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Learn about the masculine, feminine, and neuter genders of Russian nouns

Russian Verbal Aspect: Infinitives

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Last updated: 5/2/2021

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Russian verbal aspect is easily one of the most difficult topics for non-native Russian speakers. Especially if you’re in the middle of a conversation, sometimes it is difficult to know exactly which rule applies according to the situation. One element of Russian verbal aspect that isn’t often discussed, however, is which verbal aspect should be used in the infinitive form.

What is an infinitive and when do we use it?

The infinitive is a verb that is not conjugated. In English, infinitives include the preposition “to,” – i.e. “to go,” “to be,” “to see.” In Russian, you can identify infinitives by a verb’s ending. Russian infinitives end in either “-ть,” “-ти,” or sometimes “-чь.”

We use the infinitive in the following situations:

  1. To indicate the purpose of doing some action. Ex. Я сходила в магазин, чтобы купить молоко.
  2. After a conjugated verb. Ex. Я собираюсь зайти у мамы сегодня вечером.
  3. After an adverb. Ex. Не вредно мечтать.

So what’s the big deal? Why can’t we simply translate these sentences into Russian without taking verbal aspect into account? Well if you’re familiar with Russian verbal aspect, you know that verbs in Russian come in aspect pairs: sets of imperfective and perfective verbs that are not necessarily interchangeable when trying to convey an idea.

So, which infinitive should you use: imperfective or perfective? Well, that’s what we are going to look at today! Let’s check out a few rules below.

Russian Verbal Aspect: Infinitives

Imperfective Infinitives

  1. After “process-indicating” verbs: start/begin, continue/keep, finish/end/quit/stop, etc. (past, present, future)

  • Интернет перестал работать. – The internet stopped working.
  • Он начал изучать русский язык с целью стать переводчиком. – He started learning Russian with the aim of becoming a translator.
  • Я продолжаю совершать одни и те же оши́бки. – I keep making the same mistakes.
  • Пора зака́нчивать смотре́ть телеви́зор. – It’s time to stop watching TV.
  • Она продолжит его искать. – She’ll keep looking for him.

  1. After another verb or adverb to denote a repeated, long or non-concrete (general) action. (past, present, future)

  • Он не хотел оставаться здесь с тобой. – He didn’t want to stay here with you.
  • Мне не хотелось заканчивать домашку. – I didn’t feel like finishing my homework.
  • Я уме́ю пла́вать. – I know how to swim.
  • Если я не могу́ доверя́ть тебе, ко́му я могу́ доверя́ть? – If I can’t trust you, who can I trust?
  • Вас про́сят воздержа́ться от куре́ния, пока не пога́снет э́тот знак. – You are asked to refrain from smoking until the sign is switched off.
  • Я собира́юсь занима́ться. – I’m going to study.
  • Скоро защита диплома. Мне приходится много работать. – I’m defending my thesis soon. I need to work a lot.
  • Мне надо бросать курить. – I need to quit smoking.
  • Для предотвращения подобных случаев нужно было повышать осведомленность населения об этой проблеме. – To prevent such cases, it was necessary to raise public awareness of such problem.
  • Здесь можно пить воду из крана? – Can you drink from the tap here
  • Он должен каждый день посещать занятия – He must attend classes every day.
  • Вредно курить.- It’s harmful to smoke.
  • Невежливо перебивать. – It’s not polite to interrupt.
  • Неприлично об этом спрашивать. – It’s inappropriate to ask about this.

  1. After another verb or adverb to denote an action or behavior that is (not) necessary, allowed, or forbidden. (past, present, future)

  • Не надо этого делать. – You don’t have to do this.
  • Мы не должны забывать о своих родных. – We must not forget about our roots.
  • Здесь нельзя переходить улицу. – He didn’t want to stay here with you.
  • Обратите внимание, что внутри дома запрещено курить. – Please note that smoking inside the house is forbidden.
  • Вам разрешено де́лать фотогра́фии. – You are allowed to take photos.

  1. After a conjugated future form of “быть” (future)

  • В бу́дущем все будут е́здить на электромобилях. – In the future, everyone will drive electric cars.
  • Я буду по́льзоваться э́тим фотоаппоратом за́втра вечером. – I’ll be using this camera tomorrow night.
  • Как мы будем реша́ть э́тот вопро́с? – How are we going to deal with this issue?

  1. After the adverb “пора” (past, present, future)

  • Пора было начинать готовить ужин.- It was time to start preparing dinner.
  • Мне пора идти́ спать. – It’s time for me to go to bed.
  • Я разбужу вас, когда пора будет уходить. – I’ll wake you when it’s time to leave.

  1. After another verb or adverb to express decisions, requests, or advice to NOT do something (past, present, future)

  • Я советую вам не торопиться.- I recommend that you don’t rush.
  • Папа сказал мне не выходить из дома этим утром. – My dad told me not to leave the house this morning.
  • Обещаю не говорить о делах. – I promise not to talk about business.
  • Мы договорились не встречаться завтра. – We agreed not to meet tomorrow.
  • Я решил не приходить. – I decided not to come.

Perfective Infinitives

  1. After the verbs: забыть, удаться, и успеть. (past, future)

  • Он забы́л закры́ть за́днюю дверь. – He forgot to shut the back door.
  • Мне удалось добра́ться туда вовремя. – I managed to get there on time.
  • Думаю, я не успею дописать статью к завтрашнему дню. – I don’t think I’ll have time to finish writing the article by tomorrow.

  1. After another verb or adverb to denote a ONE-TIME, concrete action. (past, present, future)

  • Я не хоте́ла нико́го оби́деть. – I didn’t want to offend anyone.
  • Мо́жет пойти́ снег. – It might snow.
  • Где ты собира́ешься провести́ о́тпуск? – Where are you planning to spend the holiday?
  • Я прошу́ тебя оказа́ть мне услу́гу. – I’m asking you to do me a favor.
  • Сове́тую вам прочита́ть э́тот рома́н. – I recommend you read this book.
  • Можно мне зада́ть вопро́с? – May I ask a question?

An Overview (Pin it for later!)

Infographic of the rules about when to use imperfective infinitives and when to use perfective infinitives.

Additional Resources

Still have questions? Comment below or check out the following articles and videos:

May 2, 2021

Melissa Miller

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central Asia

central Asia

Eurasia

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eastern europe

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The caucasus

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Kyrgyzstan

central Asia

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central Asia

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Belarus

eastern europe

Read »

Moldova

eastern europe

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Armenia

The caucasus

Read »

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