Russian Language Grammar

    Usage of Basic Verbs of Motion

The verbs of motion will be discussed in regard to their literal meaning (motion on foot, or not on foot) and to their figurative meaning.

Literal Meaning

1. Definite Verbs of Motion

   (a)   The imperfective future of definite verbs (идти, ехать, etc.) places emphasis on the motion itself – not on the destination:

Мы будем идти по этой дороге, пока мы вас не встретим.

We will be going along this road until we meet you.

Я вам обещаю, что я буду ехать медленно.

I promise you that I will drive (will be driving) slowly.

   (b)   The definite (actual) verb is occasionally used to express a habitual action. This happens when the motion clearly suggests only one direction:

Каждый день, ровно в девять часов, я иду в гараж, сажусь в машину и еду на работу.

Every day, at exactly nine o'clock, I go to the garage, take seat in the car and drive to my office.

Утром я сначала моюсь, потом иду на кухню, готовлю завтрак, иду в столовую и сажусь пить чай.

In the morning, first of all, I wash, then go to the kitchen, prepare breakfast, go to the dining room and sit down to have tea.

Note: The above statement and examples should be regarded as exceptions to the general rule.

   (c)  The present tense of идти and ехать is sometimes used to express future:

Завтра я еду на выставку.

Tomorrow I am going to the exhibition.

Сегодня вечером мы идём в театр.

Tonight we are going to the theater.

Note: Similar constructions are not possible with ходить or ездить.

   (d)  The joint imperative is used with definite verbs only:

Ну, едем.

Well, let's go.

Идём скорей.

Come along quickly.

   (e)  Definite verbs of motion may express approaching. They are then translated "to come":

Идите сюда.

Come here.

Кто-то едет навстречу.

Somebody is coming towards (us).

 2. Definite and Indefinite Verbs of Motion

   (a)   Идти (or ходить) пешком may seem redundant, since the word "пешком" itself means "on foot." However, there is a difference between Он идёт пешком which emphasizes going on foot and Он идёт в магазин, which simply mentions it (the logical stress being on the destination).

   (b)   When the purpose or destination are stressed, and when the manner of locomotion is unknown (or unimportant) – then usually идти or ходить are used, in preference to ехать or ездить.

Вам надо пойти к доктору.

You should go (and see) a doctor.

Вы часто ходите в театр?

Do you often go to the theater?

 3. Indefinite Verbs of Motion

   (a)   The past and future perfectives of indefinite verbs are used rather infrequently. They indicate a cessation of an action which lasts for a while.

Он походил по комнате, остановился и сказал...

Не walked around the room, stopped and said...

Если хотите, мы полетаем завтра.

If you wish, we will go flying for a while tomorrow.

   (b)   The past imperfective of indefinite verbs of motion is also used to express a motion back and forth, such as a round-trip:

Вчера я ездил в город.

Yesterday I went to the city.

Утром мы ходили на почту.

In the morning, we went to the post office.

Compare the above examples to:

Он поехал в город.

Не went (has gone) to the city.

Они пошли на почту.

They went (have gone) to the post office.

A habitual action may refer to something which never takes place. It contains then a negative idea of repetition:

Она никогда не ходит к доктору.

She never goes to see a doctor.

Я ни разу не летал на самолёте.

I have never (not a single time) flown in an airplane.

The Imperative Mood of Verbs of Motion

As a rule, both definite and indefinite verbs are used in the imperative mood. Normally, the definite verb will be used with the simple (non-negated) imperative:  

Идите на урок.

Go to your lesson.

Плывите к берегу!

Swim towards the shore!

Поезжайте прямо.

Go straight.

An indefinite verb would refer to motion in various directions:

Плавайте здесь.

Swim here.

With negated imperatives, the indefinite verb is used more frequently:

He ходите туда.

Don't go there. (Don't ever go there.)

He плавайте здесь.

Don't swim here.

He ездите к нему.

Don't go to (see) him.

He гоняйте кур по двору.

Don't chase the chickens around the yard.

A definite negated verb rather stresses the action itself:

He плывите так быстро.

Don't swim so fast.

Ямщик, не гони лошадей!

Coachman, don't hurry the horses.

Verbs of Motion Pertaining to Travel and Transportation

1. The on-foot verbs идти and ходить are used to express travel or motion of public conveyances. The habitual verb ходить suggests a regular schedule (motion back and forth).

Этот пароход идёт в Европу.

This boat is going to Europe.

Поезд шёл на север.

The train was going north.

Автобус идёт в центр города.

The bus is going to the center of the town.

Пароходы ходят из Одессы в Ялту.

Boats run between Odessa and Yalta.

Поезда не ходили зимой.

The trains did not run in the winter.

Автобусы ходят каждые два часа.

Buses run every two hours.

2. The not-on-foot going verbs ехать, ездить and the couple плыть, плавать are used:

   (a)  When the stress is not on the destination, but on the motion itself:

Наш автобус едет быстро.

Our bus is going fast.

Баржи плывут по реке.

Barges are sailing down the river.

   (b)   With private cars, carriages, etc.:

Автомобиль едет через мост.

A car is going across the bridge.

Экипаж ехал по улице.

A carriage was going along the street.

   (c)   When referring to transportation, i.e. to persons traveling in a public conveyance:

Мы ехали на пароходе.

We were traveling by steamship.

Зимой они всегда ездили в город на поезде.

In winter they always went to town by train.

Мы плыли в Европу.

We were going (sailing) to Europe.

Он плавал на разных кораблях.

Не sailed on different ships.

3. The verbs лететь, летать are used with airplanes, helicopters, etc.:

Самолёт летит на юг.

The plane is flying south.

Вертолёт летал над городом.

A helicopter was flying above the town.

Figurative Meaning

Both definite and indefinite verbs are used in figurative speech. However, with few exceptions only one verb will be used in any particular type of expression (in contrast to prefixed verbs of motion, where verbs of both roots are used in any set expression):

Там всегда идут хорошие пьесы.

They always show good plays there.

Она ходила за больным.

She was taking care of the patient.

Я несу ответственность за это.

I am responsible for this.

Он носит очки.

Не wears glasses.

Она ведёт занятия.

She is conducting the lessons (studies).

Он всех водит за нос.

Не deceives (fools) everybody.

The above examples may be regarded as set expressions. The definite (actual) verbs are of a wider usage: they are frequently found in figurative speech, even with habitual actions:

Его дети всегда себя хорошо ведут.

His children always behave well.

Там часто идёт снег.

It often snows there.

In particular, the verbs идти and ходить have a variety of figurative meanings. These deserve a separate mention.

Идти may express:

1. Traveling, being en route. It is used then with nouns, such as "письмо", "телеграмма", "почта", etc.

Телеграмма шла два дня.

The telegram was en route for two days.

Почта здесь идёт медленно.

The mail here goes slowly.

   2. "Working."   It is used when speaking of watches, clocks and other mechanisms:

Мои часы не идут.

My watch isn't running.

Идти на холостом ходу.

То idle (to be in neutral, to run on no load work).

   3. Certain weather conditions (precipitation):

Вчера шёл дождь.

Yesterday it rained.

Снег идёт (падает).

It is snowing.

   4. The starting of work, of an activity:

Идти в профессиональное училище.

То enter a trade school.

Пойти добровольцем.

То go as a volunteer.

   5. Taking place:

Сейчас идут экзамены.

The examinations are taking place now.

Идут бои.

Battles are going on (taking place).

Идёт война.

The war is on.

   6.   Approaching:

Весна идёт.

Spring is coming.

   7.   The motion of some masses, substances. It is used with nouns, such as дым – smoke; тучи – clouds; облака – (heap) clouds; лёд – ice; вода – water:

Дым идёт из трубы.

Smoke is coming out of the chimney.

Лёд идёт вниз по реке.

Ice is going down the river.

Ходить may express:

   1.   Visiting, attending:

ходить к кому-нибудь

to visit somebody

ходить в школу

to attend (to go to) school

   2.   Motion in different directions, at different times:

Мы ходили по магазинам.

We went around all the shops (We went shopping).

ходить на охоту

to go hunting

   3.   Motion back and forth:

Поршень ходит взад и вперёд.

The piston is moving back and forth.

   4.   Wearing:

ходить без шляпы

to go without a hat (not to wear a hat)

Отчего вы всегда ходите в чёрном? (Чехов)

Why do you always wear black?

The verbs Видать and Слыхать

 These two verbs sometimes function as the indefinite forms of видеть and слышать. Their usage is rather limited:

   1. Слыхать is used only in the past tense:

Я слыхал это.

I heard this.

   2.  Видать is found in all three tenses, past, present, and future. However, the present and future forms are getting out of everyday use:

Мы их давно уже не видали.

We haven't seen them long ago.

Мы их редко видаем.  (rarely)

We see them seldom.

Надеюсь, что мы будем видать друг друга.  (rarely)

I hope that we will be seeing each other.

   3. These verbs may convey a rather vague idea, something happening by chance:

Вы не видали моего сына?

You haven't seen my son (by any chance)?

Я был на балу и слыхал молву.

I was at a ball and heard a rumor. (An opening sentence of a parlor game.)

   4.   In the actual, physical sense, only видеть and слышать are used:

Я ничего не вижу в такой темноте.

I can't see anything in this darkness.

В старости он плохо слышал.

When he was old, he couldn't hear very well.

   5.   In the figurative meaning of to see (to realize, to feel), only видеть is used:

Я вижу, что вы меня не понимаете.

I see that you don't understand me.

Мы видели, что это ни к чему.

We felt that all this was of no use.