Bulgarian: can "съм" be used in the aorist tense?


I am trying to understand the difference in usage between the aorist and imperfect tenses. I understand that the aorist is more or less the equivalent of the preterite in English, while the imperfect would be the equivalent of the past progressive tense. That is a very rough approximation, of course, as the following phrase shows:

When I was a child...: Когато бях дете...

Here the English preterite is translated as the imperfect in Bulgarian. In fact, it seems that all the sentences I could think of that use the preterite tense of "to be" in English are translated to the imperfect tense in Bulgarian.

Hence my question: can the verb "съм" be used in the aorist tense (as in "аз бих")?
(I suppose "аз бих искал" wouldn't count since that would be a conditional)
  • DarkChild

    Senior Member
    Съм is irregular in the sense that the aorist and imperfect forms are the same.

    Бих is only used in conditional as you said.


    Ah! I read on this page that the aorist of съм was бих, which is why I was confused. Knowing that the aorist and imperfect forms are the same, it makes complete sense now! Thanks.


    Senior Member
    Whilst the historical meaning of бих etc. was indeed the aorist (it still is in Serbo-Croatian for example), in modern Bulgarian it is used only as the auxiliary to form the conditional mood.

    Etymologically it is the aorist form, but it is not used to form the aorist tense, if that makes sense. :)

    Christo Tamarin

    Senior Member
    The Bulgarian verb съм has many peculiarities:
    • The verb съм is neither perfective nor imperfective.
      • Every Slavic verb has its aspect, perfective nor imperfective.
      • The Bulgarian verb съм has no aspect.
    • The verb съм does not distinguish Aorist and Imperfect tenses.
      • It has just a past tense (both Aorist and Imperfect): бѣх, бѣ[ше], бѣ[ше], бѣхме, бѣхте, бѣха̨.
      • In particular, there is no difference in the meaning of the forms бѣ and бѣше (бе and беше).
      • The verb съм still has the perfect tense: бил съм.
    On the other hand, there are two other verbs with similar meaning and with peculiarities as well:
    • The perfective verb бѫда̨.
      • This verb has pure aorist forms: бидох, биде, биде, бидохме, бидохте, бидоха̨.
      • Instead, this verb has no perfect tense.
    • The imperfective verb бивам.
      • This verb has no aorist tense.
      • This verb has no future tense.