плыть / поплыть / плавать

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by poisongift, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. poisongift

    poisongift Senior Member

    English (American)
    I am interested in knowing the precise differences between these three verbs.

    Wiktionary says this:

    плыть (plytʹ) impf (perfective поплы́ть) (concrete impf.), плавать (plávatʹ) (abstract impf.)

    I am curious about what this means. Is the verb "поплыть" perfective or imperfective? What does it mean for a verb to be "concrete imperfective" as opposed to "concrete perfective"?
  2. raf8

    raf8 Senior Member

    Russia, Pyatigorsk
    Russian (Русский)
    It depends on the context.

    Я плыву
    Я хочу поплыть
    Я умею плавать

    Поплыть is perfective. I don't know how to explain the difference between imperfective and perfective, because the difference between Russian and English is very big.
    But maybe someome will be able to explain all nuances.
  3. Maroseika Moderator

    The difference between imperfective verbs плыть and плавать is the same like between other pairs of verbs of motion: бежать - бегать, летать - лететь, ходить - идти, лазать - лезть, ползать - ползти, etc.
    These old threads might be of interest for you:

    летать Vs лететь

    едут or ездят

    As for the concrete Perfective and Imperfective verbs: both presume exact direction or way of motion, but perfective verb of motion expresses beginning of the action, while imperfective - only the process:

    поплыть кролем; поплыть в Америку - to start swimming the crawl; to America;
    плыть кролем; плыть в Америку - to be in the process of swimming the crawl; to America.
  4. Linguoman Senior Member

    Russian - Russia
    First, it is worth noticing that any of those verbs can mean "to swim", "to float", "to sail" - Russian does not make difference between those meanings:

    Я плыву по реке. (I am swimming in the river).
    Корабль плывёт по морю. (The ship is sailing on the sea).
    По небу плывут облака. (Clouds are floating across the sky).

    I will further use the translation "to swim" just to simplify the explanation.

    The difference between "плыть", "плавать" and "поплыть" is how the action is related to time.

    "плыть" is "to swim in a specific, definite direction in this particular moment of time", it is more like "to be swimming to somewhere":
    Я плыву по реке. - "I am swimming in the river (right now) in a specific direction, e.g. to the left".
    Корабль плывёт в Лондон / на восток etc. - "The ship is sailing to London / to the East etc."

    It is a verb of a definite motion, imperfective.

    "плавать" is either "to swim from time to time, on a regular base" or "to swim in this particular moment of time, but without a specific direction, i.e. to here, to there, to the left, to the right - you are constantly changing to where you swim":

    Я плаваю по реке. - "I swim in the river (from time to time, often, usually etc.)" or "I am swimming in the river (right now) in circles - first to the left, then to the right, i.e. I am just bathing, doing it for fun".
    Корабль плавает в Лондон / на восток etc. - "The ship sails to London / to the East regularly, by a schedule." - here we only understand it in sense of a repeated action; elsewise it would be strange if the ship would be sailing right now in various directions.

    It is a verb of an indefinite motion, imperfective.

    "поплыть" is "to start swimming", "to depart", it is a momentary action, its time duration (i.e. the time of transition from non-swimming state to swimming state) equals to ZERO. It is performed to a specific direction.

    Я поплыл по реке. - I've started swimming in the river (to somewhere).
    Корабль поплыл в Лондон / на восток etc. - The ship has started sailing (it has departed) to London / to the East.

    It is a perfective verb, so it cannot be used in Present Tense.
  5. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    Hi poisongift, as pointed out in the earlier posts here, плавать/плыть is one of the Russian verbs of motion pairs, which are a whole grammar chapter in themselves for us foreigners. You don't say whether you're already familiar with the grammar concept or not.

    Not being a structural engineer or a philosopher, I personally don't find Wiktionary's terms "concrete" and "abstract" very helpful. I think they correspond to one of the more usual grammar terms used to explain the verbs of motion concept, which is "determinate" and "indeterminate", or - as they prefer on this page (source: russianlessons.net) - "unidirectional" or "multidirectional". There are several examples of the use of плавать/плыть and some of their prefixed forms about halfway down the page I've linked to.

    In the example they give for поплыть - все поплыло у него перед глазами, the по would be better rendered as everything (suddenly) started swimming ... (as Linguoman explains above).
  6. igusarov

    igusarov Senior Member

    Moscow, Russia
    I wonder if the difference between "плыть" and "плавать" could be explained by adding "around" to the translation. Merely to indicate the aimlessness of the action?

    Я плыл по реке = I swam down the river. Purposefully.
    Я плавал по реке = I swam around in the river. With no particular purpose and destination.
  7. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    Yes, I think that's certainly one way, though as we've seen many times before, context is always important.
  8. Maroseika Moderator

    I doubt this explanation works` in all cases. Сэмюэл Клеменс плавал по Миссисипи несколько лет (but with quite partucular aim).
  9. poisongift

    poisongift Senior Member

    English (American)
    Hello everyone, and thanks for the terrific answers. They are just what I needed!

    Now that I think about it, I feel as though I've been through this exact process before differentiating between идти, ходить, and пойти. The way I understand it, when other prefixes are added to the verbs идти and ходить, the determinate of the two (идти) becomes the perfective-aspect form of the verb and the indeterminate of the two (ходить) becomes the imperfective-aspect form of the new verb, e.g., дойти and доходить, etc.

    What I'm still confused about is whether one can correctly construct a more general perfective form of the normally indeterminate form.

    For example, идти becomes поидти, but can ходить become походить without altering the determinate/indeterminate distinction? What about other verbs of motion?

    Is повозить a verb? What about поплавать? I am still a little confused, although the answers in this thread so far have been really excellent. Thanks a lot, guys.
  10. Maroseika Moderator

    No, adding such a prefix to the imperfect "indeterminate" verb we get a verb, meaning "to do something for some time", and this refers not only to the verbs of motion:

    Идти > пойти (not поидти!) - to begin going
    Ходить > походить - to go for some time (not to mix it with походить - to look like and with low colloquial походить = пойти, like in chess):
    Ему было скучно. Он походил по комнате, постоял у окна, потом посидел за столом и наконец лег полежать на кровать.

    Yes, both mean to do smth for some time:
    Повози его по городу и покажи достопримечательности.
    Давай поплаваем до обеда?
    Exactly the same like порисовать, позаниматься, помечтать, etc.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2014
  11. poisongift

    poisongift Senior Member

    English (American)
    Ah, right. I totally knew that. Just a typo.

    Thanks very much for the thorough answer.

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