by Don  

Russian has several verbs that can be translated as ‘study.’ Today let's start by looking at учить/выучить:

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive учить выучить
Past учил
Present учу
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду учить
будешь учить
будет учить
будем учить
будете учить
будут учить
Imperative учи(те) выучи(те)

You can use this verb to discuss what subjects you studied in grade school or high school. In this sense you usually use it in the imperfective.

В школе я учил немецкий язык. Господи, какой он сложный! In school I studied German. Lord, it is so complicated!
— Ты в школе учила физику?
— Конечно, учила.
“Did you study physics in school?”
“Of course, I did.”

If you are studying/memorizing a set of facts, then you can use both the imperfective and perfective:

— Что ты делаешь?
— Я учу испанские слова.
“What are you doing?”
“I'm learning/memorizing my Spanish vocabulary.”
Я вчера выучил список столиц республик бывшего Советского Союза. Yesterday I memorized a list of the capitals of the republics of the former Soviet Union.
Я сегодня должна выучить наизусть квадратное уравнение. Today I have to learn the quadratic equation by heart.
— Я вчера выучил перечень семнадцати ядов, которые нельзя обнаружить в человеческом организме.
— Что за глупость, не бывает необнаруживаемого яда.
— Правда? Чёрт побери, надо изменить свои планы.
“Yesterday I memorized a list of seventeen poisons that can't be detected in the human body.”
“That's ridiculous. There is no such thing as an undetectable poison.”
“Really? Damn, I'll have to change my plans.”


Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

Следует написать, что наизусть нужно выучить решение (ну или вид, смотря, что именно нужно учить) квадратного уравнения.

02/07/14 @ 05:01
Comment from: stranger [Visitor]

“Советского Союза.” First letters are capitals. Typo.

Don responds: Thanks! Error corrected.

11/27/11 @ 10:09
Comment from: Shady_arc [Visitor]

Я сегодня должна выучить наизусть квадратное уравнение. –> I am not sure whether the sentence is supposed to make sense, even in English. Probably, you can say such a thing in English, but in Russian the statement is explicitly about memorizing the equation (and not about learning how to solve it or, maybe, learning the paragraph “Quadratic Equations” in textbook by heart).
It is grammatical, though. My only concern is the meaning, as in Russian school you rarely learn by heart something other than poems or citites/rivers/regions (for geography classes). Actually, “учить наизусть” is an expression primarily associated with memorizing poems at school.

Don responds: Interesting. When I first thought up the sentence, I was remembering junior high school. We had to memorize the quadratic equation to find the X-axis intersections of a parabola and then apply it during exams. The form we had to memorize was not the simple

ax2 + bx + c = 0

but rather

So that was what I had in mind.

It’s really valuable for us Americans to know, though, what contexts a phrase is used in in Russia, so the fact that it sounds odd in regards to the equation but fine in regard to lists of words or geographical locations is a marvelous thing for me learn. Thanks, Shady!

10/05/11 @ 06:26
Comment from: Joke [Visitor]

Are you sure the past perfective in the scheme is correct? It differs a lot from the forms used in the examples and it doesn’t look ‘perfectly regular’ to me.

Don responds: Thanks! They have been corrected.

09/30/11 @ 05:14
Comment from: Richard [Visitor]

Shouldn’t the past and future perfective use the prefix “вы"? Typo?

Don responds: Aargh! This is what I get for having rushed this week’s entries. Thanks! They have been corrected.

09/29/11 @ 15:47

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