Polish verb aspect and Past tense

Perfective and imperfective aspect

In Polish language, as well as in all Slavic languages, there are two aspect of verbs – perfective and imperfective. Perfective verbs exist only in past and future tenses, and in infinitive form, but not in present tense! That’s why we will consider them in this lesson along with past tense, and in the next lesson – in future tense. By the way, if you ever learned Russian – it must be easy for you.

In the previous lesson – Present tense in Polish language, we considered only imperfective verbs, because as it was said above, they have form only in past and future.

Difference between Polish perfective and imperfective verbs:

Almost all verbs have a form in both aspects. They differ by a prefix or by ending, or by whole for of verb. For example: kupować(imperf.) and kupić(perf.), dawać(imperf.) and dać(perf.), rozumieć(imperf.) and zrozumieć(perf.) – It will be considered later.

Imperfective verbs describe process of an action;

Perfective verbs describe result of an action.

Now we will learn how to conjugate verbs in past and future tense and then will consider difference between perfective and imperfective aspect on practice.

Past tense

The rules of conjugation of Polish verbs in past tense are the same for perfective and imperfective verbs.

In order to conjugate a verb in past tense, cut off –Ć and add an appropriate ending, there is not difference between verb groups like in present tense.

Let’s conjugate the verb kupować/kupić.

Kupować (imperfective)Kupić (Perfective)
Ja kupowałem (a man says)

Ja kupowałam (a woman says)

Ja kupiłem

Ja kupiła

I bought
Ty kupowałeś (said to a man)

Ty kupowałaś (said to a woman)

Ty kupiłeś

Ty kupił

You bought
On kupował

Ona kupowała

Ono kupowało

On kupił

On kupiła

On kupiło

He bought

She bought

It bought

My kupowaliśmy (m+w/m+m)

My kupowałiśmy (w+w)

My kupiliśmy

My kupiłyśmy

We bought
Wy kupowaliście (m+w/m+m)

Wy kupowałiście (w+w)

Wy kupiliście

Wy kupiłyście

You bought (plural)
Oni kupowali

One kupowały

Oni kupili

One kupiły

They bought

All verbs in past tense will have these endings.

Recommendation: When you learn new verbs, memorize both form of a verb.

Now we’re going to consider examples and understand the difference between Polish verb aspects on practice.

On kupował książki w tym sklepie – He bought books in this store (Kupować(imp.) – process of the action)

On kupił książki w tym sklepie – He has bought books un that store (Kupić(perf.) – result of the action)

My patrzyliśmy na górę – We looked at the mountain (Patrzyć(imp.) – to look at, process of the action)

My popatrzyliśmy na górę – We have looked at the mountain (Popatrzyć(perf.)  – to look at, result of the action)

Ja malowałem ścianę – I painted the wall (Malować(imp.) – to paint, process of painting)

Ja pomalowałem ścianę – I have painted the wall (Pomalować(perf.) – to paint, result of painting)

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