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The Imperfective
The imperfective is constructed by adding a “می” prefix before past simple verbs.
Here is an example for the verb “to see”:
Verb Infinitive:
Past Stem:
[I] used to see
[you] used to see
[he/she/it] used to see
[we] used to see
[you (pl.)] used to see
[they] used to see
There is no exact English equivalent for Persian imperfective. It is used to express habitual actions in the past. It is also sometimes used to express continuous actions in the past, which are more commonly expressed by the past continuous (discussed in the next lesson) in modern Iranian Persian.
شاهان فکر می‌کردند نماینده‌ی خدا هستند.
در زمان جنگ هر روز به اخبار گوش می‌دادیم.
قبلاً این طوری با من حرف نمی‌زدی.
-چه‌کار می‌کردی؟ -درس می‌خواندم.
The kings thought that they are God’s delegates.
At the time of the war we listened to
the news every day.
You didn’t talk to me like this before.
-What were you doing? -I was studying.
Some verbs like “to know”, “to be able to” and “to want” correspond to states, rather than actions. As in English, the continuous form of these verbs in the past is never expressed with past continuous. In Persian, the past imperfective is used.
از کسی چیزی نمی‌خواستم.
دولت اسم همه‌ی مجرمان را می‌دانست اما چیزی نگفت.
دلم می‌خواست اما نمی‌توانستم.
I didn’t want anything from anyone.
The government knew the name of all of the
criminals but didn’t say anything.
I wanted (lit. my heart wanted) but I couldn’t.
Further usages of the past imperfective tense will be discussed later.