Verbs

Conjugation with Typical Endings

Words like писать - to write, читать - to read, говорить - to speak, смеяться - to laugh etc. are verbs. They mean an act or state of an object.

The root form of the verb is the infinitive (with the suffixes -ть, -ти; the ending -чь). It can act as any part of sentence. Finite verb forms act as a predicate.

All Russian verbs can be conjugated in three tenses: Past, Present and Future. Also, verbs have two aspects: imperfective and perfective.

There are two conjugations of Russian verbs, the first and the second. Here is the difference: the verbs ending with -ать (летать – to fly) are of the first conjugation. If you read or hear the verb that ends in -ить (дружить – to be friends), this is the second conjugation.

Verb conjugation is changing the verb in accordance with its number and person. In the Russian there are the 1st, the 2nd and the 3rd person.

1st conjugation2nd conjugation
SingularPluralSingularPlural
Я (I sing) пою
Ты (You sing) поёшь
Он (He sings) поёт
Мы (We sing) поём
Вы (You sing) поёте
Они (They sing) поют
Я (I speak) говорю
Ты (You speak) говоришь
Он (He speaks) говорит
Мы (We speak) говорим
Вы (You speak) говорите
Они (They speak) говорят

If the word stem of the verb is stressed and it is difficult to define the endings by ear, then you should pay attention to the infinitive to find the conjugation. See the table below:

1st conjugation2nd conjugation
  1. The verbs брить (to shave), стелить (to lay).
  2. The rest of the verbs.
  1. The verbs< ending at -ить (except for брить and стелить).
  2. 11 verbs ending at -еть and -ать:
Гнать (to chase),
дышать (to breathe),
держать (to keep),
обидеть (to offend),
слышать (to hear),
видеть (to see),
ненавидеть (to hate),
зависеть (to depend), смотреть (to look),
терпеть (to put up with), вертеть (to twirl).

Some of the verbs take the endings of both the 1st and 2nd conjugations. For example, the verbs бежать (to run) and хотеть (to want) take the endings of the 1st conjugation in the 3rd person, plural:

[они] бегут (they run)
[они] хотят (they want)

The same verbs take the endings of the 2nd conjugation in the following forms:

[мы] бежим - we run - 1st person, plural
[ты] бежишь - you run - 2nd person, singular
[он] бежит - he runs - 3rd person, singular
[вы] бежите - you run - 2nd person, plural

[мы] хотим – we want – 1st person, plural
[вы] хотите – you want – 2nd person, plural

To better memorize the verb conjugations, learn them together with pronouns.

Two of the most common verbs ending in a consonant take the ending of the 1st conjugation:

Жить (to live) - я живу, они живут, ты живёшь, он живёт
Писать (to write) - я пишу, они пишут, вы пишете, он пишет

Verbs of Motion

In the Russian language, there are 16 groups of motion verbs. These are the verbs that describe directions, the way we move, travel, etc. Each group has two similar verbs that outline the same phenomenon.

If you are going to describe a round trip or repetitive travel, then you will need to use a multidirectional verb of motion. On the contrary, if you are talking about one direction and do not mean the way back, then you will use a unidirectional verb.

The most common motion verbs pair is идти - ходить. Both words mean ‘to walk, to go on foot’. But the verb идти means you are walking ahead in one direction, and the verb ходить means walking not at the moment of speaking, more than once, and not in the same direction.

Below are the verbs united by the same principle:

Group I - Group II
бежать — бегать
ехать — ездить
лететь — летать
плыть — плавать
тащить — таскать
катить — катать
катиться — кататься
нести — носить
нестись — носиться
вести — водить
везти — возить
ползти — ползать
лезть — лазить (и лазать)
брести — бродить
гнать — гонять
гнаться — гоняться.

The first column/group of verbs in each pair consists of unidirectional verbs. They mean an action performed in one direction at a time, e.g. Мне надо бежать. – I have to run [now].

The second column/group of verbs in each pair consists of multidirectional verbs, e.g. Я буду бегать на стадионе каждый день. – I will run at the stadium every day.

There are also prefixed forms of the unidirectional verbs of motion of the perfective aspect:

Выбежать – to run out
Перебежать – to run across
Добежать – to run up to
Прибежать – to come running

In their turn, the above-mentioned verbs also form the prefixed multidirectional verbs of the perfective aspect, for instance:

Выбежать – выбегать
Перебежать – перебегать
Добежать – добегать
Прибежать – прибегать

Сейчас (Now) Часто (Often (every day, usually, always, sometimes)) (каждый день, обычно, всегда, иногда) Завтра (Tomorrow (next week, next year)) (на будущей неделе, в будущем году) Вчера (Yesterday (last week, last year)) (на прошлой неделе, в прошлом году)
Group IGroup ΙΙ
идти (иду, идешь, идут) ходить (хожу, ходишь, ходят) пойти (пойду, пойдешь, пойдут) ходил (-а, -и)
ехать (еду, едешь, едут) ездить (езжу, ездишь, ездят) поехать (поеду, поедешь, поедут) ездил (-а, -и)
бежать (бегу, бежишь, бегут) бегать (бегаю, бегаешь, бегают) побежать (побегу, побежишь, побегут) бегал (-а, -и)
плыть (плыву, плывешь, плывут) плавать (плаваю, плаваешь, плавают) поплыть (поплыву, поплывешь, поплывут) плавал (-а, -и)
лететь (лечу, летишь, летят) летать (летаю, летаешь, летают) полететь (полечу, полетишь, полетят) летал (-а, -и)
нести (несу, несешь, несут) носить (ношу, носишь, носят) понести (понесу, понесешь, понесут) носил (-а, -и)
везти (везу, везешь, везут) возить (вожу, возишь, возят) повезти (повезу, повезешь, повезут) возил (-а, -и)
вести (веду, ведешь, ведут) водить (вожу, водишь, водят) повести (поведу, поведешь, поведут) водил (-а, -и)

Some verbs of motion are used in the figurative sense. They are important to memorize in order to sound authentic. See the table below to check the most common ones:

Group IGroup II
идти ходить
{% trans "Часы идут/стоят. - The clock [goes] works / [stands] does not work.
Время идет/бежит/летит. - The time [goes/runs/flies].
Идет урок/экзамен. - The examination [goes]. - There is an exam.
О чем идет речь? - What is it about?
Тебе идет это платье. - This dress fits you.
Идет дождь. - It rains.
Идет новый фильм. - There is a new film.
Идти на компромисс. - To compromise.
Идет! (in the meaning - OK! I agree)" %}
Эти часы плохо ходят. - This clock does not [go] work well.
вести водить
{% trans "Учитель ведет урок. - The teacher conducts a class.
Он ведет машину. - He drives a car.
Дорога ведет на юг. - This road leads south." %}
Он хорошо водит машину. - He drives well.
Они водят нас за нос (in the meaning deceive). - They make a fool of us.
нести носить
Он несет ерунду. - He is talking trash. {% trans "Она носит очки. - She wears glasses.
Мужчина носит бороду/усы. - He sports a beard/moustache." %}
везти возить
Нам не повезло. - We are out of luck. _________________

The most common prefixes of the motion verbs and their meanings:

При- приехать o-to-target; approximation
У- уехать absence; moving away for a long distance (for a long time)
По- поехать start moving; plans for future
В- (во-) въехать moving inside anything (the distance from the entrance is small)
Вы- выехать moving from the inside to the outside (the distance is short, for a short time)
За- заехать arriving somewhere for a short time along the way to the main goal; visit someone or something
До- доехать achieving the ultimate goal of the movement
Под- подъехать approach to an identified place
Про- проехать forward movement; off-target
Пере- переехать movement from one border to another; from one place to another
Об- (обо-) объехать circular motion; bypass; visit all or many spots
С- съехать downward movement; sidewards motion
Раз- разъехаться movement from one point in different directions

Infinitive

The root form of the verb is the infinitive (with the suffixes -ть, -ти; the ending -чь). It can act as any part of sentence. Finite verb forms act as a predicate.

The infinitive is the initial unchangeable form of the verb that is given in every Russian dictionary. The infinitive usually answers the questions: что делать? (what to do? - imperfective) (учить - teach, любить - love) and что сделать? (what to do? - perfective) (выучить - to memorize, полюбить - to fall in love).

The grammatical properties of the infinitive of the verb are reflexiveness (одеваться - to dress, to clothe oneself) and non-reflexiveness (одеть - to clothe):

Reflexive (Возвратные)Non-reflexive (Невозвратные)
{% trans " учиться (to study) – учусь (I study)
радоваться (to be joyful) – радуюсь (I am joyful)
удивляться (to be surprised) – удивляюсь (I am surprised)
купаться (to bathe) – купаюсь (I bathe)
одеваться (to dress oneself) – одіваюсь (I dress myself)" %}
{% trans " учить (to teach)
радовать (to rejoice)
удивлять (to surprise)
купать (to bathe)
одевать (to dress)" %}

Russian verbs are of two aspects: perfective (сделать - to get done) and imperfective (делать - to do):

Imperfective (что делать?)Perfective (что сделать?)
петь – to sing
рассказывать – to tell
спеть – to get sang
рассказать – to get told

The imperfective aspect of the verb appears in present, past and future tenses, whereas the perfective aspect is typical for future and past.

Compare:

Present: что делаю? (what do I do?) – говорю (I talk)
Past: что делал? (what did I do?) – говорил (I talked)
Future: что буду делать? (what will I do?) – буду говорить (I will talk)

Future: что сделаю? (what will I get done?) – скажу (I will say)
Past: что сделал? (what did I get done?) – сказал (I said)

There are five situations in which you can use the Russian infinitive. They are:

  1. {% trans "To combine the infinitive with the verbs of motion:
    идти ловить рыбу - to go (on foot) fishing;
    ехать кататься на коньках - to go (by vehicle) skiing.
    You should memorize that this is not applicable to the verb знать (to know)." %}
  2. To combine the infinitive with the words намерен (intended), должен (obliged), готов (ready), рад (happy), обязан (must).
    Рад вас видеть. – I’m happy to see you.
  3. To combine the infinitive with adjectives and adverbs:
    Мне некуда идти. – I have nowhere to go.
  4. As a compound form of the future tense:
    Они будут делать утреннюю зарядку. – They will do morning exercises.
  5. {% trans "To show that the action begins, continues or ends in present:
    Они начали говорить. – They started speaking.
    Она продолжает читать. – She keeps reading.
    Я перестал петь. – I stopped singing." %}

Present Tense

Russian verbs in the present tense show that the action takes place at the moment of speech. These verbs answer the questions with the verb:

что делаю? (what do I do?) делаем? (we)
что делаешь? (you singular) делаете? (you plural)
что делает? (he/she/it) делают? (they)

Example: Я (что делаю?) изучаю русский язык. - I study Russian.

Note that only imperfective verbs take the forms of the present tense by means of personal endings:

Изучаю, изучаем, изучают, изучаешь, изучаете.

Verbs in the present tense change according to person and number which is expressed by verb endings:

Cмотришь - 2nd person, singular
Летим - 1st person, plural
Спят - 3rd person, plural

These verbs do not have the gender.

Also, the present tense forms of the verb can express an actual meaning (at the moment of speech) or a constant / abstract meaning (no temporary restrictions / the processes are repetitive and not connected to the specific time). For instance:

В небе летит самолет. - There is a plane in the sky. (We can see the plane at the moment of speech).

Острова омываются океаном. - The islands are washed by the ocean. (Natural phenomenon).

Что имеем не храним, потерявши - плачем. - You never miss the water until the well runs dry. (Abstract meaning, a proverb).

Future Tense

Verbs in the future tense show that the action takes place after the moment of speech, and answer these questions:

Simple form (perfective verbs + personal endings)
что сделаю? сделаем? Я выучу русский язык. - I will learn Russian.
что сделаешь? cделаете? Ты посмотришь футбольный матч. - You will watch the football match.
что сделает? cделают? Они построят дом. - They will build the house.

Compound form (imperfective verbs + the verb быть (to be) and the indefinite form of the verb)

что буду делать? будем делать? Я буду учить русский язык.
что будешь делать? будете делать? Ты будешь смотреть футбольный
что будет делать? будут делать? Они будут строить дом.

Verbs in the future tense change according to person and number.

Attention! The verbs победить (to conquer), убедить (to convince), ощутить (to feel), чудить(to wonder), очутиться (to find oneself) and some others do not form the 1st person singular in the Present or Future tense. Similar verbs or word combinations should be used, e.g.:

Not побежу But стану победителем
Not убежу But хочу/попробую убедить

Past Tense

Past tense verbs show that the action occurred before the moment of speech.

They answer the questions:

что делал? cделал? Он шел / ушел на работу.
что делала? сделала? Она учила / выучила русскую грамматику.
что делало? сделало? Весло тонуло / утонуло.
что делали? сделали? Мы ужинали / поужинали.

As you might have noticed, most of the Russian verbs in the past tense are formed from the indefinite form of the verb + suffix -л-.

The past tense of some verbs is formed differently:

  1. {% trans "Without the suffix -л- in masculine gender:
    Bсти - вёз (BUT везла, везли)" %}
  2. {% trans "With alternating ч // г, ч // к in the verbs ending at -чь:
    Стеречь- стерёг (BUT стерегла, стерегли)" %}

Pay attention to the fact that verbs in the past tense have number and gender, but do not have a person:

Я смотрел, ты смотрел, он смотрел

In the past form of the verb, before the suffix -л-, write the same vowel that stands before -ть in the indefinite form of the verb:

Летать - летАл
Учить - учИл
Жалеть - жалЕл

The stress of most of the verbs in the past tense remains the same as it is in the indefinite form:

Рисовать - рисовал, рисовала, рисовало

Nevertheless, in some monosyllabic and disyllabic verbs of the feminine gender the stress shifts to the ending (consult a dictionary in case of difficulties):

Солгать - солгАл (masculine), солгалА (feminine)
Звать - звАл (masculine), звалА (feminine)

Aspect

The Russian language has two aspects: imperfective and perfective. They make the meaning of the verbs more defined.

Due to the fact that there are only three tenses in Russian - present, future, and past, - we need to use aspects to be better understood and better navigate in time.

The imperfective aspect means a repeated, incomplete action, a habit, something ongoing, while the perfective aspect stands for completed actions.

Some examples of the imperfective and perfective aspects are:

Ходить - пройти
Жить - прожить
Ездить - поехать
Смотреть - посмотреть

You can follow this principle: if the action is complete, like in the sentence “I went home”, choose the perfective aspect in Russian - Я пошел домой. If you mean “I was walking home”, give preference to the imperfective aspect - Я шел домой.

Some other examples of the imperfective aspect:

Я учился каждый день. - I studied every day.
Я учил русский язык три часа. - I studied Russian for three hours.
Я была в гостях. - I was at a party.
Дождь не шёл. - It didn’t rain.

To sum up, the imperfective aspect is used when you want to talk about the action that is not completed, repeated, ongoing, when something didn’t happen or there is no result of the action, and when you want to say that something happened for a specific time length.

The perfective aspect is used to define that you or someone else succeeded in the completion of an action.

The most popular example that shows the difference between the two aspects is passing an exam.

If you want to say that you passed the exam successfully and got good grades, use the perfective aspect - Я сдал экзамен. If you don’t know the result of the exam, or someone asks you what you did yesterday, use the imperfective aspect - Я сдавал экзамен.

Some examples of the perfective aspect of the Russian verb:

Я потратил все деньги. - I spent all the money.
Они привезли подарки. - They brought gifts.

Compare the imperfective and perfective aspects:

Я тратил деньги всю неделю. - Я потратил все деньги.
ни везли подарки всем. - Я не получил свой подарок.
Мы сдавали экзамен по русскому. - Я не сдал экзамен.

By the way, the negative of the imperfective aspect means that the action didn’t happen, while the negative of the perfective aspect means that someone didn’t succeed at doing something. Compare:

Imperfective negative: Он не сдавал экзамен. - He didn’t pass the exam (it didn’t happen, he didn’t need to do this, or he forgot to pass it).

Perfective negative: Он не сдал экзамен. - He failed to pass the exam.