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Aspects of verbs. Perfective and imperfective aspects

Hello, dear student! Today we will talk about the types of verbs. My students very often ask, why the Russian language has so many different verbs, how to determine their tense and why some of them are used with prefixes or without them. To anwer all these questions, let's look at the verbs of perfective and imperfective aspects.

You will find verbs of imperfective aspect in dictionaries, where verb denotes action; so verbs of perfective aspect are made from this form. It should be noted that there are quite enough ways to do it, for example:

With the help of prefixes, compare:

Imperfective aspect Perfective aspect
Читать [Chitat'] To read Прочитать [Prachitat'] Has red
Писать [Pisat'] To write Написать [Napisat'] Has written
Готовить [Gatovit'] Приготовить [Prigatovit'] Has cooked
Покупать [Pakupat'] To buy Купить [Kupit'] Has bought

Please, pay attention that we have the word-exception which is formed in the perfective aspect without prefix - it's the verb "Купить" (has bought). In imperfective aspect this verb is used with the prefix -по.

With the help of different suffixes:

Imperfective aspect Perfective aspect
Решать [Rishat'] To solve/to decide Решить [Rishit'] Has solved/Decided
Показывать [Pakazyvat'] To show Показать [Pakazat'] Has shown
Забывать [Zabyvat'] To forget Забыть [Zabyt'] Has forgotten

With the help of absolutely another word:

Imperfective aspect Perfective aspect
Говорить [Gavarit'] To speak Сказать [Skazat'] Has spoken
Брать [Brat'] To take Взять [Vzyat'] Has taken

Well, if we want to say that action happens on a regular basis, we need a verb in imperfective aspect. If the action has happend once at some moment or on a day/in hour etc. and we know its result, then we deal with the perfective verb. Such verbs asnwer the question "что сделать?" [shto sdelat'].

If we talk about repeated actions, we use not only imperfective verbs that answer the question "что делать?" [shto delat'] but also various additional information perfomed with adverbs which show this repetition. For example,

Анастасия не может готовить (что делать?), она готовит редко. [Anastasiya ne mozhit gatovit', ana gatovit redka] - Anastasiya cannot cooking, she cooks rare.

Я купила (что сделала?) красивое платье, оно мне очень идёт! (we see the result) [Ya kupila krasivae plat'e, ano mne ochin' idyot] - I bought a new dress, it suits me very well!

To determine the aspect of a verb correctly, you can memorize the adverbs which will help you to decide whether this verb referrs to a certain aspect:

Imperfective aspect
Что делают? Когда? Как часто? - What are they doing? When? How often?
  1. Никита смотрит фильм Каждое утро/вечер/день, регулярно, часто, редко, иногда, обычно. - Nikita watches a movie Every morning/evening/afternoon, regularly, often, seldom, sometimes, usually.
  2. Виталий покупает газеты - Vitaliy is buying newspapers.
  3. Мы играем в волейбол - We are playing football.
Perfective aspect
Что они сделали? Когда? - What have they done? When?
  1. Никита посмотрел фильм "Титаник" Вчера, вечером, утром, сегодня, один раз, в пятницу, 2 дня назад, уже, еще не. - Nikita has watched "Titanic" Yesterday, in the evening, in the morning, today, once, on Friday, 2 days ago, already, not yet.
  2. Виталий купил газету "Известия" - Vitaliy has bought the newspaper "Izvestiya".
  3. Мы сыграли в волейбол очень хорошо - We've played volleyball very well.
These examples show that the words-adverbs can make the process of determining this or that type of verb easier. You should just learn the questions and memorize these words. To practise, correct these sentences asking correct questions to verbs. The sentences are written with mistakes:

Я доел кашу и шел гулять - I've ate my porridge and gone for a walk.
Студенты задерживались в университете, но все-таки освоили материал - Students have overstayed at university but learnt the material after all.
Она очень долго переделала доклад - She was redoing her research for very long time.
Таня сильно плакала и никак не успокоилась - Tanya was crying a lot and couldn't stop.
Дети много смеялись, и учитель решала поиграть с ними еще - Children laughed a lot and teacher decided to play with them more.

Remember, please, imperfective verbs have 3 forms: past, present and future:

Читала, читает и будет читать (что делала, что делает и что будет делать?) [Chitala, chitait i budit chitat'] - Read, is reading, will read

Perfective verbs have only 2 tense forms: past and future:

Посмотрели и посмотрим (Что сделали и что сделают?) [Pasmatreli i pasmotrim] - Watched and will watch

The form of past tense is changed in numbers:

Бежал (singular form) и бежали (plural) [Bizhal i bizhali] - He ran and they ran.

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