Lesson 025

Russian Past tense

In one of the previos lessons we have learned how to form the Present tense of Russian verbs. It’s time to learn how to form the Past tense.

How to form Past tense in Russian

Verbs ending in -ТЬ

Forming the Past tense is pretty easy. All you need to do is to take the Infinitive (initial) form of a verb and replace its ending -ть with one of the following endings depending on gender and number of the subject:

Masculine – replace with л
Feminine – replace with ла
Neutral – replace with ло
Plural – replace with ли

These rules works for both 1st and 2d conjugation types, for perfective and imperfective verbs.

Let’s try doing it on some examples:

Russian Pod 101

учи́тьto learn (imperf.)

я, ты, он учи́л
я, ты, она́ учи́ла
оно́ учи́ло
мы, вы, они́ учи́ли

сказа́тьto say (perf.)

я, ты, он сказа́л
я, ты, она́ сказа́ла
оно́ сказа́ло
мы, вы, они́ сказа́ли

Verbs ending in -ТИ

For the masculine form of the verbs in -ТИ, the ending is not used anymore. Most often, these verbs loose the ending they had in the Infinitive form. But for the feminine, neuter, and plural forms the rules are the same:

ползти́to crawl (imperf.)

я, ты, он полз
я, ты, она́ ползла́
оно́ ползло́
мы, вы, они́ ползли́

нести́to carry (imperf.)

я, ты, он нёс
я, ты, она́ несла́
оно́ несло́
мы, вы, они́ несли́

Verbs ending in -ЧЬ

For the verbs ending in -ЧЬ, for the masculine form the ending -ЧЬ is often replaced with or .

If the preceding vowel is soft (я, ё, ю, и, е), replace -ЧЬ with , otherwise with .

The feminine, neuter and plural form of these verbs are formed based on the masculine form:

мочьto be able (imperf.)

я, ты, он мог
я, ты, она́ могла́
оно́ могло́
мы, вы, они́ могли́

смочьto be able (perf.)

я, ты, он смог
я, ты, она́ смогла́
оно́ смогло́
мы, вы, они́ смогли́

печьto bake (imperf.)

я, ты, он пёк
я, ты, она́ пекла́
оно́ пекло́
мы, вы, они́ пекли́

отвле́чьto distract (perf.)

я, ты, он отвлёк
я, ты, она́ отвлекла́
оно́ отвлекло́
мы, вы, они́ отвлекли́

Pay attention: in the masculine form in the Past tense of some verbs, the letter E is replaced with Ё.

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Perfective or imperfective?

So how to determine which verb to use to form the Past tense?

The imperfective verbs are used in the following cases:

1. To talk about a repetitive or habitual action:

Она́ приходи́ла к нам ка́ждый день.
She used to come to us every day.

2. To talk about an action that lasted:

Я весь день смотре́ла сериа́лы.
I was watching series all day long.

3. To emphasize whether an action took place or not:

Ты уже́ чита́ла э́ту кни́гу?
Have you already read this book?

The perfective verbs are used in the following cases:

1. To talk about one-time actions:

Меня́ пригласи́ли на сва́дьбу.
I was invited to a wedding.

2. When the result of an action is more important than the action itself:

Ты купи́л хле́ба?
Did you buy bread?

3. To emphasize whether an action took place or not, but only if you knew about the action previously:

Ты сде́лала, что я тебя́ проси́ла?
Did you do what I asked you to?

Now you can practice by yourself. Take some Russian verbs and try to put them in the Past tense.

Practice all today’s words and phrases with the audio track.

The offline version of this lesson is available here

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