Aspects of Verbs in Russian

Now it’s time to teach you one of the complicated topics of Russian grammar – Aspects of the Verb in Russian language. Unlike other websites, we don’t think that Aspects of Verb in Russian is hard to comprehend. The topic is quite easy if it’s explained in the right way. It can be logically comprehensible and memorable if you learn it step by step with passion for the Russian language. So, let’s start.

Relating to the verb, Russian language can be divided into 3 tenses: such as Present TensePast Tense and Future Tense. You probably already studied those articles, if not then we highly recommend you doing so. It’s quite simple to understand. It’s worth to tell that it’s simpler than anything else in Russian grammar. Tenses in Russian tell you WHEN the action happen (meaning Past, Present or Future tense). In the meantime, each of those 3 tenses is subdivided into 2 aspects indicating if it’s completed action or ongoing.

  1. Imperfective – ongoing, repeatable and incomplete actions.
  2. Perfective – completed and finished actions.

Please note: Perfective aspect is not used in Present Tense but it can be ONLY used in Past and Future tenses. This basically means that you can relax and not worry about Perfective aspect verbs in Present tense.

1.  Imperfective aspect of the verb in Russian

1. Like we already mentioned above, the Present Tense is ongoing action by definition so the Imperfective aspect has to be always used in the Present Tense. In other words, Imperfective aspect stands for unfinished and ongoing actions.

Я смотрел телевизор – I was watching TV…

Ты идёшь домой рано – You are going home (by foot)…

2. Imperfective aspect is used or two or more repeated number of times (habitual).

Он пьёт водку каждый день – He is drinking vodka every day.

3. Imperfective aspect is used to specify a length of time in expressions. (All day long, for 4 weeks, for decade, etc.)

Она спала около семи (7) часов – She slept for about seven (7) hours.

Я ехал домой целый день – I drove home the whole day.

Little note: Some verbs in Russian language have the beginning “про” which may be an exception to this rule. (проспать – to oversleep, проехать – to drive past by, etc.)

4. Imperfective aspect may be used in expressions of the state of something, rather than an action.

Мы видели самолёт – We saw the airplane.

Мы были дома – We have been at home.

5. Imperfective aspect is used for actions which don’t mean the result.

Мой друг Сергей вечером играл в шахматы, а я в это время наблюдал за ним. – My friend Sergey played chess in the evening, and I watched him at that time. (There is no any specific result).

2.  Perfective aspect of the verb in Russian

This is simple as it is. Perfective aspect means completed and accomplished action. Where the verb has a second conjugation (Perfective) form.

Я полюбил тебя с первого взгляда – I loved you at first sight (I fell in love with you at the first sight)

3.  The difference between Perfective and Imperfective Aspects of the verb

Perfective and Imperfective verbs can have equal vocabulary meaning. To form Perfective verbs you usually add prefix or change suffix in Imperfective verbs. Some Perfective verbs are formed by changing emphasize (accent) in Imperfective verb so the meaning stays the same but it denotes whether it’s completed action or ongoing. Here are some examples of Perfective and Imperfective Aspect verbs with insights of changes for each of the verb.

Imperfective

Perfective

Translation

Любить

prefixes Полюбить

To love

Смотреть

prefixes Посмотреть

To watch

Читать

prefixes Прочитать /Вычитать

To read

Бежать

prefixes Прибежать

To run

Сажать

stem change Посадить

Plant, set, seat, put

Ловить

stem change Поймать

To catch

Говорить

stem change Сказать

To say, tell

Класть

stem change Положить

To put (on)

Удваивать

suffixes Удвоить

To double

Прыгать

suffixes Пригнуть

To jump

Стирать

suffixes Стереть

To wash, erase, delete

Отрезать

accent Отрезать

To cut off

Отмерять

accent Отмерять

To measure

You can also form Imperfective verbs from Perfective verbs by using such suffixes: –ыва, –ива, –а, –ва.

Imperfective

Perfective

Translation

Пересчитывать

Пересчитать

To recalculate, recount

Раскачивать

Раскачать

To swing, shake

Расстилать

Расстелить

To spread (out)

Подливать

Подлить

To poor (to), add (to)

Of course, this topic is not an easy one but with practicing Perfective and Imperfective Aspects of the verbs you can achieve fluency in Russian language.


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