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When should I use "Бегать" and when should I use "Бежать"? What's the difference between these two words?

For instance, if want to say "I enjoy running" should I say "Мне нравится бегать" or "Мне нравится бежать"? Or does it sound more natural to just say "Я интересуюсь бегом"?

I grew up speaking Russian at home, but I haven't had much of a formal education in Russian, and so there are many things about Russian grammar that I don't understand. This particular question is something I have a lot of trouble with.

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    Welcome to the wonderful world of Russian Verbs of Motion! I don't think any answer on here would suffice. You really need to invest in a good book that deals only with this subject. I used the one by William J. Mahota - you can find it on Amazon. Basically unprefixed verbs of motion play by their own rules, however as soon as they take a directional prefix, they behave like other verbs. – CocoPop Jul 30 '16 at 18:12
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It's мне нравится бегать. More natural, perhaps, is я люблю бегать; definitely not интересуюсь.

Мне нравится бежать is something you could say in the middle of running, in response to a question why you wouldn't walk. Or it could be an "existential", mildly pretentious way to say "I like fleeing".

This is a specific case of the motion verb issue, which is a notoriously hard part of Russian grammar. These verbs have, beside aspect, another inherent category which splits them in pairs: directionality. Бежать is for running in a particular direction or towards a certain endpoint. Бегать is for just running about, or for repeated/habitual instances of бежать.

The other motion verbs that work the same are (directional first):

идти — ходить

ехать — ездить

лететь — летать

плыть — плавать

тащить — таскать

нести — носить

вести — водить

везти — возить

ползти — ползать

лезть — лазать

брести — бродить

гнать — гонять

(source)

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  • About "Бежать is for running in a particular direction or towards a certain endpoint" - not exactly, the difference is somewhat more subtle. For example: "Бегущая по волнам" This is not about certain direction or goal - but definitely cannot be "бегающая по волнам" – ddbug Jul 29 '16 at 21:40
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    @ddbug precisely because she's running in a straight line without changing direction. – Nikolay Ershov Jul 30 '16 at 1:28
  • Вы правы. Это как и русская тройка: бежит быстро, лихо, но неведомо куда. – ddbug Jul 30 '16 at 11:53
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    Just to clear, бежать and плыть are both "directional", whereas бегать and плавать are not? Also is it correct to say "Я добежал до дома" since I specified the end-point of my running (home)? Is there ever a case when one would use "добегал"? – Daniel Smolkin Jul 31 '16 at 21:22
  • Yes and yes. На утренних пробежках он обычно добегал до деревни Зуево. – ddbug Jul 31 '16 at 21:47
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(an addition)

The verb бежать is also used in idiomatic meaning 'to escape' (form. совершить побег) from a place of captivity like jail. In that case it usually works as perfective verb and doesn't need to be modified with a prefix (less formal 'prefixed' versions сбежать or убежать are possible in proper context).

Вчера он бежал из тюрьмы. (He escaped from jail yesterday.)

In case of repeated action бежать in the meaning of escape is transformed into smth. like совершать побеги (inform. сбегать, убегать) while the verb бегать is not used in that meaning.

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    You meant "is" instead of "из", didn't you? – polkovnikov.ph Aug 1 '16 at 17:09
  • Yes, I didn't notice it, thanks :) – Alex_ander Aug 1 '16 at 17:40
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Бегать is a continuous action (to jog in the morning every day), while бежать is a momentary (to run).

For instance, if want to say "I enjoy running" should I say "Мне нравится бегать" or "Мне нравится бежать"? Or does it sound more natural to just say "Я интересуюсь бегом"?

"Мне нравится бегать" would be used no matter if you enjoy jogging or you just have a crush on moving fast, depending on context.
"Мне нравится бежать" sounds strange as is, yet "мне нравится бежать рядом с тобой" means that speaker enjoys the current moment.
"Я интересуюсь бегом" in a proper context would be "(I'm up to choose how to fill my time and) I approve jogging as an option". Otherwise it sounds strange.
"Я заинтересовался бегом" is "(I'm up to choose how to fill my time and) I've got interested in jogging"

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I would say, use "бежать" whenever you would use continuos tense in English. I would translate it as "to be running". Otherwise use "бегать".

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