by Don  

Ехать is the determinate (unidirectional) form of the verb ездить “to go by vehicle.” Note especially the odd д that shows up in the present tense forms, as well as its curious command form.

to go
Infinitive ехать
Past ехал
Present еду
Future буду ехать
будешь ехать
будет ехать
будем ехать
будете ехать
будут ехать
Imperative поезжай(те)

Ехать is more specialized than ездить in that it always talks about motion in progress toward a particular place. Let's say you bump into a friend on the subway. Because you are in a vehicle, you can say:

— Куда ты едешь? “Where are you going?
— Еду в библиотеку. “I'm going to the library.”
“I'm on my way to the library.”
“I'm heading to the library.”

Although normally adverbs of frequency and phrases of frequency (like часто and каждый день) usually trigger an indeterminate verb, if the situation describes something that happens regularly on the way to a place, then you use the determinate verb ехать:

Каждое утро, когда я ехал на метро, мы с Ниной Петровной обсуждали наш любимый телесериал «Санта Барбара». Every morning, when I was going to work on the subway, Nina Petrovna and I would discuss our favorite soap opera, “Santa Barbara.”
Когда я утром еду на работу, я всегда проезжаю мимо Кремля. Every morning when I go to work, I always pass by the Kremlin.
Когда ты будешь ехать по улице Плеханова, ты увидишь справа электростанцию. When you ride down Plekahnov street, you will spot a power plant on the right.

One of the curious uses of determinate verbs is that they can be used to say how long it takes to get to a place. From the English-speaking point of view that is rather odd. After all, getting to the place implies a completed action, so we should use a perfective verb, right? But from the Russian point of view in these sentences they are indicating how long the process takes, so the imperfective works:

Я eхал от дома до работы двадцать минут. It took me twenty minutes to get to work from home.
Сколько минут будем ехать из Министерства здравоохранения до табачной фабрики? How long will it take us to get from the Ministry of Health to the cigarette factory?

1 comment

Comment from: Евгений [Visitor]

Добрый день! Если можно, уточните, как будет по русски выглядеть “the odd д", так как словарь упорно выдаёт “нечётный".

Don responds: I would translate “the odd д” as «неожиданная буква д». Beginning students of Russian are often surprised by the д because they try to conjugate everything at first from the infinitive and thus would expect ехаю, ехаешь… A more experienced student, of course, doesn’t think twice about it.

01/06/10 @ 04:54

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