Georgian Grammar Part 3: Aorist Tense, Ergative Case & Imperative Tense

Home>Learn a new language with App2Brain>Learn Georgian>Georgian Grammar>Georgian Grammar Part 3: Aorist Tense, Ergative Case & Imperative Tense
Georgian Grammar Part 3: Aorist Tense, Ergative Case & Imperative Tense 2017-05-23T13:14:40+00:00

What exactly is the aorist tense, you might ask, despite we have mentioned this tense several times in the grammar section of this website.

Learn the Georgian language

Introduction to the Aorist Tense

Georgian is not the only language which has an aorist tense. The aorist tense appears in all the Kartvelian languages and also in Greek and Serbian.

The aorist tense is a special tense which indicates some kind of abstract past tense. In Georgian, the aorist tense primarily covers the past subjunctive and indicative. Unique to the Kartvelian languages, the Georgian aorist tense governs the subject of the sentence to be in the ergative case. This is not the case with the Greek and Serbian aorist tenses.

The Ergative Case

When using the aorist tense in Georgian, it is crucial to know how Georgian nouns are declined in the ergative case. Refer to the first grammar session to see how the ergative case is declined.

In Georgian, the ergative case is primarily used in conjunction with the aorist tense, as mentioned above. Two verbs which denote to know also govern the ergative case in all conjugations. The typical ending of the ergative case in Georgian is -მა for nouns ending in a consonant and -მ for nouns ending in a vowel.

The Aorist Tense in Depth

Basically, the aorist tense is one of the most complicated tenses in Georgian grammar. Besides Georgian and its related Kartvelian languages, other languages which include the aorist tense include Greek, Serbian, Macedonian, Sanskrit, Armenian, and Turkish. The interesting thing about the aorist tense is that it can be different in each language. The aorist can cover a wide variety of different tenses, from the past subjunctive, as it is in Georgian to the pluperfect tense in Sanskrit to habitual actions in Turkish grammar.

Serbian, Macedonian, Croatian, and Bulgarian are the only Slavic languages which have aorist forms of verb conjugation in their grammars. All these Slavic languages are spoken in the Balkans. Greek has a form of aorist tense, but it is more pronounced in Ancient Greek than in modern Greek.

In Georgian, the aorist tense covers the past subjunctive as well as the past tense and is conjugated the same way. The pluperfect tense in Georgian can govern the dative case, which can make it even more confusing for non-native speakers to learn.

The Ergative Case in Conjunction with the Aorist Tense

Though most languages which have an aorist tense do not have a special case which the subject takes on when performing an action in the aorist tense, Georgian does. In fact, the ergative case is unique to Georgian and the other Kartvelian languages, such as Megrelian, Laz, Basque, and Corsican.

In Georgian, the subject takes the ergative case with any basic past tense covered in the aorist tense. See the examples below.

  • Present Subjunctive:
    ნიკა წერილ წერს. Nick is writing a letter.
  • Future Subjunctive:
    ნიკა წერილ დაწერს. Nick will write a letter / will be writing a letter.
  • Past Subjunctive:
    ნიკა წერილ დაწერა. Nick wrote a letter / was writing a letter.

Notice in the examples above, the past subjunctive is in the aorist tense and thus the subject Nick changed from the nominative case (which is usually the case for the subject) to the ergative case. Also notice that the direct object, a letter, is in the dative case in both the present and future subjunctive tenses. In the aorist it too changes, and the direct object changes to the nominative case.

Here are some more examples:

  • Present Subjunctive:
    დღეს პატრიარქ საქართველოზე ლოცულობს. Today, the Patriarch is praying for Georgia.*
  • Future Subjunctive:
    ხვალ პატრიაქ საქართველოზე ილოცებს. Tomorrow, the Patriarch will pray for Georgia.*
  • Past Subjunctive:
    გუშინ, პატრიარქმა საქართველოზე ილოცა. Yesterday, the Patriarch prayed for Georgia.*

*The Patriarch (full title is Patriarch-Catholicos) is the spiritual father of the Georgian Orthodox Church. 95% of the Georgian people are very devout Orthodox Christians and the Georgian Orthodox Church is much older than the Russian Orthodox Church and only the Greek Orthodox Church is older than the Georgian Church. The current Patriarch-Catholicos of Georgia is Elias II and he is respected by the vast majority of Georgians. In many cases, the Georgian people will listen to what the Patriarch has to say before the government. Orthodox Christianity has been intermingled with Georgian culture for centuries.

Notice in the examples above, the sentences are about the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church praying for Georgia, which he does on a daily basis. As you notice, the subject (the Patriarch) is in the nominative case in both the present and future subjunctive. Notice in the past subjunctive the Patriarch is in the ergative case.

Also notice that the direct object in the above examples remains in the dative case. This is because of the suffix – ზე which governs the dative case. This suffix usually indicates on or onto, but in the context of the above example, this same suffix can also denote about something or someone. To pray for in Georgian literally translates as to pray about.

How to Conjugate and the difference between ცოდნა and ცნობა

Unlike English, Georgians have two verbs for to know. One is ცოდნა, which is to know how, or to know how to do something, to know about something. On the other hand, the verb ცნობა also means to know, but in the context of knowing someone. Both verbs govern the ergative case in all tenses. Another unique trait of the Georgian verbs for to know is that their present and future subjunctives are the same. The aorist however does differ. They are conjugated below.

Present subjunctive of ცოდნა
Singular
Plural
მე
ვიცი
ჩვენ
ვიცით
შენ (informal)
იცი
თქვენ (informal)
იცით
თქვენ (formal)
იცით
თქვენ (formal)
იცით
იმან *
იცის
იმათ *
იციან

* Note that because the verbs for to know govern the ergative case, the subject in the conjugation tables must be in the ergative case and not the nominative, like you are accustomed to. The first and second persons do not change in the ergative case, but the third persons do, იმან is the third person singular and იმათ is the third person plural in the ergative case.

Present subjunctive of ცნობა
Singular
Plural
მე
ვიცნობ
ჩვენ
ვიცნობთ
შენ (informal)
იცნობ
თქვენ (informal)
იცნობთ
თქვენ (formal)
იცნობთ
თქვენ (formal)
იცნობთ
იმან
იცნობს
იმათ
იცნობენ
Aorist (past subjunctive) of ცოდნა
Singular
Plural
მე
ვიცოდი
ჩვენ
ვიცოდით
შენ (informal)
იცოდი
თქვენ (informal)
იცოდით
თქვენ (formal)
იცოდით
თქვენ (formal)
იცოდით
იმან
იცოდა
იმათ
იცოდნენ

Aorist (past subjunctive) of ცნობა
Singular
Plural
მე
ვიცნობდი
ჩვენ
ვიცნობდით
შენ (informal)
იცნობდი
თქვენ (informal)
იცნობდით
თქვენ (formal)
იცნობდით
თქვენ (formal)
იცნობდით
იმან
იცნობდა
იმათ
იცნობდნენ

When conjugating both verbs for to know, the subject is always in the ergative whether in the present or aorist tense. See examples below.

არჩილმა პრეზიდენტ ზვიად გამსახურდიას იცნობს. Archil knows President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
არჩილმა პრეზიდენტ ზვიად გამსახურდია იცნობდა. Archil knew President Zviad Gamsakhurdia.
თამუნა ქართულ ენას იცის. Tamuna speaks Georgian. *

* Note that many times in Georgian, when a person speaks a language, Georgians will say that person knows a language.

ჰანსმა გერმანულ ენას იცის. Hans speaks German.

In Georgian, the verb ცოდნა can also be used to describe certain happenings in certain areas or with certain people. Basically, ცოდნა can be used to indicate happenings, like an area or person knows how to do that particular “phenomenon”. See examples below.

მარტმა თბილი და ცივი ამინდები იცის. There is warm and cold weather in March.

If you notice in the example above, the Georgian sentence is describing the extreme weather changes during the month of March, however, the sentence translates literally as “March knows warm and cold weather.

კალიფორნია მიწისძვრა იცის. There are earthquakes in California.

Again, the verb ცოდნა is used to describe a phenomenon which tends to happen in California. Thus the sentence reads California knows earthquakes.

Other examples of habituals using the verb ცოდნა are also listed below.

პატარა ბავშვებმა ტირი იციან. Small children often cry.

Basically, the literal translation is Small children know how to cry.

მერაბმა გაბრაზება იცის. Merab gets angry often.

Basically, the Georgian literal translation is Merab knows how to get angry.

As you can see habituals are often described with the use of the verb ცოდნა. This form of to know is only in knowing how to do things or know about things. This verb is not used in knowing someone.

When talking about knowing someone, the Georgian verb ცნობა is used. The verb ცნობა is specifically used to denote knowing a person, a group, etc. It has to do with people and possibly pets, otherwise, inanimate objects, actions, and habituals use the verb ცოდნა. Like ცოდნა, the verb ცნობა governs the subject to be in the ergative case in all subjunctive tenses.

Because the verb ცნობა denotes knowing a person or people, they can also be conjugated with the personal prefixes. See examples below.

ნათელა გიცნობს. Natela knows you.
ზვიადმა ამ კაცი იცნობდა, როცა ბათიუმში ცხოვრობდა. Zurab knew that man, when he lived in Batumi.
საიდან თქვენ გვიცნობთ? Where do you know us from?
მამა სპირიდონმა გვიცნობდა, როცა ჩიკაგოში იყო. Father Spyridon knew us when he was in Chicago.
მამა ამირანმა კარგად მიცნობს. Father Amirani knows me well.

As you can see in all the above examples, the subject is always in the ergative case, the ergative ending highlighted in blue. Notice also in the phrases where the direct object is in either the first or second persons, regardless whether singular or plural, the personal prefixes are used in the conjugation of the verb ცნობა.

Conjugation of the Basic Verbs in the Aorist Tense

Do you remember conjugating the basic verbs ending in -ება, -ობა, and -ვა in both the present and future subjunctive in the previous chapters? This was quite easy, right? Well, though the aorist tense is more complicated and how the past tense being in both the subjunctive and indicative forms, these verbs are still rather easy to conjugate in the aorist tense.

When conjugating these verbs is the aorist tense, it is important to remember that the subject noun is in the ergative case, the direct object in the nominative case, and the indirect object in the dative case. This is a little different from the present and future subjunctive tenses, where the subject is in the nominative, and both direct and indirect objects are in the dative case.

Conjugation of the Verb აკეთება (to do, to make) in the Aorist Tense
Singular
Plural
მე
გავაკეთ
ჩვენ
გავაკეთეთ
შენ (informal)
გააკეთ
თქვენ (informal)
გააკეთეთ
თქვენ (formal)
გააკეთეთ
თქვენ (formal)
გააკეთეთ
იმან
გააკეთ
იმათ
გააკეთეს
Conjugation of the Verb გათბობა (to heat, to warm) in the Aorist Tense
Singular
Plural
მე
გავათბ
ჩვენ
გავათბეთ
შენ (informal)
გაათბ
თქვენ (informal)
გაათბეთ
თქვენ (formal)
გაათბეთ
თქვენ (formal)
გაათბეთ
იმან
გაათბ
იმათ
გაათბეს
Conjugation of the Verb მოკლვა (to kill) in the Aorist Tense
Singular
Plural
მე
მოვკალი
ჩვენ
მოვკალით
შენ (informal)
მოკალი
თქვენ (informal)
მოკალით
თქვენ (formal)
მოკალით
თქვენ (formal)
მოკალით
იმან
მოკლა
იმათ
მოკლეს

Notice that in the conjugation of მოკლვა, the root of the entire verb changes during the conjugation in the aorist tense. Many Georgian verbs of the third group, those ending in – ვა, can change their ending entirely and differently in the aorist tense. With მოკლვა, this conjugation remains the same with its different prefixes.

See the examples below for the three classes of regular verbs conjugated in the aorist tense. Notice the correlation of the ergative case for the subject of the sentence with the aorist tense of the verb.

მარიამმა ამ რუშნიკი კარგვა. Mariam embroidered this towel.
ზურაბმა თვითონ თავის სახლი გააშენ. Zurab built his own house himself.
მე გუშინ ქათამი დავკალი. I slaughtered a chicken yesterday.
შენ რატომ მიშა შეკარი? Why did you tie Misha up?
არჩილმა გუშინ აბანო გაათბა. Archil heated up the banya yesterday. *

* The banya is actually a Russian pastime. It is a wet sauna in which you sweat, then you get into a cold pool of water and enjoy the camaraderie with close friends.

Several things are noteworthy in the examples above. Notice with the personal pronouns, only the third persons singular and plural change in the ergative case. First persons in both singular and plural do not change from the nominative case. Also notice the verbs of the third group, მოკლვა (to kill) and შეკრვა (to tie, to tie up) conjugate the same way. If other verbs of the third group conjugate differently in the aorist tense, it will be indicated so.

Irregular and Medial Verbs in the Aorist Tense

This can get rather tricky. The aorist tense can get very confusing when it comes to irregular and medial verbs. Furthermore, with the verb ყოფნა (to be), and this also includes all the motion verbs which include this form as well, the conjugations can differ from verb to verb. We will have some irregular and medial conjugation tables below.

The Aorist Tense of the Verb ყოფნა (to be)
Singular
Plural
მე
ვიყავი
ჩვენ
ვიყავით
შენ (informal)
იყავი
თქვენ (informal)
იყავით
თქვენ (formal)
იყავით
თქვენ (formal)
იყავით
იმან
იყო
იმათ
იყნენ
The Aorist Tense of the Verb მისვლა (to go)
Singular
Plural
მე
მივედი
ჩვენ
მივედით
შენ (informal)
მიხვედი
თქვენ (informal)
მიხვედით
თქვენ (formal)
მიხვედით
თქვენ (formal)
მიხვედით
იმან
მივა
იმათ
მივიდნენ
The Aorist Tense of the Verb ტირი (to cry)
Singular
Plural
მე
ვტიროდი
ჩვენ
ვტიროდით
შენ (informal)
ტიროდი
თქვენ (informal)
ტიროდით
თქვენ (formal)
ტიროდით
თქვენ (formal)
ტიროდით
იმან
ტიროდა
იმათ
ტიროდნენ
The Aorist Tense of the Verb ჯდომა (to sit)
Singular
Plural
მე
ვიჯეკი
ჩვენ
ვიჯეკით
შენ (informal)
იჯეკი
თქვენ (informal)
იჯეკით
თქვენ (formal)
იჯეკით
თქვენ (formal)
იჯეკით
იმან
იჯეკა
იმათ
იჯეკნენ
The Aorist Tense of the Verb წერა (to write)
Singular
Plural
მე
დავწერე
ჩვენ
დავწერეთ
შენ (informal)
დავწერე
თქვენ (informal)
დაწერეთ
თქვენ (formal)
დაწერეთ
თქვენ (formal)
დაწერეთ
იმან
დაწერა
იმათ
დაწერენ

Notice in the above tables the irregular verbs along with common irregular and medial verbs are conjugated in the aorist tense. In these tables we also conjugated the verb ყოფნა (to be), სვლა (to go), and the medial verb ტირი (to cry). Note that the verb ტირი is both a medial verb and has a ყოფნა ending, like the motion verbs. The medial verbs can change greatly with the aorist tense, thus new medial verbs will be conjugated in their entirety from now on. The verb წერა (to write) basically has a consonant ending. See the examples below to see how the aorist tense is used in the past tense with these irregular verbs. Note, that with the verbs of motion, prefixes do change to indicate a different type of motion, but the conjugation remains the same.

მე გუშინ მივედი მეგობართან სახლში. I went to a friend’s house yesterday.
იმან გუშინ ჩვენთან სტუმრად ჩამოვიდა. He came to visit us yesterday.
ქეთევან მა გუშინ ტიროდა, ამიტომ მიშა სათამაშო წამოიღე. Ketevan cried yesterday, because Misha took her toy away.
ჩვენ გუშინ გარეთ ვიჯეკით, ამიტომ ლამაზი ამინდები იყო. We sat outside yesterday because the weather was beautiful.

Note in the last sentence in the above examples, ამინდები (the weather) is in the nominative case, not in the ergative case. Why is this? Basically, the primary subject in the sentence was ჩვენ (we). We were sitting outside… That part of the sentence is in the past subjunctive, however, the reason why we were sitting outside – the weather was beautiful… This is more in the past perfect which does govern the nominative case, not the ergative case.

The Imperative Tense

The imperative tense is rather simple. Basically the imperative tense is a tense which places the verb into a command form. The imperative tense only exists in the first and second person, because it is either addressed to the first person as a group or to a person in the second person. See examples below.

წავედით ერთად! Let’s go out together!
წერილი დაწერე! Write the letter!
დაჯეკი! Sit down!
წავედით! Let’s go!

Conjugating the verb into the imperative case is rather easy. Once you know the aorist tense, simply use the aorist form for the first or second person and you have the imperative case. An exception is the verb ჯდომა (to sit). This gets the prefix და- added to it.

In the next chapter we will cover the pluperfect and masdars.

Previous lesson:

Beginners guide to learning languages

Download your free language learning guide

Our free 18-page PDF ebook will teach you how to:

  • Get (and stay) motivated learning a new language
  • Achieve 80% of your goals with only 20% of the effort
  • Make your learning experience more fun than ever

Download the free ebook

Leave A Comment