Does the difference in sound of these two words in English imply that at one time to "go in the past" was not understood as being related to going in the present? Or that there was no way to express the idea in English so it was borrowed from another language?

I think Mandarin has nothing like this divergence between "go" and "went" and German does not either (could be wrong on German but I think "went" is "gegangen" or something that sounds related to present tense and Mandarin has a very clear and regular way of doing stuff like this.)

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    That's called suppletion and it's explained well in that Wiki article. Another English example is be – am, is, are, was, were which are all the forms of a single word. Naturally, Mandarin has nothing like that because in Mandarin words don't inflect for any grammar category.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 19:33
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    @YellowSky Mandarin does have something like suppletion, in a broader sense; for example, the simple verb negator ‘not’ is 不 with all verbs except the verb 有 yǒu ‘have’, where it’s 没 méi instead. Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 19:37
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    There were many past forms for 'go' in the dialects of Old and Middle English. The one that finally stuck in Modern English is from the same root as wend, replacing the earlier oede or gang forms. Suppletion is a way of life when dialects mix.
    – jlawler
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 19:44
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    Does this answer your question? What causes suppletion?
    – Keelan
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 20:41
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    @relesabe Suppletion has arisen in languages in recent times and are in fact in the process of arising right now. In English, for example, the singular noun people started to be used as an indefinite plural noun, but it has no direct singular counterpart in that sense. Conversely, as people became more common as a plural noun, the actual plural persons has become less common, to the extent that in unmarked, colloquial speech, people frequently functions as the plural of person – a suppletive paradigm is born, right before our eyes, and not because anyone struggles with ‘persons’. Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 22:50

1 Answer 1


According to Etymology Dictionary:

"The Old English past tense was eode, a word of uncertain origin but evidently once a different verb (perhaps connected to Gothic iddja); it was replaced 1400s by went, past tense of wenden "to direct one's way".

The previous suppletive verb form was considered as confusing because, after reduction, looked like a dental suffix "ed(e)".

The past form of the synonymous verb wend was a good solution to this situation.

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    Worth noting that this suppletion has caused blocking in Modern English: even though wend (ending in a nasal + voiced stop) still has the right root structure to form a shortened -t past tense (like spend > spent), the past tense of wend is now only wended – because obviously went is already taken as the past-tense form of the much more common verb go. Commented Jul 29, 2020 at 13:19
  • Could OE eode be related to Czech, jít, jezdit etc Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 6:19
  • Though we don't know the etymology of the verb, "eode" has some resemblance with modern Slavonic verbs of the same semantics (for example, Russian JEZDIT', JEDU, etc.).
    – user307254
    Commented Aug 1, 2020 at 10:05

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