Friday, February 22, 2013

Use of "-est" and "-eth" in the KJV

Many people, both friends and foes of the King James Bible, do not understand the use of "-est" and "-eth" verbs in the KJV. Yet how often do we spend time to help those who are trying to read and understand it? The verb forms of the KJV are in simple and consistent pattern. The 2nd person and 3rd person singular verb endings are different than what we encounter in modern writings. What do they mean?

• The –st endings are used with the 2nd person singular (thou). E.g., “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness...” (Psalm 45:7).
• The –th endings are used with the 3rd person singular (he/she/it). E.g., “For he that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life...” (John 12:25).
• The 1st person singular (I), and plural pronouns (we/ye/they) use the same endings as modern English forms:
  E.g. Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.” (2 Cor. 11:11)
  E.g. “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
  E.g. “...they love him that speaketh right.” (Proverbs 16:13)

Verbs: Use of "-est" and "-eth" in the KJV

I love
We love
Thou lovest
Ye love
- eth
He loveth
They love

Unlike the “ye/thou” differences, the "-est" and "-eth" endings do not provide more accuracy to the text. It is simply a matter of understanding grammar and the verb conjugation if you are reading the KJV. I have not examined every verb. Knowing that the English language is a language full of irregular verbs and exceptions to rules, I would caution that you may run across some exceptions to the above “rule”.

[Note 1.: Some have made claims that the "-est" and "-eth" suffixes on verbs signify continual action (Greek “perfect tense”) as opposed to one-time action (Greek “aorist tense”). In fact these tenses in the Greek language are absent in the English language. So in this case there is no difference between old English and modern English translations. Following this erroneous explanation for the -est and -eth endings will lead one into errors of interpretation.]
[Note 2. (added 05/2022): A reader pointed out the "-edst" ending on some verbs. Examples of this can be found in Genesis 31:13 (“anointedst” and “vowedst”), Genesis 49:4 (“defiledst”), John 21:18 (“girdedst” and “walkedst”), and Hebrews 2:7 (“crownedst”). This verse also has “didst”, which is a variant. According to “The Kings Bible” advanced search results, 74 Bible verses have words with this "-edst" ending (sometimes more than once in the verse). The "-edst" ending is found with the second person singular verb when it is past tense. It matches with the “thou” pronoun. It is found on words that end in "-ed" and have "-st" added.]


Unknown said...

Note: the very reason the King James translators came up with the use of -eth- just because there is not that tense in the English language to convey the idea of a continual action the King James translators came up with a brilliant way to convey that actual message

R. L. Vaughn said...

Brother Davis, thanks for reading and commenting at "Seeking the Old Paths". Two things: I'm not sure what you mean when you say "the King James translators came up with the use of -eth". Are you just saying they chose it for a reason? We cannot say that they "come up with it" in the sense of inventing it. There is documentary proof of the -eth ending being used in the English language long before 1611. I would also be interested in information that shows that -eth ending always conveys the idea of continual action.

Thanks. Have a nice day.

Donna said...

Thank you for this clear simple explanation, your table illustrating the use of the endings and your footnote at the bottom. Many years ago I had heard the explanation of these endings representing the continual tense and thought it was so. Now I see that it is not. Your information on the endings coincides with what I have read from other sources. Recently I have renewed interest in the continuing tense because I am learning about it in studying the Russian language. Because Christ lives, Mark

R. L. Vaughn said...

You're welcome. Glad it was helpful. Have a blessed day. In Christ Alone, RLV.

David French said...

John 11:26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

It would be the common sense that God has given us to understand that, if, we continue to live, and continue to believe in Jesus, as He says "you will never die", and,if it were not enough that they would believe His singular statement, He taps on their mind to awaken them to what He had just said, doubling back on his statement...Believest thou this?

"eth" needs no scholarly examination, just sincere heart, and isn't that what what the Lord wants.

Note: It is good however to be scholarly.

Tami said...

I think one point that deserves mentioning is that the KJV translators called Latin "the finest" of languages.

The conjugation of verbs, and the first- and second-personal pronouns in the KJV, emulate the Latin way of conjugation, and personal pronouns.

Reading the KJV's "thee" and "ye", and "-est" and "-eth" with a knowledge of a Latin language (conjugation and pronouns), helps make reading the KJV easier.

I met a woman whose primary language is Spanish, and her Bible of choice is the Reina-Valera. She said that the KJV English is easier for her to understand than any other English translation, for that reason.

That's just my take. YMMV

R. L. Vaughn said...

Tami, thanks so much. That is very interesting about the relationship with Latin. Thanks for commenting!

i7sharp said...


I came upon your site because it is one of the first results of my googling for suffixes or endings such as "-est, -ed, -edst," etc.

Although I cannot seem to find -edst endings such as "anointedst, vowedst, longedst, defiledst" (the occurrences I found in the book of Genesis alone) I am thankful for your attempts.
The first occurrences ("anointedst" and "vowedst") both appear in the same verse, Genesis 31:13

Thank you. Have a blessed day!

R. L. Vaughn said...

i7sharp, you're welcome.

As best I can tell the "-edst" is only used for the second person singular when it is past tense. So it will match with the "thou" pronoun. However, "-edst" is not always used in such cases. For example, in Genesis 49:4, both "-est" and "-edst" are used with the past tense (went and defiled) -- thou wentest up to thy father’s bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.

I could not figure out how to search for just the "-edst" ending in the program I use, so this is a tentative answer based on a few examples I found.

Anonymous said...
Go to help and find "Advanced Search Expressions"
That is how you can search endings of words and lots of great searching patterns

R. L. Vaughn said...

Thanks for that information. It will be very helpful. Have a blessed day.