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How to express in Russian the possession of something in the past

Hello, dear student!

I have already written about the construction which can help you to express in Russian the possession of something in the present. Today let’s consider the past tense.

To express the idea correctly, you should pay attention to the word order and tense to avoid misunderstandings among interlocutors:

У меня была собака [U min'ya byla sabaka] - I had a dog
У нее была головная боль [U niyo byla galavnaya bol'] - She had a headache
У него был хороший день [U nivo byl kharoshyy den'] - He had a good day
У них было много гостей [U nikh byla mnoga gastej] - They had a lot of guests
У вас был красивый стол [U vas byl krasivyy stol] - You had a beautiful table

In these examples you can see that the highlighted word «был/было/были/была + noun in Nominative» expresses the possession in the past. However, be careful, if you inflect the word «быть» for persons, it changes, for example:

Feminine gender: У неё былА красивая машина [U niyo byla krasivaya mashina] - She had a beautiful car. – The noun «машина» is feminine, that’s why we use the word «быть» in feminine gender and as for the past it is – «была».

Masculine gender: У них был большой праздник в доме [U nikh byl bal'shoy praznik v dome] - They had a big party in their house. – In this example the word «праздник» is masculine, that’s why the word «быть» transforms into «был».

Neuter gender: У Жени было великолепное настроение [U Zheni byla velikalepnae nastraenie] - Zhenya had a great mood/Was in a great mood. – The word «настроение» (mood) is neuter, that’s why the word «быть» changes to «было» in the past.

Plural number: У тёти были красивые волосы [U tyoti byli krasivye volasy] - My aunt had beautiful hair. – In this case the word «быть» changes to «были» because the word «волосы» (hair) is plural.

To express negation in the past, you need to use the following construction:

У меня не было собаки [U min'ya ne byla sabaki] - I didn’t have a dog
У нее не было головной боли [U niyo ne byla galavnoy boli] - She didn’t have a headache
У него не было хорошего дня [U nivo ne byla kharosheva dn'ya] - He didn’t have a good day
У них не было много гостей [U nikh ne byla mnoga gastey] - They didn’t have a lot of guests
У вас не было красивого стола [U vas ne bylo krasivava stola] - You didn’t have a beautiful table

These examples show that negative form in the past tense is quite simple: we use the construction «не было + noun in Genitive case» (не было чего? стола) for all persons.

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