by Don  

The verb pair звонить/позвонить has several meanings, the most important of which is “to call” in the sense of “to call on the phone.” It is a completely regular end-stressed second conjugation verb:

to call (on the phone)
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive звонить позвонить
Present звоню
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду звонить
будешь звонить
будет звонить
будем звонить
будете звонить
будут звонить
Past звонил
Imperative звони(те) позвони(те)

The person you call shows up in the dative case:

Я позвонил маме. I called my mom.
Кому ты звонила? Who were you calling?
Почему ты мне никогда не звонишь? Why don't you ever phone me?
Какой ты злой! Я тебе больше не буду звонить. You are so mean! I'm not going to call you anymore.
Почему ты не позвонила Борису? Why didn't you call Boris?

Now here's the tricky part for us English speakers: when you specify the place you call, it does NOT appear in the dative. Instead it shows up in the accusative case after the preposition в if the place is a в word, and in the accusative after на if the place is a на word:

Я позвонил в милицию и сообщил, что меня ограбили. I called the police station and reported that I had been robbed.
Таня позвонила на работу, чтобы узнать, нет ли сегодня начальника. Tanya called work to find out if the boss was there today.
Позвони в кинотеатр и узнай, когда начнётся фильм. Call the theater and find out when the film starts.

If you say both the person and the place, the person still shows up in the dative, and the place still shows up in the accusative after в/на:

Почему ты мне звонил на работу? Why did you call me at work?
Не звони папе в университет. У них телефон плохо работает. Don't call Dad at the university. Their phone doesn't work so well.

The place you call can be one of several adverbs as well: сюда, туда, домой.

Не люблю звонить подруге домой. К телефону всегда подходит её мама. I don't like to call my girlfriend at home. Her mother always answers.
Не звони им туда, а то на тебя будут ругаться. Don't call them there, or else they'll chew you out.
Я всегда радуюсь, когда ты мне сюда звонишь. It makes me happy when you call me here.

Last but not least, if you want to specify the number you are calling, include it in the nominative case after the phrase по телефону:

Если увидишь аварию в Америке, звони по телефону 911. If you see an accident in America, call 911.
При аварии в России звонят по телефону 02. In the event of an accident in Russia one calls 02.

Cultural detail: although in Russia one can call the police at 02, a new number, 112, is being introduced specifically for auto accidents. The new number was first implemented in Курск and should be implemented throughout the rest of the country by 2012. (article | mirror)


Comment from: Svitlana [Visitor]

“Не люблю звонит подруге домой.”

In this case you have to use “звонить” - infinitive …

…звонит - it means “he,she,it - calls” or “is calling” depends on situation

Don responds: Thanks! Typo corrected.

04/15/13 @ 13:48
Comment from: Agata [Visitor]  

I noticed an mistake -

‘позвонирят’ instead of ‘позвонят’ - and accent is on ‘я’.

Best wishes,

Don’s comment: Thanks, Agata! The typo has been fixed. (My error, that. I had cut-and-pasted into a chart that had had дарить/подарить.)

01/29/09 @ 07:26

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