Grammar

Past Tense of Russian Verbs

The past tense of Russian verbs is the easiest tense to learn! Past tense verbs agree in gender and number (i.e. singular or plural) with their subject.

Forming the past tense is very easy. Simply remove the infinitive ending (usually -ть) and add (masculine), -ла (feminine), -ло (neuter), or -ли (plural). If the infinitive ends in -ти or -чь the past tense form cannot be easily predicted and instead must be remembered.

The table below lists a few common verbs in their past tense forms.

Infinitive masculine feminine neuter plural
быть
“to be”
был была́ бы́ло бы́ли
знать
“to know”
знал зна́ла зна́ло зна́ли
говори́ть
“to speak”
говори́л говори́ла говори́ло говори́ли
нести
“to carry”
нёс несла́ несло́ несли́
печь
“to bake”
пёк пекла́ пекло́ пекли́
мочь
“to be able”
мо́г могла́ могло́ могли́
идти́
“to go (by foot); to walk”
шёл шла́ шло́ шли́

note Note how идти changes to ш- in the past tense. No other Russian verb completely changes its stem like this.

The past tense is used to describe actions or events that began or took place in the past. Past tense verbs may be either perfective (completed once) or imperfective. See the post on aspect for more information.

Он был там вчера́.   He was there yesterday.
У нас не́ было де́нег.   We didn’t have any money.
Я чита́л вчера́ ве́чером.   I read last night.
Он вы́пил стака́н пи́ва.   He drank a glass of beer.

It’s almost too easy! Happy learning!

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