Gerunds in Russian

We explain how to use, form, and decline gerunds, aka adverbial participles, in Russian. That includes imperfective and perfective gerunds.

The gerund, also known as the adverbial participle, is a verb form that behaves like an adverb (indeclinable), expressing an additional action taking place alongside the main action of the sentence. You’ll come across gerunds more commonly in written text, but there are also many common gerunds you’re probably already using in speech.

There are two types of gerund: imperfective gerunds which describe a process – “while doing;” perfective gerunds which describe the result of a completed action “having done.”

Imperfective gerunds

What are imperfective gerunds

Imperfective gerunds, or present gerunds, describe a process of incomplete action, implying a simultaneity of action with the other action in the sentence. The subject of the imperfective gerund is always the same as the subject of the main verb of the sentence. In action:

  • Думая об экзамене, Шурик стал больше заниматься. = Thinking about the exam, Shurik began to study more.
  • Гуляя в лесу, я увидел много животных. = Walking in the forest I saw many animals.
  • Читая книгу, Даша думала о своих друзьях. = Reading the book Dasha thought about her friends.
  • Идя домой, Маша встретилась с Ваней. = Walking home Masha met Vanya.

How to form imperfective gerunds

To form the imperfective gerund, add the ending -я to the stem of the third person plural (они) present tense form of the verb. If the stem ends in -ж, -ч, -ш, -щ, add the ending -a instead. For example:

Regular verbs

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

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

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

Irregular imperfective gerunds ending in -учи or -ючи

The imperfective gerund of the verb быть is будучи. That is all fine and correct grammatically.

Beyond that, in colloquial speech, especially in fairy tales, such endings are sometimes used to add a sweetness to the language:

  • Через поле идучи. = Walking through the field.
  • Жить припеваючи. = Living the easy life (lit. to live while singing along).

Perfective gerunds

What are perfective gerunds

Perfective gerunds, or past gerunds, describe a completed action which has preceded the action of the main verb in the sentence. The subject of the perfective gerund and the main verb of the sentence are always the same. In action:

  • Написав письмо, Игорь отнес его на почту. = Having written the letter, Igor took it to the post office.
  • Опоздав на автобус, я пошёл пешком. = Late for the bus, I set off on foot.
  • Подумав об экзамене, Шурик стал больше заниматься. = Having thought about the exam, Shurik began to study more.
  • Вернувшись из отпуска, он стал лучше работать. = Having returned from vacation, he started to work better.

How to form perfective gerunds

Regular perfective gerunds

When 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 present tense gerunds.

Compounds of the verb, идти:
  • прийти → придут → придя
  • придя → зайдут → зайдя
  • перейти → перейдут → перейдя
  • найти → найдут → найдя
Verbs of motion perfective gerunds use the imperfective gerund ending for their perfective gerund:
  • приходя (arriving) vs. придя (having arrived)
  • принося (bringing) vs. принеся (having brought)
  • отводя (leading off) vs. отведя (having led off)
Perfective verbs ending in -ти and -сть

For most perfective verbs ending in -ти and -сть, replace the final two letters of the third person plural (они) with ending, -я:

  • проходить → пройдут → пройдя
  • сходить → сойдут → сойдя
  • принести → пренесут → пренеся

Forming reflexive perfective gerunds

Reflexive perfective gerunds have the ending -вшись

  • умываться → умывшись
  • вытираться → вытершись
  • вернуться → вернувшись
  • возвращаться → возвратившись

Common gerunds in Russian

Imperfective gerunds

  • несмотря на то, что = despite
  • благодаря на то, что = thanks to
  • исключая = excluding, except for
  • честно говоря = to be honest
  • судя по = judging by
  • молча = silently
  • крадучись = stealthily
  • (10 лет) спустя = (10 years) later
  • не считая = not counting
  • не теряя времени = without delay
  • судя по = judging by

Perfective gerunds

  • слушать разиня рот = to listen open-mouthed
  • сказать положа руку на сердце = to say hand on heart
  • работать спустя рукава = to work carelessly
  • согласиться скрепя сердце = to agree reluctantly
  • сидеть сложа руки = to sit twiddling one’s thumbs
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