Немно́го о языке́ 6.1 Ноя́брь — тяжёлый ме́сяц

Verbal Aspect in the Past Tense

Упражне́ние 1

Below you will find excerpts from the opening texts in this unit. Inidcate which English verb best represents the usage that the Russian sentence shows.

The examples above are all given in pairs. Go back and compare the past tense verbs in each pair and indicate what you notice about them.

In each pair of sentences above the essential meaning of the verb does NOT change, but our view of the action changes – we move from a focus on actions that are processes and fill a duration of time (Sentences 1, 3, 5) to a focus on actions that can be viewed as a completed whole, with a specific result: in sentence 2 the presentation is ready; in 4 the articles are read; in 6 the presentation is all written and ready.

The Russian word to describe these two kinds of outlook on actions is вид, which literally means “view” (like the verb ви́деть). In grammar discussions this outlook on actions is traditionally called “aspect.” Russian verbs can come in one of two aspects, or ways of viewing actions. There is imperfective aspect (несоверше́нный вид) and perfective aspect (соверше́нный вид). Each of these aspects is associated with specific ways of viewing actions.

You have not had to think about aspect before, because most of the actions you dealt with previously were in the present tense. Present time actions are expressed only by imperfective verbs in Russian. So most of the verbs you already know (знать, изуча́ть, учи́ться, смотре́ть, встава́ть, у́жинать, занима́ться) are imperfective.

In the past tense, imperfective verbs focus on:

ongoing actions/processes that
unfold over a duration of time

I wrote and drank tea all night long.
Я писа́ла и пила́ чай всю ночь.
I worked two hours.
Я рабо́тал два часа́.

actions that are habitual or repeated; that happen regularly

Every morning I would eat breakfast.
Ка́ждое у́тро я за́втракал.
Every day I used to play soccer.
Ка́ждый день я игра́л в футбо́л.
In class we read stories and answered questions.
На заня́тиях мы чита́ли расска́зы и отвеча́ли на вопро́сы.*

telling that an action took place without focus on completion

What did you do yesterday?
Что вы де́лали вчера́?
I prepared my presentation.
Я гото́вил презента́цию.
We've read that book.
Мы чита́ли э́ту кни́гу.
We watched TV yesterday.
Мы смотре́ли телеви́зор.*

In the past, perfective verbs are used to focus on:

the completion of the action and achieving a result

I wrote two letters.
Я написа́л два письма́.*
Amanda prepared her presentation.
Ама́нда пригото́вила презента́цию.*

a sequence of consecutive actions, where one is completed before the next action begins

Amanda read some articles, wrote an outline, and prepared her presentation.
Ама́нда прочита́ла статьи́, написа́ла план и пригото́вила презента́цию.*

as an expected action or an anticipated result

Have you read Anna Karenina yet?
Вы уже́ прочита́ли А́нну Каре́нину?*

The choice of imperfective or a perfective verb will often depend on what you want to say, or how an action is situated among others in a larger context. Be sure to look at the context, as you decide what kind of view you want to take of the action.

Упражне́ние 2

Below you will find excerpts from the opening texts in this unit. Indicate the type the usage that the bolded verb shows.



Упражне́ние 3

The sentences below are a connected story in English where the verbs are highlighted. Think about the kind of action that each highlighted verb represents in the story and decide whether you would use an imperfective or a perfective verb in the context in Russian. You do not have to translate the sentences.

друг дру́га = each other

The Russian expression for «each other» is a two word phrase друг дру́га in which the first word does not decline, while the second word does. This expression has no nominative case form and cannot be used as the subject of a sentence in Russian. The sentences below will show you the forms for the cases you already know.

Ама́нда и Же́ня живу́т недалеко́ друг от дру́га.
Amanda and Zhenya don't live far from each other.
Genitive with preposition от
Ама́нда и Ка́тя вчера́ не ви́дели друг дру́га.
Amanda and Katya didn't see each other yesterday.
Accusative for direct object
Ама́нда и Ка́тя зна́ют не всё друг о дру́ге.
Amanda and Katya don't know everything about each other.
Prepositional with preposition о

What do you notice about how these expressions are formed?