languages) whose effects are clearly reflected in Old French, was the restructuring of the vowel system of classical Latin. Latin had ten distinct vowels: long and short versions of A, E, I, O, U, and three (or four) diphthongs, AE, OE, AU, and according to some, UI. What happened to Vulgar Latin is set forth in the table.

Letter Classical Latin Vulgar Latin Old French
closed open
Short A /a/ /a/ /a, au/ /ɛ, iə/
Long A /a:/
AE /ai/ /ɛ/ /ɛ/ /iə/
Short E /e/
OE /oi/ /e/ /e, eu/ /ei/
Long E /e:/
Short I /i/ /ɪ/
Short Y /y/
Long I /i:/ /i/ /i/ /i/
Long Y /y:/
Short O /o/ /ɔ/ /ɔ/ /yə/
Long O /o:/ /o/ /o/ /ou/
Short U /u/ /ʊ/
Long U /u:/ /u/ /y/ /y/
AU /aw/ /aw/ /ɔ/ /ɔ/
(see International Phonetic Alphabet for an explanation of the symbols used);

Both the diphthongs AE and OE also fell in with /e/. AU was initially retained, and turned into /O/ after the original /O/ fell victim to further changes.

Thus, the ten vowel system of Classical Latin, which relied on phonemic vowel length was new-modelled into a system in which vowel length distinctions were suppressed and alterations of vowel quality became phonemic. Because of this change, the stress on accented syllables became much more pronounced in Vulgar Latin than in Classical Latin. This tended to cause unaccented syllables to become less distinct, while working further changes on the sounds of the accented syllables.

Old French underwent more thorough alterations of its sound system than did the other Romance languages. Vowel breaking was something that occurred generally in Proto-Western-Romance (here, Proto-Romance), although with different results in each of the daughter languages; Latin FOCU(M) (originally "hearth") becomes Italian fuoco, Romanian and Catalan foc, Spanish fuego, and French feu (all meaning "fire"). But in Old French the phenomenon went further than in any other Romance language; of the seven vowels inherited from Latin, only /i/ remained essentially unchanged. In stressed syllables:

  • The sound of Latin E (short), turning to /ɛ/ in Proto-Romance, became ie in Old French: Latin MEL, "honey" > OF miel
  • The sound of Latin O (short) > Proto-Romance /ɔ/ > OF uo: COR > cuor, "heart"
  • Latin Ê > Proto-Romance /e/ > OF ei: HABÊRE > aveir, "to have"; this later becomes /oi/ in many words, as in avoir
  • Latin Ô > Proto-Romance /o/ > OF ou: FLÔRE(M) > flour, "flower"
  • Latin open syllable /a/ > OF /e/, probably through an intervening stage of /æ/; MARE > mer, "sea" This change also characterizes the Gallo-Italic dialects of Northern Italy (cf. Bolognese [mɛ:r]).

Latin AU did not share the fate of /ɔ/ or /o/; Latin AURUM > OF or, "gold": not *oeur nor *our. Latin AU must have been retained at the time these changes were affecting Proto-Romance.

Changes affecting the consonants were also quite pervasive in Old French. Old French shared with the rest of the Vulgar Latin world the loss of final -M. Since this sound was basic to the Latin noun case system, its loss levelled the distinctions upon which the synthetic Latin syntax relied, and forced the Romance languages to adapt a more analytic syntax based on word order. Old French also dropped many internal consonants when they followed the strongly stressed syllable; Latin PETRA(M) > Proto-Romance */peðra/ > OF pierre; cf. Spanish piedra ("stone").

During the Old French period, Latin /u/ became /y/, the lip-rounded sound that is written 'u' in Modern French.

In some contexts, /oi/ became /e/, still written oi in Modern French. During the early Old French period this sound was pronounced as the writing suggests, as /oi/. This sound developed variously in different varieties of Oïl language - most of the surviving languages maintain a pronunciation as /we/ - but literary French adopted a dialectal phonology /wa/. The doublet of français and François in modern French orthography demonstrates this mix of dialectal features.

At some point during the Old French period, vowels with a following nasal consonant began to be nasalized. While the process of losing the final nasal consonant took place after the Old French period, the nasal vowels that characterise modern French appeared during the period in question.

Old French, along with Portuguese, exhibits the most thorough phonetic changes from Latin, as opposed to relatively conservative Romance languages like Spanish, Italian or Romanian. As the example of pierre from PETRA(M) shows, many interior consonants were lost.

Sound changes from Latin to Old French

Through Proto-Western-Romance:

  • Reduction of ten-vowel system to seven vowels; diphthongs 'ae' and 'oe' reduced to /ɛ/ and /e/; maintenance of 'au' diphthong.
  • Loss of final -m (except in monosyllables, e.g. modern rien < rem).
  • Loss of /h/.
  • 'ns' > 's'.
  • 'rs' > 'ss' when originating from Old Latin 'rtt', but retained when originating from Old Latin 'rct' (thus dorsum > Modern French dos, but ursus (compare Greek arktos) > Modern French ours).
  • Final 'er' > 're', 'or' > 'ro' (cf. Spanish cuatro, sobre < quattuor, super).
  • Vulgar Latin unstressed vowel loss: Loss of intertonic (i.e. unstressed and in an interior syllable) vowels between /k/, /g/ and /r/, /l/.
  • Reduction of 'e' and 'i' in hiatus to /j/, followed by palatalization. Palatalization of /k/ and /g/ before front vowels.
    • /kj/ is apparently doubled to /kkj/ prior to palatalization.
    • /d'/ and /g'/ (from /dj/, /gj/, and /g/ before a front vowel) become /j/.

Through Proto-Gallo-Ibero-Romance:

  • /k'/ and /t'/ merge, becoming /ts'/ (still treated as a single sound).
  • /kt/ > /jt/.
  • /ks/ > /js/.
  • First diphthongization (only in some dialects): diphthongization of /ɛ/, /ɔ/ to 'ie, uo' (later, 'uo' > 'ue') in stressed, open syllables. This also happens in closed syllables before a palatal, often later absorbed: PEIOR >> /pejro/ > /piejro/ >> 'pire' "worst"; NOCTE > /nojte/ > /nuojte/ >> /nujt/ 'nuit'; but TERTIU > /terts'o/ >> 'tierz'.
  • First lenition (did not happen in a small area around the Pyrenees): chain shift involving intervocalic consonants: voiced stops and unvoiced fricatives become voiced fricatives (/ð/, /v/, /j/); unvoiced stops become voiced stops. NOTE: /ts'/ (from /k(e,i)/, /tj/) is pronounced as a single sound and voiced to /dz'/, but /tts'/ (from /kk(e,i)/, /kj/) is geminate and thus not voiced. Consonants before /r/ are lenited, also, and /pl/ > /bl/. Final /t/ and /d/ when following a vowel are lenited.
  • /jn/, /nj/, /jl/, /gl/ (from Vulgar Latin /gn/, /ng'/, /gl/, /kl/, respectively) become /ɲ/ and /ʎ/, respectively.
  • First unstressed vowel loss: Loss of intertonic (i.e. unstressed and in an interior syllable) vowels, except /a/ when pretonic. (Note: This occurred at the same time as the first lenition, and individual words inconsistently show one change before the other. Hence MANICA > 'manche' but GRANICA > 'grange'. CARRICARE becomes either 'charchier' or 'chargier' in OF.)

Through Early Old French, in approximate order:

  • Spread and dissolution of palatalization:
    • A protected /j/ (not preceded by a vowel), stemming from an initial /j/ or from a /dj/, /gj/, or /g(e,i)/ when preceded by a consonant, becomes /dʒ/.
    • A /j/ followed by another consonant tends to palatalize that consonant; these consonants may have been brought together by intertonic loss. (E.g. MEDIETATE > /mejetate/ > /mejt'ate/ > 'moitié'. PEIOR > /pejro/ > /piejr'e/ > 'pire', but IMPEIORARE > /empejrare/ > /empejr'are > /empejriɛr/ > OF 'empoirier' "to worsen".)
    • Palatalized sounds lose their palatal quality and eject a /j/ into the end of the preceding syllable, when open; also into the beginning of the following syllable when it is stressed, open, and front (i.e. /a/ or /e/). Hence *CUGITARE > /kujetare/ > /kujdare/ > /kujd'are/ >> /kujdiɛr/ OF 'cuidier' "to think". MANSIONATA > /maz'onada/ > /maz'nada/ > /majz'njɛðə/ > OF 'maisniée' "household".
      • /tʃ/ and /dʒ/ (including those from later sources, see below) eject a following /j/ normally, but do not eject any preceding /j/.
      • Double /ss'/ < /ssj/ and from various other combinations also ejects a preceding /j/.
      • Single /dz/ ejects such a /j/, but not double /tts/, evidently since it is a double sound and causes the previous syllable to close; see comment above, under lenition.
      • Actual palatal /l'/ and /n'/ (as opposed to the merely patalized varieties of the other sounds) retain their palatal nature and don't emit preceding /j/. Or rather, palatal /l'/ does not eject a preceding /j/ (or else, it is always absorbed, even when depalatalized); palatal /n'/ emits a preceding /j/ when depalatalized, even if the preceding syllable is closed, e.g. JUNGIT > *YŌNYET > /dʒoɲt/ > /dʒojnt/ 'joint'.
      • Palatal /r'/ ejects a preceding /j/ as normal, but the /j/ metathesizes when a /a/ precedes, hence OPERARIU > /obrar'o/ > /obrjaro/ (not */obrajro/) >> 'ouvrier' "worker".
  • Second diphthongization: diphthongization of /e/, /o/, /a/ to 'ei, ou, ae' (later, 'ei' > 'oi', 'ou' > 'eu', 'ae' > 'e') in stressed, open syllables, not followed by a palatal sound (not in all Gallo-Romance).
  • Second unstressed vowel loss: Loss of all vowels except /a/ in unstressed, final syllables; addition of a final, supporting /e/ when necessary, to avoid words with impermissible final clusters.
  • Second lenition: Same changes as in first lenition, applied again (not in all Gallo-Romance). NOTE: Losses of unstressed vowels may have blocked this change from happening.
  • Palatalization of /ka/ > /tʃa/, /ga/ > /dʒa/.
  • Further vocalic changes (part 1):
  • /ae/ > /ɛ/ (but > /jɛ/ after a palatal, and > /aj/ before nasals when not after a palatal).
  • /au/ > /ɔ/.
  • Further consonant changes:
    • Geminate stops become single stops.
    • Final stops and fricatives become devoiced.
    • /dz/ > /z/, when not final.
    • A /t/ is inserted between palatal /ɲ/, /ʎ/ and following /s/ (DOLES > 'duels' "you hurt" but COLLIGIS > *COLYES > 'cuelz, cueuz' "you gather"; JUNGIS > *YŌNYES > 'joinz' "you join"; FILIUS > 'filz' "son").
    • Palatal /ɲ/, /ʎ/ are depalatalized to /n, l/ when final or following a consonant.
      • In first-person verb forms, they may remain palatal when final due to the influence of the palatalized subjunctives.
      • /ɲ/ > /jn/ when depalatalizing, but /ʎ/ > /l/, without a yod. (*VECLUS > /vɛl'o/ > /viɛl'o/ > 'viel' "old" but CUNEUM > /kon'o/ > 'coin'. BALNEUM > /banyo/ > 'bain' but MONTANEA > /montanya/ > 'montagne'.)
  • Further vocalic changes (part 2):
  • /jej/ > /i/, /woj/ > /uj/. (PLACERE > /plajdzjejr/ > 'plaisir'; NOCTE > /nuojt/ > 'nuit'.)
  • Diphthongs are consistently rendered as falling diphthongs, i.e. the major stress is on the first element, including for 'ie, ue, ui, etc.' in contrast with the normal Spanish pronunciation.

Through Old French, of c. 1100 AD:

  • /f/, /p/, /k/ lost before final /s/, /t/. (DEBET > Strasbourg Oaths 'dift' /deift/ > OF 'doit'.)
  • 'ei' > 'oi'.
  • 'wo' > 'we'.
  • /a/ before /s/ becomes "darker": farther back and rounded. (Later, this becomes a separate phoneme, after /ts/ > /s/.)
  • Loss of /θ/ and /ð/. When this results in a hiatus of /a/ with a following vowel, the /a/ becomes a schwa /ə/.
  • Loss of /s/ before voiced consonant (perhaps passing through /h/), with lengthening of preceding vowel. Produces a new set of long vowel phonemes.
  • /u/ > /y/.

Through Late Old French: c. 1250-1300 AD:

  • /o/ > /u/.
  • /l/ before consonant becomes /w/.
  • Diphthongs shift to second element.
  • 'we' and 'ew' > /œ/.
  • 'oi' > 'we'.
  • 'ai' > /ɛ/.
  • /ɛ/ and /e/ merge in closed syllables.
  • /ts/ > /s/, /tʃ/ > /ʃ/, /dʒ/ > /ʒ/.
  • Loss of /s/ before any consonant, with lengthening of preceding vowel.


Old French maintained a two-case system, with a nominative case and an oblique case, longer than 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 VICÍNU(S) /wi'ki:nus/ > Proto-Romance */vetsinu(s)/ > OF voisins /voizins/; Modern French le voisin) was declined as follows:


Nominative: li voisins   (Latin ille vicinus)
Oblique:    le voisin    (Latin illum vicinum)


Nominative: li voisin    (Latin illi vicini)
Oblique:    les voisins  (Latin illos vicinos)

In later Old French, these distinctions became moribund. When the distinctions were marked enough, sometimes both forms survived, with a lexical difference: both li sire (nominative, Latin SENIOR) and le seigneur (oblique, Latin SENIORE(M)) survive in the vocabulary of later French as different ways to refer to a feudal lord. 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 accusative; the OF nominative was li enfes. But some modern French nouns perpetuate the old nominative; modern French soeur (OF suer) represents the Latin nominative SÓROR; the OF oblique form seror, from Latin accusative SORÓREM, no longer survives. Many personal names preserve the old nominative as well, as indicated by their final -s, such as Charles, Georges, Giles, Jacques, and Jules.

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, no case marking): la fame, la fame, les fames, les fames "woman"
  • Class II (masculine): li voisins, le voisin, li voisin, les voisins "neighbor"; li sergenz, le sergent, li sergent, les sergenz "servant"
  • Class Ia (feminine hybrid): la riens, la rien, les riens, les riens "thing"; la citéz, la cité, les citéz, les citéz "city"
  • Class IIa (masculine hybrid): li pere, le pere, li pere, les peres "father"
  • Class IIIa (masculine): li chantere, le chanteor, li chanteor, les chanteors "singer"
  • Class IIIb (masculine): li ber, le baron, li baron, les barons "baron"
  • Class IIIc (feminine): la none, la nonain, les nonains, les nonains "nun"
  • Class IIId (isolated, irregular forms): la suer, la seror, les serors, les serors "sister"; li enfes, l'enfant, li enfant, les enfanz "child"; li prestre, le prevoire, li prevoire, les prevoires "priest"; li sire, le seigneur, li seigneur, les seigneurs "lord"; li cuens, le conte, li conte, les contes "count"

Class I is derived from the Latin first declension. Class II is derived from the Latin second declension. Class Ia mostly comes from feminine third-declension nouns in Latin. 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.

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).


The verb in Old French was somewhat less distinct from the rest of Proto-Romance than the noun was. It shared in the loss of the Latin passive voice, and the reduction of the Latin futures of the AMABO type (I will love) to Proto-Romance *amare habeo (lit. "I have to love"), which became amerai in Old French.

In Latin, certain verbs shifted the accented syllable based on the Latin accentual system, which depended on vowel length. Thus, the Latin verb ÁMO, "I love," stressed on the first syllable, changed to AMÁMUS, "we love". Because the Latin stressed syllable affected Old French vowels, this syllable shift created a large number of strong verbs in Old French. ÁMO yielded j'aim, while AMÁMUS, moving the stress away from the first syllable, yielded nous amons. There were at least 11 types of alternations; examples of these various types are j'aim, nous amons; j'achat, nous achetons; j'adois, nous adesons; je mein, nouns menons; j'achief, nous achevons; je conchi, nous concheons; je pris, nous proisons; je demeur, nous demourons; je muer, nous mourons; j'aprui, nous aproions. In Modern French almost all of these verbs have been leveled, generally with the "weak" (unstressed) form predominating (but modern aimer/nous aimons is an exception). A few alternations remain, however, in what are now known as irregular verbs, such as je tiens, nous tenons or je meurs, nous mourons.

In general, Old French verbs show much less analogical reformation than in Modern French. The Old French first singular aim, for example, comes directly from Latin AMO, while modern aime has an analogical -e added. The subjunctive forms j'aim, tu ains, il aint are direct preservations of Latin AMEM, AMES, AMET, while the modern forms j'aime, tu aimes, il aime have been completely reformed on the basis of verbs in the other conjugations. 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. E.g. (Cantilène de sainte Eulalie, 878 AD) 'avret' < HABUERAT, 'voldret' < VOLUERAT (Old Occitan also preserved this tense, with a conditional value).

Example of regular -er verb

Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Future Present Imperfect Present 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 regular -ir verb

Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Future Present Imperfect Present Present
je dors dormis dormoie dormirai dorm dormisse dormiroie
tu dors dormis dormois dormiras dorms dormisses dormirois dorme
il dort dormit dormoit dormira dormt dormt dormiroit
nous dormons dormimes dormiiens/-ïons dormirons dormons dormissons/-issiens dormiraions/-ïons dormons
vous dormez dormistes dormiiez dormiroiz/-ez dormez dormissoiz/-issez/-issiez dormiraiez/-ïez dormez
ils dorment dormerent dormoient dormiront dorment dormissent dormiroient

Non-finite forms:

  • Infinitive: dormir
  • Present participle: dormant
  • Past Participle: dormi

Auxiliary verb: avoir

Examples of the auxiliary verbs

avoir (to have)

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

etre (to be)

Indicative Subjunctive Conditional Imperative
Present Simple Past Imperfect Future Present Imperfect Present Present
je suis fus etais, earlier eroie serai sois fusse soi
tu es (sometimes suis, to fit the 1. person form) fus etais, earlier erois seras sois fusses serais es
il est (sometimes es) fut etait, earlier eroit sera soit fusst seroit
nous sommes (sometimes spelled som) fumes etions, earlier eriens/-ïons serons soyons fussons/-issiens sommes
vous etes fustes etiez, earlier eriez seroiz/-ez soyez fussoiz/-issez/-issiez serestes/-ïez estes
ils sont furent etaient, earlier eroient seront soient fussent seroient

Non-finite forms:

  • Infinitive: etre
  • Present participle: soiant
  • Past Participle: fut, étu

auxiliary verb: avoir, earlier aveir


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:


Main Article at Medieval French literature

See also: Languages of France, Anglo-Norman literature



  • Delamarre, X. & Lambert, P. -Y. (2003). Dictionnaire de la langue gauloise : Une approche linguistique du vieux-celtique continental (2nd ed.). Paris: Errance. ISBN


  • Pope, M.K. (1934). From Latin to Modern French with Especial Consideration of Anglo-Norman Phonology and Morphology. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Kibler, William (1984). An Introduction to Old French. New York: Modern Language Association of America.

External links

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