|Two present-tense verb-endings from Middle English are still to be found in the Early Modern period: -est for the 2nd person singular following thou (as in thou goest); and -th or -eth for the 3rd person singular (as in she goeth). Both were reducing in frequency, and in due course the -est form would disappear (modern: you go), and the -(e)th form be entirely replaced by -s (modern: she goes).
In Shakespearian English, the verbs which most commonly take the ending are hath (has), doth (does), and saith (says). The factors governing the choice of this ending are not entirely understood. Context is important: -(e)th is used in many formal proclamations, and it is often found in stage directions;
|but there are some curious mixtures (‘Enter Douglas; he fighteth with Falstaff, who falls down as if he were dead’, 1H4 V.iv.76). The demands of the metre are also important, -eth giving the poet the option of an extra syllable: a rhythmical contrast with the same verb can be seen at the beginning of Cleon’s speech, ‘Who wanteth food and will not say he wants it’ (Per I.iv.11). The most distinctive verbs, both in Shakespearian and in modern English, are be, have, do, and the set of auxiliary verbs known as the modals, such as can, may, would, and shall. The chief differences between then and now are shown below.