Читать (часть третья)

by Don  

Today let's discuss читать/прочитать.

Imperfective Perfective
Infinitive читать прочитать
Past читал
Present читаю
No such thing as
perfective present
in Russian.
Future буду читать
будешь читать
будет читать
будем читать
будете читать
будут читать
Imperative читай(те) прочитай(те)

The prefix про- adds the idea of ‘all the way through’ here.

Витя прочитал инструкцию и собрал шкаф. Vitya read through the instructions and assembled the shelves.
Я прочитаю статью и напишу доклад. I will read the article and write the report.

Now here is a subtle bit of grammar. If you want to find out if someone has read a particular book or author, you usually ask the question in the imperfective.

— Вы читали «Войну и мир»?
— Читал.
“Have you read ‘War and Peace’?”
“I have.”
— Вы когда-нибудь читали Достоевского?
— К моему стыду, не читал.
“Have you ever read Dostoevski?”
“Shamefully, I have not.”

This is called the general-factual meaning of the imperfective (общефактическое значение несовершенного вида). When you are interested in the fact itself, not focusing on the completion of the fact, then you ask in the imperfective.

It is possible to ask the question also in the perfective, but it means something different.

— Вы до конца прочитали «Войну и мир»?
— Да, прочитал.
— Даже этот скучный эпилог о философии истории?
— Да, я прочитал всё.
“Have you read all the way through ‘War and Peace’?”
“I have.”
“Even that boring epilogue on the philosophy of history?”
“Yes, I read it completely through.”
— Вы прочитали все произведения Достоевского?
— Нет, ещё не прочитал.
“Have you read through all of Dostoevski's works?”
“No, I haven't yet.”


Comment from: MMM [Visitor]  

“Вы кодга-нибудь читали Достоевского?”

Don responds: Спасибо! Текст поправлен.

02/06/14 @ 10:49
Comment from: Друг [Visitor]

Вы прочитали все…

asks whether on has read and finished reading the object already.

Вы читали…

aks whether at some point the subject started reading but it does not care whether the subject finished.

The issue becomes more complicated when one says:

Я хотел бы, чтобы Вы читали «Войну и мир»

This refers to the future. “I would like that you will read …”

I think you oversimplifying things to the point that the language is distorted. Is that what you are looking for? :)

Don responds: The audience I have in mind for this blog is 1st- and 2nd-year students of the Russian language, so the simplifying of explanations is deliberate. When one gives too much information to a beginner, it simply confuses them or they become frustrated. That’s also why the entries are fairly short. As we advance in our skills, we eventually have to fine tune our earlier gross generalizations.

I’m always grateful for criticism. This blog is written in my spare time, so very often it takes me a while to read the feedback and respond. I do wish that weren’t the case, but sometimes it can’t be helped.

I’m also grateful to the many Russians who read the blog. It was something I never expected, and it pleases me no end.

P.S. I think it would be good you posting the responses of your readers. It shows willingness to accept criticism and engage in a dialog.

07/04/12 @ 07:05

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