Conjugation of verbs in the Past Tense

Conjugation of verbs in the Past Tense

SlovenianSlovenian A1

Welcome to our Slovenian grammar course for beginners! Today we're going to talk about the Past Tense.

The Past Tense

When we communicate to people, we need to discuss sometimes events that happened in the Past. For these cases we should use the Past Tense. The good news is that Slovenian has only one Past Tense. We need to use the next rule if we want to say something in the Past Tense:
biti (to be) in the Present Tense + the participle of the verb you need.

Let's explain in detail.
1. We wrote about the forms of the verb "biti" in the previous lessons. If you have forgotten them or have not yet studied them, we recommend doing so now.
2. The participle is the Past Participle of the verb you want to use. It is formed by removing the "-ti" suffix from the infinitive and adding the following suffixes:
"-l" for the masculine in singular;
"-la" for the feminine in singular;
"-lo" for the neuter in singular;

"-la" for the masculine or a combination of masculine + any other in dual;
"-li" for only feminine or only neuter in dual;

"-li" for the masculine in plural (at least one masculine object);
"-le" for the feminine in plural (all objects are feminine );
"-la" for the neuter in plural (all objects are neuter );


In order to ensure clarity, let's look at examples with the verb imeti (to have).
Let's start with the singular:
Jaz sem imel Jaz sem imela (I had masculine, feminine)
Ti si imel Ti si imela (You had masculine, feminine)
On je imel Ona je imela Ono je imelo (He had - masculine / She had - feminine / It had - neuter)

Please note: in the singular, only the verb "biti" changes, specifically its forms depending on the person. The participle remains unchanged. Additionally, don't forget about genders: imel (had, masculine), imela (had, feminine), imelo (had, neuter).

Next, the dual number of the same verb imeti (to have):
Midva sva imela Midve sva imeli (We two had masculine, feminine)
Vidva sta imela Vidve sta imeli (You two had masculine, feminine)
Onadva sta imela Onidve sta imeli (They two had masculine, feminine OR neuter)

The same principle applies to the dual number: only the form of the verb "biti" changes. Please note that the participle for the feminine and neuter genders is the same in the dual number.

Finally, the plural of the verb imeti (to have):
Mi smo imeli Me smo imele (We had masculine, feminine)
Vi ste imeli Ve ste imele (You had masculine, feminine)
Oni so imeli One so imele Ona so imela (They had masculine, feminine, neuter)

In addition to the changes in the verb "biti," there's another significant nuance: if we refer to a group of objects of only feminine or neuter gender, such participle forms will have their specific ending in both feminine and neuter genders. Let's repeat one more time - this rule applies only when the group consists solely of feminine or neuter gender objects. Any mixture of such objects (feminine + neuter, feminine + masculine, masculine + neuter) is designated by the masculine gender form with the corresponding ending.

To better remember, let's take another verb with all its forms in the past tense: vedeti (to know):
Jaz sem vedel Jaz sem vedela (I knew masculine, feminine)
Ti si vedel Ti si vedela (You knew masculine, feminine)
On je vedel Ona je vedela Ono je vedelo (He knew / She knew / It knew)
Midva sva vedela Midve sva vedeli (We two knew masculine, feminine)
Vidva sta vedela Vidve sta vedeli (You two knew masculine, feminine)
Onadva sta vedela Onidve sta vedeli (They two knew masculine, feminine OR neuter)
Mi smo vedeli Me smo vedele (We knew masculine, feminine)
Vi ste vedeli Ve ste vedele (You knew masculine, feminine)
Oni so vedeli One so vedele Ona so vedela (They knew)

We remind you that we obtained the participle by removing "-ti" from the infinitive and adding the necessary endings depending on gender and number. Then we inserted the appropriate forms of the verb "biti" in the Present Tense and acquired the Past Tense.


Regarding negative forms, they are formed using the negative form of the verb "biti" (which is created by adding the prefix "ni-" to each form of this verb, as mentioned earlier). In order to ensure clarity, here's an example with the verb iti (to go):
Jaz nisem šel Jaz nisem šla (I didn't go masculine, feminine)
Ti nisi šel Ti nisi šla (You didn't go masculine, feminine)
On ni šel Ona ni šla Ono ni šlo (He didn't go / She didn't go / It didn't go)
Midva nisva šla Midve nisva šli (We two didn't go masculine, feminine)
Vidva nista šla Vidve nista šli (You two didn't go masculine, feminine)
Onadva nista šla Onidve nista šli (They two didn't go masculine, feminine, OR neuter)
Mi nismo šli Me nismo šle (We didn't go masculine, feminine)
Vi niste šli Ve niste šle (You didn't go masculine, feminine)
Oni niso šli One niso šle Ona niso šla (They didn't go masculine, feminine, neuter)

We added the necessary negative forms of the verb "biti", depending on gender and number, in the Present Tense, resulting in the negation of the Past in this example.

The only aspect that may perplex the reader is the peculiar form of the participle "šel" for the verb "iti," which clearly doesn't appear according to the rules.
Indeed, there's a set of verbs that form atypical participle forms in Slovene. These need to be memorized. Luckily, they are not numerous. Just remember to add the form of the verb "biti," and you'll be able to express your thoughts in the Past Tense in Slovene without difficulty.


This lesson is over. We hope that you are be able to talk about what happened in the Past in Slovenian without any problems. Enhance your knowledge and look forward to our upcoming lessons, where we will talk about the Future Tense in Slovenian. Good luck!