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Historically the modal verbs derive from the perfect tense which took over a meaning referring to present time. That's why the forms of the modal verbs don't follow the normal pattern. German wissen, not exactly a modal verb, has a similar conjugation in present tense. It is connected with the Latin perfect vidi - I have seen. If you have seen something ...


As rogermue already pointed out, these verbs once were past tense forms: Verbs that had a shift were past tense forms gained a present tense meaning like muss/müssen are called preterite presents or Präteritopräsentien and most of these verbs are the modals that you gave. In former times, there was a difference in singular and plural for strong past tense ...

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