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Russian verbs in the Past

Русский

Master Past Tense in 15 minutes

   As you might know there are two types of conjugation for Russian verbs. This makes things harder to study, but there can be no evil without good...  At first, Russian Past Tense doesn’t care about conjugations. Nice, isn’t it? But there are more surprises to come. Russian Past Tense doesn’t care about person. So it means, that Russian verbs in the past are only sensitive to the a) gender of the subject, b) plurality of the subject.
   So you’ll have to learn only 4 patterns: for masculine subject, feminine subject, neuter subject, and plural subject.
   Let’s see how it works.
   In order to turn a verb into the Past Tense, we have to do two things.
– Take the verb and drop the «-
ТЬ» ending.
– Add new ending to the stem.
Simple as a pie. We have tons of different changes in Present tense, which include different ending vowels, changes in the stem, unstable vowels, and millions of irregularities. Forget about this for now. There are nine irregular verbs in the past. And they are “regularly” irregular, which means they only take new stem and then apply the same endings to this stem.
   Let’s take a look at the endings system. We’ll work with the aspective pair «
читать» - «прочитать» (to read).

Gender of the subject

Чита(ть)

Прочита(ть)

The stem is «чита-»

The stem is «прочита-»

Masculine

Читал

Прочитал

Feminine

Читала

Прочитала

Neuter*

Читало

Прочитало

Plural

Читали

Прочитали


* Neuter subject is used almost only in passive constructions with the verb to be in the past «было». There are very limited uses beside this.
 

   As you might have noticed, there are completely no difference in formation of the past form for Perfective and Imperfective aspects.
   The idea of subject gender might be not clear. Let’s take a look on few examples:

Машина поехала по улице
A car went through the street.

«Машина» is a feminine noun. Since it’s the subject here, we use feminine ending.

Стол упал.
The table fell down.

«Стол» is a masculine noun. Since it’s the subject here, we use masculine ending.


Я прочитал книгу вчера.
I read the book yesterday.

«Я» is a subject here. But it has no gender. So we have to pay attention for what is meant under the pronoun. Here «Я» is male speaker, so we use masculine ending.

Я прочитала книгу вчера.
I read the book yesterday.

Same thing, but here «Я» is female speaker, so we use feminine ending.


Ты была в Бразилии?
Have you been to Brazil?

«Ты» is a subject here. We have to pay attention for what is meant under pronoun. The question here is addressed to a female, so we use feminine ending.

Ты был в Бразилии?
Have you been to Brazil?

Same thing, but the question is addressed to a male, so we use masculine endings.

Вы уже уехали?
Have you already left?

Here we have a plural pronoun as our subject. And due its plurality we don’t car about gender anymore and take plural ending.

 

All irregular verbs are in the following table. You only need to memorize new stem. It’s very easy to form other gender forms, basing on it. There can be some slight irregularities that carry to masculine gender. They are high-lighted.

 

 

Есть
to eat

Идти
to go

Нести
to carry

Лечь
to lie down

Сесть
to sit

New stem

Е- (ес)

Ш- (ид)

Нес-

Лег- (ле)

Се- (сес)

Он

Ел

Шёл

Нёс

Лёг

Сел

Она

Ела

Шла

Несла

Легла

Села

Они

Ели

Шли

Несли

Легли

Сели

Оно

Ело

Шло

Несло

Легло

Село

 

 

Мочь
can

Класть
to put

Умереть
to die

Расти
to grow

New stem

Мог- (мо)

Кла- (клас)

Умер- (умере)

Рос- (рас)

Он

Мог

Клал

Умер

Рос

Она

Могла

Клала

Умерла

Росла

Они

Могли

Клали

Умерли

Росли

Оно

Могло

Клало

Умерло

Росло

 

   The irregularities in red appear ONLY if the new stem ends with a consonant. In this case masculine form doesn’t add «-л» and also changes «е» in the stem to «ё».

 

  Aren’t tired yet? There is one last thing to say. If you come across a reflexive verb, it changes absolutely nothing. You only need to keep reflexive ending correspondently to the gender. Let’s take a look on patterns for the verb «нравиться» (to like).

 

Gender of the subject

Нрави(ть)ся

The stem is «нрави-»

Masculine

Нравился

Feminine

Нравилась

Neuter*

Нравилось

Plural

Нравились

 

   So, you keep «-ся» for masculine form, and change it to «-сь» in all other cases.

   That’s it! Now you are a master of Russian Past Tense. May the words be with you!

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20 ноября 2013 (01:09:12)


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