Upper Sorbian Grammar

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The compound past tense


The compound past is the most commonly used Upper Sorbian past tense. In the colloquial language it may describe any past action and for some speakers it may be the only past tense ever used in conversational speech.

On the other hand, in the written literary language and in some dialects it is primarily used to describe a (recently) past action the consequences of which exist in the present. In this case it roughly corresponds to the English present perfect (for perfective verbs) or present perfect continuous (for imperfective verbs).

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

Upper Sorbian compound past:

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

imperfective verb
Wona je pisała list.
She has been writting a letter
(it may not be finished yet).

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.



The compound past forms are made out of the present tense form of the być je to be auxiliary verb and the so-called Ł-participe.

As the auxiliary być je verb agrees with the subject in person and number and the Ł-participe agrees with the subject in number and gender, the whole form of compound past has to be agreed with the subject in all these three grammatical categories. This creates a total set of forms shown in the tables below.

čitać čita impf. to read

1stsym čitałsym čitałasym čitałosmój čitałojsmy čitalismy čitali /
smy čitałe
2ndsy čitałsy čitałasy čitałostej čitałojsće čitalisće čitali /
sće čitałe
3rdje čitałje čitałaje čitałostej čitałojsu čitalisu čitali /
su čitałe

přinjesć přinjese perf. to bring (while walking)

1stsym přinjesłsym přinjesłasym přinjesłosmój přinjesłojsmy přinjeslismy přinjesli /
smy přinjesłe
2ndsy přinjesłsy přinjesłasy přinjesłostej přinjesłojsće přinjeslisće přinjesli /
sće přinjesłe
3rdje přinjesłje přinjesłaje přinjesłostej přinjesłojsu přinjeslisu přinjesli /
su přinjesłe

The first and second person singular neuter forms are hardly ever used as the first person (speaker) and second person (addressee) apply mostly to humans and there are very few neuter nouns denoting human beings, the most frequent exceptions being dźěćo child, hólčo boy, lad and holčo girl, the latter two being somewhat marked synonyms of stylistically neutral and more frequently used masculine hólc and feminine holca respectively.

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