The Russian verb is a mandatory element in the syntactic structure of the language as it indicates a state of being, habitual action, or ongoing activity. A fusion of a subject (noun or pronoun) and the verb makes up a complete sentence. Beginners are advised to begin with foundational aspects such as the Cyrillic alphabet, nominative pronoun forms, numbers, tenses, and conjugation. Once you’re done mastering these aspects, you can proceed to learn the technical aspects of the language which would be discussed shortly. By the way, here are guides to learning other Russian topics:

Tenses

Games

Conjugation

Sentences

Note that this article doesn’t cover the most used Russian verbs. Rather, it’s an explanatory guide to the subsections of the verb such as the perfective/imperfective aspect, motion verbs, verbs, and their tense forms. For improving your vocabulary, download a standard Russian-English dictionary that can be used on the go; there are umpteen Russian-learning apps you can use for supplementary learning. Let’s get started!

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Russian Verb Basics

Mastering every single verb isn’t sufficient to attain fluency, as you would have to use them in sentences. That’s why a thorough understanding of Russian verb conjugation, tense, and aspect is a must. Keep in mind that the phonemes “-ть” are inserted after a vowel while “-ти” ends a consonant. Let’s briefly discuss Russian tenses and aspects.

Verbs in Russian with Tenses

The Russian Present Tense

The Russian present tense is easy as you’re only concerned about the present tense form. There are no additional variants like the progressive, perfect, or perfect progressive forms. The simple present tense form is concerned about who is speaking (1st, 2nd, or 3rd person).

The Russian Past Tense

Like its present tense variant, it has only one form. The past tense form, however, is determined by the grammatical gender of the subject.

л functions for the male gender.

-ла functions for the female gender.

-ло functions for the neuter gender.

-ли serves as the plural form.

Aspects

Learning the verbal aspects is a strange concept to L2 English language speakers as English doesn’t utilize the perfective and imperfective verbal aspects.

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Perfect vs. Imperfect Verbs

The major distinction between both aspects is the completion of action for the perfective form and the incomplete or ongoing state of action for the imperfective form. Furthermore, while the perfective aspect is a one-time act, the imperfective is a repetitive act whose timing is unknown.

Below are the perfective and imperfective forms of some verbs:

EnglishSubjectDirect ObjectIndirect Object
Ijemoime
you (sing.)tutoite
heille
lui
sheellelalui
wenousnousnous
you (plur.)vousvousvous
they (masc.)ilslesleur
they (fem.)elleslesleur

Russian Motion Verbs

Motion verbs are a unique verbal class found in some Slavic languages. It’s been discovered that non-native learners encounter difficulty in learning verbs of motion due to its complex semantic orientation. But with time, you’ll get the hang of it.

Verb-framed languages have the path encoded within the verb while the manner of movement or motion is expressed using complements. Russian, however, has these concepts encoded within the verb’s root and particles; thus making it a satellite language. Unprefixed imperfective motion verbs are split into pairs of either multidirectional or unidirectional verbs, based on the direction of motion. As stated earlier, Russian verbs have roots; roots of Russian motion verbs indicate the manner of movement such as running, crawling, and walking. Furthermore, the roots indicate the mode of movements such as by one’s power or transport.

The verbs “ехать ” and ” идти ” are unidirectional while “ездить ” and ” ходить ” are multidirectional. The Russian adverbs indicate the frequency with which trips are made and they include the following:

Often - часто

Usually - обычно

Always - всегда

Every day - каждый день

Sometimes - иногда

Rarely - редко

For the above adverbs, the indefinite verbs “ездить” and “ходить” are used.

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The Russian Verb Variant of “to be”

быть is the Russian variant of the verb “to be” with its stem varying based on mood and tense. This verb has an irregular conjugation although its infinitive ending is normal.

The Present Tense Form of Быть

Although “есть” is the present tense form of “быть”, it is rarely used in the written or spoken form. Native speakers often combine subjects with adjectives in actual speech while they replace the verb with a hyphen in the written form. For example:

он– доктор – He is a doctor.

Они – cтyдeнтьl – They are students.

The Past Tense Form of Быть

The stem of the past tense form is not modified; thus, it is conjugated like other verbs. For example:

 Definite article Indefinite article Demonstrative pronounPossessive adjective Possessive pronoun
Masculineleuncemon
ton
son
notre
votre
leur
mien
tien
sien
nôtre
vôtre
leur
Femininelaunecettema
ta
sa
notre
votre
leur
mienne
tienne
sienne
nôtre
vôtre
leur
Plural (masc.)lesdescesmes
tes
ses
nos
vos
leurs
miens
tiens
siens
nôtres
vôtres
leurs
Plural (fem.)lesdescettesmes
tes
ses
nos
vos
leurs
miennes
tiennes
siennes
nôtres
vôtres
leurs

Future Tense form of быть

The verbs “to have” and “to be” function as auxiliary verbs in compound tenses. With Russian having few compound tenses, this future tense form works with only imperfective verbs.

Masculine singular Feminine singularMasculine pluralFeminine plural Translation
ancienancienneanciensanciennesold, ancient
gentilgentillegentilsgentillesnice
grosgrossegrosgrosseslarge, fat
sotsottesotssottesidiot, stupid

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Learn Russian Verbs of Motion

Masculine singular Feminine singular Masculine plural Feminine plural ExampleTranslation
-eux-euse-eux-eusesmalheureux-malheureuseunhappy
-f-ve-fs-vesactif-activeactive
-er-ère-ers-èrescher-chèredear (both cherished and costly)

Below are some commonly used definite and indefinite motion verb pairs:

Masculine singularFeminine singularMasculine plural Feminine plural Translation
Beau
Blanc
Complet
Doux
Faux
Favori
Franc
Public
Sec
Secret
vieux
belle
blanche
complète
douce
fausse
favorite
franche
publique
sèche
secrète
vieille
beaux
blancs
complets
doux
faux
favoris
francs
publics
secs
secrets
vieux
belles
blanches
complètes
douces
fausses
favorites
franches
publiques
sèches
secrètes
vieilles
beautiful
white
complete
soft
wrong
favourite
frank, honest
public
dry
secret
old
verbs in russian

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Prefixed Motion Verbs

Prefixes, when added to motion verbs, slightly change the meaning of the verbs. This inclusion adds an extra direction to the meaning. For instance, the independent verb “walk” has a distinct meaning, but adding “in” would change both the meaning and direction of the phrase “walk-in”.

If you find it difficult learning prefixes, you can cram each of the verbs. This way, you’ll treat each verb as an independent word, as against a group of related verbs. This method is recommended for learners with good word memory. Conceptual thinkers, however, might choose to learn the workings of the pre-fixes; a little of both methods is advised. Below are some of the prefixes:

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Irrespective of how important learning Russian verbs are, knowing how to spell words correctly is just as important. You can write creative texts more often to improve orthography, read the Russian dictionary for vocabulary, and utilize flashcards to improve spelling. There are fun games that are designed to improve language learning for native, as well as, non-native speakers of the language. Learning the Russian language is easier than you think. With patience, dedicated hours of study, and constant practise, you’ll gain fluency. There’s no better time to kick-start your language learning process than now. Happy learning!

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