Subjunctive and Imperative Mood in Russian

In this article, we will cover the topic of Russian verb and its forms, such as: Subjunctive and Imperative Mood in Russian language.

Verbs of Subjunctive or in other word Conditional mood in Russian language designate the action that the person or thing wants to happen, or something possible to happen if certain circumstances took place.

Verbs of Imperative or in other words Command mood in Russian denote an inducement to an order, advice, wish or action. In other words, when somebody wants someone or something to do an action.

Now let’s explain it one by one in more detailed and comprehensible way.

Subjunctive Mood in Russian language

Like we have already mentioned, Subjunctive mood designates the action which somebody wants to happen. (i.e. I would do this if I had that). Here are some facts of Subjunctive mood in Russian:

  1. Subjunctive mood is used to express the request or wish, and it’s followed by the separate written Russian participle “бы”.
  2. The current participle can be used regardless of the number or gender in the sentence.
  3. The sentence in the subjunctive mood is always formed in Past Tense, meanwhile can also be referred to the Future or Present tenses.
  4. Keep in mind that subjunctive mood can have two aspects in each of the tenses: perfective and imperfective aspects.
  5. Talking about the formation of the subjunctive mood, verbs in such mood can change in number meantime the singular form of the verb can change in gender.

Let’s talk about the formation and examples of the subjunctive mood.

The simple formula of the mood is Past Tense + participle “бы”.

Я смотрел бы телевизор – I would watch TV (singular masculine)

Мы смотрели бы телевизор – We would watch TV (plural)

Он смотрел бы телевизор – He would watch TV (singular masculine)

Она смотрела бы телевизор – She would watch TV (singular feminine)

Оно смотрело бы телевизор – It would watch a TV (singular neuter)

Here are ways when you can use Subjunctive mood

1. Conditional form of the sentence “If …. I would …”:

Russian

English

Если бы тебе нравился футбол, мы смотрели бы матч вместе.

If you like football, we would watch the match together.

Я бы пошёл на тренировку, если я не был бы болен.

I would go to the gym if I wouldn’t be sick.

Если бы она попросила, Я не был бы против этого.

If she had asked, I would not mind.

 2. In a suggestion form “I would recommend you…” 

Russian

English

Вы бы не облокачивались на дверь, она может открыться.

You should not lean on the door, it can open.

Ты лучше бы делал уроки на завтра в школу. Иначе учитель поставит тебе плохую оценку.

You better do your homework for school tomorrow. Otherwise, the teacher will give you a bad grade.

Вы бы поспали немного после дороги.

You would sleep a little after the trip.

3. In some purpose meaning sentence where the subjunctive mood is used with current formula participle “чтобы” + Past Tense. Example: “I did this… to see that…”.

Russian

English

Доктор, она пришла к вам, чтобы вы полечили ей зубы.

Doctor, she came to you (purpose>>>) to treat her teeth.

Они спрятались под кроватью, чтобы никто их не нашёл.

They hid under the bed so that no one would find them.

4. In the sentences expressing a wish, request, desire, or command, we use subjunctive mood after such verbs:

хотеть

to want

просить             

to ask

настаивать

to insist

желать

to wish

смотреть

to watch, to see that

4.1 The particle “бы” is incorporated in “чтобы” in subordinate clauses:

Russian

English

the wish Я хочу, что бы ты признался мне во всём!

I want you to confess to me everything!

the command Начальник издал указ, чтобы все сотрудники носили одинаковую одежду.

The boss issued a decree that all employees wear the same clothes.

Sometime subjunctive mood may be used in sentences with the opposite meaning. Then – in the negated sentences (in some cases) – the verb is used in the imperfective aspect. See examples:

Russian

English

Я не хочу, чтобы ты ходил туда без меня.

I don’t want you to go there without me.

Она попросила меня, чтобы я выгулял её собаку.

She asked me to walk her dog.

4.2 To express a wish in MORE polite form, you can use verbs “хотеть” and “желать” in subjunctive mood by adding the participle “бы” after such verbs:

Russian

English

Я хотел бы поговорить с тобой.

I would like to talk to you.

Она пожелала бы остаться “инкогнито”.

She would like to remain incognito.

Imperative Mood in Russian language

Now it’s time to discuss Imperative mood in Russian. Imperative mood verbs denote an inducement to an order, advice, wish or action. The discrepancy for the Imperative mood is that there is no particle “бы” used like it was mentioned in subjunctive mood.

Here are some facts of Imperative mood in Russian:

1. Imperative mood verbs are used to express the order or command and it may decline in a number depending on person. (i.e. singular imperative “делай” to plural imperative “делайте” (to do); singular imperative “смотри” to plural imperative “смотрите” (to watch) and etc.)

2. By adding the ending “-те” to the singular imperative verb form you can form the plural imperative form. See the example above in 1st paragraph.

3. The letter “ь” has to be written after consonants in the end of verbs of imperative mood. As well as even before “-ся” and “-те“, the letter “ь” should be remained. (see some examples: назначь added “те” назначьте.). Some exceptions to remember: ляг – лягте, приляг – прилягте that don’t have the letter “ь” in the end.

How to form the Imperative mood

To form verbs of imperative mood you need to take the conjugated verb with 3rd person plural (conjugated with personal pronoun “they”) present for the imperfective aspect, and future for the perfective aspect. And replace endings -ат, -ят, -ут and -ют with -й, -и andfor informal form of speech. And for the formal form, replace the same endings -ат, -ят, -ут and -ют with -йте, -ите or -ьте. Let’s see some examples for your better comprehension:

English & Russian Infinitive

Russian 3rd person plural

Russian Imperative singular

Russian Imperative plural

to do – делать

делают

делай*

делайте*

to read – читать

читают

читай*

читайте*

to watch – смотреть

смотрят

смотри**

смотрите**

to write – писать

пишут

пиши**

пишите**

to live – жить

живут

живи**

живите**

to throw – бросать

бросят

брось***

бросьте***

* й or –йте are added because the present stem ends in a vowel

**и or –ите are added because the present stem ends in a consonant. Plus, when the first person singular is emphasized (stressed) on the ending.

*** ь or –ьте are added because the present stem ends in a consonant. Plus, when the first person singular is not emphasized (stressed) on the ending

 

Here is the short list of irregulars of imperative verbs that you need to memorize and practice: 

English/Russian

Russian 3rd person plural

Russian Imperative singular

бить – to beat

бей

бейте

разбить – to break, to shatter

разбей

разбейте

вить – to twine

вей

вейте

лить – to pour

лей

лейте

пить – to drink

пей

пейте

шить – to sew

шей

шейте

узнавать – get to know, to recognize 

узнай

узнайте

лечь – to lie down

ляг

лягте

есть/кушать – to eat

ешь/кушай

ешьте/кушайте

дать – to give

дай

дайте

передать – pass, transmit

передай

передайте

поехать – to go, to ride                

(by transport)

поезжай

Поезжайте

Keep in mind that there are other verbs irregulars. To know them all requires you to practice Russian regularly then knowing those imperative mood verbs comes naturally.  

Here are ways when you can use Imperative mood

1. Imperative mood verbs can be used in the suggestion of doing something right away.

NOTE! You should pay attention if you want to use perfective or imperfective aspects in imperative mood. The basic principle is that you use imperfective in continuous, repeated or habitual actions. But you should use perfective verbs in the result of the single actions.

Russian

English

Приведите мне его сейчас!

Bring him to me now

(perfective, single action, formal)

Приводите мне вашего ребёнка почаще!

Bring me your child more often!

(imperfective, multiple action, formal)

Забудь сюда дорогу!

Forget the way here!

(perfective, single action, informal)

Подай мне чашку!

Hand me a cup!

(perfective, single action, informal)

Note: It may sound more peremptory, if not impolite in case if you use singular form.

2. The Perfective Imperative may be used to express an immediate or even distant future.

Russian

English

Напиши мне свой адрес!

Write your address to me!

(perfective, single action, informal)

Спойте мне вашу новую песню.

Sing me your new song.

(perfective, single action, formal)

Дайте нам знать, когда доберётесь домой!

Let us know when you get home!

Hopefully, the article was comprehensible for you. Keep practicing so you’ll achieve fluency and grammar literacy of the Russian language.

If you feel like you have questions to be asked or you want to practice Subjunctive or Imperative mood, please, click the button below to schedule an appointment with a professional tutor. Our professional Russian native speakers will help you to study everything about the Russian language.


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