Uses of the Present Tense
There is only one present tense in Bulgarian, corresponding to quite a few of the English tenses:
- Universal truths: the English equivalent is the Present simple tense – Слънцето изгрява от изток. (The Sun rises in the east.)
- Habitual activities: the English equivalent is the Present simple tense – Уча български в сряда. (I study Bulgarian on Wednesday.);
- Activities taking place at the moment of speaking: the English equivalent is the Present continuous tense – Какво правиш? – Уча български. (What are you doing? – I am studying Bulgarian.);
- Activities that began in the past and continue up to the present moment: the English equivalent is the Present perfect/perfect continuous tense – Уча български от две години. (I have studied/have been studying Bulgarian for two years);
- Planned future activities: the English equivalent is The Present Continuous tense in its futurity use – Утре пътувам за Пловдив. (I am travelling to Plovdiv tomorrow.)
- Past activities (especially historic events): the English equivalent is the Past Simple tense – Хан Аспарух основава българската държава през 681. (Khan Asparuh founded the Bulgarian state in 681.)
Types of verbs according to conjugation:
All Bulgarian verbs fall into one of three categories depending on the way they are conjugated:
Type 1: gets the ending –e in the third person singular in the Present Tense:
аз чета (I read) аз пея (I sing)
ти четеш (you read) ти пееш (you sing)
той чете (he reads) той пее (he sings)
тя чете (she reads) тя пее (she sings)
то чете (it reads) то пее (it sings)
ние четем (we read) ние пеем (we sing)
вие четете (you read) вие пеете (you sing)
те четат (they read) те пеят (they sing)
Type 2: gets the ending -и in the third person singular in the Present Tense:
аз работя (I work)
ти работиш (you work)
той работи (he works)
тя работи (she works)
то работи (it works)
ние работим (we work)
вие работите (you work)
те работят (they work)
Type 3: gets the ending -а in the third person singular in the Present Tense:
аз казвам (I say)
ти казваш (you say)
той казва (he says)
тя казва (she says)
то казва (it says)
ние казваме (we say)
вие казвате (you say)
те казват (they say)
The negative sentences in the present tense in Bulgarian are formed by adding the negative particle не to the positive form of the verb, e.g.:
аз не чета (I don’t read)
ти не четеш (you don’t read)
той не чете (he doesn’t read)
тя не чете (she doesn’t read)
то не чете (it doesn’t read)
ние не четем (we don’t read)
вие не четете (you don’t read)
те не четат (they don’t read)
Тhe negative particle is placed BEFORE the verb and there are no auxiliary verbs in the sentences.
In Bulgarian, you can have more than one negation in a single sentence, which sounds perfectly natural:
Никой не идва. Nobody is(n’t) coming.
General (yes/no) questions
The general questions are formed by adding the interrogative particle ли which can be positioned differently in the sentences without any major changes in their meaning:
аз чета ли/ аз ли чета (do I read)
ти четеш ли/ ти ли четеш (do you read)
той чете ли/ той ли чете (does he read)
тя чете ли/ тя ли чете (does she read)
то чете ли/ то ли чете (does it read)
ние четем ли/ ние ли четем (do we read)
вие четете ли/ вие ли четете (do you read)
те четат ли/ те ли четат (do they read)
The greater the number of words in a sentence, the more possible positions for the particle ли there are:
Той гледа ли телевизия в стаята?
Той ли гледа телевизия в стаята?
Той телевизия ли гледа в стаята?
Той в стаята ли гледа телевизия?
The general meaning of all these questions is: Does he watch TV in the room?, but the variations in the word order emphasize different parts of the sentence:
Той гледа ли телевизия в стаята? – the most neutral sounding sentence – the emphasis is on the action itself
Той ли гледа телевизия в стаята? – Is it he (and not someone else) who watches TV in the room?
Той телевизия ли гледа в стаята? – Is it TV (and not something else) that he watches in the room?
Той в стаята ли гледа телевизия? – It is in the room (and not somewhere else) that he watches TV?
To form special questions you add a question word to the positive sentence:
аз чета → Какво чета (аз)? – What do I read?
ти четеш → Къде четеш (ти)? – Where do you read?
той чете → Кога чете (той)? – When does he read?
тя чете → Защо чете (тя)? – Why does she read?
то чете → Колко чете (то)? – How much does it read?
ние четем → В колко часа четем (ние)? – What time do we read?
вие четете → Колко често четете (вие)? – How often do you read?
те четат → От кога четат (те)? – How long have they been reading?
Since the question word is sufficient to form the question, you can add it almost anywhere in the sentence, although some variations will sound more natural than others:
(Той) чете книга в стаята всеки ден. He reads a book in the room every day.
Защо (той) чете книга в стаята всеки ден?
(Той) защо чете книга в стаята всеки ден?
(Той) защо всеки ден чете книга в стаята?
(Той) чете защо книга в стаята всеки ден ? (Той) чете книга защо в стаята всеки ден? (Той) чете книга в стаята защо всеки ден?
The Bulgarian equivalent to the English present simple and present continuous tenses
In Bulgarian, there is only one present tense which can denote both actions happening at the moment of speaking and habitual actions, which means that both I am watching TV and I watch TV would be rendered in Bulgarian by (Аз) гледам телевизия. The difference in meaning would be determined by the context or by words denoting the time of the action (which, however, do not change the form of the verb in the sentences), for example: сега (now) or всеки ден (every day).
The same holds true for the present perfect and the present perfect continuous tenses: both I have lived here for ten years and I have been living here for ten years will be rendered as (Аз) живея тук от десет години.
One-time action verbs
One-time action verbs cannot be used on their own in the present tense. Therefore, we cannot say:
They can be used in clauses, especially after the conjunction да:
Искам да купя книга. (I want to buy a book.)
Мога да прочета книгата днес. (I can read the book today.)