The Bulgarian Verb


So far I would like to believe that the grammar of Bulgarian was neither difficult nor challenging for most of the foreigners that have chosen to study Bulgarian. Apart from the verb, all the other part-of-speech classes in Bulgarian could be compared to planets within the solar system of Bulgarian grammar. Unfortunately, the verbal system of Bulgarian should be compared to nothing less but a galaxy. However, you have to master the verbal system of Bulgarian if you want to master Bulgarian, as the predicate is in the core of the communication, and the verb is the core of the predicate. It is of little consolation to be reminded that in other languages that have declination you have to master the declination as well. The richness and the complexity of the verbal system in Bulgarian is a complete "compensation" for the simplicity of its nominal system.

So, let's take a deep breath and face the beast!

A verb, as you know, is a word that describes, refers to an action, a state of being or experience of the subject of the sentence. It is the principal element of the clause which connects the subject to the other words.


The verbs in Bulgarian have up to 3, 000 (!!!) different forms. This is due to the fact that there are six grammatical categories - person (with three subcategories - 1st, 2nd and 3rd person), number (with two subcategories - sg and pl), aspect (with two subcategories - imperfective and perfective aspect), tense (with nine subcategories - present tense, aorist, imperfect tense, future tense, perfect tense, plu(squam)perfect, future perfect tense, future in the past tense and future perfect in the past tense), voice (with two subcategories - active and passive voice) and mood (with four subcategories - indicative, imperative, conditional and the so called "reported" mood). In addition to that there are five participles (three active participles - present, aorist and imperfect, and two passive participles - present and past) and a few other non-finite verb forms - the verbal adverbs, and the verbal nouns with the suffixes -, -.

There are three conjugations according the present-tense stem and several (up to ten) classes according to the aorist stem. There are two auxiliary verbs ( - "to be", and - "to want"), no infinitive, three sets of personal endings (one for the past tenses and two for the present tense) and two basic temporal stems from which all those 3, 000 forms are derived. Let's have a closer look at the stems first.

The verbs that belong to the 1st and the 2nd conjugation have two basic temporal stems - the present-tense stem and the aorist stem. Most often these stems are different, but sometimes it may happen that they appear to be identical (e.g. | > - for the present tense and | > - for the aorist). The verbs that belong to the 3rd conjugation always have identical stems for the present tense and the aorist, i.e. they have only one stem.

The present-tense stem is what is left when you remove the personal ending - from the form for the present tense, 2nd person sg (the stem vowel doesn't appear in the forms for the 1st person sg and the 3rd person pl of the verbs that belong to the 1st and the 2nd conjugation, the 3rd conjugation is athematic). Here are some examples:

Basic Form 2nd p. sg Stem
| (to read) | -
| (to go) | -
| (to fall) | -
| (to cry, to weep) | -
| (to say) | -
| (to write) | -
(to drink) | -
| (to live) | -
| (to know) | -
| (to see) | -
| (to invite) | -
| (to ask, to beg) | -
| (to study) | -
| (to put) | -
| (to dry) | -
| (to stand) | -
| (to have) | -
| (to shoot) | -
| (to come) | -
|   (to destroy, to demolish) | -
| (to ice over) | -
| (to buy) | -


This stem is used when the following forms are constructed: the present tense, the simple forms for the imperative mood, the present active participle, the imperfect tense, the imperfect participle and the verbal adverb. Actually all those forms, apart from the forms for the present tense and the imperative mood, are derived from the imperfect-tense stem. The imperfect-tense stem is what is left when you remove the personal ending -X from the form for the imperfect tense, 1st person sg. But the imperfect-tense stem is not considered to be a basic temporal stem of the verbs as it is derived from the present-tense stem by replacing the stem vowels --, -- in the present-tense stem of the verbs from the 1st and the 2nd conjugation with the suffix for the imperfect tense --/-- (mutating ). The verbs that belong to the 3rd conjugation have only one stem (as it was mentioned above). When you construct the imperfect-tense stem you should use as a basis the form for the present tense, 1st person sg, as the stem vowel does not appear in it and you have to remove only the personal ending. Here are some examples how the imperfect-tense stems of the verbs from the 1st and the 2nd conjugation are constructed:

- > -+/; > | (I was reading)
- > -+/; > | ((whenever) I said)
- > -+/; > | (I knew; I used to know)
- > -+/;> | ((whenever) I saw)
- > -+/;> | (I was drying)
- > -+/;> | (I was counting)

The aorist stem is what is left after you remove the personal ending -X- from the form for the aorist, 1st person sg of the verbs that belong to the 1st and the 2nd conjugation. As it was mentioned above, the verbs that belong to the 3rd conjugation have only one stem. This stem is used when the following forms are constructed: the aorist, the aorist participle, the past passive participle and the verbal nouns with the suffixes -, -. Here are some examples:

| (I said) > -
|
(I hid) > -
|
(I saw) > -
|
(I dried) > -
|
(I counted) > -

The verbs that have the suffix -O- in the aorist stem (e.g. |) show some irregularities when the aorist participles and the past passive participles are constructed. (For details go to the chapters on the aorist participle and the past passive participle.)

There are two sets of personal endings of the verbs in the present tense. Here they are:

For the 1st and the 2nd conjugation:

1st p. sg -/-
2nd p. sg -
3rd p. sg -
1st p. pl -
2nd p. pl -
3rd p. pl -/-

For the 3rd conjugation:

1st p. sg -
2nd p. sg -
3rd p. sg -
1st p. pl -
2nd p. pl -
3rd p. pl -

From contemporary point of view the personal endings for the two simple past tenses - the aorist and the imperfect - are the same. Only in the aorist the forms for the 2nd and the 3rd person sg join no ending while the corresponding forms for the imperfect tense join the ending -. The two tenses are differentiated by their stems. Here are the endings for the simple past tenses:

1st p. sg -
2nd p. sg -(aorist)/-(imperfect)
3rd p. sg -(aorist)/-(imperfect)
1st p. pl -
2nd p. pl -
3rd p. pl -

The two auxiliary verbs are (to be) and (to want). The verb is universal as an auxiliary verb and its forms are used widely to construct most of the complex verb forms. The verb has got suppletive (i.e. derived from different roots) stems for the present tense, the aorist and the future tense. Here follow the paradigms of the verb for the present tense, the future tense, the imperfect tense and aorist, as well as the aorist participle:

Form Pres. Future Imp. Aor.
1st p. sg /
2nd p. sg / ()
3rd p. sg / ()
1st p. pl /
2nd p. pl /
3rd p. pl /
aor. participle , , ,

The verb is used only to construct the forms for the future tenses. For the future tense and the future perfect tense is used the form for the 3rd person sg, present tense - for the whole paradigm, and from contemporary point of view it is considered a particle. The aorist participle (, , ) is used to construct the forms for the future tenses of the "reported" mood. The full paradigm of the verb in the imperfect tense is used to construct the forms for the future in the past tense and the future perfect in the past tense. Here is the paradigm of the verb for the imperfect tense:

1st p. sg
2nd p. sg
3rd p. sg
1st p. pl
2nd p. pl
3rd p. pl


 

 

 


Katina Bontcheva. Elementary On-Line Bulgarian Grammar. 1999