Russian verb has two aspects: imperfective and perfective. Usually when you start to learn Russian you learn imperfective verbs only. Later you learn that almost every verb has its perfective aspect.
We use the imperfective aspect for verbs in two cases:
- when we are focusing on the process of action
- when we mean a general action (usually, sometimes, always, often, many times etс.)
- Вчера я писал письмо 2 часа – Yesterday I was writing a letter for two hours. (focus on the process)
- Я писал письма каждый день – I wrote letters every day. (many times)
We use the perfective aspect when we want to focus on the result:
Я написал письмо. Оно на столе. – I have written my letter. It is on my desk. (I focus on the result – the finished letter is on my desk)
Look at the other example to feel the difference between imperfective and perfective aspects:
Она готовила суп.
Она приготовила суп. Cемья сейчас ужинает.
Watching these examples you may think that the perfective aspect exists for the past tense only (он написал письмо, она приготовила суп). But it also exists for the future tense when you are focusing on result in future:
- Я напишу письмо сегодня вечером – I will write a letter tonight (but it really means that it will be finished by this night).
- Я приготовлю суп на ужин. – I will cook soup for dinner (it will be prepared by dinner time – I focus on the result).
Also you can meet the perfective aspect as infinitive (usually it goes with a prefix) when you are focusing on the result:
- Я хочу пойти в театр – I want to go to the theatre.
Look at this table of usage the aspects for the verb “жать”(to wait):
As you can see you have no variants for the present tense – the only imperfective aspect of verb is possible. For past and future you have two options: imperfective and perfective. You have to choose the aspect depending on what you are focusing on: process or result.
The other thing I want to tell you is how to make a perfective aspect. Usually when you learn a new verb in the very first time, you learn its imperfective aspect (идти, работать, думать, знать, ехать и т.д.).
1. In most cases to give the perfective aspect to the verb you need to add the prefix -по.
- думать – подумать (по+думать) – to think
- ехать – поехать – to go by transport
- идти – пойти – to go on foot
- смотреть – посмотреть – to look, to watch
- слушать – послушать – to listen
- менять – поменять – to change
2. Sometimes you will meet different prefixes :
- видеть – увидеть – to see
- готовить – приготовить – to cook, to prepare
- писать – написать – to write
3. Also some verbs change their suffixes:
- Понимать – понять – to understand
- Забывать – забыть – to forget
4) Sometimes the perfective aspect is an absolutely different word:
- покупать – купить – to buy
- говорить – сказать – to say, to speak
CONCLUSION – Everytime when you meet a new verb, you need to look up the perfective aspect of the verb. And the conjugation is really simple: past tense has the same endings (-л, -ла, -ло, ли) and future tense has the same conjugation as the present tense (-ю, -ешь, -ет, -ем, -ете, -ют).
Well, I hope it was understandable. If you have any questions let me know, I’ll be pleased to explain.