Perfective vs. imperfective future

Discussion in 'Русский (Russian)' started by englishman, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    Can anyone explain to me the logic behind the use of the various future forms in the following two sentences ? It is not at all clear to me why the two sentences differ in their use of aspect, although they have identical structures:

    1. Когда вы будете знать то, что хотите знать ?
    2. Когда вы купите перо, что вы будете делать ?
  2. Maroseika Moderator

    The logic is very simple: in your first phrase logical stress is on the "state of knowing". For example, you may shift the logical stress to the result of getting to know by rephrasing it:
    Когда вы узнаете то, что хотите знать?
    I.e. "when exactly you get to know" vs "when you will already know".

    And though Когда вы будете знать? and Когда вы узнаете? formally mean the same, the former is more polite - just because it's not so accented on the exact time.
    Во сколько вы завтра будете в офисе? - polite question addressed, say, to the client.
    Во сколько вы завтра придете в офис? - neutral or even a bit impolite question, say, to one's subordinate.
    Even though in both cases exact time is questionned, the first one is more polite due to the Imperfect Aspect.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2010
  3. dec-sev Senior Member

    I would rather say "Когда вы узнаете" in your case.

    Когда вы узнаете, сколько будет стоить ремонт?

    I guess in most cases we use "Когда вы + verb of the perfective aspect". The logic is that we use the perfect aspect for a completed action and "Когда + verb of perfective aspect" renders the idea of "When something has happened". For example:

    Когда я разберу (perfective) двигатель, я узнаю, какие детали нужно менять.

    Pазберу gives you the idea that you'll know what details are to be replaced only after the engine has been disassembled.

    The problem of your example is that the "completeness" of the action that is expressed by the verb "yзнать" is not that vivid, so to say.

    Когда я узнаю, какие детали нужно заменить, я куплю новые.

    I guess that "когдa ябуду знать" is also possible. At least colloquially, still I prefer the first variant (with the verb of the perfective aspect).

    Two examples more:
    1.Когда я буду работать в овощном магазине, я стану вегетарианцем.
    2.Когда я пойду работать в овощной магазин, я стану вегетарианцем.

    Both sentences express more or less the same idea. I guess in the second one is more precise about the “moment” I become a vegetarian. It’s supposed to happen short after I start work there. “я буду + verb of the imperfective aspect (here работать)” usually means “I will be in the process of working" but in THIS context it means the same as No 2. May be there is a difference but it’s very subtle. I guess the same is “когда я буду знать” vs. “я узнаю”. The former is not about “when I’m in the process of knowing something” but rather about the moment, or, better to say, the time from the moment you’ve learned something.
    A lot depends on the verb itself. For example “когда я буду разбирать двигатель” would mean “when I’m in the process of the disassembling of the engine”.
  4. englishman Senior Member

    English England
    In English, the translations of the two sentences would be:

    1. Когда вы будете знать то, что хотите знать ?

    "When will you know what you want to know ?"

    2. Когда вы купите перо, что вы будете делать ?

    "When you have bought the pen, what will you do ?"

    The problem for me is that in both sentences, the action following the word "when" is expressed, in English, as a completed action.

    "When will you know .." implies that the knowing is completed and "When you have bought .." implies that the buying is completed. So, if I were to translate these into Russian, I would choose a perfective verb in the present tense, to express a completed event in the future. So the presence of "вы будете знать" after "Когда" makes no sense to me.

    To my mind "Когда вы будете знать" would have to be translated in English as something like: ""When you are knowing" which is not really a possible form in English. Part of the problem here is the verb "знать" since it is possible to say in English, say:

    "When you are eating, what will you be reading ?"

    which expresses a question about an incompleted process in the future (eating) and would, I guess, require the imperfective future in Russian.

    So I'm confused: under what circumstances is "Когда вы будете знать" even possible in Russian ?
  5. Maroseika Moderator

    Under very exact circumstances: when you want to soften the question, make it more polite.

    In Russian this contsruction also presumes completed action but as a last moment of the incomplete one:
    Когда вы будете знать = когда вы уже будете знающим.

    - Когда вы будете знать результат экзаменов?
    - К пятнице (maybe even on Thursday, but by Friday for sure).
    - В пятницу (exactly on Friday)

    - Когда вы узнаете результат экзаменов?
    - В пятницу (exactly on Friday).

    As you can see from these examples, the first question leaves two possibilities to answer - more or less precisely. That's why it's more polite.
    Of course, to teh second question you also may answer "К пятнице". But this will be the answer not to the very question Когда..., but to another (presumed) question К какому дню...
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2010
  6. dec-sev Senior Member

    Когда вы будете есть, что вы будете читать? -- What you'll be doing when you're in the process of doing something else.
    I see it this way too. May be "будете знать" is just an exception to the general rule. I mean using the imperfective verb is also possible, like in the example with the exam. Still if it's not a queston but a subordinate clause I would use the verb of the perfective aspect:

    Когда вы узнаете результаты экзамена, позвоните мне.

    Когда вы будете знать результаты экзамена, позвоните мне is also possible but I like the first variant more.

    I agree with Maroseika that Когда вы будете знать leaves more room for an inexact answer, but again, this "politeness" trick may not work with other verbs.
    Last edited: Sep 8, 2010

Share This Page