by Don  

The Russian verb “to drink” is пить/выпить. It conjugates like this:

to drink
Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive пить выпить
Past пил
Present пью
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду пить
будешь пить
будет пить
будем пить
будете пить
будут пить
Imperative пей(те) выпей(те)

The drinker appears in the nominative case, and the thing drunk shows up in the accusative case:

Пей тёплое молоко перед сном. Ты будешь лучше спать. Drink warm milk before going to sleep. You'll sleep better.
Врачи советуют пить восемь стаканов воды каждый день. Doctors recommend drinking eight glasses of water a day.

Just as in English, if you use drink without any particular object, it implies drinking alcoholic beverages:

— Ты пьёшь?
— Нет, не пью.
“Do you drink?”
“No, I don't.”
— Твой брат не пьёт?
— Нет, не пьёт. Поэтому он такой здоровый. И поэтому девушки от него без ума.
“Doesn't your brother drink?”
“No, he doesn't. That's why he is so healthy. And that's why the girls are so crazy about him.”

In English we talk about “taking medicine,” whereas in Russian you usually take about “drinking medicine.” The implication is that the medicine is swallowed «с водой» “with water.”

Не люблю пить лекарства. I don't like to take medicine.
Даша выпила две таблетки аспирина, и головная боль прошла. Dasha took two aspirin, and her headache went away.


Comment from: Константин [Visitor]

Just imagine an illusionist showing a trick with water in glass. He can say to the audience: “Смотрите внимательно - вот я выпиваю этот стакан воды". This is not another verb and there is no relationship with alcohol.

Don responds: Your sentence is good, and one can come up with others that use выпивать with non-alcoholic beverages, e.g., «В день я выпиваю меньше 1 литра воды» or «Я выпиваю не меньше чашки кофе в день». However for the purpose of teaching Russian to foreigners, we usually divide verbs into conceptual sets, where each verb (usually) has a both an imperfective and perfective form. So I would in fact call this a separate verb. This gives us three verbs so far:

  1. generic ‘to drink’ пить/выпить
  2. ‘to drink alcohol’ (usually without an object) выпивать/выпить
  3. another generic ‘to drink’ выпивать/выпить, which is much less common than meaning #2

But that is more detail than one normally presents to first- and second-year Russian students, who are the target audience of this blog.

11/28/09 @ 10:37
Comment from: unclegluk [Visitor]

Perfective present:

Don responds: Those forms are actually imperfective present tense forms of выпивать.

11/28/09 @ 06:30
Comment from: sand [Visitor]  

You are not actually right about ‘выпить’ and Present Perfective. It’s possible to say ‘выпиваю’ or ‘выпиваем’ but it just in case of drinking alcohol. :)

Don responds: I’ll allow myself to disagree with you. «Выпиваю» is an imperfective verb (not a present perfective) which means ‘to drink alcohol.’ The trick here is that we are dealing with two separate verb pairs whose perfectives are spelled the same. The first is the verb pair пить/выпить, which is the most generic verb that means ‘to drink.’ It can be used with liquids like молоко and чай, not just водка and пиво. The second verb pair is выпивать/выпить, which always implies alcohol.

11/28/09 @ 05:39
Comment from: Paul Baxter [Visitor]

A Russian friend told me that выпить ordinarily implies alcohol and that I should use попить for other beverages.

Don responds: Your friend has a point… sort of. Often when the Russians use выпить without specifying what was drunk, they do indeed have alcohol in mind. Nonetheless it is perfectly normal to say something like «Бабшука выпила чашку чая» “Grandma drank a cup of tea” or «Я выпил воды» “I drank some water.”

11/17/09 @ 13:20

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