© RTL / Julia Maaluf
Dust off the DeLorean and fire up the Tardis because today, we're travelling through time! At least if you count conjugating verbs as time travel…
Hi there, nice to see you again here at the grammar bootcamp! We have a particularly important lesson coming up today: How to use the different past tenses in Luxembourgish.
Let's start with a basic overview of the tenses we'll be talking about today:
- The Passé Composé (the "perfect tense")
- The Partizip Perfekt (the "past participle")
- The Imparfait (somewhat of a mix between the English past simple and past progressive)
- The plus-que-parfait (the "past perfect")
If this seems overwhelming, don't worry. In fact, we'll let you in on a little secret ahead of time: You really only need to know the first one in this list (and the second one because you need it to actually form the first one). We'll still cover the others just so you're not caught off-guard when you see or hear them somewhere.
The Passé Composé is by far the most common way of expressing the past in Luxembourgish. You would use this tense both in written and oral speech. It is formed as follows:
- auxiliary verb hunn ("to have") + past participle
- auxiliary verb sinn ("to be") + past participle
Let's look at some examples to get a better understanding of this:
Ech hunn ee Buch gelies -> I read a book
Mir hunn ee Kuch gebak -> We baked a cake
Du hues ee Bild gemoolt -> You drew a picture
Hatt huet seng Blummen genat -> She watered her flowers
Dir hutt de Wues geméit -> You (plural) mowed the lawn
Si hunn e Fësch gefaang -> They caught a fish
At this point, we should mention that the large majority of verbs are conjugated with the auxiliary verb hunn in the Passé Composé. Sinn is used far less frequently, mostly with verbs of movement or changes of "the state of being", but nevertheless here are some examples:
Hatt ass ee Marathon gelaf -> She ran a marathon
Ech sinn op Ettelbréck gefuer -> I drove to Ettelbruck
Mir sinn ageschlof -> We fell asleep
We covered both hunn and sinn in previous Language Basics lessons. So, the question now is: How do we from the past participle in Luxembourgish?
For regular verbs (remember those from Language Basics 7?), the Partizip Perfekt is formed as follows:
ge + [verb stem] + t
As always, it is easier to illustrate this with examples:
bauen (to build) -> Ech hunn eng Sandbuerg gebaut ("I built a sandcastle")
klauen (to steal) -> Hien huet him de Portmonni geklaut ("He stole his wallet")
kucken (to watch) -> Mir hu gëschter Owend Tëlee gekuckt ("We watched TV yesterday evening")
So far, so easy. Unfortunately, things get a bit more complicated when it comes to irregular verbs.
For irregular verbs, several different forms are possible!
Here are some examples of what you might find:
liesen (to read) -> Ech hunn ee Buch gelies ("I read a book"), no -t
briechen (to break) -> Mir hunn de Stull gebrach ("We broke the chair"), vowel change, no -t
fannen (to find) -> Si hunn eng Léisung fonnt ("They found a solution"), no ge-, vowel change
verstoen (to understand) -> Hatt huet näischt verstan ("She did not understand anything"), no ge-, no -t, vowel change
On the bright side, there are a few rules that you can rely on.
1. Verbs ending in -éieren never take a ge- prefix
Ex: studéieren (to study) -> Hien huet zu Paräis studéiert ("He studied in Paris")
One exception: léieren (to learn, study) -> Hatt huet fir d'Prüfung geléiert ("She studied for the test")
2. Compound verbs with a verbal prefix do not have the ge- mark in the past participle
Ex: besichen (to visit) -> Meng Tatta huet eis besicht ("My aunt visited us")
besichen is a compound verb made up of the verbal prefix be- and the regular verb sichen ("to search, look for").
3. The verbal particle of separable compound verbs is attached to the past participle of the base verb
Ex: fänken (to catch) -> Ech hunn ee Fësch gefaang ("I caught a fish")
ufänken (to start) -> Ech hunn een neie Projet ugefaang ("I started a new project")
Confused enough yet? Here's a life hack for you: You can look up any verb on LOD (even in English!) and instantly find out the corresponding auxiliary verb AND the past participle form.
Finally, we should point out that the verb maachen (to make) has severel past participle forms that are all in use: gemaacht / gemaach / gema / gemat / gemeet (gemeet is mainly used in southern Luxembourg).
We can keep this one quite short as there are only a handful of verbs left that still have an imparfait form. There is also little difference between the use of the Imparfait and the Passé Composé, so feel free to save yourself the trouble and just go with the latter.
The Imparfait is a type of simple past form, i.e. there is no need for an auxiliary verb such as hunn or sinn:
I received a parcel yesterday -> Ech krut gëschter ee Päckelchen
We've already seen the forms for hunn and sinn in their respective Language Basics articles, so here are some other high-frequency verbs that still have an Imparfait form that remain in use today:
ginn (to give, to become) kommen (to come) kréien (to receive)
ech gouf ech koum ech krut
du goufs du koums du krus
hie / hatt gouf hie / hatt koum hie / hatt krut
mir goufen mir koumen mir kruten
dir gouft dir koumt dir krut
si goufen si koumen si kruten
soen (to say) sollen (be supposed to) wëllen (to want)
ech sot ech sollt ech wollt
du sos du sollts du wollts
hie / hatt sot hie / hatt sollt hie / hatt wollt
mir soten mir sollten mir wollten
dir sot dir sollt dir wollt
si soten si sollten si wollten
däerfen (to be allowed to) denken (to think) goen (to go)
ech duerft ech duecht ech goung
du duerfs du duechts du goungs
hie / hatt duerft hie / hatt duecht hie / hatt goung
mir duerften mir duechten mir goungen
dir duerft dir duecht dir goungt
si duerften si duechten si goungen
kënnen (to can) leien (to lie / recline) sëtzen (to sit)
ech konnt ech louch ech souz
du konns du louchs du souz
hie / hatt konnt hie / hatt louch hie / hatt souz
mir konnten mir louchen mir souzen
dir konnt dir loucht dir souzt
si konnten si louchen si souzen
stoen (to stand) wëssen (to know) bleiwen (to stay)
ech stoung ech wousst ech blouf
du stoungs du wousst du bloufs
hie / hatt stoung hie / hatt wousst hie / hatt blouf
mir stoungen mir woussten mir blouwen
dir stoungt dir wousst dir blouft
si stoungen si woussten si blouwen
This one corresponds more or less to the English past perfect as far as form is considered, however it is used slightly differently in Luxembourgish. While the English past perfect is usually used to express the "past within the past", Luxembourgish often uses the Plus-que-parfait in contexts that would be translated as a past simple in English. Considering this, just be aware that this tense exists but don't worry too much about it.
As you already know how the Passé Composé is formed, this one will be a walk in the park. You just have to make one small change:
- Imparfait form of the auxiliary verb hunn ("to have") + past participle
- Imparfait form of the auxiliary verb sinn ("to be") + past participle
Here are some examples:
Ech hat ni Zäit gehat deemools -> I never had time back then
Virun 10 Joer hat ech hatt fir d’lescht gesinn -> Ten years ago, I saw her for the last time
Ech war als Kand ëmmer gär an de Kino gaang -> As a child, I used to enjoy going to the cinema.
As we said in the beginning of this lesson, keep in mind that in everyday speech, you will probably only use the Passé compose – and maybe some Imparfait forms, if you're feeling extra fancy.