Lesson Seven: Tenses of Verbs

Ukrainian verbs have only three basic tenses: present, past, and future. You can experss/identify tenses through verb endings. One verb ending you already know: it's -; however, since it's the infinitive ending, it conveys no meaning of tense. You've also come across some tense-related verb endings in examples and dialogues, and we will now explore these endings in greater depth.

The present tense. Remember that it's only imperfective verbs that can be in the present tense. Let's review the following examples:

Example 1: -- to have lunch (51)
I have/am having lunch
You have/are having lunch (familiar you)

She has/is having lunch
We have/are having lunch
You have/are having lunch (formal and plural you)
They have/are having lunch

Two essential things to learn from this example: Ukrainian personal pronouns and six verb endings to match six possible subject persons. Note that English verbs in the simple present tense do not change regardless of the subject person except in third person singular (I/you/we/they have, but he/she/it has); however, the verb to be has more forms (am/is/are) and is therefore somewhat closer to the principle of conjugation (ending changes according to the subject person) that we're now exploring in Ukrainian. If you know German, verb ending changes should be quite familiar to you since the Germans conjugate their verbs as well.

Here's a slight modification of the ending vowels given above:

Example 2: -- to write (52)
I write/am writing
You write/are writing (familiar you)

She writes/is writing
We write/are writing
You write/are writing (formal and plural you)
They write/are writing

You may recall from Lesson 2 (Letters and Sounds) that and are parts of two-sound letters and . Therefore -/-, -/-... -/- are essentialy the same endings. Note that the endings given in the first example follow a vowel, while endings from the second pattern follow a consonant. Stem changes, like in example 2, take place in some verbs. You will have to memorize most of these.

While the examples above may be considered to belong to the same pattern (it is called "Conjugation 1" in grammar books), conjugation 2 verbs have another vowel in their endings. For instance:

Example 3: -- to learn/teach (53)

To save space, we'll use only "learn" in translations.
I learn/am learning
You learn/are learning (familiar you)

She learns/is learning
We learn/are learning
You learn/are learning (formal and plural you)
They learn/are learning

If the stem ends with a vowel, the endings in this pattern take a different letter:

Example 4: -- to stand (54)

I stand/am standing
You stand/are standing (familiar you)

She stands/is standing
We stand/are standing
You stand/are standing (formal and plural you)
They stand/are standing

So much for the present tense. We won't elaborate on irregularities at this point but will draw your attention to them as we go along.

The future tense. Once you have learned the present, the future tense will be easy. In fact, future perfective verbs take on the same endings which imperfective verbs take in the present tense.

Exercise 1. Practice conjugating verbs: form the future tense of the following perfective verbs for all the six persons (refer to the examples above for correct endings).

(Follow Example 1): , , .

(Follow Example 2): (two things to remember: 1) this pattern applies to verb stems that end in consonant; therefore, person-specific endings in this case will replace not only the regular --ending, but the vowel before it will also drop out: 2) - will remain as is in reflexive verbs such as this one, so changeable endings should be inserted right before it), (a bit irregular: add letter before all endings).

Key to the exercise

Imperfective verbs in the future tense can have two forms:

-- to translate (55)
I will translate/ will be translating
You will translate/ will be translating

She will translate/ will be translating
We will translate/ will be translating
You will translate/ will be translating (formal and plural you)
They will translate/ will be translating

This form is practically identical to English simple future (e.g., I will translate), except that the verb "will" also has person-specific endings (same as in Example 2 above).

or else

I will translate/ will be translating
You will translate/ will be translating

She will translate/ will be translating
We will translate/ will be translating
You will translate/ will be translating (formal and plural you)
They will translate/ will be translating

Here you see Example 2 present tense endings again, but they are added to the whole infinitive (the - ending doesn't disappear) plus letter .

Each verb can have both forms. However, usage leans towards the latter; use the will-pattern with longer verbs that would sound too bulky with extra endings.

The past tense. Youll have to remember only four endings for the past tense, but the conjugation principle has changed: endings here are gender- and number-specific rather than person-specific, as it is for the present and future tenses.

There are no differences between perfective and imperfective past tense formation. Some irregularities, like elsewhere, do occur, so pay attention when you see new verbs in sentences.

Take a look:

-- to lie (i.e., be in a horizontal position) (imperfective) (57)

    I lay

    You lay (familiar you)

    He/She/It lay
    We lay
    You lay (formal and plural you)
    They lay

As you see, genders are not manifested in plural. However, the verb that agrees with the subject in the past tense will take one of the two endings, depending on the gender of the speaker (the neuter ending grammatically is also possible but is unlikely contextually since hardly anyone will speak of himself as ). Similarly, verb that agrees with the pronoun should take one of the relevant endings as required by the gender of the addressee.

Exercise 2.This could be a standard telephone conversation with an office receptionist. However, you can use standard phrases from it in a private conversation as well. Learn the following dialogue by heart. Note the modal verbs (may, must, etc.): they are followed by the infinitive.

: - !
Secretary: - Hallo! (If its an office, you can often hear the name of the organization instead.)
: - ! ? Mykola: - Good afternoon (Good day)! May I speak with Petro Ivashenko? (The first and last names in Ukranian also decline; here they are in the instrumental case. The English translation always uses the nominative for all nouns and names.)
: - ? Who wants to speak with him? (Literally: Whos asking him?)
: - . Mykola Boychuk
: - , .... , . ? One minute please... Sorry, hes just left. Would you like to leave a message?
: - , ? Do you happen to know when hell be back?
: - , . Perhaps in an hour.
: - ? . Does he have a mobile phone? I must speak with him immediately (urgently).
: - , . It seems he hasnt taken the phone with him.
: - ? And where did he go?
: - . ³ , . To the train station. He has to buy tickets first and then hell stop by at the post office.
: - . , , , . OK. Please tell Petro that we wont be able to meet today.
: - , , . Please tell me your name again. (Please repeat your name.) (Note a new verb form -- imperative)
: - . . . Mykola Boychuk. Thank you. Bye.