8.4 - The past perfective

As already mentioned in this course, there are three basic tenses in Ukrainian. In addition, however, the past and future tenses have two aspects, perfective and imperfective (the present tense doesn't have aspects, as it is imperfective by definition). The future imperfective was covered in Unit 4 and the past imperfective on page 8.1. The past perfective will now be briefly discussed, as an ability to recognise this will significantly increase the range of language you are able to read.

The past perfective expresses actions which:

  • happened on one occasion and were completed
  • were completed within a defined period.

For example: "Yesterday John visited his old school." "We finished reading the book." "I've been offered the job!"

In most cases, but not exclusively, the perfective is formed by adding a prefix (usually з-, про-, на-) to the imperfective form (of the infinitive, past and future). For example:

робити – to be doing зробити – to do (complete the action)
читати – to be (in the process of) reading прочитати – to read (fully, to the end, finish reading)
писати – to be (in the process of) writing написати – to write (in full, finish writing)

Some imperfective verbs, including verbs of motion, can also have prefixes. However, this topic will not be addressed at present.

Dictionaries usually list verbs in the imperfective infinitive, but normally also give the perfective (as a secondary form).

Once you know what the perfective infinitive is, forming the perfective past is the same as for the imperfective. For example:

Олег хотів читати книжку, але не прочитав. Oleh wanted to read the book but didn't get round to it (didn't do so).
Ми прийшли на концерт пізно. We arrived late at the concert.
Олена не зрозуміла, що Орест сказав. Olena didn't understand what Orest said.

As already mentioned, this is a simplified description of the perfective. More detailed rules will not be addressed at present.

To practise recognising aspects in the past, go to Exercise 8.4A and Exercise 8.4B.

Part of the collection of resources at UkrainianLanguage.org.uk
© 2007 Marta Jenkala