In Russian there are two verb aspects: imperfective and perfective.
Verbs in the Russian language have two aspects: imperfective and perfective.
Verb aspect is one of the tougher parts of Russian grammar for English-speakers to understand, as it doesn’t really exist in a similar way in English.
When you see Russian verbs listed in dictionaries, or on this site, they’ll often be shown with both their imperfective and perfective infinitives – for example, смотреть (imp) and посмотреть (perf).
When you are beginning with learning Russian, you usually start off learning the imperfective forms of verbs. However, to speak and understand Russian effectively, you’ll need to be able to have a solid command of both verb aspects.
Aspects are only used in the past and future tense. You can ignore verb aspects when you're in the present tense.
The imperfective aspect is characterized by incomplete, ongoing, interrupted or repeated actions.
1. The imperfective aspect is always used in the present tense.
2. Process / something in progress
Please note, adverbs and time expressions that denote repetition require the imperfective aspect. For example: обычно, часто, редко, всегда, иногда, каждый день, каждый год, каждую неделю.
4. Actions where the result is not emphasized
5. Simultaneity of different actions
6. The state of something, rather than an action
The perfective aspect is characterized by successfully completed actions.
1. The perfective aspect is not used in the present tense.
Please note, the word уже requires a perfective verb.
3. Something done only once
4. Intention to complete an action
5. Sequence of actions
Here's a helpful table to help you remember the meaning of the two verb aspects across the tenses. Please note there is no present tense with the perfective aspect.
|Imperfective||Он читает книгу. = He is reading a book. (now)|
Вечером он часто читает. = In the evening he often reads. (a habitual action)
|Он читал книгу. = |
He was reading / read a book.
(the result is not emphasized)
|Он будет читать книгу. = He will be reading / will read a book. (the intention to complete is not emphasized)|
|Perfective||No present tense with perfective aspect.||Он прочитал эту книгу. = He read / has read this book.|
(i.e. has finished reading it)
|Он прочитает эту книгу. = He will read / will have read this book. (the intention to complete the book is emphasized)|
In the long run, it's by far better and easier to memorize Russian verbs in their aspectual pairs. Most often imperfective and perfective are closely related.
Perfective verbs are formed from imperfective verbs with the help of:
Prefixes (most common; conjugation type does not change)
Suffixes (conjugation type changes)
Imperfective verbs are formed from perfective verbs with suffixes like -ыва, -ива, -а, -ва.