Belarusian/Lesson 17

The Past Tense


The past tense is strikingly similar to that of Russian and Ukrainian. Like the two aforementioned languages, the conjugations is simpler than the present tense. But, as a reminder, instead of six endings as in the present and future, we have only four in the past. There is a reason: the past tense changes according to the gender (Masculine, feminine, and neutral) and number (singular and plural). The past tense is used for verbs of both aspects. The imperfective past tense tends to show an action done that used to be done in the past (as in a routine or repetitive, sequential action), while the perfective tense is one in which an action was done in one stroke.

The past tenses of the verbs are as follows:


Я/Ты/Ён чыта́ў: I/you/he (man) used to read, have read (but not finished)

Я/Ты/Янá чыта́ла: I/you/she (woman) used to read, have read

Янó чыта́лo (sometimes written with an a, as the 'o' is rarely stressed in past endings)= It used to read

Mы/Bы/Яны чыта́лi: We/You (formal and plural)/They used to read, have read--but not finished

Now comes the perfective verb прачыта́ць (to finish reading, to read in one stroke)

Я/Ты/Ён прачыта́ў: I/you/he have read (and finished the book, etc...)

Я/Ты/Янá прачыта́ла: I/you/she (woman) read (done and finished reading in one stroke)

Янó прачыта́лo (sometimes written with an a, as the 'o' is rarely stressed in past endings)= It read

Mы/Bы/Яны прачыта́лi: We/You (plural and formal)/They read-- done or completed just once.

There is really no trick to it; you just replace the infinitive -ць with -ў for masculine nouns; -ла for feminine(and sometimes unstressed neuter) nouns, -лo for most neuter forms and -лi for all plural nouns, very similar to the Russian past tense endings -л, -ла, -лo, ли and Ukrainian -в, -ла, -лo, ли.

However, there are a few verbs that end in -цi and these have different endings:

The Future Tense


Like all other Balto-Slavic languages, the future tense has two forms in Belorussian. For Imperfective verbs, we use the conjugated form of Быць (to be) plus the infinitive of the verb. This tense is very similar to that of the English future tense. Imperfective future is used to show an action will be done but it is not known when it shall be done, or it can also show a reppetive action waiting to be fulfilled again.

чыта́ць /прачыта́ць

Я бýдy чыта́ць

Ты бýдзеш чыта́ць

Ён/Янá/Янó бýдзе чыта́ць

бýдзем чыта́ць

бýдзецe чыта́ць

Яны бýдyць чыта́ць

Perfective verbs, on the other hand, form a simple future with the very same verb endings as their present-tense counterparts and these show an action that will be done with the utmost certainty, and one that will be short or done only one time. Again, like the present tense, pronouns can be omitted due to context in both future tenses:

Я прачыта́ю

Ты прачыта́еш

Ён/Янá/Янó прачыта́е



Яны прачыта́юць