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.

Passé Composé

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

or

- 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?

Partizip Perfekt

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).

Imparfait

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

Plus-que-parfait

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

or

- 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.