Russian way to say «I had»

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Last time I told you about how Russians  say «I have» in the present tense (watch here). Today I’d like to tell you about how to say it in past tense (I had).

у меня есть — I have
(or there is near  me)

To say ‘I had smth.’ in Russian we use the construction «У меня было» which really means ‘smth. was near me.

Russian verb «быть» in past has 4 variants:

  • был (he was)
  • была (she was)
  • было (it was)
  • были (they were)

So if this construction is translated as «something/somebody was near me» — this «was« should depend on the gender of this «somebody/something« (he, she, it or plural).


У меня был друг I had a friend («friend was near me»)
У меня была подруга — I had a girlfriend («girlfriend was near me»)
У меня было совещание — I had a meeting («meeting was near me»)
У меня были друзья — I had friends («friends were near me»)

Let’s summarize what we have just learnt:

у меня был + a masculine noun
у меня была + a feminine noun
у меня было + a neuter noun
у меня были + a plural noun

Another very important thing I have to tell you is that Russian inanimate nouns can be masculine, feminine and neuter (he, she, it).  And this rule works for them exactly the same as for animated nouns.


  • У меня была подруга — Girlfriend (she) was near me.
  • У меня была машина — Car (she!) was near me.

If you would like to remind yourself why «car» is «she» read the article about gender of nouns.

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