6.6 – Past Tense, part 1

6.6 – Past tense, part 1

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6.6 – Past tense, part 1
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6.6 – Past Tense, part 1

In this lesson we will begin learning how to form and use the past tense in Czech. The past tense in Czech can correspond to one of the many past tense forms in English, cf. –


He worked.

He was working.

He used to work.

He has worked.

He had worked.

and more…

As you can see, English has quite a lot of ways of saying things happened in the past. Czech is rather simple (finally!) in this regard. In this lesson we will learn only the 3rd-person forms (he, she, it, they). In part 2 we will learn how to use the other persons (I, you, we).


The starting point for forming the past tense in Czech is the l-form of the verb. The l-form is formed from the infinitive through the following steps:


  1. drop the final t
  2. add l


  1. Additionally, if the preceding vowel is long, shorten it (except with the verb hrát and a few others we’ll learn as we go)

        pít pil, být byl, *but* hrát hrál


Following these rules, the l-form for a verb such as být ‘to be’ is byl. Using this form we can already create a basic past tense sentence, e.g. –


Karel byl tady.

Karel was here.


However, further endings are added to the l-form depending on the gender (m, f, n) of the subject and the number (sg. or pl). These are outlined in the chart below:





byl (-)

byli (-i)


byly (-y)[1]


byla (-a)

byly (-y)


bylo (-o)

byla (-a)


The examples below illustrate these various endings:


Věra byla doma.

Věra was at home.


Naši kamarádi byli studenti.

Our friends were students.


To pivo bylo velmi dobré.

That beer was very good.


Other verbs form their past tense forms in the same way as above, i.e. following the rules to form the l-form.


Zdeněk pracoval.

Zdeněk was working.


Jana psala e-mail.

Jana was writing an email.


Miloš a Sára odpočívali.

Miloš and Sára were relaxing.


Irregular l-forms


Some verbs that we have learned have a consonant before the final –t, such as jíst ‘to eat’ – jedl, číst ‘to read’ – četl. For these verbs you will have to memorize the l-form, as these forms are irregular.


Marek a Pavel četli noviny.

Marek and Pavel were reading the news.


Pekla dort.

She was baking a cake.


Additionally, the verb mít ‘to have’ has an irregular l-form měl and chtít ‘to want’ is chtěl..

Alena měla dvě auta.

Alena had two cars.

Irregular l-forms

mít ‘to have’


chtít ‘to want’


číst ‘to read’


jíst ‘to eat’


péct ‘to bake’


moct ‘to be able’


Negating the Verb

If you want to negate a past tense verb, simply put ne- on the verb as normal.

Pavel tam nebyl.

Pavel wasn’t there.

Ti studenti nepracovali.

Those students weren’t working.

Images used in this document come from these sources.

[1] There will be no difference in the pronunciation of –i and –y, though the distinction between these two is preserved in formal writing. The ending -y is used for masculine inanimate and feminine subjects. The neuter plural –a ending is only used in formal writing.