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Verb of the Week: открывать/открыть Posted by on Jul 6, 2012 in language, Russian for beginners

I was actually planning on doing a post about a Russian pop song I like, but I think we ought to end this week with some грамматика [grammar]. I have prepared another post with a verb of the week. This week’s verb is relatively easy to understand: открывать/открыть, which means “to open.”


The imperfective conjugates as follows:



буду открывать
будешь открывать
будет открывать
будем открывать
будете открывать
будут открывать

The perfective conjugates as follows:



Now for a few sentences:

Мы открыли бутылку красного вина. [We opened a bottle of red wine.]

Он считал, что деньги открывают путь к счастью. [He thought that money was the way (lit. open the path) to happiness.] I like this sentence because it uses the word in a more figurative sense.

One important thing to remember about this verb: if you want to say that a store (or something else) is opening, you must use the reflexive. But if a person is doing the opening, then it is not reflexive.

Магазин открывается в девять часов утра. [The store opens at nine o’clock A.M.]

And finally, the sentence you have all been waiting for, the reason why I have a picture of a random box at the top of this post.

А ларчик просто открывался. [And the box simply opened.] This is a saying in Russian (I think I heard somewhere that it comes from a fairy tale, but correct me if I am wrong) that means that the solution to a problem was quite simple. It is what we can call крылатые слова [winged words], meaning that it has become common knowledge in the language.

Any questions? Let me know in the comments!

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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. Rob McGee:

    А ларчик просто открывался. [And the box simply opened.] This is a saying in Russian (I think I heard somewhere that it comes from a fairy tale, but correct me if I am wrong)

    I wasn’t familiar with this expression, but from Googling, I find that it comes from a short б’а’сня (“fable”) by Иван Крылов — or to be more exact, it’s a fable-in-verse. Here’s a collection of басни by Krylov — the poem “Ларчик” is the second from the top.

    In summary, a mechanic is trying very hard to open a beautiful decorative box that has no visible зам’о’к (“lock”). The last four lines of the poem:

    «Потел, потел; но наконец устал,
    От Ларчика отстал
    И, как открыть его, никак не догадался;
    А Ларчик просто открывался.»

    “He was sweating and sweating, but finally got tired,
    Left the Box alone
    And had in no way guessed how to open it;
    But the Box simply opened.”

    So, the key point is that the problem resolved itself when he stopped sweating over it.

  2. Galina:

    Just a tiny correction:

    In the second example, Он считал – the underlined letter should be “а”.

    Also, not quite sure about the translation of “А ларчик просто открывался.” I’d say something like ‘The box was easy to open/ could be easily opened’. “But the box simply opened” is probably closer to the Russian “А ларчик просто открылся.”

    Again, that’s just a thought.


  3. Rob:

    Galina: That makes sense about the translation of открывался — since the imperfective can express a “general tendency” or habitual action.

    Possibly another way to render it in English might be “The box would simply open by itself”. (Here using “would” to express repeated/habitual action in the past — as in “Every Friday night my college roommates and I would order pizza” — rather than the subjunctive/contrary-to-fact/wishful meaning that “would” can express in other contexts).