Are archaic third person singular forms of verbs useful to English learners?

11

I just noticed a song of P.J.Harvey: "The Words That Maketh Murder". "Maketh" seemed very interesting; so I've searched for it, and found this Wikipedia entry.

Maketh: (archaic)
Third-person singular form of make

Before that song, I was not aware of that. Yes, it is an archaic word, but I wondered if this form of verbs is used today. Probably it is rarely used.

Should I know them as a student of learning English language? Since it is used in a song title, I think I should, but I am not sure.

Digerkam

Posted 2013-02-28T20:44:01.517

Reputation: 611

@snailboat Me, if I'm archaizing I'm going full Monty for "Words that Maken Murder". – StoneyB on hiatus – 2015-09-03T14:32:02.777

15All thou needest to know is that such archaic pronouns and verb forms maketh their way into literature every now and again. Simply recognize these words as archaic language when thou spottest them, enough to decode their meaning. I see no need to try and learn how to write or speak them; thy worries art unfounded. :^) – J.R. – 2013-02-28T21:00:59.520

11If you master the -eth and -est forms you will be better placed to read the King James Bible, poetry before WWI and literature in general before about 1700 or 1750; and you will have mastered an aspect of the language very few people (including the lyricist of the song you cite) know about, or care about; but you will have little or no opportunity to demonstrate your superiority or make use of your knowledge. Life's too short; learn how to make a really good pecan pie instead. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-02-28T21:10:17.280

2@StoneyB You have a favorite recipe to share? ;) – WendiKidd – 2013-02-28T23:49:28.880

1@WendiKidd Alas, my wife does the pies. And the Old/Middle English; I'm an Early Modern guy. – StoneyB on hiatus – 2013-02-28T23:52:15.953

1

@tchrist Historically there was a time and place where -yth/-eth was used for the plural as well as the singular, as in the well-known motto "Manners Makyth Man", to which the citation is perhaps an allusion. See here for some discussion of plural -eth.

– snailplane – 2013-03-02T02:16:51.473

Answers

11

In short, for archaic forms, probably not, but if you do you might appreciate some older English texts (particularly the King James Bible or Shakespeare etc) more for having done so.

There are exceptions where the archaic word holds over in the form of an idiom or quotation, for example:

Manners maketh man

Note that most native English speakers don't understand old and archaic English words, and hence you probably should concentrate on becoming good at modern English first.

You should, however, be aware that occasionally (particularly on television and in marketing) modern native English speakers will misuse old English by adding "-eth" to verbs and sprinkling the sentence with words like "thou" and "ye olde" in order to make their sentence sound "medieval" or "authentic".

Often these fake medieval constructions are utterly ungrammatical in modern and old English ("Cometh to our garage and buyeth a new car! Half price for thou in our ye olde themed auto-sale!").

Consequently you'll probably find that if you do learn these old forms, you'll find very little modern use for it, and it'll make it all the more jarring when you hear such grammatical abominations on TV or in adverts.

Matt

Posted 2013-02-28T20:44:01.517

Reputation: 11 728

I can't cite any references and I may be wrong, but I'm under the impression that "maketh" roughly (depending on context) means "make the" or "makes the". So here it means "Manners make the man". – Felix Weir – 2013-03-01T11:12:09.630

4

No, make + "eth": http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/-eth

– Digerkam – 2013-03-01T12:13:54.673