Perfective verb aspect in Russian language

As you probably already know, the Russian language has only 3 tenses: present, past, and future. However, one can’t express all thoughts with only one aspect of verbs. That’s why there are two aspects of verbs. The imperfective aspect describes a process of an action, and the perfective – a result. Я ДЕЛАЛ – I did/I was doing, Я СДЕЛАЛ – I have done.

Almost all verbs have imperfective and perfective form. The perfective aspect is formed by prefixes or by changed endings or has own form in perfective aspect.

The perfective aspect is used only in past and future tense. In the present tense all verbs can be only imperfective!

Here are some verbs with imperfective and perfective forms:

ImperfectivePerfectiveTranslation
ДЕЛАТЬСДЕЛАТЬTo do
ИГРАТЬПОИГРАТЬTo play
ПИСАТЬНАПИСАТЬTo write
ЧИТАТЬПРОЧИТАТЬTo read
ГОВОРИТЬ

 

ПОГОВОРИТЬ

СКАЗАТЬ

To speak/talk

To say

ИЗУЧАТЬИЗУЧИТЬTo study
БРАТЬВЗЯТЬTo take

How do you understand which prefix or ending to use correctly? – There is no exact rule; just learn verbs with their perfective form. Almost in any dictionary, including the dictionary in the end of this book, all verbs are written with their perfective form (if they have one).

Some verbs have their own completely different form, for example: БРАТЬ-ВЗЯТЬ from the table above. Some verbs can have more than one perfective form with own translation, for example ГОВОРИТЬ – ПОГОВОРИТЬ, СКАЗАТЬ, where ГОВОРИТЬ in imperfective form is translated as “to speak/to talk/to say”, and in the perfective form ПОГОВОРИТЬ can be translated as “to speak/talk” but СКАЗАТЬ – only “to say”.

Perfective verbs are conjugated only in past and future tense. Because the result of an action can be reached only in the past or future tense, not in present.

In order to understand how to conjugate the perfective verbs – look at the table below:

СДЕЛАТЬ – TO DO (the imperfective form is Делать)

PastPresent (only imperfective!)Future
Я СДЕЛАЛ

Я СДЕЛАЛА

Я ДЕЛАЮЯ СДЕЛАЮ
ТЫ СДЕЛАЛ

ТЫ СДЕЛАЛА

ТЫ ДЕЛАЕШЬТЫ СДЕЛАЕШЬ
ОН СДЕЛАЛОН ДЕЛАЕТОН СДЕЛАЕТ
ОНА СДЕЛАЛАОНА ДЕЛАЕТОНА СДЕЛАЕТ
МЫ СДЕЛАЛИМЫ ДЕЛАЕММЫ СДЕЛАЕМ
ВЫ СДЕЛАЛИВЫ ДЕЛАЕТЕВЫ СДЕЛАЕТЕ
ОНИ СДЕЛАЛИОНИ ДЕЛАЮТОНИ СДЕЛАЮТ

Look at this table carefully. We can conclude, that the past tense is formed the same as with its imperfective verb Делать, and the future tense – the same as the present tense of imperfective verbs! Also, we can’t say «Я БУДУ СДЕЛАТЬ» with perfective verbs – this construction is only for imperfective ones!

Here are some comparative examples:

Я буду делать работу – I will do the work (я буду делать – process in the future)

Я сделаю работу – I will have done the work (я сделаю – result in the future)

Она пела на концерте – She was singing at the concert (она пела – process in the past)

Она спела на концерте – She has sung at the concert (она спела – result in the past)

Вадим читал книгу – Vadim read a book (Вадим читал – process in the past)

Вадим прочитал книгу – Vadim read a book (Вадим прочитал – result in the past)

Моя сестра будет рисовать картину – My sister will draw a picture (сестра будет рисовать – process in the future)

Моя сестра нарисует картину – My sister will draw a picture (сестра нарисует – result in the future)

Мы вчера сходили на выставку – We went to an exhibition yesterday (мы сходили – result in the past)

Мы вчера ходили на выставку – We went to an exhibition yesterday (мы ходили – process in the past)

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