8.1 - Using the past imperfective

Tenses in Ukrainian

In Ukrainian there are three basic tenses: past, present and future.

On page 4.7 the future (in its imperfective aspect) was presented, and you have come across other tenses in the reading texts and exercises of subsequent units. In this unit the focus is on the past tense, in its imperfective aspect, i.e. expressing:

  • what was happening or used to happen
  • any action which was not carried out or completed in a defined period of time
  • an action which was happening at a given moment
  • a repeated action
  • a process
  • a state in the past.

For those who have learned French, the use is roughly equivalent to the imparfait or imperfect tense.

Given below are examples of verbs in the past imperfective (in English translation), and also, for comparison, sentences where the action is completed:

Imperfective Perfective
When I entered the library, the students were working. The students worked for an hour then went to the union bar.
Jonathan didn't know what to do. Suddenly, Jonathan decided what to do.
On holiday last year we swam in the sea every day. We swam in the sea for an hour and then went back to the hotel.

As a rule of thumb, a verb in the imperfective is open-ended, and is not concluded.

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© 2007 Marta Jenkala