Is there a grammar book similar to Wheelock's Latin, but for Old English?

And also, is there an equivalent of Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata?

  • 2
    I doubt there are books for Old English intended for learning as a second language for conversation, with pronunciation drills and fill in the slot questions. But I'm sure there are many reference grammars for OE from which one can learn conjugations, weak and strong verbs and adjectives, etc. Wheelock is a good source to learn how to read Latin; I don't think ther's anything as comparable for beginning learners of OE.
    – Mitch
    Commented Oct 29, 2017 at 17:28
  • 1
    Study Beowulf, and you'll pick up Old English - probably one of the best ways to study a language is to read original texts with criticisms.
    – Gary
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 10:51
  • 4
    @Gary That seems like an advanced exercise rather than a beginner's exercise, unless I'm wildly misinformed about the level of similarity between Old English and Modern English.
    – Casey
    Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 17:01
  • m.youtube.com/watch?v=Ptp_v7chhm4 Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 17:56

2 Answers 2


When I took Old English as an undergrad we used Bright's Old English Grammar & Reader, which gives a decent start. I'm sure there are other beginning books you can find, perhaps on Amazon.

Understand, though, that you immediately plunge into literature, and the survey of the grammar is designed to get you reading—for that is about all there is to do with Old English. In the second semester of the survey course we were already reading Beowulf, the crowning achievement of Old English lit.

There isn't a lot else. Compared to Latin, say, the quantity of original texts available is something on the order of a corner store in a rural town to a Whole Foods in Los Angeles. It's possible, for example, to read the entire Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in a few hours. There are poems, collections of riddles, and so forth, but the sad fact is that we simply don't have a wealth of OE lit bulging the stacks. Some of it you will only see as fragments in places like the British Museum (I recall an interesting set of glazed tiles that formed a kind of "comic book" about the exploits of the boy Jesus, for example) and, if you're lucky enough to get access, in the stacks of academic libraries. If your aim is to be an Old English dilettante, you are going to have to reckon with rather more work than may be comfortable for you.

Moreover, the grammar "skeleton" you receive going into your reading will constantly prove insufficient to explain some of the constructions you'll encounter, and you'll wonder if anomalies you see are regional variations or part of a more complicated grammar you aren't privy to or transcription errors—or all three. Such questions, if answerable at all, can require serious scholarship to resolve. You will have to read far more modern English about the works than you will read the Old English works themselves. (The good news is that probably most questions you will have about the text are answered by annotations.)


When I studied this as an undergraduate, we used Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer. It's a long time since I read any of it, and language teaching has come on in leaps and bounds since then, but it seemed to do its job, and it taught me some Old English.


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