Russian Language Blog

Knowledge Is Power: Verbs With ‑знать in Russian Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 in language

Знать (to know) is one of the most common verbs in Russian. There are also several important verbs derived from it.


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Узнать — To Discover/Learn

Узнать (perfective)/узнавать (imperfective) is used to talk about learning some information for the first time.

  • О́коло полугода жильцы́ пыта́лись узна́ть, что, со́бственно, происхо́дит.
    The residents tried for about half a year to find out what was actually happening.
    (Ирина Александрова. Жизнь на стройплощадке (1999) // «Адвокат», 1999.01.18)

Узнать may be followed by the accusative case, о + prepositional case, про + accusative, or a dependent clause.

Узнать — To Recognize

In this sense, узнать means to recognize something or someone, to remember you have met a person when you see them.

  • Я был уве́рен, она́ узна́ет меня́ по го́лосу.
    I was sure she would recognize me by my voice.
    (Слава Сэ. Ева. 2010)
  • И наконе́ц я узна́л Казбича, то́лько не мог разобра́ть, что тако́е он держа́л пе́ред собо́ю.
    I finally recognized Kazbich but I couldn’t make out what he was holding in front of him.
    (М. Ю. Лермонтов. Герой нашего времени. 1839-1841)
women hugging

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So, if you see узнать referring to a person, how do you know if it means to recognize them or to meet them for the first time? You see, узнать can only mean “learn for the first time” when talking about facts or discoveries. When we meet a person for the first time, it’s called познакомиться + с + instrumental case. You can, however, say узнать if you are talking about getting to know someone better over time.

Признать — To Acknowledge

Признать (perf.)/признавать (imp.) can refer to confirming something is true. This may be a recognition of an achievement, an admission of guilt, or just an acknowledgement of the state of affairs.  Common collocations include признать вину (to admit guilt) and признать поражение (to accept defeat). The related noun is признание (recognition, acknowledgement, confession, admission, etc., depending on the sense of the verb).

  • Маяковский назва́л себя́ ге́нием ра́ньше, чем его́ призна́ли.
    Mayakovsky called himself a genius before he was recognized as such.
    (Даниил Гранин. Зубр. 1987)
  • Быть мо́жет, кро́ме пра́ва на улы́бку, мы должны́ призна́ть друг за дру́гом и пра́во на сдви́нутые бро́ви.
    Perhaps, in addition to our right to smile, we should recognize each other’s right to frown, as well.
    (Василий Аксенов. Круглые сутки нон-стоп // «Новый Мир», 1976)
  • Отка́зываюсь призна́ть свои́ оши́бки, потому́ что их не́ было.
    I refuse to acknowledge my mistakes because there weren’t any.
    (И. Грекова. Без улыбок. 1975)
heart share out of seashells on the beach

Image via Pixabay

You may also see the form признаться + в + prepositional case, meaning “to admit something.” One common example is признаться в любви + dative case (to confess love to someone).

What other -знать verbs would you add to this list?

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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.