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Top 10 Russian Verbs — Part I Posted by on Dec 16, 2019 in Conjugation tables for verbs, grammar

If you find yourself struggling to come up with the right verb, you may want to learn the conjugation of the most common Russian verbs. They come up frequently in conversation, so being able to recognize and use them will help you with your fluency.

two younger women

Photo by Duy Pham on Unsplash

1. Быть – to be

Present tense

For all intents and purposes, the only remaining present form of быть is есть, and it is usually omitted if it serves as a copula. Есть may be used in the sense of “there is” or “someone has”:

  • В холоди́льнике есть ры́ба (There is some fish in the fridge).
  • У меня́ есть сестра́ (I have a sister).

Past tense

masculineбыл
feminineбыла́
neuterбы́ло
pluralбы́ли

This may also refer to both existence and possession.

  • В холоди́льнике была́ ры́ба (There was some fish in the fridge).
  • У меня́ была́ сестра́ (I had a sister).

Future tense

 singularplural
1st personбу́дубу́дем
2nd personбу́дешьбу́дете
3rd personбу́детбу́дут

Apart from its primary sense, “to be,” future forms of быть form the future tense of imperfective verbs when combined with their infinitives.

  • Я бу́ду хи́миком, когда́ вы́расту (I will be a chemist when I grow up).
  • Тебя́ никто́ не бу́дет слу́шать (No one will listen to you).
pay phones on the wall

Photo by Pavan Trikutam on Unsplash

2. Мочь – to be able to

Мочь is an imperfective verb. Its perfective counterpart is смочь.

Present tense

 singularplural
1st personмогу́мо́жем
2nd personмо́жешьмо́жете
3rd personмо́жетмо́гут
  • Мо́жешь перезвони́ть мне че́рез полчаса́? (Can you call me back in half an hour?)

Past tense

masculineмог
feminineмогла́
neuterмогло́
pluralмогли́
  • В мо́лодости он мог рабо́тать без переры́ва (In his youth, he was able to work without breaks).

Future tense

Technically, the future tense of imperfective verbs is formed from the corresponding future form of быть + the infinitive of the verb. However, in this case, that would sound very odd. It is much more common to use the perfective verb смочь. It is conjugated the same way as мочь in the present, with the addition of the с- prefix.

two women talking on a swingset

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3. Сказа́ть – to say, to tell

Сказа́ть is a perfective verb. Is imperfective counterpart is говори́ть, explained further on this list. As a perfective verb, сказа́ть does not have present tense forms.

Past tense

masculineсказа́л
feminineсказа́ла
neuterсказа́ло
pluralсказа́ли
  • Мне сказа́ли, что за́втра отделе́ние не рабо́тает (I was told the office would be closed for business tomorrow).

Future tense

 singularplural
1st personскажу́ска́жем
2nd personска́жешьска́жете
3rd personска́жетска́жут
  • Ска́жешь мне, когда́ начнётся фильм? (Will you tell me when the movie starts?)
movie theatre

Photo by Alexander Abero on Unsplash

4. Говори́ть

Говорить is an imperfective verb. Its perfective counterparts include сказа́ть (for a specific utterance) or поговори́ть (for a conversation).

Present tense

 singularplural
1st personговорю́говори́м
2nd personговори́шьговори́те
3rd personговори́тговоря́т
  • Вы говори́те по-ру́сски? (Do you speak Russian?)

Past tense

masculineговори́л
feminineговори́ла
neuterговори́ло
pluralговори́ли
  • О чём вы говори́ли? (What did you talk about?)

Future tense

Conjugated future form of быть + говорить

  • Докла́дчик бу́дет говори́ть об эконо́мике (The speaker will talk about the economy).
man speaking onstage

Photo by Product School on Unsplash

5. Знать – to know

Знать is imperfective. Its perfective counterpart is узнать, to find out, to learn.

Present tense

 singularplural
1st personзна́юзна́ем
2nd personзна́ешьзна́ете
3rd personзна́етзна́ют
  • Ты зна́ешь э́ту пе́сню? (Do you know this song?)

Past tense

masculineзнал
feminineзна́ла
neuterзна́ло
pluralзна́ли
  • Я не зна́ла их имён (I didn’t know their names).

Future tense

Conjugated future form of быть + знать

  • По́сле прочте́ния э́той кни́ги вы бу́дете знать, во что сто́ит вложи́ть де́ньги (After reading this book, you’ll know what you should invest money in).

Stay tuned for Part II!

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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 on her translation site and on Twitter at @intorussian.


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