Past tense in Serbian language

In order to form the past tense in Serbian language, you need to know how to conjugate the verb BITI – to be, in present tense, and know endings of verbs in past tense that we will consider now.

The conjugation in past tense depends on gender and number. There are 3 genders in Serbian language: masculine, feminine, neuter. In order to use past tense ending, drop –TI and add an appropriate one:

 SingularPlural
Masculine-O-LI
Feminine-LA-LE
Neuter-LO-LA

In order to conjugate a verb in past tense, use appropriate ending and add BITI (to be) in appropriate form. The formula of past tense looks so: Verb in past tense + BITI in present.

Let’s consider it in practice:

Kupovati  – to buy

Ja sam kupovao

Ja sam kupovala

I bought (a man says)

I bought (a woman says)

Ti si kupovao

Ti si kupovala

You bought (said to a man)

You bought (said to a woman)

On je kupovao

Ona je kupovala

Ono je kupovalo

He bought

She bought

It bought

Mi smo kupovali

Mi smo kupovale

We bought (m+m or m+w)

We boutght(w+w)

Vi ste kupovali

Vi ste kupovale

You bought (m+m or m+w)

You bought (w+w)

Oni su kupovali

Oni su kupovale

Oni su kupovala

They bought (m+m or m+w)

They bought (w+w)

They bought (neuter)

Also, when/if we want to hide a personal pronoun, we can place BITI before verb instead of after . For example: Kupio sam – I bought, Kupili smo – We bought and so on.

Irregular verbs:

Ići – to go, stem in past IŠA-

Doći – to come, stem in past DOŠA-

Reći – to say/to tell, stem in past REKA-

Negative and interrogative forms

In order to form negative form of Serbian present tense, use form of BITI with prefix –NI:

Ja nisam, ti nisi, on nije, mi mismo, vi niste, oni nisu;

And in order to form the interrogative form, place DA LI before the verb and pronoun:

Da li ja sam pevao? – Did I sing?

Da li smo mi putovali? – Did we travel?

Da li su radili? – Did they work? (notice, one can hide a pronoun, in this case – ONI)

Conjugation of BITI and HTETI in past tense

The verb BITI and is conjugated like all other regular verbs in the past tense.

BITI – to be

Ja bio sam

Ja bila sam

I was
Ti bio si

Ti bila si

You were
On bio je

Ona bila je

Ono bilo je

He was

She was

It was

Mi bili smo

Mi bile smo

We were
Vi bili ste

Vi bile ste

You were
Oni bili su

Oni bile su

Oni bila su

They were

Modal verbs in past tense

Moći – canHteti – to wantMorati – must/to have to
Ja mogao sam

Ja mogla sam

Ja hteo sam

Ja htela sam

Ja morao sam

Ja morala sam

Ti mogao sam

Ti mogla si

Ti hteo si

Ti htela si

Ti morao si

Ti morala si

On mogao je

Ona mogla je

Ono moglo je

On hteo je

Ona htela je

Ono htelo je

On morao je

Ona morala je

Ono moralo je

Mi mogli smo

Mi mogle smo

Mi hteli smo

Mi htele smo

Mi morali smo

Mi morale smo

Vi mogli ste

Vi mogle ste

Vi hteli ste

Vi htele ste

Vi morali ste

Vi morale ste

Oni mogli su

Oni mogle su

Oni mogla su

Oni hteli su

Oni htele su

Oni htela su

Oni morali su

Oni morale su

Oni morala su

Examples

Ja sam ti rekao – I told you

Ja sam juče govorio ruski – I spoke Russian yesterday

Da li su bojili zid? – Did they paint the wall?

Šta si mogla da radiš? – What could you do?

Mi nismo hteli da čekamo – We didn’t want to wait

Da li morali ste da radite to? – Did you have to do it?

Gde si bio? – Where were you?

Vocabulary

reći – to say

juče – yesterday

bojiti – to paint

zid – wall

čekati – to wait

Ruski – Russian

Exercises

  1. Moja sestra (feminine) ______________ na divane (LEŽATI – to lie down) – My sister lied down on sofa
  2. Jabuka (feminine) ______________ sa drveta (PADATI – to fall) – Apple fell from the tree (jabuka – apple, drvo – tree)
  3. Hrčak ______________ da jede (HTETI – to want) – Hamster wanted to eat (Hrčak – hamster, jesti – to eat)
  4. Naši prijatelji ______________ film (GLEDATI – to watch/to look at) – Our friends watched a film
  5. Ja (female) to ______________ ne tako (ZAMIŠLJATI – to imagine) – I imagined it not so
  6. Da li ovi ljudi ______________ ovde? (BITI – to be) – These people were here
  7. Šta oni ______________ (RADITI – to do/to work) kada su bili ovde? – What did they do when they were here?
  8. Da li vi ______________ muzej (POSETITI – to visit) – Did you visit the museum? (muzej – museum)
  9. Ja(male) ______________ zid (BOJITI – to paint) – I painted the wall (zid – wall)
  10. Hrana ______________ u frižideru? (BITI – to be) – The food was in the refrigerator? (frižider – refrigerator)
  11. Ja _____________________ tekst (PISATI – to write) – I was writing a text
  12. ____________________ pesmu (PEVATI – to sing) – (She) sang a song
  13. ______________________ večeru (SPREMITI – to cook) – We have cooked a dinner
  14. Juče _______________ na koncertu (BITI – to be) – We were in a concert yesterday
  15. Hrčak ___________ da jede (HTETI – to want) – Hamster wanted to eat
  16. Gde __________? (BITI – to be) – Where were you (plural, feminine)

Answers:

1: je ležala, 2: je padala, 3: je hteo, 4: su gledali, 5: zamišljala sam, 6: su bili, 7: su radili, 8: ste posetili, 9: sam bojeo, 10: je bila, 11: pisao sam, 12: pevala je, 13: spremili smo, 14: smo bili, 15: je hteo, 16: ste bile

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