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Verb Forms That Don’t Exist in Russian Posted by on Aug 29, 2016 in language

missing puzzle piece

Image from Pixabay

Quite naturally, most of the time, we talk about what can be said in Russian on this blog.  However, surprisingly, there are also things you cannot say. Here are a few missing verb forms and ways to work around them, where possible.

Победить

Ask any Russian what you cannot say in Russian, and, chances are, they will mention победить (to win) among their top five answers. Победить is followed by the accusative case of the person/thing defeated and/or by в + the prepositional case for the battle/contest you won: победить врага в сражении (to defeat the enemy in a battle). Note that “to win” for prizes and the like is выиграть.

Победить is a perfective verb, so it only has past and future forms. Its imperfective counterpart is побеждать. Победить has all the expected forms in the past — победила, победил, победили, победило, but in the future tense, it is missing the first person singular. So you can say, “Я уверен, что мы победим” (“I’m sure we will win”), but not “…я победю/побежу.” To express the same idea, use the phrase “одержать победу.”

Надеюсь, одержу победу и в драмтеатре Екатеринбурга обязательно поставим этот спектакль (I hope I win and we will be sure to stage this play in the Yekaterinburg Drama Theatre). [Бирюков Сергей. ШАНДЫБИН МЕНЯЕТ СЦЕНУ // Труд-7, 2004.01.14]

Очутиться

The next verb I’d like to cover is очутиться, meaning “to find yourself (somewhere).” This is also a perfective verb and does not have an imperfective counterpart. You can use оказываться (imp.) instead.

man in woods

Image from Pixabay

Again, this verb has all four past forms: очутилась, очутился, очутилось, очутились. For instance, Mikhail Lozinsky’s translation of Dante’s Inferno has this word in the opening lines: “Земную жизнь пройдя до половины,//Я очутился в сумрачном лесу” (“Midway upon the journey of our life//I found myself within a forest dark” in Henry Longfellow’s translation).

This verb, too, lacks the first person singular, so you can say они очутятся or мы очутимся, but not я очутюсь/очущусь. If you need to convey the same idea, use окажусь. Note that оказаться has the added meaning of “to turn out to be a certain way” that очутиться does not. The example below shows the shared meaning of the two words.

Я никак не ожидал, что окажусь в таком роскошном отеле (I never expected to find myself in such a luxurious hotel). [Валентин Бережков. Рядом со Сталиным (1971-1998)]

Дерзить

The examples above do not have the “I” form. Some verbs could theoretically have that form, but because of homonymy with other verbs, it is not used in practice. Дерзить is one of these verbs.

It means “to be fresh/disrespectful, to talk back.” You may recognize the related word дерзкий, daring.

Дерзить is imperective, so it has past, present, and future forms — for example, она дерзила, дерзит, будет дерзить. This time, its present first person singular form is not used. It would normally be держу (compare “to slide”: скользить–скольжу), but that sounds like a form of держать, to hold.

You could probably use something like грублю (“am being rude”) to replace the missing form.

― Ты не груби старшим. ― Я не грублю. Это у меня такой голос. (“Don’t be rude to your elders.” “I’m not. That’s my voice is all.” [Валерий Медведев. Баранкин, будь человеком! (1957)]

There are several more missing verb — and noun — forms. Would you like to cover some more on this blog?

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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.


Comments:

  1. David:

    “There are several more missing verb — and noun — forms. Would you like to cover some more on this blog?”

    Da, pozhalsta!

    • Maria:

      @David David, I’ll get on it!

  2. Tama Brown:

    Yes to your question! I really am enjoying your blog. Extremely useful. I am no longer living in Russia, but I am around Russians often and need to improve my speech greatly.

    Thank you very much.
    Tama

    • Maria:

      @Tama Brown Thank you for your comment, Tama! I’ll work on that then.

  3. Mike:

    Funny, someone I follow on Instagram just used the 1st-person singular form of победить. I can tell he was joking because he used an expected form (победю instead of побежу) and I quote: Если победю в этом конкурсе, …