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The King James Bible interchangeably uses 'spake/spoke', 'sware/swore' and 'bare/bore' for the simple past tenses of 'speak', 'swear', and 'bear', respectively.

Were their interchangeability an innovation of Early Modern English with nuanced distinction in the periods therebefore or had they always been alternatives for the same things? How did the King James scholars decide which form should be used for which context?

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  • Site examples. I just did a Boolean search of the entire King James Bible and the word "spoke" doesn't appear even one time. It only uses "spake" for the preterit. As for "bare" and "bore," they are different tenses, so of course they would both appear. You don't say what your question is about "swear."
    – user184292
    Jul 20, 2016 at 3:09
  • Do remember that at this time there was basically no definitely correct spelling of anything. To give an example, around this time there were three different plurals if egg; eggs, egg and eggie. Don't expect an awful lot of consistency. Jul 20, 2016 at 9:42

2 Answers 2

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Every dictionary I'm looking at here says "spake" is simply an (archaic) past tense of "speak." Variations happen. They used to happen more than now, especially in spelling.

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Bare and bore are not different tenses. They are both past tense of bear. But bare is archaic and never used now. Same with sware and swore - both past tense of swear.

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