Verb conjugation I: Simple past tense

We keep running up against the fact that it’s difficult to give examples of vocabulary without using grammar elements that I haven’t introduced, so I’m going to roll out verb conjugations over a series of posts. Doing this across three languages, four if you count the English I’m trying to explain it in, is complicated by the fact that grammarians give different names to the same concepts in different languages, and conversely the same term might mean different things in each language.

First we look at simple past tense (“did”), which is called the “preterite” tense in my Persian grammar book, whatever the hell that means. Compare this same concept’s different names in English (“simple past”), Arabic (“perfect”), and Turkish (“DI- past”) and you’ll see why this verb conjugation stuff is a bit of a pain in the neck when you’re doing it across multiple languages. We are using the typical “example” verb in Persian learning, کَردَن (kardan, “to do, make”).

  • First person, singular: کَردَم (kardam)
  • Second person, singular: کَردی (kardī)
  • Third person, singular: کَرد (kard)
  • First person, plural: کَردیم (kardīm)
  • Second person, plural: کَردید (kardīd)
  • Third person, plural: کَردَند (kardand)

Passive voice is formed by taking the past participle (past stem–the infinitive with the ن lopped off–plus ه, so کَرده kardah in this case), then the past tense of the verb شُدَن (shudan, “to become”). The third person singular passive would look like this: کَرده شُد (kardah shud). Please note that this particular example is only an example! You will NEVER encounter کَرده شُد in an actual sentence, because for کَردَن, and all compound verbs formed with کَردَن, the passive form actually replaces کَردَن with شُدَن.

To negate past tense, simply put a “na-” before the verb: “I didn’t do” would be نَکَردَم (nakardam), and “it wasn’t done” would be نَکَرده شُد (nakardah shud), for active verbs other than کَردَن, and نَشُد (nashud), if the active verb is کَردَن.

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