In Ossetian, the past tense serves as one of the two verb stems, the other being the present tense. While the future tense is a suffix added onto the present stem, the past tense displays features that can drastically change its appearance when compared to the present stem form.
The features common to the past tense verb forms are, in most cases, ablaut and distinct transitive/intransitive forms; ablaut is the changing of vowels in the stem itself between different tense forms of the same verb, in Ossetian's case past and present. Past tense is indicated by adding a -d-/-t-to the present stem. In the simplest examples, adding this consonant is all that is required. Some examples given by Abaev are as follows:
Verb - Infinitive Present Tense "I am..."Present stemPast stem
To Comb фасынфасфаст
To Shave дасындасдаст
To Play ХъазынХъаз Хъазт/Хъазыд
- In these cases with simple past tense stems the vowel does not change, however, remember that vowel change will be very common in other verbs.
Whether the present stem adds a -d-, or, -t- depends on the final letter in the stem itself; stems ending in voiceless consonants (f, k, p, s, etc.) or z receive the -t-, while stems ending in vowels, sonorants(l, m, n, r, j, w), and voiced consonants receive the -d- suffix.
Aside from verb forms in the indicative and subjunctive moods, the other big feature coded into the past tense is (usually) differing in-/transitive forms.
- In the indicative, past tense transitive inflection looks like this:
1st Person -(т)он -(т)ам
2nd Person -(т)ай -(т)ат
3rd Person -(т)а -(т)ой
and the past intransitive looks like this:
1st Person -(т)ӕн -ыстӕм
2nd Person -(т)ӕ -ыстут
3rd Person -ис -ысты
* The (T) here is for some stems only, where the past tense stem ends in certain letters, as mentioned above.
- The subjunctive past tense transitive inflects like this:
1st Person -(т)аин -(т)аиккам
2nd Person -(т)аис -(т)аиккат
3rd Person -(т)аид -(т)аиккой
and the subjunctive past intransitive like this:
1st Person -аин -аиккам
2nd Person -аис -аиккат
3rd Person -аид -аиккой
Here's a full example of a past tense sentence:
Нарт удæвдз фынгыл сæвæрд.
"The Nart placed the Shawm on the table.".
Нарт: Nart - This word originates from the Old-Iranian root 'nar', meaning roughly 'hero, man'. It is part of a small set of words that only ever have a plural form, regardless of other grammar rules, called 'Plurale Tantum'; think of the word 'scissors' when used as a proper noun in English. Ossetian does not have a strict rule for the sequence of words in a sentence, however, most of the time you will find words in a subject-object-verb (SOV) order. In the sentence above, 'The Nart' is in the nominative case; nominative case is the subject case, ie. the case used to identify the subject in a sentence. The nominative case does not have a marker in the singular, which means there isn't a suffix that specifically shows the noun is singular, you just use the noun as is. The nominative is sometimes used for other things, such as the direct object if it is general or impersonal.
удæвдз: Shawm - A musical instrument similar to an Oboe, it's usage here is pretty straight forward, as the other important information comes after the object; remember, SOV.
фынгыл: Table - The noun here has the adessive case ending, which gives information about the surface on which an action takes place, in this case the event is the placing of the Shawm. On what? The table, which is why table here has the '-ыл' suffix attached, to show that it is the surface on which the instrument was placed.
сæвæрдтой: The verb 'to put, place', in the past tense, 3rd person plural. Pretty straightforward again, stem+ past tense '-d-' marker, '-t-' for the transitive form, plus the 'ой' marker for 3rd person plural inflection. All Ossetian verbs conjugate for the six possible person-number combinations (1st, 2nd, 3rd person, singular and plural.