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I firmly believe that the Russian blog has the most awesome readers ever! One of the many reasons you are the best is because of all the fantastic comments – thoughtful, well-researched, in-depth, and immensely helpful you leave on this blog.
33 (!) comments on my previous post about short forms of Russian adjectives are a perfect example. If you haven’t followed them, make sure to check them out, especially if you’re trying to make sense of Russian grammar. Thank you, Joerg and Maria!
But as the Russian saying goes «это только приcказка, а сказка впереди» [this is just a story-teller’s introduction, the real tale is yet to be told].
For a native Russian speaker using correct verbal aspects is simple. But trying to explain the complicated rules of choosing between perfective and imperfective verbs is a whole different matter. And that’s why I was thrilled when, reading through the comments, I found Maria. She is a native speaker of Russian and a trained linguist. She also has the rare talent of «разложить по полочкам» [to unscramble] complicated grammatical topics. Most importantly, she is eager to share her knowledge with the rest of us!
What follows is Maria’s post on «глагольные виды» [verbal aspects]. If you like Maria’s post, please-please leave a comment here or on our fanpage.
Past, present, future – Russian language has just three tenses. Is such simplicity possible? Not so fast! In Russian, the absence of more verbal tenses, as in English or say, Italian, is partially compensated by aspectual forms. Verbal aspect is one of the most difficult topics in Russian grammar, especially for non-native speakers. And that’s exactly what we’re going to be talking about in today’s post.
In dictionaries, verbs are usually in the imperfective form. Perfective verbs are formed in several ways:
Some Russian verbs do not have clear aspect indicators listed above. For these the aspect is determined contextually. Examples include «жениться» [to marry], «велеть» [to order], «казнить» [to put to death], «воздействовать» [to influence], «использовать» [to use].
Perfective verbs are used to describe
An action that leads to a specific result:
An action that is instantaneous and completed right away:
Imperfective verbs, on the other hand, are used to describe:
A process without specifying the end result:
Continuity, repetition and frequency of an action:
Note that imperfective verbs have past, present and future tenses while perfective forms lack present tense:
«читал – читаю – буду читать» [read/was reading – read/reading – will read/will be reading]
«прочитал – прочитаю» [read/have read – will read/will have read]
The future tense will differ depending on the verb’s aspect. Imperfective verbs have compound form (will + infinitive or will be V+ing) – «буду делать». Perfective verbs’ future tense is just one word – «сделаю». Note that in English both forms are translated as “shall/will + infinitive” – “will do”.
And that is all there is to verbal aspects… for today. Tomorrow Maria will talk about some exceptions from these rules, so don’t miss it!