• Estonian grammar
  • 1 Estonian sentence structure [0/2]
  • 2 Estonian nouns [0/3]
  • 3 Estonian pronouns [0/3]
  • 4 Estonian cases [0/11]
  • 5 Estonian verbs [0/8]
  • 6 Estonian adjectives [0/1]
  • 7 Estonian prepositions and postpositions [0/1]
  • 8 Estonian adverbs [0/1]
  • Past simple (lihtminevik) in Estonian

    The simple past (lihtminevik in Estonian) indicates an action that was completed at an earlier time.

    How to form the simple past in Estonian?

    The simple past is derived from the -ma infinitive by adding an element between the stem and the suffix which identifies the person doing the action. There are two different ways: 

    • -si- element in the verb
    • -i- element ni the verb


    1) The past tense with -si-

    Most Estonian verbs have the following endings in the past tense:

    Person Ending
    I -si/n
    You -si/d
    He/She/It -s
    We -si/me
    You -si/te
    They -si/d

    enlightened Notice that the past endings for 'you (singular)' and 'they' are the same. 


    The past tense endings are added to the stem of the -ma infinitive.  For instance, you start with the infinitive tantsima 'to dance', drop the -ma and you have the stem tantsi-

    English Estonian
    I danced Ma tantsisin
    You danced Sa tantsisid
    He/She/It danced Tema tantsis
    We danced Meie tantsisime
    You danced Teie tantsisite
    They danced Nemad tantsisid


    When the stem ends in a consonant, an -i- is inserted before the -s ending of the 3rd person singular. This makes it easier to pronounce.

    English Estonian
    To know Teadma
    I knew Mina teadsin
    She knew Tema teadis


    If the stem has a single p or t after a short vowel, the 3rd person singular form doubles this consonant.

    English Estonian
    To cry Nutma
    I cried Mina nutsin
    She cried Tema nuttis


    If the stem already ends in -s, the s in the past is omitted. (Except the 3rd person singular, where an -i- is also inserted.)

    English Estonian
    To stand Seisma
    I stood Mina seisin
    She stood Tema seisis


    enlightened The verb minema 'to go' is irregular. The stem doesn't come from the -ma infinitive, but is related to the present tense form of lähen 'I go'.

    English Estonian
    I went Mina läksin
    You went Sina läksid
    He/She/It went Tema läks
    We went Meie läksime
    You went Teie läksite
    They went Nemad läksid


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    2) The past tense with -i-

    For some verbs, the past tense is made with an element -i- instead of -si-. The 3rd person singular adds nothing to the -i.

    I -i/n
    You -i/d
    He/She/It -i
    We -i/me
    You -i/te
    They -i/d


    Two types of verbs are conjugated in this manner:

    Some verbs with two-syllable stems ending in -e-

    Example: olema 'to be'

    English Estonian
    I was Mina olin
    You were Sina olid
    He/She/It was Tema oli
    We were Meie olime
    You were Teie olite
    They were Nemad olid

    Some verbs with stems ending in aa, ää, oo, öö. In these cases, the double vowel becomes a single vowel and oo or öö changes to õ.

    Example: jooma 'to drink'

    English Estonian
    I drank Mina jõin
    You drank Sina jõid
    He/She/It drank Tema jõi
    We drank Meie jõime
    You drank Teie jõite
    They drank Nemad jõid


    The negative form

    In the simple past tense, the negative form does not have personal endings. It consists of the negatory word ei 'not' and a form of the verb with a -nud suffix.

    Example: verb tantsima 'to dance'

    English Estonian
    I did not dance Ma ei tantsinud
    You did not dance Sa ei tantsinud


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    Exercise: conjugating a verb in the past simple