The Soft Sign (ь) edit

There are occasions when a consonant which is not followed by a vowel is soft. In such cases, the мяккі знак "miakki znak" (soft sign) - ь - is used. It stands for no sound by istelf, but denotes the softness of the preceding consonant. In the English transliteration, we shall mark such soft consonants with an apostroph.

ба́цька "baćka" a father

мале́нькі "malieńki" little

культу́ра "kul'tura" culture

Nouns ending with a soft consonant (i.e. a consonant + ь) can be either masculine or feminine. In plural, they obtain the і ending.

конь "koń" (masculine) a horse - ко́ні "koni" horses

гусь "huś" (feminine) a goose - гу́сі "husi" geese

Verbs conjugation edit

The most common infinitive ending for Belarusian verbs is ць.

There are two classes of verbs by their conjugation - the so called first and second conjugations. The first conjugation, as a rule, relates to verbs ending with аць, яць, эць and ець.

Here are the typical endings for the first conjugation.

Infinitive я ты ён (яна, яно) мы вы яны Translation
ць ю еш е ем еце юць
слу́хаць слу́хаю слу́хаеш слу́хае слу́хаем слу́хаеце слу́хаюць listen
чака́ць чака́ю чака́еш чака́е чака́ем чака́еце чака́юць wait
чыта́ць чыта́ю чыта́еш чыта́е чыта́ем чыта́еце чыта́юць read
адпачыва́ць адпачыва́ю адпачыва́еш адпачыва́е адпачыва́ем адпачыва́еце адпачыва́юць rest
гуля́ць гуля́ю гуля́еш гуля́е гуля́ем гуля́еце гуля́юць play
хварэ́ць хварэ́ю хварэ́еш хварэ́е хварэ́ем хварэ́еце хварэ́юць be ill

Ты слу́хаеш? - Так, я слу́хаю. "Are you listening?" "Yes, I am listening."

Вы адпачыва́еце? - Не, мы не адпачыва́ем. "Are you having a rest?" "No, we are not having a rest."

Мой ба́цька хварэ́е. My father is ill.

So, to translate He is ill, you may say Ён хворы or Ён хварэе. But these are not the same. Using the adjective suggests a permanent state of disease. So Ён хворы means He is disabled. Conversely, the verb implies a transient state of illness. Ён хварэе means that he is unwell at the monent but will hopefully recover soon.

A rule of thumb: In the present and futures tenses (which will be looked at later on), you can omit the pronoun as the stem ending indicates who performs the action. i.e., you can just say "чыта́ю " (I read/ I am reading) or "слу́хаеш" (You listen/ you are listening) and people will still understand you. This is not the case when talking about the past or conditional tenses of imperfective and perfective verbs (the reasons will be explained later). The same rules also apply in Russian and Ukrainian.

Formal and Informal "You" edit

The ты pronoun is only used in familiar communication, i.e. with you relatives and friends. In formal speech, the вы pronoun is used in addressing both a single person and a group of people.

When a verb is used with the polite вы, it is put with its respective conjugation (can still be omitted). But if it is used with a noun or an adjective, it is coordinated by the actual gender and number, i.e. if вы is used with a single person, the singualar, not the plural, form of the adjective or the noun, is used.

Вы чытаеце. You are reading.

Вы студэнтка. (not Вы студэнткі) You are a student.

Вы прыгожая. (not Вы прыгожыя) You are beautiful.

In writing, the polite вы, as well as the possessive Ваш, is often capitalized.

Exercises edit

Conjugation edit

Conjugate the following verbs.

(1) чытаць

(2) слухаць

(3) гуляць

(4) адпачываць

(5) хварэць

You: Formal and Familiar edit

Translate these sentences into Belarusian using the formal you (ты) and the familiar one (Вы).

(1) You are playing.

(2) You are a young tourist.

(3) You are strong.

(4) Your father is resting.

Clue: (1). Ты гуляеш. Вы гуляеце. (2). Ты малады (маладая) турыст (турыстка). Вы малады (маладая) турыст (турыстка). (3) Ты дужы (дужая). Вы дужы (дужая). (4) Твой бацька адпачывае. Ваш бацька адпачывае.

Translation edit

Translate into Belarusian.

(1) I am waiting.

(2) The students are reading.

(3) Their cow is resting.

(4) Are you ill? No, I am not. I am well.

(5) Is your house big? No, it is not. It is small.

Clue: (1) Я чакаю. (2) Студэнты чытаюць. (3) Іхная карова адпачывае. (4) Ты хворы? - Не, я не хворы. Я здаровы. (5) Твая хата вялікая? - Не, яна не вялікая. Яна маленькая.