I recently finished the whole concept behind the verbs of motion in the Russian language. Putting a different prefix in front of the verb changes the meaning so to speak.

в / вы 
под / от  
при / у  
с / рас  
про / пере  
за / обо  

So in the past I learned of course other verbs like read, drink and eat for example. I hadn’t understood why they would have different prefixes and what this would mean. So I just wrote them in my textbook and used them.

Now I’m aware of mostly all this prefixes I think yet I’m really doleful about the fact that I mostly have to learn every verb from the beginning right? Anyway, I’m struggling here right now. I notice more and more verbs from day to day which have the same stem but a different prefix.

In the past I would only now пить for to drink and I have to learn the same verb with each of these prefixes. This fact really removes energy from me and I would like to know what is the best practice to learn all those other verbs, besides the verbs of motions, with all the prefixes?

I learned that to drink up would be выпивать / выпить. From the prefix вы- I could conclude logically that is means something like to go out / out, so therefore it can be drink something up.

впить / выпить 
подпить / отпить  
припить / упить  
спить / распить  
пропить / перепить  
запить / обопить  

How is one supposed to learn all the meanings?

  • Note that not all prefixes go with all the words. In your example, the words подпить, припить, упить, обопить do not exist or are rarely used.
    – Vilmar
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 11:11
  • I think that deep understanding of these concepts will come with practice and it will take a lot of time
    – Schullz
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 12:28
  • Those are just general meanings. Lots of prepositions go with lots of verbs idiomatically, you just have to learn the combinations. Some Russian speakers say смеяться над кем-то and скучать по кому-то, other say смеяться с кого-то and скучать за кем-то, and it's pretty weird to hear someone using a preposition you're not used to.
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 12:54
  • 1
    @Quassnoi, смеяться с кого-то and скучать за кем-то are NOT correct Russian sentences. It is украинизм as far as I know (sorry don't know how to translate). There are lots of mistakes that are common even for native speakers, and even more mistakes that are common to some groups of non-natives. But they are still mistakes.
    – Alissa
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 13:08
  • @Alissa: those are mistakes according to most prescriptive grammars, of course. However, millions of people do talk like this, and it does sound weird to them that someone else uses the prepositions they are not accustomed to. My point is that there is no strict universal logic in the prepositions' usage, there are just general meanings and a whole bunch of ad hoc use cases which don't follow them.
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 13:29

2 Answers 2


Generally, prefixes modify verbs dependently on their meanings, for example "пере-" added to the verb "читать" mainly points at repeating the action, while "перепить" with that very prefix gives the meaning '(to have drunk) too much (alcohol)' and the meaning of "пере-" is absolutely different in the word "перерезать" (to cut something lengthy in half or to cut everything in pieces). Having a list of prefix meanings will not help you to define exact meanings of existing prefixed verbs or to build modified verbs you weren't familiar with - it can't be that simple. It's much the same as with Chinese characters: most of them have a number of meanings but you can't combine them into 2-syllable words as you wish, based only on a meaning selected from the list. So you still have to learn words with prefixes, same as in English one must know the meanings of particular verbs in combination with prepositions, as well as which prepositions really combine with those verbs in living language (the subject of collocation dictionaries).

  • I suspected something along these lines. I hope one day this will be rewarding... Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 14:26

I have two suggestions for you:

You can enter the prefixed forms of your new verbs in Reverso Context in order to see how that verb is used in different contexts. A lot of the material on this site is from movies, so there is also a lot of colloquial context, aside from the more literal examples. Note that you can search individual words, or entire phrases or sentences.

Secondly, you can search for the individual prefixes in gramota.ru and see the basic meanings imparted by said prefix, with examples. This site is all in Russian, so if it's too advanced for you, you can simple cut and paste the entire entry in Google Translate to get the basic gist. When searching for prefixes, be sure to choose the entry that says приставка, since most prefixes are also prepositions. This is what the entry for the prefix под- looks like:

ПОД...; ПОДО... (перед односложными корнями: подобреть, подогрев, подоспеть; перед некоторыми группами согласных: подопрелый, подостлать, подоткнуть); ПОДЪ... (перед гласными е, ё, ю, я: подъехать, подъёмник, подъязычный), приставка. I. (служит для образования глаг.). 1. Указывает на направленность действия, движения снизу вверх. Подбросить, подпрыгнуть. 2. Указывает на совершение действия снизу, внизу. Подложить, подставить, подтечь. 3. Указывает на распространение действия на низ чего-л. Подкопать (дерево), подмочить, подшить. 4. Указывает на приближение к кому-, чему-л. Подбежать, подползти. 5. Указывает на добавление, прибавление. Подлить, подмешать, подсыпать. 6. Указывает на добавочное действие с целью улучшения результата. Подварить, подвинтить, подгладить. 7. Указывает на совершение действия или проявление состояния в ослабленной степени. Подгореть, полечиться, подмокнуть, подправить, подсохнуть. 8. Указывает на совершение действия тайком, скрытно. Подглядеть, подговорить, подкараулить, подкрасться, подслушать. 9. Указывает на совершение действия вслед за чем-л. как повторение или сопровождение действия кого-л. другого. Подвывать, поддакивать, подыгрывать, подпевать. 10. (с частицей -ся). Указывает на совершение действия с целью добиться расположения кого-л. Подольститься, подслужиться. II. (служит для образования прил. и сущ.). 1. Вносит зн.: расположенный, находящийся ниже поверхности чего-л., под чем-л. Подземелье, подводный, подкожный. 2. Вносит зн.: расположенный, находящийся в непосредственной близости от чего-л. Подгородный, подтропики. 3. Вносит зн.: представляющий собой часть, отделение какого-л. целого. Подкласс, подкомитет, подобласть, подотдел, подразделение. 4. Вносит зн.: находящийся в чьём-л. ведении, в сфере чего-л. Поднадзорный, подопытный, подследственный. 5. Вносит зн.: имеющий звание ниже другого, являющийся помощником кого-л. по какому-л. занятию, должности и т.п. Подполковник, подмастерье. 6. Вносит зн.: приближающийся по признакам, свойствам и т.п. к кому-, чему-л. Подлещик, подгруздь, подкотик. III. (служит для образования нареч.). Вносит зн. полноты признака. Подчистую.

  • 1
    This Gramato.ru site is way to advanced. Reverso Context in contrast looks good - thanks for that hint. Commented Jan 27, 2016 at 14:23

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