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Past tense in Russian

past tense in Russian

Past tense, of course, is very important for any conversation. We're talking about what we did the day before; your friend will tell you about a crazy story that happened lat weekend, etc. And today let's learn how to form past tense sentences in Russian.

Putting verbs in the past tense

Let's start with verbs, which is the easiest part of this topic. We take an infinitive and change its ending depending on the gender of the subject. Here's the table:

So, we just take any infinitive and replace the ending "-ть" with the right ending for the gender. And again, the gender of the subject matters here.

For example:

  • Мама играла на пианино - mom played the piano

We chose a feminine ending, because mom is feminine.

  • Мальчики играли в футбол - boys played soccer

Мальчики is plural, that's why we chose a plural ending of "играть".

A couple of exceptions

Sometimes you will see some verbs forming past tense forms in their own unique ways. Here's two of those exceptions that are extremely common:

As you can see, the infinitives don't have almost anything in common with the forms of the past tense verbs. This will happen extremely rarely, however, don't be scared!

Past tense context words

Let's learn some words that you can use to talk about the past:

  1. Вчера (vchera) - Yesterday

  2. На прошлой неделе (proshloy nedele) - Last week

  3. Тогда (togda) - Then

  4. Раньше (ran'she) - Before, earlier

  5. Позавчера (pozavchera) - The day before yesterday

  6. Недавно (nedavno) - Recently

  7. Давно (davno) - Long ago

  8. В прошлом году (v proshlom godu) - Last year

  9. Однажды (odnazhdy) - Once

  10. Когда-то (kogda-to) - Once, at some time in the past

These are all used by natives a whole lot! Here's some examples:

  • Однажды мы смотрели кино и... - Once we were watching a movie and...

  • Это было давно - This was a long time ago

  • Дедушка приехал ко мне в гости в прошлом году - Last year granpa came to visit me

  • Мудрец когда-то мне сказал об этом - A wise man once told me about this

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