Published: 05.07.2021
Alina and Nastya explain one of the most difficult topics in the funniest way

Aspects of verbs are considered to be one of the hardest things in Russian grammar. The idea of imperfective and perfective forms of verbs doesn't exist in so many languages, that's why many people who are learning Russian are unfamiliar with it. But let's try to see how these aspects work, and what are the rules. So, let's start from the fact that Russian verbs go in pairs, so instead of learning one, you should learn two (sometimes even three):

Most perfective verbs look exactly like imperfective ones, just with a prefix. Prefixes might be different, but the most popular one is по-, which usually means that the action is done a little bit, for a short period of time. COMPARE:

  • ждать – to wait (as a process): Я жду тебя – I'm waiting for you.
  • подождать – to wait for a while, a little bit: Подожди минуту, пожалуйста – Could you wait for a minute, please.
An interesting fact is that Perfective verbs do not exist in the Present tense, because Perfective indicates the result of an action, and the result is either possible in the past (has already happened) or in the future (will happen).

As you see, imperfective and perfective verbs endings in the past tense are the same. At present, there is only an imperfect aspect. The most difficult is the future tense, cause the two aspects forms are pretty different: for imperfective future, you conjugate the verb "to be" and add infinitive, for perfective future, you conjugate the verb exactly the same way as the imperfective one in the present.

So, as it's mentioned before, imperfective verbs are used to indicate:
1) a process of doing something:
Я сейчас варю борщ – I'm cooking borsch right now.
2) a repeated action:
Я варю борщ каждый день – I cook borsch every day.
Раньше я каждый день варила борщ – Before, I used to cook borsch every day.
На следующей неделе я буду варить борщ каждый день – Next week, I will cook borsch every day.
Ты всегда всё забываешь – You always forget things.
3) an action itself:
Что ты делал вчера? – What did you do yesterday? (One wants to find out the actions that were done by the person yesterday, he/she is interested in the fact of doing some things, not in the result)

Perfective verbs are used to talk about:

1) the result of an action:
Ты сварила борщ? – Have you finished cooking borsch?
Ты уже сделала домашнее задание? – Have you finished doing your homework yet?
Завтра я обязательно напишу пост в Instagram – Tomorrow, I'll definitely get the post written on Instagram.
2) one-time action or a short action that has already happened or will happen once:
Я позвоню – I'll call you (once, not many times)
Она посмотрела в окно и сказала, что идёт дождь – She looked (glanced very briefly) out the window and said it was raining.

Usually, when you say that you want to do something, in most cases you'd use perfective, because you're interested in the one-time result:

Хочешь пойти в кино сегодня? – Do you want to go to the movies today?

But if you say that you want to do something regularly, an imperfective verb should be used:

Я хочу смотреть интересные фильмы каждый день – I want to watch interesting movies every day.

In case you say you need to fulfill some tasks, finish doing some things in the nearest future, you'd rather use perfective, because, again, you are focusing on the result of one-time actions:

Мне нужно сварить борщ, написать пост в Instagram, поговорить с бабушкой и сделать домашнее задание. – I need to cook borsch, write a post on Instagram, talk to my grandma and do homework. (I need to finish doing all these things)

The last thing left to point out is that some verbs might have two perfective forms instead of one: Imperfective говорить – perfective поговорить and сказать. The thing here is that two perfective forms indicate different meaning:Поговорить means to have a short conversation, to have a small talk, while сказать means to say something, to give a short piece of information.

Enjoy Russian Language School has prepared a special video on verbs aspects, so you can watch, observe the usage of the verbs in real life situations and learn the difference. Feel free to leave your questions about the aspects in comments under the video:)
To put your knowledge into practice and improve your communication skills come to Petrozavodsk Russian Language Courses or take our Skype lessons one-on-one with a professional teacher.

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