Russian Language Grammar

    Usage of Prefixed Verbs of Motion

Literal Meaning

1.   Prefixed verbs of motion formed from an indefinite basic verb may signify a motion back and forth, a return trip. This, however, is limited to just a few verbs, chiefly to the compounds of ходить and -езжать:

Она приезжала к нам в среду.

She visited us on Wednesday.

Сюда кто-то входил, пока нас не было дома.

Somebody was here while we were away.

2.   The imperfective aspect is used with negated verbs.

Я не хочу уезжать так рано.

I don't want to leave so early.

He уходите.

Don't go away.

3.   Not all verbs of motion combine with every prefix.

   (a)   The following verbs do so: ходить – идти; -езжать – ехать; -бегать – бежать; возить – везти; водить – вести;  атывать – катитьлетать – лететь;   носить – нести.

   (b)   The verbs бродитьбрести combine with few.

   (c)    As regards other verbs, their usage with certain prefixes would simply be seldom warranted, as, for instance with сплыватьсплыть (to swim, to sail, to float down) or with оползатьоползти (to crawl around). It is, in other words, the difference between current usage and existence.

Figurative Meaning

It may be recalled that with basic (non-prefixed) verbs of motion only one form either definite or indefinite is used with a certain set expression, as for example: “идут пьесы (plays are shown) and “ходят слухи (rumors circulate). With prefixed verbs of motion, verbs of both roots are used. It amounts to the difference between the imperfective and perfective aspects.

приносить, принести пользу

to be of use

выходить, выйти замуж

to marry (said of a woman)

приходить, прийти в ужас

to be horrified

доносить, донести

to report, to inform (on somebody)

The number of verbs having a figurative meaning is quite large. Sometimes, the figurative meaning occurs in speech as often as the literal; sometimes, even more frequently.

(lit.)     Он подвёл меня к своей бабушке.

Не led me up to his grandmother.

(fig.)     Он страшно подвёл меня.

Не awfully let me down.


(lit.)     Она переходит мост.

She is crossing the bridge.

(fig.)     Вода переходит в пар.

Water changes into steam.


(lit.)     Он с трудом донёс чемодан до вокзала.

Не hardly could carry the suitcase as far as the station.

(fig.)    Он донёс на этого подозрительного человека.

Не informed on that suspicious man.


(fig.)     Мы вас догнали.

We caught up with you.

 (fig.)    Его прогнали со службы.

Не was fired from the job.