Categories: "Verb pairs"

Брать/взять (часть первая)

by Don  

The basic verb that means “to take” in Russian is брать/взять. Notice that for both verbs the past/infinitive stem differs from the present/future/imperative stem. Note also the ь that appears in the middle of the future/imperative forms of взять.

to take
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive брать взять
Past брал
Present беру
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду брать
будешь брать
будет брать
будем брать
будете брать
будут брать
Imperative бери(те) возьми(те)

The simplest meaning of the verb is “to grasp/pick up something with the hands”:

Дима взял ручку и записал свой адрес. Dima picked up a pen and wrote down his address.
Возьми эту отвёртку и отвинти вешалку со стены. Take this screw driver and unscrew the coat rack from the wall.

The verb pair can also mean “to remove from its previous position”:

Кто взял мелочь из банки? Я её копил на пиво! Who took the change from the jar? I was saving it up for beer!

Very often the verb is used in the context where Americans would use “to get”:

Ты возьми сигареты, а я возьму водку. You get the cigarettes, and I'll get the vodka.

Sometimes the verb is essentially the same as “to buy,” at least when the context is clear:

Что ты взяла в магазине? What did you buy/get at the store?
Почему вы взяли сигареты и водку? Вы ведь знаете, что я не пью и не курю. Why did you buy/get cigarettes? After all, you know that I don't drink or smoke.

Although we won't go over them here, it's a good idea to remember that брать/взять has quite a few other meanings as well, just as “to take” does in English. Among them are:

  • to rent (a car, etc.)
  • to accept someone into a group
  • to take control of
  • to make a sound
  • to go in a particular direction

As a beginning language student, it is always good to remember that if a word doesn't seem to make sense in a particular context, it may well have other meanings in addition to those you already know. Always have a good paper dictionary which you can consult when the internet is down. And always know two or three online dictionaries that you can consult. Actually, what dictionaries to use is a good topic of discussion as well, but we'll save that for another day.


by Don  

The verb видеть/увидеть means “to see.”

to see
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive видеть увидеть
Past видел
Present вижу
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду видеть
будешь видеть
будет видеть
будем видеть
будете видеть
будут видеть
Imperative Generally not used

While the imperfective is almost always translated “to see,” the perfective can often be translated “to spot, to catch sight of”:

Каждый день я вижу туристов перед Оружейной палатой. Every day I see tourists in front of the Kremlin Armory.
Я не вижу никакой причины, почему тебе пришлось обидеть мою маму. I don't see any reason why you had to offend my mother.
Если увидишь ГАИ, то уменьши скорость, а то тебя оштрафуют. If you spot traffic cops, then slow down; otherwise you'll be fined.
— Я вчера увидел твою бывшую подругу в кино. Она была с новым парнем. Она казалась очень счастливой.
— Такие новости меня не интересуют.
“I spotted your old girlfriend yesterday at the movies. She was with a new guy. She seemed really happy.”
“I really don't care.”

Замечать/заметить (часть первая)

by Don  

The verb замечать/заметить means “to notice observe.” It conjugates like this:

to notice/observe
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive замечать заметить
Past замечал
Present замечаю
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду замечать
будешь замечать
будет замечать
будем замечать
будете замечать
будут замечать
Imperative замечай(те) заметь(те)

The thing you notice goes in the accusative case:

Во дворе я заметил незнакомого человека. I noticed a stranger in the courtyard.
Котёнок заметил кузнечика и начал охотиться на него. The kitten noticed a grasshopper and began stalking it.
Моя сестра часто замечает грамматические ошибки, на которые другие люди просто не обращают внимания. My sister often notices grammatical mistakes that other people simply don't pay attention to.

You can also follow the verb with an entire clause. The clause usually begins with что, but it can also begin with a question word used as a relative pronoun:

Папа заметил, что во дворе играли две собаки. Dad noticed that two dogs were playing in the courtyard.
Я не заметил, когда Зоя вошла в комнату. I didn't notice when Zoya entered the room.
Ты не заметила, сколько денег лежало на столе? Did you happen to notice how much money was on the table?
Самурай не заметил, как к нему подкрались ниндзи. The samurai didn't notice the ninjas sneaking up on him.


by Don  

The basic verb in Russian that means “to eat” is есть/съесть. Notice that the second letter of the perfective forms is a hard sign, not a soft sign. This is one of the four most irregular verb stems in the language. (The others are the stems of дать, хотеть and бежать.)

to eat
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive есть съесть
Past ел
Present ем
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду есть
будешь есть
будет есть
будем есть
будете есть
будут есть
Imperative ешь(те) съешь(те)

There are a couple potentially confusing points here. Notice first of all that the imperfective infinitive is spelled the same as есть, that quirky present tense form of “to be” that appears in “there is/are” and “have” sentences.

The next trick is that есть is actually pronounced differently from ест. In both words the first sound is a y sound as in yes, but the vowel quality is different:

есть In this word the с and the т are soft, and the е is pronounced as a closed vowel, which means it almost sounds like the a in fate.
ест In this word the с and the т are hard, and the е is pronounced as a lax vowel, which means it almost sounds like the e in yes.

Here are a couple sentences where you can hear the difference:

У тебя есть братья?
Do you have any brothers?
sound link
Оля не ест мясо.
Olya doesn't eat meat.
sound link

As to the grammar of the verb, the thing that you eat shows up in the accusative case:

Ты уже съел батончик шоколада? Did you already finish eating that chocolate bar?
Когда я ем мясо, у меня болит живот. When I eat meat, my stomach feels bad.
Когда мы были в Африке, мы ели кузнечиков. When we were in Africa, we ate grasshoppers.
Иоанн же носил одежду из верблюжьего волоса и пояс кожаный на чреслах своих, и ел акриды и дикий мёд.* (source) And John wore clothing of camel hair and a leather belt on his loins, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

In English we often say things like “I ate breakfast/lunch/dinner,” and in Russian theoretically it's grammatical to say things like «Я (съ)ел завтрак/обед/ужин.» But frankly the Russians rarely say that. Instead they subsitute the verbs that directly address those meals: «Мы (по)завтракалали/(по)обедали/(по)ужинали».

* The careful student may notice that in this sentence the accusative plural акриды copies the nominative plural, which is atypical for modern Russian. Animate accusative plurals did not always automatically copy the genitive. This change began hundreds of years ago with words referring to male human beings, and then it eventually spread to other noun classes. That process is nearly complete in modern Russian, although there are still a few constructions where animate nouns sometimes occur in the accusative plural in a form that copies the nominative.


Работать/поработать (часть четвёртая)

by Don  

Since работать/поработать means “to work,” you will want to be able to use it to say that so-and-so works for so-and-so. Beginning students of Russian often use the word для as the most generic word for “for,” (not the best idea, incidentally), so one might be tempted to translate “I work for Honeywell” as «Я работаю для фирмы “Хоневелл”». Nope, that would be error. When you want to express the idea that you work full time for an organization, the prepositions you want are в and на followed by the prepositional case. (Follow the general guideliness for selecting на.)

Я раньше работал в французской фирме «Airbus», а теперь я работаю в компании «МакДоналдс».¹ I used to work for the French firm “Airbus,” but now I work for McDonald's.
Моя мама раньше работала в Московском государственном университете. My mother used to work at Moscow State University.
Мой друг работает в «Правде». My friend works at “Pravda.”
Через месяц мой брат будет работать на телевизионном заводе. My brother works at a TV factory.
Моя сестра хочет работать на мясном комбинате. My sister wants to work at a meat packing plant.
Я работаю в АНТК «Туполев». I work for the Tupolev Design Bureau

Now here is a subtlety. If you work for a company or organization part time, then you work на followed by the accusative case:

Летом я работал на «Известия». I worked part-time for Izvestiya over the summer.
Как это стыдно! Раньше у меня была нормальная работа, но теперь работаю на отца. Oh, this is shameful. I used to have a real job, but now I'm working part-time for my dad.
Палестинский шпион работал на Израиль в Ливане. (source) A Palestinian spy worked for Israel in Lebanon.
На кого работал Алексей Френкель?. (source) Who did Aleksei Frankel work for?

¹ Фирма is normally a на word. Why the heck the Russians say в in this context is a mystery to me.

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