Russian Tutorials - Intermediate - Make your Russian 'perfect

How to make your Russian "perfect"

or Introduction to Imperfect & Perfect

Published on Saturday, 19 November 2016 and posted in Russian - Intermediate
vintage business man
Imagine following situation - your boss, who speaks Russian, tries to give you work and the only thing you can do is to make a promise that you will definitely do the work. But there is one problem – you do not how to say this promise in Russian. The question would be how to tell your boss about a finished future action in such complex Russian language.
If you try to make some comparison with English – we would have a special tense for it. We can use perfect tenses to say that action will be done or has been done. Yes? Nothing complicated. But then we try to find the same thing in Russian. And stop. It has only 3 tenses: past, present and future. So what now?
In Russian, we can express It by using 2 opposite Aspects (Imperfective and Perfective). Aspects describe different qualities of an action—it is either acting (the process of doing something—Imperfective) or the result of an action (after someone has finished doing something—Perfective). Using the Imperfective/Perfective depends only on the intention of the speaker to emphasize different aspects of action in his or her speech.
The perfective aspect is not created by changing the ending. There are normally two words for each verb. One is the imperfective, the other is the perfective. Often these two words are closely related, but this is not always the case. (Often the perfective is simply prefixed with “По”).

(Imperfective, Perfective)

Жить, Прожить  -  live

Любить, Полюбить  -  love

Делать, Сделать  -  do, make

Говорить, Сказать  - talk, speak, say.

Работать, Поработать  – work


Imperfective aspect (несоверше́нный вид):

  1. Ятебя́ слу́шаю. – I’m listening to you.
    (present tense, ongoing action)
  2. Яразгова́ривалапотелефо́ну, когда́ онпришёл. – I was talking on the phone when he arrived.
    (I was talking – ongoing, unfinished action)
  3. Яходи́лавмагази́н. – I went to the store.
    (habitually repeated action, and we don’t know the result)
  4. Фильмдли́лся 2 часа́. – The movie lasted 2 hours.
    (specifying a length of time)
  5. Она́ не́рвничала. – She was nervous.
    (the state, no action)
  6. Янечита́лаэ́тукни́гу. – I didn’t read this book.
    (something didn’t happen)
  7. Ячита́лаэ́тукни́гу. – I have read this book.
    (but you don’t know what I think about it – the result is unknown)
  8. Онхоте́лчто-тосказа́ть, нопереду́мал. – He wanted to say something but changed his mind.
    (he wanted – the actions was undone)

Perfective aspect (соверше́нный вид):

  1. Онсъе́здилвИта́лию. – He has been to Italy.
    (and now he isn’t there, completed action)
  2. Она́ пошла́ подела́м. – She has gone on business.
    (She is gone, she is not here – completed action)

To sum up, perfective aspect is completed action or that will finished soon (if we talk about future), while imperfective aspect is for ongoing action. So don’t get confused when you want to express it, remember practice is the biggest friend of Russian grammar.

Wishing you good luck and see you at LAE language school in Kiev!


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