What are some differences between the verb system of Modern English and Elizabethan English?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the ways the English verb has changed since Elizabethan times is that verb movement with the negator is no longer possible in modern English. For instance, to use Andrew Radford's example, whereas Shakespeare might say "I care not for her," with the verb care preceding the negator not, modern English no longer utilizes this form, now being satisfied with "I do not care for her."

Another way the English verb has changed is that in Elizabethan English, verbs carried what Radford calls a richer system of agreement inflections such that verbs like goeth are no longer used, although a vestige of the richer system of agreement inflections remains in amidst, as Michael Quinion tells us, which reflects an earlier English formal tense, while whilst and amongst reflect the vestiage of the genitive, which is now replaced by 's.

Another English verb change since Elizabethan English is the general loss of the auxiliaries be and have in what Radford describes as a head tense position in a tense phrase, as in "Is come to know," or "Have brought forth fruit". By means of this Elizabethan verb-to-tense raising in finite clauses, auxiliaries be and have, along with a few modal auxiliaries, rose from lower auxiliary/verb positions to become head words in tense phrases. Another change relating to be is that be is no longer used in negative imperatives such as Radford's example "Be not afraid!" which is now replaced with "Do not be afraid!"