I can't understand the difference between the these words.

Is there one?

Edit: I know all about intransitive and transitive verbs, but my dictionaries say that плескать can be intransitive too. "Волны плещут о борт корабля" "вода плеснула"

That's were the confusion is for me.

  • +1 to "I know all about intransitive and transitive verbs"
    – mustaccio
    Oct 6 '15 at 2:37
  • -ся denotes reflexive verb, transitivity is not really relevant here
    – jwalker
    Oct 6 '15 at 7:42

"Плескать" (perfective "плеснуть") means 'to splash some liquid somewhere or at someone', like in

Он плеснул ей в лицо водой. - He splashed water into her face.

Like this:

On the other hand, "плескаться" is something one can do alone, to bathe and splash water around.

Ребёнок плещется в ванне. - A baby is splashing in the tub.

Like this:

or it can mean two people bathing and splashing at each other or more people bathing and splashing at one another.

Школьники плескались в фонтане. - Pupils were splashing in the fountain.

Like this:

  • 1
    Cool answer—pictures, yea!)
    – VCH250
    Oct 6 '15 at 1:17

In short, yes, there is.

The former is transitive (can have a direct object), whereas the latter is intransitive (used without a direct object). In fact you can say that the latter is the same as the former with "self" as the object (the postfix '-ся' called "reflexive" postfix, formed from "себя" = "oneself").

Here is the verb "плескать" with a direct object:

Днепр сердито плескал волнами.

The verb "плескаться" can be used in different shades of meaning. From the recent news:

Бегемот-малыш с удовольствием плескался в бассейне зоопарка.
На северном полюсе Марса когда-то плескался океан.

The first sentence, the baby hippo splashed with pleasure in a zoo pool. In the second, an ocean splashed on Mars' Nothern pole some eons ago. Both mean (in Russian) that the subject "splashed itself".

  • The dictionary says that плескать can be intransitive too. "Волны плещут о борт корабля.."
    – VCH250
    Oct 6 '15 at 1:13

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