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Is there overt morphological marking on the verb dedicated to past tense?


This question aims to capture productive paradigms of overt tense marking. ‘Morphological marking on the verb’ means that the marker has to form a phonological unit with the verb. The marking of tense can involve affixes, clitics, suppletion, tonal marking and/or reduplication. This feature aims to capture overt marking of past tense on the verb. Lack of other marking is not enough. There are instances where TAM can be expressed by a combination of an affix and auxiliary or particle. For example some grammarians state that past tense is expressed by a certain aspect on the verbal root and an auxiliary. If this is a productive and obligatory way of expression past tense then this construction triggers 1 for both this feature (GB083) and the feature on tense auxiliaries (GB121). If the marking of past tense is accomplished by more than one marker and at least one is bound, code 1. If not all parts of the discontinuous marking are necessary for expressing past tense, then only consider the marking that is obligatory.

The past tense marker should be dedicated to past tense and not also mark perfective aspect, present, or future. A non-future marker is not enough for a 1 here.


  1. Find the section discussing tense in the grammatical description.
  2. If past tense is not explicitly defined, check the descriptions of the other tenses and moods (if there are any).
  3. Code 1 if past tense can be marked on the verb by an affix or clitic, suppletion, tonal marking or reduplication.
  4. Code 1 if past tense can be marked by a combination of morphology and an auxiliary or particle. In these cases, also code 1 for GB121 on tense auxiliaries and/or GB521 on tense particles.
  5. If past tense is only marked by the absence of other markers, code 0.


Swedish (ISO 639-3: swe, Glottolog: swed1254)

Swedish has a past tense marker -de/e (c.f. Teleman et al. 1999), illustrated with the table below. For some stems not illustrated here, there is also vowel alternation for tense, as is common in other Germanic languages. Swedish is coded as a 1 for this feature.

present past infinitive
‘wash dishes’ diska-r diska-de diska
‘swim’ simma-r simma-de simma
‘dance’ dansa-r dansa-de dansa
‘fly’ flyge-r flög flyga

Further reading

Comrie, Bernard. 1985. Tense. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dahl, Östen. 1985. Tense and aspect systems. Oxford: Blackwell.

Dahl, Östen & Viveka Velupillai. 2013. The past tense. In Matthew S. Dryer & Martin Haspelmath (eds), The world atlas of language structures online. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.


Teleman, Ulf, Staffan Hellberg & Erik Andersson. 1999. Svenska akademiens grammatik, vol. 4. Stockholm: Svenska akademien.

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