Lesson Six: Perfective and Imperfective Verbs

Endings of Ukrainian verbs also change, depending on whether you're taking about present, past or future and what the subject of the sentence is (I, you, he/she/it, we, they or respective nouns). Verbs in the infinitive form end with -; they can be found in the dictionary.

Exercise 1. You have learned the following verbs in the previous lessons. So far you've seen them in some other forms (with different endings), mostly the forms that agree with the I-subject. The infinitives below should be recognizable despite the change in the ending. Please translate them.

1) , , , , , .

2) , , , , .

Key to the exercise

The verbs in the excercise are divided into two groups for a reason: the first group includes imperfective verbs, and the second one -- perfective. For an English speaker, this is something completely new.

Imperfective verbs denote incomplete, continuous, or repetitive action; perfective verbs, on the contrary, indicate that the action has been/will be completed. Perfective verbs can never be in the present tense. For each imperfective verb, there's usually a perfective counterpart (or even several counterparts with variations in meaning). For instance, the verbs "to buy" and "to write":

Imperfective Perfective
(I'm bying a ticket)
' .
(I'll be buying a ticket at five o'clock.)
' .
(I was buying a ticket at five o'clock.)
(I bought a ticket.)
(I'll buy a ticket)

(I'm writing a letter.)
(I'll be writing a letter in the evening.)
(Yesterday I was writing a letter.)
, .
(I'll write a letter today and mail it tomorrow.)
(I've written a letter already.)

The usage of perfective and imperfective verbs is regulated by many rules, and a feel for it comes only with lots of practice. Your rule of thumb for distinugishing when to use an imperfective verb and when its perfective counterpart can be outlined as follows:

focus on the process: the action is incomplete, continuous, or repetitive; whether it was completed or not is not the issue here focus on the action as something that produces certain results

In other words, if I buy a ticket and report about it as " ' " (At five I was buying a ticket), I'm emphasizing the process, the fact that I was buying tickets rather than doing something else. I haven't delivered any information about whether I got that ticket into my possession or not; indeed, in this sentence the focus is on "buying" rather than "ticket." But if I describe the same event as " ' " (At five I bought a ticket), the focus schifts to the result (ticket). This explains why perfective verbs can never be in the present tense: in the present, while the action is still under way, we can express neither its "completedeness" nor availability of the result.

Exercise 2. Read the following two passages. They are almost identical, except that one describes a usual work day (repetitive action) and the other just one day (yesterday). Try to determine which paragraph does what using our Ukrainian-English glossary to look up some key words.

Learn the text by heart.


(49) , , . . '. . , , . , .

(50) , , . . '. . , , . , .


I wake up at seven a.m., take a shower, have breakfast, and go to work. I work eight hours. In the middle of the day I have lunch in the cafe next door. In the evening I return home by bus. At home I have dinner, watch TV, read newspapers. I go to bed early since I have to get up early again the next day.

Yesterday I woke up at seven a.m., took a shower, breakfasted, and went to work. I worked eight hours. In the middle of the day I had lunch in the cafe next door. In the evening I returned home by bus. At home I had dinner, watched TV, read newspapers. I went to bed early and got up early again the next day.

Key to the exercise

Exercise 3. Below are all the verbs from the previous passages paired up (imperfective/perfective), this time in the infinitive form. You should also memorize them: they are a useful bunch per se, but they will also be used in the next lesson.

Imperfective Perfective Translation
to wake up
() () to take (a shower)
to breakfast
to go (by a vehicle)
to work
to have lunch
to return
to have dinner
() () to watch (TV)
to read
to go to bed (literally: to lie down to sleep -- here you have two verbs in a row!)
to get up

You may have noticed that perfective verbs either differ from their imperfective counterparts in a couple of letters in the stem or add prefixes.

Some verbs end with-. These are so called reflexive verbs. Grammatically they function similarly to non-reflexive verbs, so if you see - right before the -, you know that it's a common infinitive.