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You may know the imperative mood as one way of making requests or giving commands in Russian, but there are other, less common, ways you may come across. Read on to learn how to recognize and use them.
The most common way is, of course, the imperative mood. The forms can be “built” from the root of the verb — see more information in this past post. The distinction between perfective and imperfective imperatives (“мой!” vs “помой!” both meaning “wash!”) can be similar to that between perfective and imperfective indicative verbs. That is, perfective imperatives refer to a one-time, specific, or finite action, whereas imperfective imperatives can express a general recommendation or command. This will, of course, depend on the sense of each verb. To illustrate this using the verbs above (мыть/помыть), here are two examples:
You could argue that the second example presents the act of washing as a single, discrete event. Could you use “мойте” for that example? Absolutely, but then it would be closer to “every time you handle paper money, be sure to wash your hands,” while the current example could, ostensibly, refer to a specific situation that will not repeat itself.
In addition, perfective forms are more likely to be more direct and closer to commands that requests (e.g. садись vs сядь for “sit down”).
A less common way of giving commands is the infinitive. This form is very direct and not very polite. It is really closer to an order and may be heard in contexts with large disparities in power, e.g. military commands, talking to pets, or from an abusive superior. This form uses the imperfective infinitive.
Finally, past tense forms may express commands, too. This is also quite direct and even rude. Perfective forms are used in this case.
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