Imperative form of Imperfective & Perfective verbs

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by alevtinka, Mar 11, 2011.

  1. alevtinka Senior Member

    Chinese (Mandarin)
    What is the difference between the imperative forms of a Impf Verb and a corresponding Pf Verb ? I can't imagine what kind of meaning an Impf verb could express.

    Could anybody give me more examples of this usage ))) Thank you )))


    Спросите кого-нибудь ! (I can understand)

    Спрашивайте кого-нибудь ! (???)

    пей ! - Drink it!

    выпивай - ???
  2. carsten Member

    Usually, perfective imperative sounds more commanding & impolite, while imperfective sounds more polite & mild -- but not necessary.

    Besides that, there is also aspect difference which you usually encounter in past tense (the difference is, the action is to be done).

    Regarding your second example: пей и выпивай are both imperfective. The correct pair would be выпей (pf) "drink until the cup is empty (drain)" and пей (impf) "just drink (I don't care whether you take one sip or you drain the whole cup)".

    The verb выпивай that you mentioned usually means "drink consantly (for example, on a daily basis"), though, to sound more polite, it can be used as "drink", for example, выпивай уже "finish it for god's sake".

    If you haven't mastered the notion of aspect yet (there is plenty of stuff on the internet), then you won't understand the difference of impf/pf verbs.

    Спросите кого-нибудь means "ask someone (one question, request) if/whether/how..."
    Спрашивайте кого-нибудь means "ask some constantly/a lot of time/with lots of questions" etc.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2011
  3. alevtinka Senior Member

    Chinese (Mandarin)
    Thank you carsten, for your examples and explanation )))

    Generally speaking, only a completed, ocasionally-occured action needs a Pf verb, while a habitual, incompleted, constantly-happend, repeated action uses Impf one, I think. My confusion comes from some circurmstances, where it is hard to define an action or process is completed or not.

    Russian Pf - Impf pairs looks like French [Impf - passé composé] relation, more than English verb aspects.
  4. carsten Member

    A lecturer addresses his studens after a lecture: Ask your questions. Задавайте свои вопросы. (imperfective)
    Here he implies that several studens have several questions and this question part can last long.

    If he says Задайте свои вопросы (perfective), though it sounds a bit weird (and rude) to me, he would mean that the students have their questions prepared, and the overall discussion should be quick.

    There are many cases where the difference is actualy so negligible that both forms mean pretty same (moreover, I think different native speakers would have different impression of what was meant).
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2011
  5. Maroseika Moderator

    Летайте самолетами "Аэрофлота" (always).
    Летите, голуби, летите (right now).
  6. The Prof

    The Prof Senior Member

    As someone who is only in the early stages of learning Russian, I am also struggling with whether to use the imperfective or perfective verbs with imperatives.

    Specifically, if I want to ask my guests to come in, do I say входи́те or войди́те?
    My guess is that it would be войди́те, as I think that the emphasis is on the complete action, but I am really not sure. Or is this one of those cases, as mentioned above by Carsten, where the difference is so small that both forms mean pretty much the same?

    And would the same rules apply to the imperative pair сади́тесь and ся́дьте if I then wanted to invite them to sit down?

    Unfortunately, my Russian is still very poor, so if possible, please answer me in English)))
    Thank you
  7. learnerr Senior Member

    That depends. The second is more official. Also, the second is used almost exclusively when someone wishes to enter your room, not your flat.
    In a way: both kinds of emphasis are logically consistent with the situations. So the choice depends in these cases more on people relations. Another option (more friendly) is "заходите". Yet another option (quite official) is "проходите".
    The second is more crude and bossy. Better not to use it unless you want to show, say, how angry you are.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  8. Maroseika Moderator

    Both forms are grammatically correct, but Imperfect usually is more polite. But if someone unknown is knocking to your door, the most natural will be Войдите.
    So the difference is far not small, and Войдите, addressed to your guests will sound very rude.
    Also садитесь is much more soft request, then сядьте. Сядьте sounds like an order, while садитесь - invitation to sit down.
  9. The Prof

    The Prof Senior Member

    Thank you both. Your answers have been really helpful to me. :)
  10. learnerr Senior Member

    For this a counter-example (since counter-examples are more valuable for understanding): say, "играй нам на гитаре" may be ruder than "сыграй нам на гитаре", since it's ruder to make a request when the play is needed as a background rather than a piece of art. Also, "пей" is much more rude than "выпей" for similar reasons.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  11. viesis Senior Member

    learnerr made a good point here. I think there is no firm rule about which imperative is more polite, imperfective or perfective. It's all very individual, one must look at the situation.
  12. Maroseika Moderator

    I still feel this regularity works at least for pair verbs, where Perfect verb is formed without additional prefix (like ляг - ложись, поднимись - поднимайся, придите - приходите, сядь - садись and so on).
  13. learnerr Senior Member

    This depends, I think. By itself, none of them is more rude than another.
  14. viesis Senior Member

    On thinking this over, I also feel the regularity does work for pair verbs.

    And I think "поднимись" is more rude.
  15. ahvalj Senior Member

    I suspect this may be related to the difference between finite (предельные) and infinite (непредельные) verbs. When the basic meaning of a verb implies coming to an end («войти, сесть»), the imperfective may be used figuratively to soften the direct order («входи, садись»). When the basic verb is infinite («играть, пить»), its perfective pair («сыграй, выпей») plays the same role. So, as in many other cases the opposition of two aspects is used here to express additional contectual differences. Idealy, a language should have had a separate form for every nuance, but with the limited resources it uses what is available, hence all these subtleties...
  16. palomnik Senior Member

    alevtinka, you've touched on one of the major points of departure between Russian and English, and the commentary on the subject is endless.

    The general rule is, or is supposed to be, perfective for positive commands, imperfective for negative.

    The devil is in the details after that. The key factor seems to be the amount of emotional involvement on the part of the speaker. When the speaker is more involved emotionally - positively or negatively - he/she is more likely to use the imperfective with positive commands and perfective with negative ones.

    "Involved emotionally" may mean that he/she is angry (hence the suggestion by learnerr that they sound "ruder"), in love, or just trying to be polite.

    For example, when you are invited to sit down, does the speaker say "садитесь" or "сядьте"? In this case, it is the perfective that sounds almost rude.

    Does a soldier leaving for war tell his sweetheart "не забывай меня" or "не забудь меня"? Using the imperfective here makes it sound as if it doesn't really matter much if she does forget him. (After all, the poem doesn't say "подожди меня, и я вернусь")

    One of the most complete treatments of the subject I've run across in English language textbooks is in Charles Townsend's book "Continuing with Russian", if you can get your hands on a copy.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  17. ahvalj Senior Member

    I think the situation with the negative verbs is not so much related here, as the opposition there lies between order (imperfective), and warning (perfective). Also, it seems to be older as it exists outside Slavic languages — namely in Lithuanian. The only common place in both oppositions is that the redundant aspect was used to convey a secondary meaning, though the development of this meaning was different in positive and negative constructions.
  18. Maroseika Moderator

    In this case Perfect also sounds more categorically, and Imperfect - softer. And one more thing: Perfect here presumes a single action, Imperfect - continious action (or like Ahvalj brilliantly explained - finite/infinite).
    Не забудь вечером выпить таблетку (this eveining).
    Не забывай пить молоко на ночь (every day).

    Actually this is only because подожди is used for short time intervals, while in this case very long and gard waiting is presumed.
    Подожди меня, я скоро оденусь.
    "Жди меня, когда дожди..."
  19. learnerr Senior Member

    Поднимись, тебя ждёт Иван Георгиевич.
    Поднимайся, тебя ждёт Иван Георгиевич.
    The second phrase has the meaning "do that now!", which may be rude (depending on wider context).
    Quite not true. For example, "Поворачивай этот кран" and "поверни этот кран" have different meanings. I.e. the supposed action is the same, but the matter of {the person who makes the rotation}'s thinking is different: he is supposed to think differently about what he does. In the first case, he thinks what action he should make real, and thus controls his behaviour, both mental and external, accordingly, and in the second case, he thinks what he should change, what kind of state he should achieve, and so controls his behaviour differently.

    In the context of completing an industrial operation the difference in the supposed thinking is important, so nobody's going to be offended by either request; in other contexts, this difference may harm relations between people. So, I reckon that this is the major point of departure between English and Russian: in English, if the action is the same, then the grammar is the same, too. Not something to expect in Russian.
    They have different meanings and different connotations, but they are both equally valid and equally dearly.
    I guess ahvalj didn't mean that: he meant the nature of an action before it is expressed with a verb, rather than the meanings of verbs. So, the nature of the action of drinking is continuous, or better say infinite (no supposed end or beginning: both do not belong in our definitions of the action), so an imperfective verb would be likely to reinforce the mental image of the action, and a perfective verb would be likely to weaken it; while the nature of the action of sitting down is finite, so a perfective verb would reinforce its picture more than an imperfective one. No matter what verb we choose, the nature of the action is still the same.
    By the way, have you seen this? I'm still not sure if that language has a separate means for expressing every nuance.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  20. Maroseika Moderator

    Doesn't the first one mean exactly the same - do that now? But providing both are pronounced with equally neutral intonation, the first one sounds more like an order, unlike the second one sounding more like invitation.

    I understand finitary/infinitary or better say finitary/nonfinitary notions like nonfinitary Imperative being generally more polite, because concentration on the result of the requested action is more categorical and less polite, than talking only about the process. Such a way result of the action is up to the person, we only softly urge him to commence the action.
  21. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    From the point of view of a speaker of another Slavic language that also has both perfective and imperfective imperatives I can say that the only thing that maybe has a kind of logical explanation are those cases when you use imperfective imperative in order to soften the message/be more informal/be less commanding, i.e. "be doing something" instead of "begin and complete the action". Everything else is pure usage, without much consistency, and even can vary from person to person. Actually every pair of imperatives must be studied individually, and in context.
  22. learnerr Senior Member

    What I want to say is that the use of "поднимайся" instead of "поднимись" does not make the sentence automatically more polite or at least not less polite: the direct factors in action are other ones, not the aspect of the verb. Without "пожалуйста", both indeed can sound like "orders", but if someone whom you expect to give orders is speaking to you, then "поднимайся" will be likely considered to be more direct. After all, if all you are supposed to be required is be in stand, then you can wait a little, but if what you're supposed to do is the very action of getting up, then there is no reason to wait. In ahvalj's terms, sometimes the action of getting up will be considered as infinitary by people, and so the logic of infinitary actions will be in use.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2013
  23. ahvalj Senior Member

    I think we are dealing in this particular case with the banal inflation of meanings: «поднимайся» was once a more polite form for «поднимись», but with time it lost its special shade and remained the basic form for "rise" with no polite equivalent. What I want to emphasize with all my comments for all these years, is that the language is not a time slice, it is an evolutionary tree, and most facts a student of language deals with can't be explained as if they were created in 2013, since they are parts of the history of the language.
  24. mabimabi Senior Member

    If you're asking for information in the street, why do you use "скажите"? It's perfective and, as I've read, sometimes impolite.
  25. Maroseika Moderator

    If it is accompanied with простите and/or пожалуйста or even right intonation, it can sound quite polite:
    Скажите, пожалуйста, как пройти в...
    Of course, there are even more polite ways to ask - using conditional (Не могли бы вы сказать...). However the one with скажите is quite normal.
    On the other hand, Imperfective form of сказать is formed from quite different verb - говорить, so it just can't be used for asking the way.
  26. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    It is just the basic use of perfective verbs, normal in all Slavic langauges. It is a request of concrete information.
  27. Sobakus Senior Member

    See post #15. Using the imperfective in such cases would sound very rude, meaning "you, speak!"

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