Very often I am asked about the difference between two Russian verbs – купить and покупать. They both mean “to buy” but:

покупать – to buy (imperfective aspect)
купить – to buy (perfective aspect)

покупать  is an imperfective aspect which means we have to use it for:

1. Present tense
Я всегда покупаю это – I always buy it.
Я покупаю – I’m buying

2. Past tense if it is repeated action in past (many times)
Я всегда покупал этот йогурт – I always used to buy this yoghurt
(I bought it more than once)

3. Repeated action in future
Я буду покупать этот йогурт каждый день – I will buy this yoghurt every day (I will buy it many times)

купить  is a perfective aspect which means it doesn’t have a present tense. And we can use it  for:

1. Past tense if we did it only once
Вчера я купил йогурт – yesterday I bought a youghurt

2. Future tense if we are going to do it only once
Завтра я куплю йогурт – tomorrow I will buy a yoghurt (It’s not a repeated action, I’m going to make it just once)


And for the situations when you need to use an infinitive (as a second verb for example)

Я хочу купить – I want to buy

you can use either of the aspects depending on what you’re focusing on:

  • many times – Я хочу покупать этот йогурт каждый день – I want to buy this yoghurt every day
  • only once – Я хочу купить этот йогурт  – I want to buy this yoghurt

As you can see usually we need to make something only once so I recommend you to use the perfective aspect for infinitives as a second verb.

If you would like to know more about aspects of verbs watch here


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