Russian Language Blog

All Work and No Play: Russian Verbs Related to Работать Posted by on Jun 24, 2019 in Uncategorized

Работать, to work, is one of the of first verbs one learns in Russian. It very useful in its primary sense, but it also has some interesting “relatives” — derivative verbs that have a slightly different meaning. This post will look at five of them, given in pairs of imperfective and perfective.

woman working on her laptop

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash


The prefix под- means “under” and can sometimes mean “a little bit” (подкра́сить — to touch up with paint) or “to do something along with someone” (подпева́ть — to sing along). Подраба́тывать means “to have a side job/gig” and may be followed by a noun in the instrumental case to show the occupation.

Я диза́йнер, продолжа́ю подраба́тывать на до́му, но всё равно́ живём мы небога́то.
I’m a designer and keep taking on some assignments to do at home, but we still don’t have a lot of money.
[Наталья Радулова. Молчание или скандал // «Огонек», 2014]


Зарабо́тать means “to earn” or “gain.” It can be followed by nouns in the accusative case to say what is earned, such as де́ньги (money), and на + a noun in the accusative to say what the thing earned will be used for, such as зарабо́тать на жизнь (to make a living) or зарабо́тать на кварти́ру (to earn enough to buy a flat/apartment/condo).

Когда́ мы пе́рвые два миллио́на рубле́й зарабо́тали, у нас да́же са́йта не́ было.
When we earned out first 2 million rubles, we didn’t even have a website.
[Елена Николаева. «Я знаю, что у вас на ужин» // «Эксперт», 2015]

Note that зарабо́тать as a homonym can also mean “to start working.”

hands holding 100-dollar bills

Photo by Alexander Mils on Unsplash


Обрабо́тать can mean “to treat,” as in a wound (обрабо́тать ра́ну) or to process something like information. The related noun is обрабо́тка.

Одна́ко обрабо́тать пото́к да́нных на одно́м компью́тере практи́чески невозмо́жно.

However, it is virtually impossible to process this data stream on one computer.

[Александр Латкин. Собака на процессоре. За использование простаивающих компьютеров можно получить 120 лет тюрьмы // «Известия», 2002.01.31]


Разраба́тывать means “to develop” something like a plan, process, or software. Basically, it is used to talking about anything inventive but not about improving conditions (what would be called developing an area in English).

На́до разрабо́тать таку́ю социа́льную систе́му, кото́рая максима́льно защища́ла бы дете́й из малообеспе́ченных семе́й.

We need to develop a social system that would protect children from low-income families as much as possible.

[Ирина Мельникова. Школа выживания // «Итоги», 2003.02.11]

recycling bin

Photo by Patricia Valério on Unsplash


You might remember the prefix пере- in the sense of “too much.” This applies here, too, when перерабо́тать means “to overwork.” However, I would like to look at a different, more interesting sense of this word.

Пере- can also mean “to do over.” In this sense, перераба́тывать can mean something like “process” or “convert” when we talk about raw materials or “recycle” if we talk about waste.

Япо́ния ― еди́нственная из всех официа́льно нея́дерных стран, кото́рая сама́ лега́льно перераба́тывает своё отрабо́танное я́дерное то́пливо.
Among all the countries that do not officially have nuclear weapons, Japan is the only one to recycle its nuclear fuel legally and independently.
[Геворг Мирзаян. Самураи скоро вернутся // «Эксперт», 2014]

Have you come across any of these? What other verbs would you like to see covered in this series?

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About the Author: Maria

Maria is a Russian-born translator from Western New York. She is excited to share her fascination with all things Russian on this blog. Maria's professional updates are available in English on her website and Twitter and in Russian on Telegram.