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Word in focus

чувак  [choo-VAK] (masculine noun) – dude, man, guy

А кто этот чувак? Ты его раньше здесь видел? = Who is that guy? Have you seen him here before?

У тебя что, чувак, совсем крыша поехала? =  Dude, are you nuts?

The Past Tense

If you think that the Present Tense in Russian is a trifle too complicated (so many endings!), you'll be pleasantly surprised by the Past Tense. It's really easy to form and has very few exceptions. Let's take the word "быть" (to be) as an example.


The verb has four forms in the Past: был (masculine), была (feminine), было (neuter), были (plural).


Олег был в Лондоне. = Oleg has been to London.

Oleg is a man, so we use the masculine form of "быть": был.


Анна никогда не была в Париже. = Anna has never been to Paris.

Anna is a woman, so we use the feminine form of "быть": была.


Небо было синее. = The sky was blue.

"Небо" is neuter, so we use the neuter form of "быть": было.


Они были там? = Have they been there?

"Они" is plural, so we use the plural form of "быть": были.


If the subject is "я" or "ты", we use "был" if the pronoun refers to a man and "была" if it refers to a woman:

Я была в Москве в прошлом году. = I was in Moscow last year. (I'm a woman)

Ты уже был в Италии? = Have you been to Italy yet? (You're a man)


We always use "были" with "вы", even if we address just one person:

Иван Петрович, где Вы были? = Ivan Petrovich, where have you been?

 To use any other verb in the Past Tense, you do exactly the same thing. Let's take "говорить" (to speak)  as an example.

He spoke = Он говорил

She spoke = Она говорила

They spoke = Они говорили


So, to put any Russian verb in the Past Tense, you drop "ть" and add one of the following endings:

1) "л" if the subject is masculine (читал, работал, жил)

2) "ла" if the subject is feminine (читала, работала, жила)

3) "ло" if the subject is neuter (читало, работало, жило)

4) "ли" if the subject is plural (читали, работали, жили)



Exercise 1 (был; была; были)

Exercise 2 (other verbs)