Russian Classroom-Russian Tenses

Russian Lessons

Present and Past Verb Tenses

The endings of the present tense verbs change depending on person and number. In order to find the correct ending for a Russian verb you need to do the following:
1. Determine the verb’s conjugation class. There are only two conjugation classes
Conjugation Class 1 Verbs that have the following suffixes before the infinitive form ending ть: e (болеть) ова (использовать) ну (толкнуть) а,я  (most of the verbs with a and я suffixes belong to Conjugation class 1) (читать)
Conjugation Class 2 verbs that have the suffix и before the infinitive ending ть: и ( говорить) а, я (some of the verbs with a suffix belong to Conjugation class 2 if the stress is on the personal ending) (лежать)
2. Add the ending to the stem of the verb:
Conjugation Class 1 Conjugation Class 2
я -ю (-у) -ю (-у)
ты -ешь -ишь
он / она /оно -ет -ит
мы -ем -им
вы, Вы -ете -ите
они -ют (-ут) -ят (-ат)
Conjugation Class 1 Conjugation Class 2
я читаю, использую говорю, лежу
ты читаешь, используешь говоришь, лежишь
он / она /оно читает, использует говорит, лежит
мы читаем, используем говорим, лежим
вы, Вы читаете, используете говорите, лежите
они читают, используют говорят, лежат
To make the past tense, you replace the -ть of the infinitive or the ending of the present tense with -л plus the vowel showing the gender: no vowel for masculine –a for the feminine, –o for the neuter, –и for the plural.
Gender Ending Past form
Masc. слушал
Fem -ла слушала
Neut. -ло слушало
Pl. -ли слушали

4. Capital Letters

Russians use capital letters only with proper names and in the beginning of the sentence.
Russians do not use capital letters with:
  • Names of months and the days of the week: май (May), четверг (Thursday).
  • Words derived from proper names: сибирский (Siberian), российский (Russian).
  • Words showing nationality: испанец (Spaniard), японец (Japanese person), англичанка(English lady).
  • Titles and forms of address: господин (mister), профессор (professor).
Thus one Russian present tense corresponds to several English present tenses. Compare:
 In Russian  In English
 я читаю  I readI am readingI have been reading


Verb Conjugation
A Russian verb has six forms in the present tense, one for each of the subject pronouns (1st, 2nd and 3rd persons, singular and plural). By looking at the ending of the verb we can tell the person and the number of the verb. This is called verb conjugation.The Present tense form consists of a verb stem followed by an ending denoting person and number.
Most Russian verbs fall into two groups: first conjugation and second conjugation.First conjugation verbs take the endings -ю(-у ); -ешь; -ет; -ем; -ете and -ют (- ут) in the Present Tense.Second conjugation verbs take the endings -ю (-у); -ишь; -ит; -им; -ите and -ят (-ат) in the Present Tense.Study the formation of the present tense:
                                     1-st conjugation verbs                       2-nd conjugation verbs
 Infinitive  читать to read  гулять to walk  говорить to speak  смотреть to watch  учить to learn (memorize)

 я – I

 ты – you

 он, она – he,she

 мы – we

 вы – you

 они – they































  • Conjugations are memorized with pronouns.
  • To form the present tense of first conjugation verbs remove the ending -ть from infinitive and add the appropriate present tense ending.
  • To form the present tense of second  conjugation verbs remove three final letters (и or е and -ть) from infinitive and replace them by the appropriate present tense ending.
  • Never break a spelling rule when adding endings to verbs, i.e. after  к, г, х, ж, ш, щ, ч, ц  write у and а instead of юand я (я учу, они учат).


First conjugation verbs with stems ending in a consonant
For a few but common first conjugation verbs the stem of the present tense is different from the stem of the infinitive. Such verbs have present tense stems ending in a consonant which is not reflected in the infinitive stem. Memorize two of them for now: жить – to live (infinitive stem: жи-, present tense stem:жив-) and писать – to write (infinitive stem: писа-, present tense stem: пиш-).Study their present tense forms. Note the difference between the infinitive stem and the present tense stem:
Infinitive  жить to live  писать to write

я – I

ты – you

он, она – he,she

мы – we

вы – you

они – they













  • First conjugation verbs with present tense stems ending in a consonant have the ending for я-form and -ут forони-form, instead of expected -ю, -ют. Compare: я читаю, они читают but я живу, они живут.
  • The vowel е is replaced by ё under stress in verb endings (ты читаешь, ты пишешь but ты живёшь)
  • Always learn both the infinitive and the conjugation of each verb.
  • Past tense of all verbs is formed from the infinitive stem: он жил, она жила, оно жило, они жили; он писал, она писала, оно писало, они писали.

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