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Is there a difference between забывать/забыть and позабывать/позабыть?

For example:

1a) Я забыл ее имя.

1b) Я позабыл ее имя.

2a) Слушай, на время время забудь.

2b) Слушай, на время время позабудь.

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  • время (по)забудь - this doesn't seem meaningful. – Matt Jun 6 '16 at 17:35
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    время позабудь is from the opening line of Синие Сугробы, a song by Ада Якушева. I updated my question to include the full line for context. – ycele Jun 6 '16 at 17:55
  • @Matt: "Слушай, На время время позабудь..." Ада Якушева – Avi Gordon Jun 6 '16 at 17:55
  • @ycele: I knew it! :) – Avi Gordon Jun 6 '16 at 17:57
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In terms of style позабыть sounds a bit archaic or bookish. The one who chooses it over the neutral забыть creates the impression of being well-read/old-fashioned/highbrow.

In terms of semantics...

A verb with the prefix по- acquires the meaning of a distributed action: побросать - to have dropped many objects (independently), поснимать - to have taken many objects off or down, понастроить - to have built many constructions etc.

Thus, позабывать means to have forgotten many things. However, позабыть (as in: Я всё позабыл) has all but lost this shade of "distributedness" and become almost synonymous to забыть. Hence the aforementioned archaic flavour.

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    How about полюбить or построить? А поковырять или пожить? ;) – Dima Jun 20 '16 at 19:45
  • @Dima, I never meant to write an article on Russian verbs' modi operandi. :) Good point, though. Here is a pertinent article for your and the topic starter's benefit: files.school-collection.edu.ru/dlrstore/… – Avi Gordon Jun 21 '16 at 9:40
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The answer by Avi Gordon is wrong, позабыть does not mean forget multiple things. This verb does not have such connotation.

The semantic difference between позабыть and забыть is in that позабыть means to forget permanently, while забыть means that one cannot remember the thing now even with effort but may recall later.

Забыть also can mean forgetting doing something or taking something.

In short: позабыть is permanently, забыть is temporary.

Я забыл ее имя. = I cannot remember her name. The reason may be any, my bad memory, untypical name, I heard the name only in passing, long time gone, I parted with her etc.

Я позабыл ее имя. = I erased her name from my memory (means I parted with her for good).

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  • In an analysis of the song Синие Сугробы on the site Explore Russian, they mention that позабыть is "more colloquial or poetic", and "can be said with some nostalgic/romantic tone", whereas забыть is "more neutral". I assume this is due to the permanent versus temporary difference. Do you agree? – ycele Jun 29 '16 at 5:24
  • @Anixx Disagree. First of all, you've misread Avi Gordon's answer. He attributed the 'multiple things' connotation to 'позабывать', not 'позабыть'. And I do agree with him on that: "Раньше я знал много песен, но все позабывал". Secondly, I absolutely can't see any 'permanentness' in позабыть, is Russian your native? If so, than it must be some sort of either regional or cultural difference but neither where I'm from nor in the literature that I've read have I met such a meaning. "Позабыть" is indeed very close to neutral "забыть" with a subtle difference that I struggle to specify. – tum_ Jun 29 '16 at 5:50
  • One of the differences - you can use "забыл" in the sense "left (smth somewhere)" but you can't use "позабыл" in this sense. "Я забыл кошелёк" - "I left my wallet (eg., at home)". "Я позабыл кошелёк" - rubbish. – tum_ Jun 29 '16 at 5:56

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