verbs may best be explained by using the following sentence as an example:
|Andra micht hae been biggin a bield.
Andrew might have been building
possible - micht.
having been in the past - hae.
hae [he] and
southern Scots, also hiv [hɪv,
hʌv] and [hɛv]
in north east central and west central Scots. Contracted
being in progress rather than as complete
In Scots the auxiliary verbs, and their
moods and tenses, are much the same as they are in Standard
English except that:
They are rarely used in the subjunctive
mood (the mood expresses the mode or manner of an
action or of a state of being), the indicative (the
mood of the verb that expresses fact) is preferred
in its place.
||A wiss (that) his threap war soonder.
||I wiss (that) his threap wis soonder.
The active infinitive (the subject
of the verb is the doer of the action, the verbal
idea being expressed without reference to person,
number or time) is used in preference to the passive
infinitive (the subject is the person or thing that
sustains, rather than performs the action of the verb,
the verbal idea once again being expressed without
reference to person, number or time).
tae lippen til.
||He's not to
hoose tae lat?
||Is this house
to be let?
present participle (in or of the present tense) with the verb tae
be (to be) is frequently used.
|A'm no sayin
I won't say that.
|A'm no carin.
I don't care.
The auxiliary verbs are:
||'should', ought to
*Sall is now probably obsolete
having been replaced by will and sud
Daes also has the more frequent
Some other verbs such as bide
(await, stay), come, care, dow
(to be able), gang (go), gaed (went),
lat (let), need , ocht (ought),
uise (use), want (lacking, desiring)
and wit or wat (to know) may also function
as auxiliaries, but that is now mostly obsolete except
Much as in Standard English, particularly
after pronouns, is may be contracted to 's
(after a sibilant consonant the full form is is used).
Similarly, haed, hiv, will and
wad may be contracted to 'd, 'v,
'll and 'd. Haes may also be
contracted to 's, except after a singular pronoun,
where it is usually haes or the contracted
form of hiv, 'v.
- The present and past tense of the auxiliary verb be.
After a single pronoun:
1st person singular: am (contracted
3rd person singular: is (contracted 's
Plural in all persons: are (contracted 're)
The plural present of be is
the same as for the third person singular, is
or 's, after any subject except after the pronouns
we, ye/you, thay
where it is usually we are or we’re.
Similarly, the plural present of hae
is haes, except after the first person
pronoun we, where it is usually we
hae, we hiv or we’v.
The past tense of the auxiliary verb be
is generally wis in the singular
and plural, except after the pronoun thay,
where it is usually thay war, occasionally
thay wis in more colloquial styles.
|The windaes wis aw steekit.
The windows were all closed.
|We wis aw asleep.
were all asleep.
|He's gane hame.
gone off home.
|Me an him's no chief.
and I are not on friendly terms.
|Thir's bonnie flouers.
are pretty flowers.
|That's fine nowt.
are fine cattle.
|The swallaes is come.
swallows have come.
|Thaim that comes first's
come first are served first.
|The lamms is oot in the
The lambs are out
in the field.
|We wis gaun hame.
were going home.
|Beasts wis cheaper than.
were cheaper then.
|Thay war baith ben the hoose.
Both of them were in the house.
- Usage of the present and past tense.
Be for indicates the sense of
|A'll no be for that the nou.
don't want that at the moment.
|A'm no for nae mair.
don't want any more.
The present habitual be [bi:,
and bes [bi:s,
used for repeated habitual actions, is highly recessive
but still occurs in Ulster Scots.
|It bes rainin here aft.
often rains here.
|Burns Nicht bes celebrate in Ulster.
Burns Night is celebrated in
|Thay be playin fitbaw on Seturday.
They play football on Saturday.
|Fish bes selt at the mercat ilka Friday.
Fish are sold at the market every
|We bes at the dancin ilka Seturday.
We go dancing every Saturday.
In colloquial speech hae is often
omitted after wad and shortened to 'a'
after coud, haed, micht, shoud
|Ye wad (hae) thocht it he haed duin
You would have thought
that he had done it.
|I kent the days whan less wad (hae)
I knew the days
when he would have been satisfied with less.
|He coud 'a' duin it.
could have done it.
|A wad 'a' haed tae dae't.
would have had to do it.
|A wad 'a' coud 'a' duin
I would have been able
to have done it.
As well as ability, permission is expressed
by infinitive use of can rather than the old-fashioned
mey, and by get tae and get
plus the gerund.
|A'll no can gang the morn.
won't be able to go tomorrow.
|Ye can hae the day aff the morn.
may have the day off tomorrow.
|Thay gat gaun til the gemm.
were allowed to go to the match.
|Thay get daffin ootby till aicht in the
They are allowed to
play outside until eight in the evening.
|The schuil-bairns gets tae come ben whan
The school children
are allowed to come in when it rains heavily.
Maun only expresses the conclusive
meaning. Obligation is expressed by hae tae,
hiv tae and need tae.
|Ye maun gang hame.
must go home.
(It is time to ...)
|Ye maun be forfochten.
must be exhausted.
(judging by your appearance)
|Ye maun speir anent the job
You must inquire
about the job by nine.
(Otherwise someone else will get it.)
|A hae tae tak the kye oot.
I must take the cows out(side).
|Ye need tae pent the hoose.
must paint the house.
|A hiv tae gang tae ma wark.
must go to work.
|A need tae caw ma grannie.
must call my grandmother.
|She'll hae tae can lauch.
must be able to laugh.
|A hae tae dae't nou.
must to do it now.
|We'v tae be thare at sax.
must be there at six.
The past tense of maun
is buid, denoting a logical, moral
or physical necessity. It is generally used with a personal
subject and is usually followed by the preposition tae.
|It buid tae be.
had to be.
|An tae the sodgerin A buid tae gang.
And a-soldiering I had to go.
Will and wad
are generally used where Standard English has 'shall'
or 'should', except where shoud is used in the
sense of 'aught to'.
|Bairns shoud haud thair tongues.
ought to keep quiet.
|Ye shoud learn tae leuk afore ye lowp.
You should to learn to look before
In the first person will indicates
|Thay Will dae it the morn.
will do it tomorrow.
|She will dae that efter.
will do that later.
|A'll daur him dae't gin A
come ower him in the toun.
dare him to do it if I meet him in town.
Will is also used to indicate
|A see a body will hae been speakin wi ye.
I see someone has been speaking
|Ye will be the same lad that wis here yestreen.
You are likely to be the same
boy who was here yesterday evening.
Sall, now generally replaced
by will, indicates an intention. Sall
is often shortened to s'
[z] (often illogically written 'se).
|A s' wad.
|A s' gie ye ma warrandice
give you my guarantee.
|A s' uphaud.
|Ye s' no be here - A s'
aye be thare.
You will not
be here - I shall still be there.
South of the Forth, Scots uses many
double modal constructions.
|He micht can come the morn.
may be able to come tomorrow.
|He micht coud dae't.
may be able to do it. (in the future)
|A shoud can mend the skathie.
ought to be able to repair the fence.
|She'll can tent the bairn.
be able to look after the child.
|He'll hae tae coud dae't.
have to be able to do it. (in the future)
|He shoud coud tak it wi him.
ought to be able to take it with him. (in the
|The lad maun coud muck the
The lad should be
able to clean the cow shed. (condition)
|The horse maun can hurl the cairt.
The horse can surely pull the
|Ilka bairn in the toun will can say that.
Every child in town ought to
be able to say that.
|She wad coud milk the kye gin she ettelt.
She would be be able to milk
the cows, if she tried.
|Thay uised tae coud soum faur, but no
They used to be
able to swim far, but not now.
- Negating the infinitive.
The auxiliary verbs are usually negated
by affixing na. Some change their spelling
and/or pronunciation in the process.
||be not, don't be
*Daena and haena may
also take the more frequent alternative spellings
dinna and hinna. Divna (do
not) is an emphatic form.
** Sall and sanna
are probably obsolete, having been replaced by will
and winna, although will and
the contracted form ’ll may be negated
using the adverb no.
***The negation of daur is daurna
or durstna, the former usually in the sense
of a 'dare' and the latter usually in the sense of
a 'challenge' or 'venture'.
Those usually occur:
In all persons of the plural except
immediately following a personal pronoun.
Where the subject is a plural
Where the plural pronoun is separated
from the verb by some other word or words.
See The verb
|A haena ony ingans.
haven't any onions.
|A dinna ken yer brither.
don't know your brother.
|Ye maunna gang.
|He winna skelp the wean.
won't slap the child.
|A daurna tell.
|He maunna tak mair aiples.
He mustn't take more apples.
|She sanna wash the fluir.
She has no intention to wash
|He daurna tell her he wis
on the bash.
tell her he was on a drinking bout.
|He canna heeze thon muckle
He can't lift that
large stone (over there).
In colloquial speech daena
is often shortened to dae'
[de] and canna to ca'
|Dae' dae that.
|A dae' ken wha it wis.
don't know who it was.
|He ca' tell ye whaur it is.
can't tell you where it is.
|A ca' dae that.
can't do that.
- Negative present.
Note daesna may also take the
more frequent alternative spelling disna.
|A amna gaun hame acause she isna comin
I am not going
home because she isn't coming too.
| She haesna seen himm an he disna
ken whaur he's at.
hasn't seen himm and he doesn't know where he
Am and are are now
usually negated using the adverb no.
|A'm no weel.
|Ye're no blate.
- Negative past.
** Sud, sudna
and the form sanna, are probably
obsolete, having been replaced by shoud and
The past tense wisna is generally
used in the singular and plural except before or after
the pronoun thay where it is usually thay
warna, although thay wisna may also occur.
|A wisna gaun tae big a hoose
in the winter. Thay warna gaun tae gie's
a haund aither.
going to build a house in winter. They weren't going
to help me either.
|Dinna speir at him. He michtna
ken whaur't is.
him. He may not know where it is.
|A haedna gien the seetiation
I hadn't given
the situation much thought.
|His new sark didna ser.
new shirt didn't fit.
|He shoudna fash hissel.
He shouldn't bother his head.
|He wadna come.
|A wadna eat it gin ye peyed me.
wouldn't eat it if you payed me.
|A coudna say a hott aboot it.
I couldn't say much about it.
|A coudna beir tae think on it.
couldn't bear to think of it.
|A coudna dae't.
couldn't do it.
|A michtna hae tae.
mightn't have to.
- Interrogative sentences (questions) usually begin
with one of the auxiliary verbs followed by the subject
unless they begin with an interrogative pronoun or adverb.
Div is an interrogative form of dae.
|Am A no richt?
I not right?
|Are ye siccar?
|Wha did ye see?
did you see?
|Dinna ye ken?
|Div ye no ken?
|Canna ye come?
|Can ye no come?
|Wad ye like a bittock?
you like a bit?
|Is thae yours?
|Ye wis thare, wis ye no?
were there, were you not?
|Whaur wis ye gaun?
were you going?
|War thay baith thare?
both of them there?
|Wis the baith o them thare?
both of them there?
In the first person will indicates
|Will help him caw the sheep tae the bucht?
Will you help him drive the
sheep to the pen?
In questions will is used to
express 'do you wish me to?'
|Will A gang an get ane?
I go and get one?
|Will A come roond the morn?
I come around tomorrow?
The affirmative answer is ay
and the negative answer is na or nae,
or colloquial naw.
|D'ye want an ice? Ay thanks!
you like an ice cream? Yes please!
|D'ye want yer heid duntit? Nae!
you like your head bashed? No!
|D'ye ken whaur Rab is? Na.
you know where Robert is? No.
If no auxiliary verb is used, the
sentence may begin with a verb.
|Think ye sae?
you think so?
|Cam ye by Fawkirk?
you come past Falkirk?
|Whaur haurd ye that?
did you hear that?
|Whaur gat ye yer schuilin?
did you go to school?