Russian Language Blog

Let’s Unite and Learn Russian Grammar! Posted by on Oct 21, 2011 in language


I am back, «дорогие читатели» [dear readers], ready to explain obscure points of Russian grammar to you. What have I been doing in the past weeks? Many things, all of which relate to school. I am writing «тезис» [a thesis] on a famous Soviet leader and just generally studying for exams (I just took three exams in a week-and-a-half span). Today, I am ready to teach you about a group of Russian verbs that are all translated into English as “to unite”. How do they differ? Read on! 

In my Russian class, we have to report on the news every day («конечно, по-русски» [of course, in Russian]). Today I reported that «Евразийское экономическое сообщество» [the Eurasian Economic Community] discussed «присоединение Киргизии к таможенному союзу» [Kyrgyzstan’s joining the customs union]. The word «присоединение» made me think. It comes from the verb «присоединяться/присоединиться», which is often translated as “to unite”. But so are the verbs «объединяться/объединиться» and «соединяться/соединиться». I have never been clear how to use these three verb pairs, so I said to my professor: «Существует ли разница между этими словами?» [Is there a difference between these words?] He answered: «Конечно» [Of course] and proceeded to explain.

The verb pair «объединяться/объединиться» refers to a few things (states, political parties, etc.) all coming together at once. So, in reference to that customs union Kyrgyzstan wants to join, you could say: «Россия, Белоруссия и Казахстан объединились» [Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan united]. Or like this strange headline from 23 August of this year says: «”Справедливая Россия” предложила КПРФ объединиться на выборах» [A Just Russia (a political party) has proposed to KPRF (Communist Party of the Russian Federation) that they unite in the elections].

Let’s say that A Just Russia did unite with the communists and that after this union, suddenly «Правое дело» [Right Cause] wanted to join, too. Then we would say that «Партия “Правое дело” хочет присоединиться к группе» [The party “Right Cause” wants to join the group]. If there is an already-existing union, then you use «присоединяться/присоединиться». It might make more sense to think about this verb pair as meaning “to join”.

The verb pair «соединяться/соединиться» simply means “to unite” and is the most neutral. When I search it on Google (Google can be a great language learning tool, my friends), I see it often used in relation with technology, such as: «Не могу соединиться с сервером» [I can’t connect to the server].

Any comments about these verbs? Please leave them below!

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About the Author: Natalie

I'm Natalie and I love the Russian language and sharing my knowledge with others. I graduated from university with a dual degree in Russian language & literature and history.


  1. David Roberts:

    Very good very clear explanation. This is an example of the language being logical. Cоединяться/соединиться is probably best known through “Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь!” Cоединение, in “chemistry Russian”is a “compound”: Вода – соединение водорода и кислорода. You’re dead right about Google being a great language learning tool. Best of luck (though I don’t think you’ll need it) with those exams!

  2. Richard:

    Thanks for the post, it’s great to get the nuances of the different words!

    Your last example (Не могу соединиться с сервером) got me thinking that it would be great for someone to do a post about vocabulary related to the Internet, computers and cell phones. I’m fifty years old and the last time I studied Russian in university was before the “information revolution” (“информационная революция”).

    Just food for thought…

  3. Bpy6:

    Pretty good explanation, Natalie. As a native Russian speaker I must say I’ve never noticed the difference really, never thought about that. While learning some languages, I found it’s exactly those cases you learn the real logic the language is built on. So, understanding this logic is one of the most important things to start ‘thinking’ in this language.

    I also must add that you can’t write a ‘тезис’, you write a ‘диссертация’. The word ‘тезис’ is used for the main point you’re trying to make in your work.

  4. Jeannie:

    that’s a pretty good explanation. Russian is my first language and I never really thought of the difference. So, that’s really cool that you explained it here.