Upper Sorbian Grammar

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Simple past


Simple past is widely used in the written language. In the spoken colloquial Upper Sorbian its usage largely depends on the dialectal background of a speaker. Speakers of northern and central dialects preserve simple past in their speech whereas southern dialects speakers tend to use compound past in all contexts instead.

The Upper Sorbian simple past tense used with imperfective verbs roughly correspond to the English past simple continuous tense. Perfective verbs in this tense roughly translate to the English past simple tense.

Compare the use of the simple past and the coumpound past tenses in the written literary language:

Upper Sorbian simple past:

perfective verb
Wona napisa list.
She wrote a letter (till the end).

imperfective verb
Wona pisaše list.
She was writing a letter.

Upper Sorbian compound past:

perfective verb
Wona je napisała list.
She has written a letter (till the end).

imperfective verb
Wona je pisała list.
She has been writting a letter.



Simple past forms are made of the infinitive stem (for all perfective verbs and most of imperfective verbs) or the present stem (for some imperfective verbs with present stem ending in -e-) by adding the following endings:

perf. verbsimpf. verbs

The additional -e- shown in parenteses is only used when the simple past tense forms are made of an infinitive stem ending in a consonant.

Imperfective verbs with present stem in -e-

A majority of verbs in this group use the present stem to form the simple past tense:

Verbs with monosyllabic infinitive change the stem vowel -e- into -a- in the 1st person singular and the 3rd person plural:

Mind that the corresponding perfective verbs use the infinitive stem rahter than the present stem:

Verbs with infinitive stem in -owa- and present stem in -uje- make an exception among the verbs with the -e- present stem and use the infinitive stem to form the simple past tense forms:

Vowel stems

Verbs whose infinitive stems end in a vowel take these endings without the additional -e- shown in parenteses in the table above:

The imperfective verbs whose infinitive stems end in -i-/-y- change the final vowel of their stems into -a- before the above endings. If the last consonant of the verb stem is a soft consonant the stem -a- furtherly changes into -e- before endings beginning with -š- (according to a general phonetical rule that any -a- changes into -e- when between two soft consonants):

The corresponding perfective verbs do not undergo such a change:

Consonantal stems

Verbs with infinitive stems ending in a consonant insert the additional -e- between the stem and the usual ending:

If the final consonant of a consonantal infinitive stem is -s- it may be preserved in the simple past tense or it may change into either -ć- or -dź-. This depends on the last consonant of the present stem of the verb:

2nd and 3rd person dual

In the 2nd and 3rd person dual a verb may facultatively take the -štaj ending if the subject of a sentence are two male persons, compare:

Studentce pisaštej.
(Two) female students were writing.

Studentaj pisaštej/pisaštaj.
(Two) male students were writing.


Notice the difference in the 2nd and 3rd person singular between the imperfective (-še ending) and perfective (zero ending) verbs.

A consonantal stem verb:
njesć njese impf. to carry


A consonantal stem verb:
přinjesć přinjese perf. to bring


An -a- stem verb:
wołać woła impf. to call


An -a- stem verb:
zawołać zawoła perf. to call


An -i-/-y- stem verb:
wučić wuči impf. to teach


An -i-/-y- stem verb:
nawučić nawuči perf. to teach


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