Language: Comparing Old and New Words
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  • Introduction
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When you read texts written a long time ago, such as the works of Shakespeare, it is clear that some words in the English language have changed over time.

 

 

Some are shortened or lengthened, while others change their meaning. Some words from Shakespeare's time have disappeared altogether, and we use a great many new words that he would not recognise at all.

 

Look at the sentences in old English in this exercise and see if you can work out what the underlined words mean in modern English. Try to use the context (the rest of the sentence) to help you choose the correct meaning.

  • Question 1
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Read this sentence in old English and choose the word (or words) in modern English which you think come closest in meaning to the underlined word.

 

But hark! I hear the footing of a man.

wait!

hurry!

listen!

let's go!

stay there!

  • Question 2
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Read this sentence in old English and choose the word (or words) in modern English which you think come closest in meaning to the underlined word.

 

In yonder field was the battle won.

the field over there

the biggest field

the corn field

the only field

your field

  • Question 3
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Read this sentence in old English and choose the word (or words) in modern English which you think come closest in meaning to the underlined word.

 

Verily I say to you, I know not why.

Quietly

Confidentially

Once again

In truth

Each time

  • Question 4
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Read this sentence in old English and choose the word (or words) in modern English which you think come closest in meaning to the underlined word.

 

Come hither page and hear thy master's voice.

quickly

later

quietly

right away

here

  • Question 5
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Read this sentence in old English and choose the word (or words) in modern English which you think come closest in meaning to the underlined word.

 

Prithee master, let thy servant speak.

Right now

Please, I beg you

Be fair

Listen carefully

You really ought to

  • Question 6
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Read this sentence in old English and choose the word (or words) in modern English which you think come closest in meaning to the underlined word.

 

I beseech your grace, pardon the boy.

am telling you now

suggest

respect

beg

order you

  • Question 7
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Read this sentence in old English and choose the word (or words) in modern English which you think come closest in meaning to the underlined word.

 

In truth thou art the reason for my grief.

that is

he was

you were

they are

you are

  • Question 8
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This time, match the Shakespearian words with their modern equivalents.

Column A

Column B

thou
over
forsooth
are
adieu
indeed
thy
your
o'er
you
art
goodbye
Progress