previous next

VERBS, AUXILIARY. Do, did, original use of

Do, Did: original use. In Early as in modern English, the present and past indefinite of the indicative were generally represented by inflected forms, as "He comes," "He came," without the aid of do or did. Do was then used only in the sense of "to cause," "to make," &c.; and in this sense was followed by an infinitive. “They have done her understonde.” GOWER.1 i.e. "they have caused her to understand." Similarly it is used like the French "faire" or "laisser" with the ellipsis of the person who is "caused" to do the action, thus-- “Do stripen me and put me in a sakke,
And in the nexte river do me drenche.” CHAUCER, Marchante's Tale, 10,074. i.e. "cause (some one) to strip me--to drench me."

In the same way "let" is repeatedly used in Early English: “He let make Sir Kay seneschal of England.” Morte d'Arthur. where a later author might have written "he did make."

Gradually the force of the infinitive inflection en was weakened and forgotten; thus "do stripen" became "do strip," and do was used without any notion of causation.2

Sometimes do is reduplicated, as: “And thus he did do slen hem alle three.” CHAUCER, C. T. 7624. or used with "let," as in “He let the feste of his nativitee
Don crien.” CHAUCER, C. T. 10,360.

The verb was sometimes used transitively with an objective noun, as: “He did thankingys.” WICKLIFFE, St. Matt. xv. 36. and so in Shakespeare in

“Do me some charity.

“This fellow did the third (daughter) a blessing.

“Do my good-morrow to them.

“To do you salutation from his master.

; Rich. III. v. 3. 210.

“After the last enchantment you did here.

and in the words "to don," i.e. "put on," and "dout," i.e. "put out."

But as a rule do had become a mere auxiliary, so that we even find it an auxiliary to itself, as in

“Who does do you wrong?

1 Quoted from Richardson's Dictionary.

2 The question may arise why do was preferred to let as an auxiliary verb. Probably the ambiguity of let, which meant both "suffer" and "hinder," was an obstacle to its general use.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: