There are three types of verbs in Bulgarian, depending on the endings they get when they are conjugated. These groups are based on the endings the verbs get in the thrird person singular in the present tense:
Group 1: the verbs get the ending –e: чета, пея (той чете, той пее)
Group 2: the verbs get the ending –и: работя (той работи)
Group 3: the verbs get the ending –а (or -я): казвам (той казва)
The conjugation endings can be easily remembered using the mnemonic летища which contains all the verb endings in the relevant order.
There is no infinitive in Bulgarian, so the dictionary uses the first person singular form to list the verbs: (аз) чета, (аз) работя, (аз) казвам.
As the verbs have unique endings for the different persons and numbers, in Bulgarian you can omit the subject of the sentence (the doer of the action) without distorting the meaning:
Аз имам компютър. = Имам компютър. – I have a computer.
Те гледат телевизия. = Гледат телевизия. – They watch TV.
Sentences without a subject
Some verbs don’t even require a subject to be present in the sentence – they usually denote natural phenomena and are used in the third person singular:
Вали. – It is raining.
Вали сняг. – It is sowing.
Късно е. – It is late.
Рано е. – It is early.
Студено е. – It is cold. (Студено ми е. – I am cold)
Топло е. – It is hot. (Топло му е. – He is hot)
Има малко домати. – There are some tomatoes.
Няма хляб. – There isn’t any bread.
The reflexive verbs denote an action that, when performed, affects the doer. This is signalled by the reflexive particles се and си:
Мия се. – I am washing myself.
Говоря си. – I am talking to myself.
Note that the position of the particles changes when the sentence explicitly mentions the subject (the doer of the action):
Аз се мия. = Мия се.
Аз си говоря. = Говоря си.
Some other reflexive verbs (most of these are not reflexive in English but in Bulgarian they must be accompanied by the reflexive particle се):
усмихвам се – smile
страхувам се – to be afraid
съгласявам се – agree (also съгласен съм)
гордея се – to be proud
надявам се – hope
A lot of verbs can be used as both non-reflexive and reflexive:
обличам – обличам се (dress – dress myself)
Момичето облича куклата. (The girl is dressing the doll.)
Момичето се облича. (The girl is dressing herself.)
играя – играя си (play – no change in meaning)
Децата играят с играчките. = Децата си играят с играчките. (The children are playing with the toys.)
бия – бия се (beat – fight with someone)
Verbs denoting completeness and incompleteness of the action
This is a very important feature of the Bulgarian verbs as most of them have forms for denoting completeness and incompleteness of the action which roughly resemble the distinction between the simple and the continuous tenses in English, but are not equivalent to it.*
|Verbs denoting |
|Verbs denoting |
|чета (read)||прочета (read)|
|седя (sit)||седна (sit)|
|пиша (write)||напиша (write)|
|заключвам (lock)||заключа (lock)|
|разбирам (understand)||разбера (understand)|
|излизам (go out)||изляза (go out)|
|правя (do, make)||направя (do, make)|
Тhe verbs denoting incompleteness can:
either be translated with the continuous forms:
Какво правиш? – Заключвам вратата. (What are you doing? – I am locking the door.)
or be used to denote a habitual action:
Винаги заключвам вратата, когато излизам. (I always lock the door when I go out.)
The verbs denoting complete actions are usually used in the past and future tenses – in the present tense, they are used only in subordinate clauses:
Когато разбера урока, пиша своето домашно. (When I understand the lesson, I do my homework. -> a habitual action)
Когато разбера урока, ще напиша своето домашно. (When I understand the lesson, I will do my homework. -> a future one-time completed action)
Note that you cannot use a complete action verb on its own in the present tense:
Какво правиш? –
Направя кафе. (The correct answer is: Правя кафе.)
By adding another suffix to the verbs denoting completed action, secondary habitual action verbs can be produced:
прочета – прочитам
напиша – написвам
седна – сядам
Therefore almost every action can be expressed in three ways:
1) with a habitual action verb:
Чета книги почти всеки ден. (I read books almost every day.)
2) with a one-time action verb:
Когато прочета книгата, ше ти я дам. (When I finish reading the book, I will give it to you.)
3) with a secondary habitual action verb:
Прочитам по поне една книга седмично. (I read at least one book a week.)
Some verbs (especially some more recent borrowings) with the suffix -ира are unmarked as to completeness or incompleteness:
When you have to use one verb after another, you connect them with the particle да, and conjugate the first verb in the necessary tense while using the present tense forms of the second verb:
аз искам да пия кафе – I want to drink coffee
той може да плува – he can swim
децата обичаха да четат – the children liked reading
*For further reading on the grammatical category of aspect, you can read the relevant Wikipedia articles: