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Little secrets of Russian verbs or three important tenses

Hello, dear student!
We have started learning with my students, probably, one of the most difficult topics in Russian - verbs and their tenses. The point is that there are some languages on earth which have only few tenses altogether, but the Russian language has 3 tenses - past, simple and future one. In order to know them and use correctly in writing and speech, let's analyze all three tenses in more detail.

Present tense

Verbs in the present tense mean real action that is currently taking place. Moreover, these verbs can be declined i.e. they can change their form. Verbs of imperfective aspect in the present tense are considered to be one of the most changeable verbs. It is worth mentioning that verbs of perfective aspect can't be in present tense because action has been taken place!

In the Russian language verbs in the present tense answer the question: что делает? [shto delait?] For example,

Катя спешит на работу [Katya spishit na rabotu] - Kate is in hurry on her way to work.

Катя что делает? - спешит - What is Kate doing? - She is in a hurry. - She is in a hurry now, at the moment, it means it's present tense.

Каждую неделю родители едут на дачу [Kazhduyu nidelyu raditeli edut na dachu] - Every week parents go to dacha.

Родители что делают? - едут - What do parents do? - They go to dacha. The phrase "каждую неделю" (every week) shows that the action has been taking place regularly i.e in the present tense. Please, always pay your attention to key words, they can suggest you what tense to use in different situations.

The endings of the conjugation in the present tense depend on their conjugation. If you don't remember what conjugation is and is it so necessary to learn it, I advise you to read this topic. It will help you to puzzle out difficulties in the usage of verbs in the present tense.

Future tense

My students very often get confused and don't understand why the future tense has so many different verbs and how they should remember them. The thing is that the future tense in Russian shows us that the action hasn't been completed yet, that we plan making something in future, doesn't matter soon or later. Verbs in the future tense answer the questions:

Что сделаете? [Shto sdelaite?] - What will you do? Что будем делать? [Shto budim delat'?] - What will we do? Что сделаем? [Shto sdelaim?] - What will we do? Что будешь делать? [Shto budish delat'?] - What will you do? For example:

Когда начнутся каникулы, я поеду в Москву [Kagda nachnutsya kanikuly, ya paedu v Maskvu] - I will go to Moscow, when the holidays will come.

Каникулы что сделают? - начнутся - What the holidays will do? - They will come. They haven't come yet, it means we understand that we are talking about future.

Я что сделаю? - поеду - What I will do? - I will go. A person doesn't go anywhere but he already plans his trip to Moscow, it means we are talking about future time.

The future tense in Russian can be of two types. You can see, for example, the following verb:

Я нарисую эту картину и подарю маме [Ya narisuyu ekhtu kartinu i padaryu mame] - I will draw this picture and will present it to my Mom.
Что сделаю? - нарисую, подарю - What will I do? - I'll draw, present

But you can also see the following phrase and it is also in the future tense:

Я буду рисовать эту картину завтра и подарю ее маме [Ya budu risavat' ekhtu kartinu i padaryu eyo mame] - I will draw this picture tomorrow and will present it to my Mom.

Что буду делать? - буду рисовать - What will I do? - I'll draw. The action hasn't been taken place, he's just planning to do this so it is also the future tense.

But how to understand then, what form to use? The fact is that verbs in the future tense can be simple as well as compound. Simple verbs in the future tense are formed from verbs of perfective aspect (which answer the questions: что сделаю? что сделаешь?)

Накрашу [nakrashu], уберу [ubiry], отнесу [atnisu], скажу [skazhu], спою [spayu] (will pant, will take away, will carry, will say, will sing) - all of them answer the questions of perfective aspect. The characteristic of this aspect - adding the letter -c [s] in beginning of a question - will help you to memorize this form:

что сделаю? Уберу - what I will do? - I will take away.

Compound verbs in the future tense are formed from the verbs of imperfective aspect with the help of the verb быть + infinitive or initial form of a verb - the form given in a dictionary. Open dictionary of the Russian language and see that the verb "я угадала" [ya ugadala] (I've guessed) is in the form of infinitive: угадать [ugadat'] (to guess).

Let's look at the examples with compound verbs:

Иван будет смотреть сериал каждый день, ведь он планирует сдавать экзамен по русскому языку [Ivan budit smatret' sirial kazhdyy den', vid' on planiruet zdat' ehkzamin pa ruskamu yazyku] - Ivan is going to watch a TV show every day, as he is planning to pass Russian language exam.

The verb "быть" [byt'] (to be) is declined in persons:

Я буду (красить) - I will paint
Ты будешь (красить) - You will paint
Они будут (красить) - They will paint
Он/Она будет (красить) - He/She will paint
Мы будем (красить) - We will paint
Вы будете (красить) - You will paint

Verbs in the form of future tense are changed in persons and numbers but you can't define gender in the future tense!
There are some verbs which don't have the form of the 1st person, singular. Here are some of them:

Победить [Pabidit'] - To win
Убедить [Ubidit'] - To convince
Ощутить [Ashchutit'] - To feel
Очутиться [Achutit'sa] - To find oneself in

These words are changed completely in the future tense when we use them, for example

Могу очутиться [Magu achutit'sa] - Я окажусь [Ya akazhus'] - I can find myself in... - I will find myself in...
Могу убедиться [Magu ubidit'sa] - Я хочу убедиться [Ya khachu ubiditsya] - I can convince - I want to convince
Могу победить [Magu pabidit'] - Я стану победителем [ Ya stanu pabeditelem] - I can win - I will be the winner

Past tense

I have already written about verb's tenses in previous articles and here I would like to mention only main features which we haven't mentioned initially. Let's recall the fact that past tense answers the questions: что делал? Что сделал? Что сделали? Что делала?

Verbs of the past tense are mainly formed from the indefinite form of a verb (given in a dictionary) and through adding the suffix -л [l], for example:

Чистить - чистиЛ (что делал?) [Chistit' - chistil] - to clean - was cleaning

Смотреть - смотреЛ (что делал?) [Smatret' - smatrel] - to look - was looking

If you know this rule, you can easily form a verb in the past tense. It can have this or that ending depending on gender:

Смотрел- смотрела - смотрели [Smatrel - smatrela- smatreli] - He looked- she looked- they looked

But there are some verbs which don't form the past tense according to this rule, for example, they are formed without adding the suffix -л [l] in masculine gender:

Нести - нёс (masculine, past tense) [Nisti - nyos] - to carry - was carrying, but in other genders: несли, несла [nisli, nisla] - they were carying, she was carrying.

A word can have alternation (when letters interchange each other), for example, forming the past tense, letters ч/г [ch/g], ч/к [ch/k] can interchange each other in the verbs ending with -чь [ch']:

Стеречь - стерёг (masculine, past tense: что делал?) [Stirech'- stiryog] - to watch over - was watching over, but in the feminine gender ans plura; form we add the ending depending on person: стерегла, стерегли [stiregla, stiregli] she was watching over, they were watching over.

Remember, please, we can't define what person a verb in the past tense has, only its gender and number.

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