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Speak / Lesson 23

The Simple Past Tense

Lesson 23 goes over the simple past tense, including how to talk about what you did over the last weekend.


how are you?

Note: In Persian, as in many other languages, there is a formal and an informal way of speaking. We will be covering this in more detail in later lessons. For now, however, chetor-ee is the informal way of asking someone how they are, so it should only be used with people that you are familiar with. hālé shomā chetor-é is the formal expression for ‘how are you.’

Spelling note: In written Persian, words are not capitalized. For this reason, we do not capitalize Persian words written in phonetic English in the guides.


I’m well

Pronunciation tip: kh is one of two unique sounds in the Persian language that is not used in the English language. It should be repeated daily until mastered, as it is essential to successfully speak Persian. Listen to the podcast for more information on how to make the sound.

Persian English
salām hello
chetor-ee how are you?
khoobam I’m well
merci thank you
khayli very
khayli khoobam I’m very well
khoob neestam I’m not well
man me/I
bad neestam I’m not bad
ālee great
chetor-een? how are you? (formal)
hālé shomā chetor-é? how are you? (formal)
hālet chetor-é? how are you? (informal)
khoob-ee? are you well? (informal)
mamnoonam thank you
chetor peesh meeré? how’s it going?
ché khabar? what’s the news? (what’s up?)

Leyla: Hello everyone! We'd like to welcome you back to Chai and Conversation.

Matt: We're on lesson 14 of the second unit of Chai and Conversation

We've learned the conjugations for the verbs to have and to be. Let's continue our discussion of verbs, and learn a few different verbs with

So over the past two weeks, we've gone over a couple of key verbs in the Persian language. We learned that Persian words have two stems, the present stem, used for the present tense of the word, and the past stem, used for the past stem of the word. The present stem of most Persian verbs is irregular. So first we learned the word to have. The infinitive of this was boodan.

Matt: Boodan

Leyla: So to get the past tense of this word, we simply chop off the an. This gives us bood

Matt: Bood

Leyla: This form of the word is also used as the third person singular of the past tense of the word. In other words, he she or it was is bood. So let's use this word in context. Let's say you went to a party this weekend, and I want to ask you how it was. The word for party in Persian is 'mehmoonee'

Matt: Mehmoonee

Leyla: So to say 'How was the party' I ask 'mehmoonee chetor bood?

Matt: Mehmoonee chetor bood?

Leyla: And you can answer something like 'it was good', or 'khoob bood'

Matt: Khoob bood.

Leyla: Now I'm going to ask you, and try answering that is was very good. Mehmoonee chetor bood?

Matt: Khayli khoob bood

Leyla: To make 'was' negative, you add a –na in front of it, just as we've seen before. So khoob nabood

Matt: Khoob nabood

Leyla: Which means 'it was not good'. To make the verb personal, we simply add the personal stem to the end of the word in the past tense, just as we do for the present tense. So for example, to say I was tired, you say 'khasteh boodam'

Matt: Khasteh boodam

Leyla: Khasteh is the word for tired, so I'm saying Khasteh boodam, or I was tired. Khasteh boodam

Matt: Khasteh boodam.

Leyla: So let's try this in a conversation Matt. I'll start

Leyla: Mehmoonee chetor bood?

Matt: Khoob nabood.

Leyla: Chetor?

Matt: Khasteh boodam.

Leyla: Ok, so after Matt said the party was not good, I asked him chetor? In this context, it means 'how come?' Chetor?

Matt: Chetor

Leyla: And Matt answered back that it was not good because he was tired, or khasteh boodam

Matt: Khasteh boodam.

Leyla: Let's go over the past tense of to be with the other personal stems. So again, I was, Man boodam

Matt: Man boodam

Leyla: You were 'to boodee'

Matt: To boodee

Leyla: He or she was 'oo bood'

Matt: Oo bood

Leyla: We were, ma boodeem

Matt: Ma boodeem

Leyla: You were, plural or formal, shoma boodeen

Matt: Shoma boodeen

Leyla: They were, oona boodan

Matt: Oona boodan

Leyla: We can use these words with any of the adjectives we learned the past few weeks. For example we were happy, ma khoshhal boodeem

Matt: Ma khoshhal boodeem

Leyla: Or 'they were heavy hearted' Oonha deltang boodan'

Matt: Oonha deltang boodan.

Leyla: So let's try learning a causal sentence. Let's say 'the party was not good because I was tired.' The word for because is barayeh eenkeh

Matt: barayeh eenkeh

Leyla: It more literally translates as 'for the reason that' So, the party was not good, for the reason that I was tired' for instance. So 'mehmoonee khoob nabood barayeh eenkeh khasteh boodam.

Matt: Mehmoonee khoob nabood barayeh eenkeeh khasteh boodam.

Leyla: One more time, barayeh eenkeh

Matt: Barayeh eenke

Leyla: Let's try switching the sentence around a bit. Let's say the following sentence: The party wasn't bad, but I was tired. Matt, could you try to work this out?

Matt: Mehmoonee bad nabood, vali khasteh boodam.

Leyla: Perfect! Mehmoonee bad nabood- the party wasn't bad, vali khasteh boodam 'but I was tired. Now, to get more practice using past tense, let's learn a very common conversational question. Those of you who work know that one of the first questions you're asked when you return to the office on Monday morning is 'what did you do over the weekend?' So let's learn how to ask this question in Persian, and also let's learn a few different possible answers to the question. The question 'what did you do over the weekend' informally, is 'akhareh hafte cheekar kardee?'

Matt: Akhareh hafteh cheekar kardee?

Leyla: The word akhar means end. Akhar

Matt: Akhar

Leyla: So akhareh hasteh is literally 'week end'. Kardee is 'did you do' in the informal sense, and cheekar is 'what things'. So akhareh hafteh cheekar kardee?

Matt: Akhareh hafteh cheekar kardee?

Leyla: I do want to note here that cheekar is the colloquial way to say the word 'chekar.' We've learned the word kar in the past to mean work, but in this context it means work or an activity. We've also learned 'che', it means 'what'. So you could say it either way, chekar, cheekar. For consistency, we're going to stick with cheekar. So again, 'akhareh hafteh cheekar karde?'

Matt: Akhareh hafteh cheekar kardee?

Leyla: Now that we are learning past tense verbs, let's go over the verb 'to do' which we see in this sentence. The infinitive of this verb is 'kardan', to do. Kardan

Matt: Kardan

Leyla: So, following the rule we said before, Matt, how would you figure out the past stem of this verb?

Matt: You would take the an off the end. So kard would be the stem.

Leyla: Exactly, kard. So in the sentence, what did you do at the end of the weekend, to figure out the informal form of the word, we added ee at the end of kard. To say it in the you formal form, it's kardeen.

Matt: Kardeen

Leyla: So akhareh hafteh cheekar kardeen?

Matt: Akhareh hafteh cheekar kardeen?

Leyla: So quite commonly when answering this question, you talk about places you went to over the weekend, places like the movies, or to various restaurants, or to the park, etc. So to answer this question, let's go over to verb to go in the past tense. So the infinite of the verb to go is 'raftan'

Matt: Raftan

Leyla: So what is the past stem of the verb raftan? Listeners can you figure it out? Matt, can you help them out?

Matt: Raft

Leyla: Perfect- So how would you say 'I went'? Remember the personal stem for I is –am.

Matt: Raftam

Leyla: Ok great! So a simple answer to the question would be 'Raftam cinema'

Matt: Raftam cinema

Leyla: And this simply means 'I went to the cinema'. You might notice, however, that the Persian form omits a lot of these words, and is more simply 'I went cinema'. That's because 'raftam cinema' is a bit of a reduced version of the more proper way to say this, which would be 'man be cinema raftam'

Matt: Man be cinema raftam.

Leyla: be is a preposition word and means to. I went to the cinema. 'man be cinema raftam'

Matt: Man be cinema raftam.

Leyla: Notice that in this more proper version, the verb is at the end of the sentence. The reduced version flip things around a bit and starts with the verb in the beginning of the sentence Raftam cinema.

Matt: Raftam cinema

Leyla: This reduced version tells us everything we need to know and is more common in conversational speech, so in keeping with the conversational spirit of chai and Conversation, we're going to stick with this form of the phrase.

So, moving on, let's say you want to say I went to yoga class. You say 'raftam kelasse yoga'

Matt: Raftam kelasse yoga

Leyla: Notice the phrase 'kelasse yoga.' You're using the concept of ezafe here, which we are going to go over in more detail in the upcoming lessons. Raftam kelasse yoga

Matt: Raftam kelasse yoga

Leyla: Or how about if you take a class on drawing for fun on the weekends? Drawing is naghashee

Matt: Naghashee

Leyla: Raftam kelasse naghashee

Matt: Raftam kelasse naghashee.

Leyla: Now let's go over the verb to go in the past tense for all the pronouns of 'to go'. As we said, I went is 'man raftam'

Matt: man Raftam

Leyla: You, informal went is 'to raftee

Matt: To raftee

Leyla: He or she went is 'oo raft'

Matt: Oo raft

Leyla: we went is 'ma rafteem'

Matt: Ma rafteem

Leyla: You, formal, went is 'shoma rafteen'

Matt: Shoma rafteen

Leyla: They went is oona raftan

Matt: Oona raftan

Leyla: Now that we're warmed up on verbs, let's go over the verb 'to do' in the past tense, so we can ask the question of what went on over the weekend to various groups and combinations of people. So again, the infinitive of 'to do' is kardan

Matt: Kardan

Leyla: Which means the past stem is 'kard'

Matt: Kard

Leyla: So I did is 'man kardam

Matt: Man kardam

Leyla: You did is 'to kardee'

Matt: To kardee

Leyla: He or she did is 'oo kard'

Matt: Oo kard

Leyla: We did is 'ma kardeem

Matt: Ma kardeem

Leyla: You, formal did, is shoma kardeen

Matt: Shoma kardeen

Leyla: And they did is oona kardan

Matt: Oona kardan

Leyla: Now, we're only repeatedly going over all the conjugations of the verbs only in these beginning grammar lessons. Hopefully you're starting to get the hang of it, and in future lessons, we'll have to spend far less time going over verbs so thoroughly. In the meantime, we want to become as familiar and as comfortable as possible conjugating together so that you can do it later on your own with confidence. So let's try using all these conjugations in use with different scenarios. So say I want to ask a what they did over the weekend. Since I'm talking to two people, I would ask using the you plural form, or shoma form. I would ask 'Akhare hafteh cheekar kardeen?'

Matt: Akhareh hafteh cheekar kardeen?

Leyla: Note that this is the same form of question I'd ask when talking to one person to whom I need to speak in a formal manner. So again, akhareh hafteh cheekar kardeen?

Matt: Akhareh hafteh cheekar kardeen?

Leyla: And if one of the two people wants to answer, of course they would use the we form. So let's say they want to say 'we went to the museum'. They would say 'rafteem muse'

Matt: Rafteem muse.

Leyla: Now, let's make it a bit more complex. Let's say Friday night you sent to the museum, and on Saturday you went to the park. You would first say 'Jome shab raftam muse.

Matt: Jome shab raftam muse.

Leyla: So jome shab means Friday night. Friday night I went to the museum. Jome shab raftam muse

Matt: Jome shab raftam muse

Leyla: Va shanbe raftam park

Matt: Va shanbe raftam park

Leyla: Let's make it slightly more complex. Let's say Friday night, you went to the museum with Ladan and on Saturday you went to the park with your brother. You would say jome shab raftam muse ba Ladan

Matt: Jome shab raftam muse ba Ladan

Leyla: and then Shanbe raftam park ba baradaram

Matt: Shanbe raftam park ba baradaram.

Leyla: So we're at a point in Chai and conversation where we really can start making pretty complex sentences. Don't be afraid to mix and match vocabulary you've learned in the previous lessons- you probably know more than you think! Moving on, we learned in the last lesson how to say 'I don't have'. Do you remember this word Matt?

Matt: Nadaram

Leyla: Exactly, so it changes from Daram for I have to nadaram for I don't have. The same is true for I didn't go. I went is raftam, so what do you think I did not go is, Matt?

Matt: Naraftam

Leyla: Exactly, simpler than in English! So I didn't go to the park is naraftam park

Matt: Naraftam park

Leyla: So Matt, I'm going to ask you 'did you go to the park on Sunday' and I want you to answer, 'no, I didn't go to the park'. Matt, yek shanbe raftee park?

Matt: Na, naraftam park

Leyla: Ok, perfect! And you should be able to figure out how to say did not go for the rest of the pronouns. Let's go through them quickly. I'll say the English, and Matt you say the Persian. I didn't go-

Matt: man naraftam.

Leyla: You didn't go

Matt: To naraftee

Leyla: He or she didn't go

Matt: Oo naraft

Leyla: We didn't go

Matt: Ma narafteem

Leyla: You didn't go

Matt: Shoma narafteen

Leyla: They didn't go

Matt: Oona naraftan

Leyla; Ok perfect! Let's learn one more word dealing with the concept of going, and then we'll have a dialogue to wrap up the lesson. We covered going, now let's talk about coming. The infinitive to come is 'amadan'

Matt: Amadan

Leyla: Now this is another word that is different in spoken and written Persian. In spoken Persian, it's 'oomadan'

Matt: oomadan

Leyla: So let's just go over he or she came. It would be oomad

Matt: Oomad

Leyla: And he or she did not come is 'nayoomad'

Matt: Nayoomad

Leyla: Note that this is the same as adding 'na' in front of the word to make it negative, but since oomad begins with a vowel, a y sound had to be added as an adjustment to make it flow better. So Oomad and nayoomad. So, say you want to say 'on Saturday, my mom came to Austin.' You say 'shanbe, madaram oomad Austin.'

Matt: Shanbe, madaram oomad Austin.

Leyla: Or, let's say on Friday, Babak did not come to the movies. You say 'jome, Babak nayoomad cinema.'

Matt: Jome, babak nayoomad cinema.

Leyla: Let's try one more. The word for yesterday is 'deerooz'

matt: Deerooz

Leyla: So let's say your yesterday Babak did not come to the cinema. Deerooz Babak nayoomad cinema

Matt: Deerooz babak nayoomad cinema.

Leyla: And now, let's put all these words together in a dialogue. Ready Matt?

Matt: Ready!

Leyla: Ok,

Salam Matt, chetori?

Bad neestam Leyla. Akhare hafteh khosh gozasht?

Are, bad nabood. To chetor? Akhareh hafteh cheekar kardee?

Ba Ladan raftam cinema.


Jomeh. Shanbe ham raftam park ba baradaram.

Cheghadr khoob.

to cheekar kardee?

Shanbe mamanam oomad Austin. Khoob bood, rafteem lake va rafteem kelasseh yoga.

Khosh gozasht?

Khayli khoob bood.

Ok, so there was a lot in that dialogue. Let's go over it line by line. First, I said 'Salam Matt chetori, and Matt replied


Leyla: This is a phrase that means 'did you have a good weekend'? Khosh gozasht literally means was a good time had. So was a good time had this weekend? Akhareh hafteh khosh gozasht?

Matt: Akhareh hafteh khosh gozasht

Leyla: I replied Are, bad nabood. Bad nabood means, it was not bad. Bad nabood

Matt: Bad nabood.

Leyla: I then asked the phrase we've learned before 'akhareh hafteh cheekar kardee?' What did you do during the weekend? Matt replied


Leyla: Which as we've learned means 'I went to the cinema with Ladan. When asked what I did, I said 'Shanbe mamanam oomad Austin. What does this mean Matt?

Matt: It means on Saturday, my mom came to Austin

Leyla: That's right. And rafteem lake va rafteem kelasseh yoga. So what did I do with my mom when she came to visit Matt?

Matt: You went to the lake and you went to yoga class.

Leyla: That's right! And this brings us to the end of Lesson 23!