Russian Language Blog

Racing through prefixes (part II) Posted by on Feb 11, 2022 in Grammar, language

Why stop where we did? There are still a number of possibilities with гнать. Today I would like to continue the race from last week and demonstrate more prefixes and their meanings within the context of physical motion. So, once again, погна́ли!

Фото автора Markus Spiske: Pexels


The prefix про– usually means motion through something. Проходи́ть, for example, means “to go through something.” Проходи́ть че́рез воро́та to go through the gate. Проходи́ть also means something like “to go over (a subject).” Э́то мы не проходи́ли We didn’t learn this. Пробра́ться means “to make one’s way (though something).” Мы е́ле-е́ле пробрали́сь че́рез толпу́. We barely made it through the crowd.

Прогна́ть/прогоня́ть means something like “to chase away.” This is similar to гнать in its regular form. К полу́ночи барме́н прогна́л всех пья́ниц. By midnight the bartender had kicked all the drunkards out.

Фото автора Betty Curac: Pexels


similar to прогна́ть, means “to chase/kick out.” However, the prefix вы– suggests “out of a space,” as in the words вы́йти to exit, вы́ход exit (noun), вы́ставить to kick out. За э́тот посту́пок роди́тели вы́гнали его́ и́з дому. For that deed his parents kicked him out. Note that this prefix always takes the stress in the perfective form: вы́лезть to climb out, вы́платить to pay [off], вы́карабкаться to get out of a difficult situation.


The prefix с– has the meaning of “down”: съезжа́ть с шоссе́ to get off (“exit”) the highway, сойти́ с ума́ to go crazy (“to come down from your mind”). It can also mean “together”: собра́ться to gather/meet [with friends], собра́ние a meeting, собира́ть грибы́ to gather mushrooms.


has a special meaning. It is a perfective verb (even though it looks like the imperfective) and, like several motion verbs with the с– prefix, indicates a trip to a certain destination and back. Мы сходи́ли в магази́н. We went to the store. Я сейча́с в школу сбегаю. I’m going to drop by the school really quick. (from бегать to run). “How was your trip?” in Russian would be Как вы съе́здили? Сгоня́ть implies the same motion, but suggests a quicker trip.

Фото автора Aljoscha Laschgari: Pexels


Из– has several meanings, including “out of a physical place,” but in this meaning it differs from вы– in that it seems to suggest “to exhaustion” or “to destruction.” Исчерпа́ть to exhaust, deplete. Исписа́ться to run out of stuff to write about.

With гнать, this verb means “to chase something out,” which makes it a synonym for прогна́ть and вы́гнать, but it also is used as something more intense, like “to banish.” For example, the Russian translation of the title of the 1973 film The Exorcist is «Изгоня́ющий дья́вола», or “the one who banishes the devil.”

As I have said before, these do not list all the meanings of these verbs, and many verbs have several meanings. What else do you know about these prefixes? What other verbs would you like to see with prefixes?

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