Lesson 039

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.

Verbs ending in -ть

Fortunately, forming Russian 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.

Let’s try doing it on some examples:

Russian Pod 101

учи́тьto learn

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

житьto live

я, ты, он жил
я, ты, она́ жила́
оно́ жи́ло
мы, вы, они́ жи́ли

смотретьto look

я, ты, он смотре́л
я, ты, она́ смотре́ла
оно́ смотре́ло
мы, вы, они́ смотре́ли

Verbs ending in -ти, -чь

However, as you might already know, not all Russian verbs end in -ть. Some of them end in -чь, -ти. So the rules for these verbs are slightly different.

For the masculine form of the verbs in -ти, the ending is not used anymore. Most often these verbs lose the ending they had in the Infinitive form. For example:

– ползти́ – полз (to crawl)
– нести́ – нёс (to carry)

But for the feminine, neuter, and plural forms the rules are the same:

– ползти́ – ползла́, ползло́, ползли́
– нести́ – несла́, несло́, несли́

For the verbs ending in -чь, for the masculine form the ending -чь is often replaced with or :

– мочь – мог (to be able)
– печь – пёк (to bake)
– отвле́чь – отвлёк (to distract)

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:

– мочь – могла́, могло́, могли́
– печь – пекла́, пекло́, пекли́
– отвле́чь – отвлекла́, отвлекло́, отвлекли́

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

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.

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