Lesson 20: Introduction to gerunds in Russian

Gerunds, also known as the adverbial participles, are a verb form that behaves like an adverb (they’re indeclinable) and expresses an additional verbal action that takes places alongside the main verbal action of a sentence.

There are two types of gerund: imperfective and perfective gerunds. Imperfective gerunds express an action performed while something else is happening. Perfective gerunds express an action having been performed while something else happened.

Gerunds are not very too common in Russian. Nevertheless, they’re helpful to use and you’ll need to recognize theme in written texts. By completing this lesson and learning about gerunds, you’ll be glad to know that you have now covered all the core Russian grammar concepts.

For more information go here for the gerunds page in our Russian grammar resources.

Imperfective gerunds

What are imperfective gerunds

Imperfective gerunds, aka present gerunds, are used to describe a process taking place alongside another action within a sentence. Crucially, the subject of the imperfective gerund has to be the same as the subject of the main verb in the sentence.

  • Выходя из дома, он забыл взять пальто. = Leaving the house, he forgot to take his coat.
  • Думая о лете, он улыбнулся. = Thinking about summer, he smiled.
  • Смотря фильм, она думала о героях Великой Отечественной войны. = Watching the movie, she thought about the heroes of the Great Patriotic War.

How to form imperfective gerunds

Regular verbs

To form the imperfective gerund, add the ending -я or -а to the stem of the third person plural (они) present tense form of the verb. Add the ending я- for most verbs; if the stem ends in -ж, -ч, -ш, -щ, add the ending -a instead.

  • жить → живут → живя
  • читать → читают → читая
  • сидеть → сидят → сидя
  • держать → держат → держа

Irregular verbs ending in -давать, -знавать or -стaвать:

Verbs ending in -давать form the imperfective gerund a little differently. Add the ending, -в

  • давать → дают → давая
  • вставать → встают → вставая

Perfective gerunds

What are perfective gerunds

Perfective gerunds, aka past gerunds, are used to describe a completed action which took place before the action the action of the main verb within a sentence. Crucially, the subject of the perfective gerund has to be the same as the subject of the main verb in the sentence.

  • Выпив бокал вина, Михаил решил сделать еще один тост. = Having drunk a glass of wine, Mikhail decided to make another toast.
  • Опоздав на метро, я пошёл пешком. = Late for the metro, I set off on foot.
  • Подумав об экзамене, Шурик начал дрожать от страха. = Having thought about the exam, Shurik began to shake with fear.
  • Вернувшись с работы, Вероника села на диван и включила телевизор. = Having returned from work, Veronika sat down on the couch and turned on the TV.

How to form perfective gerunds

Regular perfective gerunds

If the verb stem of both the infinitive and the past tense ends in a vowel, drop the -л from the past tense and add -в to the stem:

  • написать → написал → написав
  • подумать → подумал → подумав
  • посмотреть → посмотрел → посмотрев
  • полюбить → полюбил → полюбив

When the infinitive stem ends in a vowel and the past tense stem ends in a consonant other than -л, drop the infinitive -ть and add -в to this stem:

  • запереть → запер → заперев
  • привыкнуть → привык → привыкнув

Irregular perfective gerunds

A number of perfective gerunds have the same form and endings as imperfective tense gerunds.

Verbs of motion perfective gerunds use the imperfective gerund ending for their perfective gerund:

  • приходя (arriving) vs. придя (having arrived)
    • прийти → придут → придя

Forming reflexive perfective gerunds

Reflexive perfective gerunds have the ending -вшись

  • wake up: проснуться → проснувшись
  • вернуться → вернувшись
  • возвращаться → возвратившись
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