Past Tense of Russian Verbs
The past tense is generally used to express actions occuring before the time of speaking or writing. In Russian, the past tense is formed by using special endings.
Uses of the Past Tense
The meaning of the past tense form depends on whether the verb is imperfective or perfective.
Imperfective verbs in the past tense
Past tense forms of imperfective verbs are generally used:
- To name an action that took place in the past (before the moment of speaking).
Мы делали это задание. - We have already worked with this exercise.
Вчера вечером я смотрел телевизор, читал книгу. - Yesterday I watched TV, read a book.
- To denote an action in progress that took plake in the past:
В это время я смотрел телевизор. - I was watching TV at that moment.
- To denote repeated actions in the past.
Я отправлял ей письма каждый день. - I used to send her letters every day.
Perfective verbs in the past tense
Past tense forms of perfective verbs are generally used:
- To name an action that took place in the past with special emphasis on its completion, result or limit.
Мы сделали это задание. - We have completed this task.
Я посмотрел телевизор и пошёл спать. - I watched TV and (after I finished watching TV) I went to sleep.
- To denote momentary actions in the past.
После этого я отправил ей письмо. - After that, I sent her a letter.
Verb Endings in the Past Tense
Russian past tense verbs agree with their subjects in gender and number. The table below represents regular endings of Russian vebs in the past tense:
Verb Forms in the Past Tense
The above-mentioned endings are added to the past tense stem of the verb. The formation of the past tense stem of Russian verbs will be discussed in greater detail in articles devoted to Russian verbs conjugation. Below, we are going to provide just general guidelines.
The past tense stem of most Russian verbs can be defined by dropping the ending -ть/-ти from their infinitive. Thus, the past tense stem of the first conjugation verb работать to work is работа-. Below, you can see the past tense forms of this verb:
Verbs whose past tense stem end in б, г, з, р, с, к do not add the -л in the masculine singular form
мочь (infinitive) to be able - он мог (past tense, masc sing), она могла (past tense, fem sing)
печь (infinitive) to bake - он пёк (past tense, masc sing), она пекла (past tense, fem sing)