Categories: "Verb pairs"


by Don  

Let's think about the verb ложиться/лечь. The first thing to notice is that it is one of only four verbs in Russian where the imperfective is reflexive and the perfective is not.¹ It conjugates like this:

to lie down
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive ложиться лечь
Past ложился
Present ложусь
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду ложиться
будешь ложиться
будет ложиться
будем ложиться
будете ложиться
будут ложиться
Imperative ложись ложитесь ляг(те)

The primary meaning of the verb is “to lie” in the sense of “to lie down.” The first thing to notice is that the thing you lie down on appears in the accusative case after the preposition на:

Мама легла на диван. Mom lay² on the couch.
Борис ляжет на постель. Boris will lie on the bed
Муж маркизы лёг на правый бок. The husband of the marquise lay on his right side.
Томас лёг на спину. Thomas lay on his back.
Кленовый лист лёг на мою ладонь. A maple leaf settled upon my palm.

It's also possible to lie under something под + accusative:

Житель Новокузнецка лёг под поезд. Водитель электрички самоубийцы не увидел. (source) A Novokuznetsk inhabitant lay under a train. The driver of the local train did not see the suicide.
Престарелый король Бельгии лёг под нож. The extremely old King of Belgium went under the knife.

We often find this verb in is in combination with спать. The resulting phrase means “to go to bed.”

Я люблю и рано ложиться спать и рано вставать. I love both to go to bed early and to get up early.
Во сколько ты вчера легла спать? What time did you go to bed yesterday?
Как я устал! Сегодня я лягу спать сразу же после ужина. I'm so tired! Today I'm going to bed right after dinner.
Не ложись спать на сквозняке, а то простудишься. Don't go to bed under a draft or else you catch a cold.

¹ You get extra points if you can name the three other verbs. Lots of people can name two others, but if you get three others, you are special. Add a comment to this post to prove your prowess!

² The verb “to lie” in the sense of “to lie down” is currently shifting in English. The old standard for the past is to say “Yesterday I lay on the couch after lunch because my head hurt” and the standard for the infinitive can be seen in “My head hurts, and I need to lie down.” In modern American English now people often say “Yesterday I laid down on the couch after lunch” and “My head hurts, and I need to lay down.” This verb is one my personal pet peeves in life, and I'm going to defend the old literary norm either to my dying die or to the day my sister finally admits she has been saying it wrong all these years, whichever comes first.

Death seems to be a-comin’ awful fast.


by Don  

Let's think about the verb готовить/приготовить, which conjugates like this:

to prepare
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive готовить приготовить
Past готовил
Present готовлю
No such thing as perfective present in Russian.
Future буду готовить
будешь готовить
будет готовить
будем готовить
будете готовить
будут готовить
Imperative готовь(те) приготовь(те)

The verb pair готовить/приготовить has a couple meanings, the first of which is “to prepare.” The person/thing who is being prepared appears in the accusative case, and the thing for which they are being prepared appears in the dative case after the preposition к:

Леночка сидела за столом и готовила уроки. Lena sat at the desk and prepared her lessons. ("Prepared her lessons" = "did her homework.")
Вера с Антоном готовят комнату для дочки, которая родится в ноябре. Vera and Anton are preparing a room for their daughter, who will be born in November.
Кто будет готовить студентов к экзаменам? Who will prepare the students for the exams?
Ксюша, иди, кокетничай с Федей, пока я готовлю яд. Ksyusha, go flirt with Fedya while I prepare the poison.

The second meaning of the verb is “to cook”:

Федя совсем не умеет готовить. Fyodor doesn't know how to cook at all.
Мама меня выучила, как готовить жареную картошку. Mom taught me how to make fried potatoes.
Завтра к нам придут гости, и мой муж приготовит бeфстроганов. We will have guests tomorrow, and my husband will make Beef Stroganoff.
Каждые два-три дня я готовлю репу с горчичным соусом. Every two or three days I make turnips with mustard sauce.


by Don  

Today let's think about the verb отвечать/ответить. Notice that it's imperfective form is a first conjugation verb, and its perfective form is a second conjugation verb:

to reply, respond
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive отвечать ответить
Past отвечал
Present отвечаю
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду отвечать
будешь отвечать
будет отвечать
будем отвечать
будете отвечать
будут отвечать
Imperative отвечай(те) ответь(те)

The first meaning of the verb is “to answer, respond”:

Гермиона всегда отвечала первая. Hermione always answered first.
Если спросишь, где я был, я и не отвечу. If you ask me where I was, I won't even answer.

If you answer a person, the person appears in the dative case:

Я не ответил милиционеру, когда он спросил, как быстро я ехал. I didn't answer the policeman when he asked how fast I had been going.
Давайте играть в школу. Я как учительница буду спрашивать, а вы как школьники будете отвечать мне. Let's play school. As teacher I'll ask the questions, and as the students you'll answer me.

If you answer a question, then вопрос is the object of the preposition на in the accusative case:

Не хочу отвечать на твой вопрос. I don't want to answer your question.
Не отвечай на тот вопрос, пока не придёт твой адвокат! Don't answer that question until your lawyer arrives!

If you combine both the person to whom you are responding and the question, then you have two options. The person can appear in the dative case outside of the на phrase, or you can turn the person into a possessor of the question inside the на phrase:

Я ответил Борису на вопрос.
Я ответил на вопрос Бориса.
I answered Boris's question.
Я отвечу ему на вопрос.
Я отвечу на его вопрос.
I will answer his question.


by Don  

The verb pair покупать/купить means “to buy, purchase”. Notice that the imperfective has the prefix по- and the perfective does not.

to buy
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive покупать купить
Past покупал
Present покупаю
No such thing as perfective present in Russian.
Future буду покупать
будешь покупать
будет покупать
будем покупать
будете покупать
будут покупать
Imperative покупай(те) купи(те)

The thing purchased goes in the accusative case. In English the person for whom something is purchased can be either an indirect object or the object of the preposition “for”:

John bought Mary flowers.
John bought flowers for Mary.

Likewise in Russian the person for whom something is purchased can either an indirect object (dative case) or the object of the preposition для, which governs the genitive case:

Ваня купил Маше цветы.
Ваня купил цветы для Маши.

Some sample sentences:

Что это в сумке? Что ты купил? What's that in the bag? What did you buy?
Не забудь купить хлеб! Don't forget to buy bread!
Овощей не покупайте в магазине. Лучше на рынок ходить. Don't buy vegetables at the store. It's better to go the farmers market.
Ёлки-палки! Я только что купила картошку за восемнадцать рублей, и совсем рядом её продавали за двенадцать. Fudge! I just bought potatoes for eighteen rubles, and right next door they were selling them for twelve.*

You will recall that one of the differences between imperfective and perfective verbs is that perfective verbs are used when the result of the action is in focus, and you use the imperfective when the result is not in focus. Thus the following dialogs are both possible:

Imperfective Perfective
— Что ты вчера делал?
— Я джинсы покупал.
— Что ты вчера делал?
— Я джинсы купил.

«Я джинсы покупал» is best translated “I shopped for jeans” because the speaker is not specifying whether there was actually a result to his shopping, whereas «Я джинсы купил» means the speaker actually made the purchase, so “I bought jeans” is the best translation.

Food prices have actually risen quite a bit recently in Russia (source|mirror). The BBC has been tracking the crisis in world food prices since July of 2008, and Moscow is one of the cities they are tracking. You can follow their coverage here.

* In English we usually discuss potatoes in the plural. Russians usually use the singular word картошка which can mean either "a potato" or "potatoes" generically.


by Don  

One of the words that means 'to eat' is кушать. Theoretically one can say мы кушали пиццу 'we ate pizza.' But this word is not one that usually comes from the lips of a grown man. It's a word used by Mama and Gramma when calling people to the table by saying идите кушать, or they might ask if you want to eat by saying вы кушать будете? But even when Mama and Gramma say it there is something domestic, affectionate or cuteish about it.

There is also an old fashioned language rule that says you should never use the verb кушать in the first person.

If you want to ask if someone wants to eat, the most neutral way is to say Будешь есть/завтракать/обедать/ужинать? Cruder versions are Будешь жрать? Будешь хавать? (The хавать version is a Belarusian influence.)

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