Forming Russian aspectual pairs via prefixation

Russian ns, prons, adjs & nums decline in gender: m, f, n; number: s, p & case: n, g, d, a, i, p. Adv, conj, interj, prep stay the same. Verbs: 3 ten, 2 asp; asp pairs are formed: via pref, suf & lex. Beware of verbs of position and motion!

An addition of a prefix to a Russian verb in this group makes that verb perfective:

  • читать (impf) - прочитать (pf) (to read)
  • делать (impf) - сделать (pf) (to do)
  • писать (impf) - написать (pf) (to write)
  • рисовать (impf) - нарисовать (pf) (to draw)
  • смотреть (impf) - посмотреть (pf) (to look)

The only exception to this rule is покупать (impf) (impf) - купить (pf) (to buy).

The verb читать (impf) describes the action of reading, whereas прочитать (pf) describes the action of finishing reading:

Я каждый день читаю (impf) газеты. И сегодня я тоже прочитала (pf) газету. И завтра я тоже прочту (pf) газету. Я их читала (impf), и я их буду читать (impf).

It will take some time for you to learn which prefix makes the verb an aspectual pair. There is no way you can understand Russian without learning the pairs. As for now you can find the verbs that form aspectual pairs via prefixation, their aspect, the prefixes that they use to form aspectual pairs in this database:

If an addition of a prefix adds a new meaning to a Russian verb, then these two verbs wouldn't make an aspectual pair. The verb with the new prefix перечитать will be imperfective but it will not form the aspectual pair with the original verb читать, the new Russian verb will have a new meaning:

  • читать (impf) - перечитать (pf) (to read one more time)
  • читать (impf) - вычитать (pf) (to read from a book, etc.)
  • читать (impf) - вчитаться (pf) (to read attentivly)
  • читать (impf) - зачитать (pf) (to read aloud)

Meaning of the prefixes[edit]

The prefix за- can show that the meaning of the verb may be a start of an action and/or some action with a sound or light effect:

  • петь (impf) - запеть (pf) - запеваать (impf) (to start singing or to sing aloud)
  • прыгать (impf) - запрыгать (pf) - запрыгивать (impf) (to start jumping)

The prefixes про- and по- can show that the verb has a temporal meaning. It would be perfective and wouldn't have an imperfective pair:

  • читать (impf) - прочитать (pf) - прочитывать (impf) (to read for an hour, a whole day, five minutes, the action continues for a certain time)
  • читать (impf) - почитать (pf) - почитывать (impf) (to read for a while, the action does not last long)

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