Russian Verbs of Motion

Businesswoman walking in front of red wall

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Verbs of motion in Russian are verbs that describe the act of moving from one place to another, such as the verb идти (eetTEE)—to go/to walk. A particular characteristic of Russian verbs of motion is their abundance of meanings. For example, the verb идти has 26 different meanings.

Russian verbs of motion can provide much more detail and context in a sentence than verbs of movement in English. This is possible partly because of the many prefixes they can take on, and partly because they can use both the imperfective and perfective forms.

Imperfective and Perfective Forms

Generally, the imperfective form of a verb means that an action or process is incomplete, whereas the perfective form shows that an action has been completed. In Russian verbs of motion, the two different forms show whether a movement action occurs once or several/many times over a period of time. While other Russian verbs have two forms—perfective and imperfective—Russian verbs of motion have three forms because the imperfective form subdivides into two more forms.

Imperfective Form of Russian Verbs of Motion

When a Russian verb of motion is in its imperfective form, it can be either unidirectional or multidirectional. Overall, linguists distinguish between 14 and 17 pairs of imperfective verbs of motion in the Russian language.

The unidirectional verbs generally mean that a movement or trip is made in only one direction and/or occurs only once.

Example:

- Я еду в школу. (ya YEdoo FSHKOloo)
- I'm going to school/I'm on my way to school.

- Мужчина нёс букет. (mooSHIna NYOS booKYET)
- A/the man carried/was carrying a bouquet of flowers.

The multidirectional verbs mean that a movement or trip is made many times, or in both directions. They can also demonstrate that a motion/trip is made regularly, over a period of time, and generally can denote any directionless or abstract travel or movement, as well as describe a type of movement that is typical for the subject.

Examples:

Regular action:
- Таня ходит в музыкальную школу. (TAnya HOdit f moozyKAL'nooyu SHKOloo)
- Tanya goes to/attends a music school.

A trip in both directions:
- Вчера мы ходили в кино. (fcheRA my haDEEli fkeeNO)
- Yesterday we went to the cinema.

Travel/movement without concrete direction:
- Он ходит по комнате. (ON HOdit pa KOMnatye)
- He paces/is pacing the room.

Typical/normal type of movement:
- Птицы летают. (PTEEtsy lyTAyut)
- Birds fly/are flying.

Russian Imperfective Verb of Motion Pairs

  • бежать (byZHAT') — бегать (BYEgat') - to run
  • ехать (YEhat') — ездить (YEZdit') - to travel/go (by car, bike, train, etc)
  • идти (itTEE) — ходить (haDEET') - to go/to walk
  • лететь (lyTYET') — летать (lyTAT') - to fly
  • плыть (PLYT') — плавать (PLAvat') - to swim
  • тащить (taSHEET') — таскать (tasKAT') - to drag/carry/pull
  • катить (kaTEET') — катать (kaTAT') - to roll/push (something)
  • катиться (kaTEETsa) — кататься (kaTAT'sa) - to roll (oneself)
  • нести (nyesTEE) — носить (naSEET') - to carry/bring
  • нестись (nyesTEES') — носиться (naSEET'sa) - to fly/run (to travel fast)
  • вести (vysTEE) — водить (vaDEET') - to drive
  • везти (vyzTEE) — возить (vaZEET') - to carry/take (someone)
  • ползти (palSTEE) — ползать (POLzat') - to crawl
  • лезть (LYEST') — лазить/лазать (LAzit'/LAzat') - to climb/push in/get involved
  • брести (brysTEE) — бродить (braDEET') - to wander/walk
  • гнать (GNAT') — гонять (gaNYAT') - to chase/drive
  • гнаться (GNATsa) — гоняться (gaNYATsa) - to chase

To know which form to use, look at the context of the sentence. Generally, unidirectional or one-off travel or movement will always use the first form, such as идти (itTEE)—to go/walk—, while all other movement will use the other form: ходить (haDEET')—to go/walk.

Examples:

Unidirectional (one-off or specific direction):
- Карапуз ползёт по полу. (karaPOOZ palZYOT pa POloo)
- The toddler crawls/is crawling on the floor.

Multidirectional (directionless or abstract):
- Мой ребенок уже ползает. (MOY ryBYOnak ooZHYE POLzayet)
- My child already crawls/can crawl.

Additionally, many of these verbs are used figuratively, usually in established expressions and figures of speech. In most of those cases, the forms of the verbs remain the same and do not change from unidirectional to multidirectional and vice versa. Try to memorize as many figurative expressions as you can so you don't make a mistake when deciding which form of the verb to use.

Example:

- Аппетит приходит во время еды. (appyeTEET priHOdit va VRYEmya yeDY)
- Appetite comes with the eating.

Prefixed Verbs of Motion

In modern Russian, verbs of motion can be paired with around 20 different prefixes. Each prefix modifies the meaning of a verb.

Note that when unidirectional verbs are paired with prefixes, the new verbs they produce are always in the perfective form, while multidirectional verbs with prefixes create imperfective verbs.

List of Russian Prefixes for Verbs of Motion

в (v/f) - in

Example:

- влететь (vleTET') - to fly in/into
- Птица влетела в клетку. (PTEEtsa vleTEla f KLETkoo)
- The bird flew into the cage.

вз (vz/fz) - upwards movement

Example:

- взлететь (vzleTET') - to lift off (when flying)
- Голубь взлетел на крышу. (GOlub' vzleTEL na KRYshoo)
- The pigeon flew onto the roof.

вы (vy) - out

Example:

- вылететь (VYletet') - to fly out.
- Когда я вылетел, уже была ночь. (kagDA ya VYletel, ooZHE byLA NOCH)
- When I flew out (when the plane left), it was already night time.

за (za) - over

Example:

- залететь (to fly in, to get pregnant—figurative—, to fly past or beyond)
- Cамолёт залетел за реку. (samaLYOT zaleTEL za REkoo)
-The plane flew past the river.

из (eez) - out of (can show maximum levels of process/result)

Example:

- излазить (eezLAzit') - to explore to the last inch
- Mы излазили весь город. (my izLAzili VES' GOrad)
- We explored the whole/have been all over the city.

до (do/da) - to/up to

Example:

- доехать (daYEhat') - to arrive, to get somewhere
- Наконец-то доехали! (nakanets ta daYEhali)
- We have finally arrived!

над (nad/nat) - over/above

Example:

- надползти (natpalzTEE) - to crawl just over something

недо (nyeda) - under (to do less than)

Example:

- недовозить (nedavaZEET') - to under-deliver, to bring a smaller amount than agreed (regularly)
- Опять начали недовозить. (aPYAT' Nachali nedavaZEET')
- They have started under-delivering again.

на (na) - on

Example:

- натаскать (natasKAT') - to bring a large amount of something
- Hатаскали тут всякого мусора. (natasKAli TOOT VSYAkava MOOsara)
- (They) have brought tons of rubbish.

от (aht) - away from

Example:

- отвезти (atvezTEE) - to take someone somewhere
- Я тебя отвезу. (ya tyBYA atvyZOO)
- I'll take you.

пере (pyere) - over

Example:

- переехать (pereYEhat') - to move (accomodation)
- Мы переехали. (my pyereYEhali)
- We have moved.

под (pad/pat) - under, towards

Example:

- подвести (padvesTEE) - to let down
- Только не подведи. (TOL'ka ne padvyeDEE)
- Just don't let me down.

по (pa) - along/alongside

Example:

- потащить (pataSHEET') - to begin carrying
- Они вместе потащили мешок. (aNEE VMYESte pataSHEEli myeSHOK)
- They began to carry the sack together.

про (pra) - past

Example:

- проходить (prahaDEET') - to walk past
- Не проходите мимо! (nye prahaDEEtye MEEma)
- Don't walk past!

при (pri) - in / bring

Example:

- привезти (privyzTEE) - to bring
- Мне папа такую игрушку привёз! (MNYE PApa taKOOyu igROOSHkoo priVYOZ)
- My dad brought me such an amazing toy!

у (oo) - from, away

Example:

- улетать (ooleTAT') - to fly away
- Ты во сколько улетаешь? (ty va SKOL'ka ooleTAyesh?)
- What time is your flight?

с (s) - with, away

Example:

- сбежать (sbeZHAT') - to run away, to escape
- Пёс сбежал. (PYOS sbeZHAL)
- The dog ran away.

раз (raz/ras) - apart, more of

Example:

- разойтись (razayTEES') - to separate/divorce
- Мы разошлись. (my razaSHLEES')
- We divorced.

об (ab/ap) - around

Example:

- обходить (abhaDEET) - to go around/ avoid
- Его все обходили стороной. (yeVO VSYE abhaDEEli staraNOY)
- Everyone avoided him.

List of Russian Verbs of Motion

Here are some of the most commonly used verbs of motion in Russian:

  • Идти/ходить (itTEE/haDEET) - to go/walk
  • Прийти/приходить (preeTEE/prihaDEET') - to arrive, to come over
  • Уйти/уходить (ooyTEE/oohaDEET') - to leave
  • Отойти/отходить (atayTEE/athaDEET') - to move away, to walk away
  • Везти/возить (vyzTEE/vaZEET') - to take/drive
  • Привезти/привозить (privyzTEE/privaZEET') - to bring
  • Отвезти/отвозить (atvyzTEE/atvaZEET') - to take something/someone somewhere
  • Езжать/ездить (yezZHAT'/YEZdit') - to travel/go somewhere by transport
  • Приехать/приезжать (priYEhat'/priyezZHAT') - to arrive
  • Уехать/уезжать (ooYEhat'/ooyezZHAT') - to depart, to leave
  • Отъехать/отъезжать (atYEhat'/at'yezZHAT') - to leave for a short time