Lesson 6

The Imperative

These forms are used to indicate orders, commands, suggestions—any form of telling someone else to do something. They, of course, lack first person singular forms (you don’t normally tell yourself to do things, not out loud anyway) and also first person dual forms. They do, however, have third person forms, which indicate a kind of command at second hand: “let him do…”, “let them do…”.

The endings are:

1st Plural:-am (same as the present indicative)
2nd Singular: zero (with devoicing of final b to f, and d to th)
2nd Dual: -ats (same as the present indicative)
2nd Plural: -ith (same as the present indicative)
3rd Singular: -adau
3rd Plural: -andau

For example:

gaggam (weis): Let’s go!
gagg (thu): Go! (to one person)
gaggats (jut): Go! (to two people)
gaggith (jus): Go! (to several people)
gaggadau: Let him/her/it go!
gaggandau: Let them go!

Vocative case

The vocative is the case of direct address. It hasn’t been considered as a separate case so far, since it is normally identical to the nominative case. However, in those nouns which in the nominative singular end in -s, the -s is dropped in the vocative (producing a form which is typically identical to the accusative). Example: Alareik, gif mis hilm meinana! “Alaric, give me my helmet!”
Relative clauses:

Gothic doesn’t have a relative pronoun as such; relative clauses are introduced by the combination of the demonstrative pronoun/article (sa, so, thata) with the particle “ei”, which can be translated “that”, “who”, or “which” (and often stands by itself). In most cases the junction is simple: sa+ei = saei “he who”; thaim+ei = thaimei “to them who, to those who”.

In some cases, however, there is “sandhi”—a change at the boundary between the elements. There are two kinds of sandhi occurring in these pronouns:

Elision: final a is dropped, so

thana+ei = thanei
thata+ei = thatei
thamma+ei = thammei

Voicing: final s becomes z

this+ei = thizei
thizos+ei = thizozei
thans+ei = thanzei
thos+ei = thozei

This combined pronoun functions, however, like a relative pronoun in other languages; it agrees with its antecedent (the word it refers to) in gender and number, but takes the case appropriate to its position in the relative clause.

Example: Weis sehwum thana mannan saei stal thata huzd. “We saw the man who stole the treasure.”

Saei “who” is masculine and singular like “mannan”; however, since it stands for “sa manna” in its clause (i.e., the sentence “lying behind” “saei stal thata huzd” is “sa manna stal thata huzd”) it is nominative singular.

Wit sehwu thata leik this mans thanei sa thiudans afsloh. “We two saw the body of the man whom the king killed.” (afsloh = preterite of afslahan “to kill”, related to slahan “strike”).

Here “thanei” refers back to manna (here found in genitive singular); it agrees with manna in being masculine and singular, but is accusative because it really stands for “thana mannan”. If this is confusing, you can try expanding the sentence: …this mans thanei sa thiudans afsloh > this mans, thana mannan ei sa thiudans afsloh “of the man whom the king killed” > “of the man, (i.e.) that man whom the king killed”

Questions are introduced by

“question words” (like our who, what, why),
by a word ending in the “enclitic” interrogative particle -u.

Question words include:

hwas, hwa: who, what?
hwan: when?
hwar: where?
hwadre, hwath: where, to where, to what place?
hwathro: from where, from what place?
hwaiwa: how, in what way?
hwe: how, by what means?
duhwe: why, to what end? (a compound, du+hwe)

hwas declines as a pronoun: only singular forms are available:
Masculine Neuter Feminine
N hwas hwa hwo
A hwana hwa hwo
G hwis hwis hwizos
D hwamma hwamma hwizai

Note that the neuter singular is “hwa”, which is somewhat irregular both from point of view of the internal structure of Gothic (you’d expect *hwata, cf. thata, ita) and by comparison with other Germanic languages (which have reflexes of *hwat, cf. English “what”, German “was”, Icelandic “hvat”). With the exception of hwas and hwa, the paradigm is just like that of sa.


hwas et hlaif meinana? “Who ate my bread?”
hwana afsloh is? “Whom did he kill?”
hwa (ist) namo thein? “What’s your name?” (Ist is often omitted)
hwo (ist) aithei izos? “Who is her mother?”
hwamma skal ik giban thata gulth? “To whom should I give the gold?”
hwis (ist) thata barn? “Whose is the child?” or “Whose child is that?”
hwar skulum itan? “Where should we eat?”
hwadre gaggith jus? “Where are you going?”
hwathro qimis thu? “Where did you come from?”
hwan qam sa guma? “When did that man come?”
hwaiwa mag ik saihwan thana thiudan? “How can I see the king?” (implying “What do I have to do to…”)
Duhwe itis thata akran? Matha ist in imma. “Why are you eating that fruit? There’s a worm in it.”

-u most often follows ni, as in:

Niu qast thu tho waurda? “Didn’t you say those words?”
Niu magt thu niman ita mith thus? “Can’t you take it with you?”

It is more rarely used elsewhere. After the ga- it is attached to the prefix making gau-: Gaulithuth jus du marein? “Did you travel to (the) sea?”

Also used is the word “ibai”, which both indicates the presence of a question and the presumption that it will be answered negatively: Ibai magt qithan Gutisko “You can’t speak Gothic, can you?” (Gutisko – an adverbial form, “Gothically”, modifying qithan) Questions merely asking for confirmation or disconfirmation can be answered with ja or jai “yes”, ne “no”.


afslahan, afsloh, afslohun: kill
afwairpan, afwarp, afwurpun: put away, cast away; takes an object in the dative case
kara ist (or kar’ ist) + accusative: it concerns X., e.g. kar’ ist ija “it concerns her”
ni kara + accusative: it doesn’t concern X, X doesn’t care, e.g. ni kara mik “I don’t care”


Qimadau sa goda guma mith mis, jah ik giba imma alla tho landa thizos airthos.
Brinnadau thata razn thize ubilane weihane, Wairamund!
Drigkandau thai juggans mannans stikl weinis.
Bairith du razna meinamma all thata huzd thatei mis gaf frauja meins.
Leitila so thiuda thizozei is thiudans ist.
Hwar skulu slepan, ana airthai undar himin, aiththau in razn hundis?
Hwas thu? hwadre gaggis? Qith mis, aiththau ik thuk afslaha.
Ibai qast thamma bandjin thammei sa frauja in karkarai afwarp? Ne, ik ni qath imma.
Niu gaft thaim tharbam all silubr thein? Jai, ik gaf ita im.
Duhwe bairith jus fiskans du akra?

Answers to this exercise.

To whom should you give the gifts of the soul?
The lights which the ship carried shone on the sea.
Let him say what (things) he knows.
Whom did you see in your field who was not your servant?
Didn’t you eat all the fruit that the woman gave you?
Go to hell, Alamoths! The words which you spoke lied.
You aren’t carrying those wolves’ heads to your lord, are you?
Let them eat the grass and twigs which they can find; it doesn’t concern me.
Whose child do you carry? The king is the man whose child I carry in my womb.
The fishes fled the stone which fell into the river.

(Answers to this exercise.)

On to Lesson 7.
Back to Lesson 5.