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.

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