Grammar: Verb Biti (to be) in Present

SlovenianSlovenian A1

Welcome to our Slovenian grammar course for beginners! In this lesson of the beginner Slovene course, we`ll discuss the Slovene verb "biti" (to be), which is one of the most important verbs in the Slovene language. It is not only important due to its frequent usage, but also because the forms of this verb play a role in the formation of the past and future tenses in the Slovenian grammar.

The forms of this verb are actively used in other Slavic languages (specifically in West Slavic and South Slavic languages), and they are fundamental for many expressions that can be conveyed in the language. That`s why we`re going to dedicate an entire separate article to it.

You can listen to all phrases in Slovenian used in the article online by pressing the Play button:

Dual grammatical number

However, before we do that, it`s essential to talk about a very important feature of the Slovene language. This language is quite archaic, and for a long time, it wasn`t used as a literary or scientific language, not was it taught in schools. This allowed it to retain some archaic features inherited from the Old Slavic language. The most archaic of these features, which is absent in other Slavic languages, is the dual number.

What is the dual number? The dual number is a special form for nouns and verbs, which corresponds to two objects or two persons referred to in a sentence or phrase. This means that any two objects or a verb describing the action of two people have their separate form and are not the same as the plural form. Despite its archaic nature, this form is very frequently used in the modern slovenian language, so it`s not just something to learn but to know very well and use correctly.

Let`s return to the verb "biti" (to be). Why do we need the verb "to be"? Essentially, for the same reasons as in English, Polish, and other languages - to describe the attributes of an object/person or the existence of an object. For example:
"To je dom" (This is a house);
"Oni so moji bratje" (They are my brothers);
"Ta avto je bel" (This car is white).
and so on.
Pay attention to this topic to ensure that there are no mistakes in potential Slovene sentence structures in the future. We recommend starting with Slovene phrases you hear and later trying to interpret your own sentences according to what the native speakers say.


You can see the conjugation of the verb "biti" (to be) in the present tense below:
Jaz sem - I am
Ti si - You are (singular, informal)
On/Ona/Ono je - He/She/It is
Midva/Midve* sva - We both are (dual, informal)
Vidva/Vidve* sta - You are (dual, informal)
Onadva/Onidve* sta - They are (dual, informal)
Mi/Me** smo - We are
Vi/Ve** ste - You are (plural or singular formal)
Oni/One/Ona** so - They are (plural)

* Midve, Vidve, Onidve" are used when we refer to two women or entities of the feminine gender. Forms in the dual number (Midva/Midve, Vidva/Vidve, Onadva/Onidve) have no direct equivalent in English;
** Forms "Me smo, Ve ste, One so" are used when we refer to a group of women or entities of the feminine gender. The form "Ona so" indicates a group of nouns of the neuter gender. Pay attention to these nuances, because they don`t exist in English.

Negative Form

The negative form of the verb "biti" in the present tense is formed by adding the particle "ni" before the verb form. The exception is the 3rd person singular, which is quite logical:
Jaz nisem - I am not
Ti nisi - You are not (singular, informal)
On/Ona/Ono ni - He/She/It is not
Midva/Midve nisva - We are not (dual, informal)
Vidva/Vidve nista - You are not (dual, informal)
Onadva/Onidve nista - they are not (dual, informal)
Mi/Me nismo - We are not
Vi/Ve niste - You are not (plural or singular formal)
Oni/One/Ona niso - They are not

In conclusion, it`s worth noting that these forms of the verb "to be" are essential because they are used to form the past and future tenses in the Slovene language. We`ll discuss this in our upcoming lessons. That`s all for now. Good luck!