068 – Aspects of Russian verbs

The audio for the lesson is available at the bottom of the screen under the blue button.

Today we start one of the hardest for foreign students parts of the Russian grammar – aspects of the verb.

In Russian, there are only three verb tenses: present, past and future. How do Russians make it with so little? Thanks to the verb aspects: Perfective and Imperfective one.

In general, the Imperfective aspect describes the actions that are taking place at the moment of speaking, actions with no indication of the start and the end, and actions that haven’t finished yet or repeat.

The Perfective aspect is used to talk about the actions that happened or were supposed to happen once, actions that have finished with success. The Perfective aspect, due to the fact that it implies a finished action, is never used in the Present tense.

So most (not all) of the Russian verbs form pairs where one verb is perfective and another one is imperfective. But unfortunately, despite the fact that two verbs are very alike, you can’t create one from another, there are not rules for that. They are just two different verbs.

Let’s look at this in more details on example of two Russian verbs:

де́лать (to do) – the imperfective verb
сде́лать (to do) – the perfective verb

Я де́лаю э́то сейча́с.
I’m doing it now. (ongoing action – imperfective)

Я де́лаю э́то ка́ждый день.
I do it every day. (repetition – imperfective)

Вчера́ я э́того не де́лала.
I did not do it yesterday. (this wording implies that usually I do it but yesterday I didn’t – repetitive action – imperfective)

Я де́лала э́то в тече́ние двух часо́в.
I was doing it for two hours. (action with no indication of the start and the end – imperfective)

Ты сде́лала э́то?
Have you done it? (this wording implies that you were supposed to do it – action was supposed to happen – perfective)

Я э́того не сде́лала.
I haven’t done it. (same here, it was expected that I would do it, but I didn’t – perfective)

Я не успе́ла э́то сде́лать.
I had no time to do it. (same as in the previous example)

Russian Pod 101

It is not so easy to understand immediately when and what aspect you should use. Usually it comes with practice, and this is why the next lesson we’ll dedicate to just that – practicing the use of the verb aspects.

But for now, practice the examples of today’s lesson with the audio file.

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The offline version of the course includes the lessons in MP3 and PDF formats. The PDF files are available in two formats: for desktop and mobile devices.