Russian verb conjugation – the simplest explanation and tips

Russian verb conjugation – the simplest explanation and tips

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The Russian language is in the top most spoken languages in the world, with over 258 million people talking in this fascinating language. It is considered one of the most complex languages and a very rich one. Learning Russian will help you discover the interesting Russian culture and history and meet a lot of people. Russian grammar is sometimes unreachable for native speakers because it’s so elaborate, so don’t worry if you make some mistakes in Russian. Since so many people want to learn this captivating language, we decided to help you with the Russian grammar and with the Russian verb conjugation in particular.

Want it or not, when you’ll learn Russian vocabulary you will need to know some Russian verbs, otherwise, you will simply not be able to form any sentence. Learning the Russian tenses and Russian conjugation is also an important aspect if you want to form correct sentences and to be understood when you speak. Continue reading and you will see how simple it can be to learn the main Russian grammar rules of Russian verb conjugation.

Russian personal pronouns

In order to learn the Russian verb tenses and conjugate the verbs, you will need to know the Russian personal pronouns in the nominative. You will use these Russian pronouns as the subject of the verb just as you do in your language. Take a look at the following table to learn the Russian pronouns in the nominative case:

 

Type

English

Russian

First person singular

I

я

Second person singular

you

ты

Third person singular

he/she/it

он/она/оно

First person plural

we

мы

Second person plural

you

вы

Third person plural

they

они

Russian verb infinitives

Another important Russian verb aspect you will need to know before learning Russian verb conjugation is the infinitives of the Russian verbs. What is an infinitive? It’s the simplest and the most basic form of a verb, the one you find in dictionaries. The infinitives are not conjugated, so in order to do that, you will just need to replace their endings with the correct suffix. The same rule applies when forming conjugated Russian verbs in specific tenses.

Russian infinitives have 2 endings: -ти if it’s after a consonant (идти – to go) and -ть after a vowel (страдать – to suffer). All you will need to do is detect the infinitive ending and replace it with the suffixes you will learn in this article.

Types of Russian verb conjugations

There are 2 types of Russian verb conjugation depending on the endings of the Russian verbs. The first conjugation includes Russian verbs that end in:

  • ать
  • еть
  • уть
  • оть
  • ыть
  • ять
There are a few exceptions with the first conjugation: пить (to drink), жить (to live), брить (to shave).

The second Russian verb conjugation refers to the verbs that end in:

  • ить
  • еть
  • ать

There are also some exceptions here: видеть (to see), обидеть (to offend), смотреть (to look), ненавидеть (to hate), терпеть (to endure); дышать (to breathe), слышать (to hear), держать (to hold).

Special types of Russian verbs

As in many other languages, there are Russian irregular verbs that are conjugated differently from the pattern described. Their conjugation can have other endings or their main part of the verb (the stem) can change. Some examples are говорить (to speak), рисовать (to draw), вставать (to get up).

Besides, there is a special category of Russian verbs called reflexive verbs. Their action indicates the idea of “self”, so when you want to say “I put shoes on myself”, you will use a reflexive verb:

  • to shoe – обувать
  • to put shoes on myself – обуваться

These Russian verbs are used to express a feeling or state, to show reciprocity and to indicate that a person does something to himself.

The present tense of Russian verbs

There is only one present tense in Russian and it is used when the action occurs regularly, when it takes place exactly at the time of speaking (as the present continuous in English) and when it began in the past and continues or stopped at the moment of speaking (present perfect in English). The Russian present tense conjugations, again, are formed by changing the first and second conjugation endings to the correct suffixes.

 

Person

Personal pronoun

First conjugation endings

Second conjugation endings

First person singular

я

-ю / -у (after consonants)

-ю / -у (after ч-,щ-,ш-,ж-)

Second person singular

ты

-ешь / -ёшь (when it’s stressed)

-ишь

Third person singular

он/она/оно

-ет / -ёт (stressed)

-ит

First person plural

мы

-ем / -ём (stressed)

-им

Second person plural

вы

-ете / -ёте (stressed)

-ите

Third person plural

они

-ют / -ую (after consonants)

-ят / -ат (after ч-, щ-, ш-, ж-)

Present tense conjugation example

 

Person

Personal pronoun

First conjugation endings

Second conjugation endings

First person singular

я

читаю (I read)

говорю (I speak)

Second person singular

ты

читаешь

говоришь

Third person singular

он/она/оно

читает

говорит

First person plural

мы

читаем

говорим

Second person plural

вы

читаете

говорите

Third person plural

они

читают

говорят

The past tense of Russian verbs

The past tense Russian verbs conjugation works a bit differently. This time, you will need to drop the infinitive ending and add the correct suffix depending on gender. Note that there are many exceptions and the best thing to do is find a verb that interests you and learn its conjugation.

 

Gender

Ending

Example from звонить

(to call)

Masculine singular

звонил (called)

Feminine singular

-ла

звонила

Neuter singular

-ло

звонило

Plural

-ли

звонили

The future tense of Russian verbs

There are 2 forms of the future tense in Russian: the simple future and the compound future. When you want to talk about a simple, completed action that is supposed to be finished by the moment you are speaking about, you will use simple future. To form the simple future, you will follow the present tense pattern (change the endings for the 1st and 2nd conjugation). This time, you will change the endings of the so-called perfective verbs. These are the verbs used to talk about actions that will finish with success. Here are some examples:

 

English verb

Imperfective

Perfective

to do

делать

сделать

to listen

слушать

послушать

to walk

гулять

погулять

to call

звонить

позвонить

to offer a gift

дарить

подарить

to eat

есть

съесть

to write

писать

написать

You will need to list all the perfective verbs you learn along the way and start forming the simple future using the following endings:

 

Person

Personal pronoun

First conjugation endings

Second conjugation endings

First person singular

я

-ю (-у)

Second person singular

ты

-ешь

-ишь

Third person singular

он/она/оно

-ет

-ит

First person plural

мы

-ем

-им

Second person plural

вы

-ете

-ите

Third person plural

они

-ют

-ят (-ат)

The compound future tense of Russian verbs

We use the compound future tense in Russian to talk about continuous or repeated actions. The form of the compound future is быть (to be) + infinitive. As you can see, it’s similar to the simple future in English. In this case, you will just need to conjugate the auxiliary “быть” using the following pattern:

 

Person

Pronoun

Conjugation of искать (to search)

First person singular

я

буду искать

Second person singular

ты

будешь искать

Third person singular

он/она/оно

будет читать

First person plural

мы

будем читать

Second person plural

вы

будете читать

Third person plural

они

будут читать

Tips to learn Russian verb conjugation

  • 1. Learn the most commonly used Russian verbs. That’s important because you’re likely to hear them very often in conversations or find them in texts.
  • 2. Practice the common Russian verb conjugation. Only this way, you will learn to conjugate Russian verbs in less time until you will do it automatically.
  • 3. Don’t be scared to converse in Russian! Native speakers will appreciate your effort to learn their language and will correct you when there’s the need.
  • 4. Read more in Russian and pay attention to the verb form used in sentences and the Russian verb endings you meet.
  • 5. Use flashcards! They are the easiest way to master Russian verbs and understand the complex Russian verb aspect of conjugation! VocApp is one of the best resources when it comes to learning vocabulary. Our flashcards will introduce you to the most common Russian verbs along with their Russian pronunciation, the Russian to English translation and of course, example sentences with Russian verbs. You will see the Russian verb conjugation in practice and remember the new words much easier! Try our fun and effective course with the 500 most important Russian verbs!

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