by Don  

I'm in Kazan with a group of students. Many of them are in host families. One of the host fathers sent a message to his soon-to-be guest-daughter in Russian. She left me a panicked voice mail saying:

Dr. Livingston, I received a note from my host father saying that I will have to withdraw from the university and sign some documents.

The student had made what I call a ‘dictionary error.’ She had looked up the word забрать in the dictionary and discovered that in certain [narrow] contexts it can be translated ‘to withdraw.’ But in this case the word bears the meaning ‘to pick up.’ And Russian sometimes leaves out the word ‘I’ in certain contexts, so what the note actually meant was, “[I] need to pick you up at the university and sign some documents. I'll clarify the situation and write you back about it.”

The verb забирать/забрать conjugates like this:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive забирать забрать
Past забирал
Present забираю
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду забирать
будешь забирать
будет забирать
будем забирать
будете забирать
будут забирать
Imperative забирай(те) забери(те)

This verb has quite a few meanings, the first of which is ‘to collect/gather/pick up things’ to take them somewhere else:

Я забрал чемодан и поехал на вокзал. I grabbed my suitcase and headed to the train station.
Таня забрала книги у Феди и принесла их домой. Tanya retrieved the books from Fyodor and brought them home.

Of course it also means to pick someone up from some place:

Бабушка каждый день забирает внучку из школы. Grandma picks up her granddaughter from school every day.
— Сейчас выхожу с работы. Буду дома через полтора часа.
— Нет, я быстренько заберу тебя на машине. Так мы сможем посмотреть «Зелёный фонарь» в семь часов.
— Отлично! Очень хочу посмотреть этот фильм.
“I'm leaving work right now. I’ll be home in an hour and a half.”
“No, I'll pick you up right away in the car. That way we can watch ‘Green Lantern’ at seven o'clock.”
“Excellent! I really want to see that film.”


Comment from: Kaarlo Voionmaa [Visitor]

It struck me that, perhaps, it would be good if you also could give us the reflexive derivations of verbs like “zabirat’". In this case, particularly, it would be interesting, since semantically the “plain” and reflexivbe form are quite apart from each other. “Zabiratsja” ‘enter’ or ‘climb up’. Or am I totally wrong?

Don responds: You are entirely correct. I’ll try to write such an entry some day… just have to wait for the appropriate inspiration. I usually write these entries when a word has proved problematic for my 1st or 2nd-year students… or when I suddenly become interested in a word. So we may have to wait a bit… All the best, Don.

11/15/11 @ 03:59
Comment from: Alexander [Visitor]

to collect - СОбрать not ЗАбрать

Don responds:Alexander, thanks for your note. Here is picky detail about English: one of the minor uses of the verb ‘collect’ is ‘to pick up someone somewhere.’ For instance, it is possible to say, “John went to school to collect his son.” It means the same thing as “John went to school to pick up his son.” It’s not the most common use of that verb, but it is used occasionally. In that sense забирать/забрать is the equivalent of ‘collect.’ In the sense of “to collect stamps,” of course, one must use собирать.

09/21/11 @ 06:44
Comment from: s [Visitor]

Thank you for this website.
Enjoy the ‘funny’ stories of mispronunciations and
Very helpful.

09/19/11 @ 12:12
Comment from: John33317 [Visitor]

Dear Don: please let people in Kazan know the prayers and good wishes of many, many Americans are with them this week at this time of loss and grief.

07/12/11 @ 09:47
Comment from: dimmik [Visitor]


I am quite sure that you are native English speaker. Correct me if I am wrong.

So I have a question (not regarding the post).
Question is about construction “I am going to do smth".

My native is Russian and for me it is surprisingly intuitive to use this construction in lieu of “I plan to do smth” or “I will do smth", but not exactly with sense of these two. Something between them. “I plan, I will do, but plan MAY be broken and future is changing, so I am going to do.” Like “90% I will, but 10% if just luck (if I have bad luck I won’t).”
Quite long description, well…

Some long time ago I was in Berlin and was talking to German native speaker. And she wasn’t able to understand what “I am going to do” is for. Questions like “so, why not ‘I plan to do’ if I really plan” made me stuck.

So, the question.
How would you describe meaning of this construction to, say, German-speaking (or russian-speaking) guy?

Don responds: As far as I can tell, the phrase “I am going to” can mean most everything from “I am planning to do smth” and “I will definitely do smth”. It often carries a very generic future tense meaning.

07/10/11 @ 23:20
Comment from: louis lebee [Visitor]  

Hi , i’m i huge french fan ot “R.W.O.T.D”

i really appreciate when teach about verbs such as “zabrats” wich is very usfull” …
Could you do more of them please , cause i like milk but it might not be quite “paliezna” ;)

thnx for for doing such a great job and excuse my frogy arrogance :)

07/01/11 @ 02:47

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