Expand Your Vocabulary: Verbs With Prefixes – Брать Posted by on Aug 13, 2015 in Russian for beginners


One way to learn more verbs in Russian is to take a common verb you already know and look up its derivatives with the most common Russian prefixes. Here are some of the most widespread Russian verbal prefixes. These are only some of the meanings, and they do not cover everything. However, you can take a simple verb that you know, append the prefix, and see what the resulting verb means. This way you can learn new words that are related to ones you already know.

в-: into
вы-: out of
до-: filling up, completing, reaching goal
за-: around; start of action
на-: on top
о- (об-): around
пере-: across; too much; again; between
по-: start of action; for some time
под-: towards
при-: next to; slightly
про-: along; through;
раз– (рас-): pull apart; in different directions
с-: moving down; coming together into one point

Let’s take the verb брать (to take).

Маши́на нужна́ и тури́стам, привы́кшим брать с собо́й мно́го багажа́ (A car is also necessary for tourists who are used to bringing a lot of baggage). [Федор Беркутов. Куда хочу, туда качу (2000) // «Туризм и образование», 2000.06.15]

This is an imperfective verb, meaning that it refers to an action in progress or an incomplete action. The perfective counterpart of брать is взять.

― Что бы вы взя́ли с собо́й на необита́емый ос́тров? (What would you bring with you to a desert island?) [Эльвира Савкина. Если впрягаюсь, то основательно (2002) // «Дело» (Самара), 2002.05.03]

Along with these primary meanings and numerous idioms, we also have several related words. I will just list one example for each, but you can find many more online or in the Russian National Corpus.

вы́брать (perf.)/выбира́ть (imperf.) – to choose

Путём есте́ственного отбо́ра приро́да “прове́рила” все эти фо́рмы и вы́брала лу́чшую ― глаз с хруста́ликом (Through natural selection, nature has “tested” all these forms and chosen the best one — the lensed eye).[Александр Зайцев. Загадки эволюции: Краткая история глаза // «Знание — сила», 2003]

забра́ть/забира́ть – to take away/take back

Ма́ма проле́жала в больни́це дней, наве́рно, де́сять, а мо́жет быть, и два́дцать, пото́м мы её вме́сте с Са́шей забра́ли домо́й (Mother stayed in the hospital for some ten to twenty days. Then Sasha and I took her home). [Анатолий Рыбаков. Тяжелый песок (1975-1977)]

to dial (набрать код, набрать но́мер)

Нашёл ну́жную яче́йку, набра́л код и вы́нул объёмистую спорти́вную су́мку (He found he right deposit box, punched in the combination, and took out a large duffel bag). [Героиновый тюремщик (2003) // «Криминальная хроника», 2003.07.24]

to get (a certain score or percentage):

Лу́чшим в соста́ве россия́н был Вале́рий Дайне́ко, набра́вший 27 очко́в (Valery Daineko, who scored 27 points, was the best on the Russians team). [Павел Абаренов. Информ пробежка (2002) // «Вечерняя Москва», 2002.01.10]

На вы́борах 22 сентября́ он набра́л на 6% бо́льше голосо́в, чем его́ сопе́рник (In the September 22 election, he got 6 percent more votes than his rival). [Анатолий Шведов. Закон сильнее крайизбиркома. Александр Хлопонин еще раз стал губернатором (2002) // «Известия», 2002.10.01]

to accumulate/collect:

Он набра́л по́лные сапоги́ воды́ (His boots filled up with water). [Василь Быков. Болото (2001)]

подобра́ть/подбира́ть – to pick out

Ла Ска́ла, прослу́шав 60 теноро́в, с трудо́м подобрала́ трех подходя́щих певцо́в (La Scala could barely find three qualified tenors after auditioning sixty) . [Контекст // «Коммерсантъ-Власть», 1999]

прибра́ть/прибира́ть – to pick up, clean

«Я был у нее́ на кварти́ре, протопи́л пе́чку, прибра́л немно́го… (I visited her apartment, fired up the /Russian traditional/ oven, and picked up a bit.) [Наталья Иванова. Пересекающиеся параллели // «Знамя», 2001]


to make out, distinguish:

Нельзя́ бы́ло разобра́ть, пла́чет ли он или смеётся, и что он кричи́т (You could not distinguish whether he was crying or laughing and what he was screaming). [М. А. Булгаков. Мастер и Маргарита, часть 2 (1929-1940)]

to take apart:
Посвяти́в це́лые 2 часа́ на сие́ упражне́ние, швед разобра́л свою́ фле́йту, вложи́л её в я́щик и стал раздева́ться (Having dedicated a whole two hours to this exercise, the Swede took apart his flute, put it in its case, and began undressing). [А. С. Пушкин. Арап Петра Великого (1828)]

собра́ть/собира́ть – to assemble, collect

Ока́зывается, в Москве́ есть обще́ственный музе́й орига́ми, кото́рый собра́л образцы́ э́того иску́сства из двух деся́тков стран (It turns out there is an origami museum in Moscow, which has collected specimens from twenty countries). [В. Николаев. Бумажный тигр совсем как настоящий (2002) // «Сочи», 2002.08.22]

I hope this was useful. Would you like to see derivatives from a different common verb? Which one?

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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.


  1. Ahmet Fahreddin:

    Thank you Maria, this was quite helpful.

    • Maria:

      @Ahmet Fahreddin Your’re welcome, Ahmet! Hope to see you again on this blog.

  2. Sarahjane:

    Good list, and useful for revision. By the way, another very common verb I hear is the reflexive разобраться:

    Я не очень-то разбираюсь в этом

    • Maria:

      @Sarahjane Thank you, Sarah Jane! Great verb to know.

  3. Sarahjane:

    As regarfs your question, I’d love the see a post on the different words all translated into English as ‘try’: стараться, пытаться, пробовать…

  4. Sima:

    Wonderful post 🙂 It’s really fun and useful to study verb+prefixes, and then work another way, doing prefix+verbs.

    I think you could do драть, рвать, резать, играть, расти…there’s so many to choose from!

    • Maria:

      @Sima Thank you, Sima. Right, approaching the same subject from 2 different angles will help with retention.
      Great ideas — I’ll be sure to revisit them for a future post.

  5. Mike Warren:

    I would add убирать/убрать (remove, harvest, clear the table, pick up and put away…) to the list. Also брать’s close relative -бор-: уборка (harvesting, tidying up), уборщик (janitor)

    There are books devoted to word formation with verbal prefixes but for me it’s more fun to walk through the dictionary and look for the formations. Go through the dictionary with the list of prefixes and write down the nuances you want to remember. I use index cards and now have a box of them, one or more cards per root.

    • Maria:

      @Mike Warren Mike, thank you — all great additions.

  6. Richard:

    A great post! The beauty of Russian is its ability to create new words and new connotations with this building block method!

    “Куда хочу, туда качу”. This phrase rolls off the tongue wonderfully! My translation would be: “To where I want, to there I roll”. Would that be a fair translation?

    • Maria:

      @Richard Richard, thank you. I quite agree with you there. I love when the “внутренняя форма” (so the meanings of the morphemes) of the word hints at its meaning.
      Sounds like a fair translation to me!

  7. Marina:

    Хорошие примери!!! Спасибо!