The Aspect of the Russian verbs

In Russian, verbs take on two different forms, called aspects. The term aspect refers to the idea that an action can be either completed or continuous and repeated. When you want to emphasize the result or completion of the action you should use the perfective aspect of the verb. On the other hand, the imperfective aspect is used to express continuous or repeated actions.

Before going into a more detailed explanation, let’s look at an excerpt from a novel by Leo Tolstoy. Pay attention to how verbs highlited in green describe the result, while those in blue express continuous actions.

“From this interesting spectacle my attention was distracted by the yellow wings of a butterfly which was fluttering alluringly before me. Yet I had scarcely noticed it before it flew away to a little distance and, circling over some half-faded blossoms of white clover, settled on one of them. Whether it was the sun's warmth that delighted it, or whether it was busy sucking nectar from the flower, at all events it seemed thoroughly comfortable. It scarcely moved its wings at all, and pressed itself down into the clover until I could hardly see its body. I sat with my chin on my hands and watched it with intense interest.”

Aspect of most Russian verbs can be determined by looking at their prefixes and suffixes as shown in the table:

    Imperfective verbs    
                              Perfective verbs                   
1. Have no prefix*

Читать
Писать
Идти
1. Have a prefix
Прочитать
Написать
Пойти

2. Have the suffix
–ЫВА- or –ВА-**

проигрывать
Давать

2. Have the suffix –А-
Проиграть

Have no suffix
Дать

3. Have the suffix –А- (Я)
but do not have a prefix

Решать
Поздравлять
3. Have the suffix –И-
but do not have a prefix

Решить
поздравить

*The most common prefixes for Russian verbs are НА-, ПО-, ПРО-, В-, ВЫ-, ЗА-, ПЕРЕ-, С-, ПРИ-, У-

** Suffix is the part of the verb between its stem and the ending –ТЬ. The most common suffixes for Russian verbs are -ЫВА-, -ИВА-, -ВА-, -А-, -И-

Some perfective verbs are so significantly different from their imperfective counterparts that their aspect must be memorized.

    Imperfective verbs    
    Perfective verbs    
Брать
Говорить
Ловить
Класть
Искать
Взять
Сказать
Поймать
Положить
Найти

More sites that explain the aspect of the Russian verbs: Russian Verbs: Aspect and Tenses, Russian Verbs - Aspect





Free Russian Course

Russian Grammar

Verb Conjugations

Russian Vocabulary

Russian Names

Russian Literature

Russian Dictionary

Online Translator

Russian Video

Russian Conversations

Russian Holidays

Russia Travel

Russian Language



Top 1000 Russian Words



Russian for Travel on iPhone

Testimonials

"I found your interesting web site recently. I am quite impressed with what you have made available to the public. Thank you. I have been a learner of Russian for many years, but have achieved only the intermediate level. So I will continue to study and will use some material on your web site."
- Jasmin, USA
"Thank you very much for your informative web site. My family and I are trying to learn Russian so that we can communicate with the Russian children that we are trying to adopt. Your site is very helpful."
- Terry, United Kingdom
"Thank you for a great site. I enjoy it a lot. It is arranged in a logical manner, and it presents the language basics in a pleasant and clean way."
- Aki, Israel
"Only been on this site for about an hour. I have all the sounds down o_o This is a great site to start learning Russian."
- User comments
"Very good course indeed !! The best Russian website!"
- User comments