What is the difference between using the imperfective vs the perfective? My textbook (a very good compressive one) only mentions future negation in passing.

For example,

Я ей не буду говорить об этом.

Я ей не скажу об этом.

Я не буду брать карандаши из ящика.

Я не возьму карандаши из ящика.

As I get it, negated perfective means (won't be able to do it, finish the action, it's not possible (because it really isn't or I just think so)).

But to me it also seems like it means a type of refusal. I won't do it (Am not going to do) vs negated imperfective (I won't do it at all, it's a none issue).

Change the sentences if you wish; just random 1 sec examples.

  • BTW из ящики did you mean in singular or in plural? Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 9:08
  • From The box...)
    – VCH250
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 10:05
  • 1
    @VCH250 That would be из ящика. I'm frankly amazed by the heights of pointless pedantry shown by the person who edited in capitalisation/punctuation while leaving the incorrect ending. Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 11:07
  • 2
    @NikolayErshov And this person is frankly amazed by the heights of pointless criticism shown by the person who could easily have corrected those endings but had not done it although it was already clear which endings were meant - singular or plural.
    – Abakan
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 11:27
  • 3
    @Alex.S I don't think this is a polite thing to do in the first place. Let the poster correct themselves. But if not, the least you can do is wait until you can put your visible editorial seal of approval on something that's actually been meaningfully and thoroughly corrected/improved. The world won't end because uncapitalised unpunctuated text has been allowed to stick around for a little longer. (And if you ask me, it should not be an issue at all.) Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 13:14

3 Answers 3


Usage can depend on situation.

  1. Imperfective version is more natural if it's about continuous inaction or refusal (which you mentioned) to behave as somebody expects or has just asked for.

Я не буду брать карандаши из ящика. [Ни сейчас, ни потом - предпочитаю свои].

-- Скажи ей об этом.

-- (Нет,) я не буду [= не стану] говорить ей об этом.

  1. Perfective version is more typical for once (this time, etc.). It doesn't mean that action wouldn't happen later or if something changes.

Я не возьму карандаши из ящика. [Они мне сейчас не нужны.]

-- Что будет, когда она узнает?

-- Я не скажу ей об этом. [Возможно, скажу позже, когда это не будет иметь значения.]


Perhaps it's an oversimplification but I believe that

Я ей не скажу об этом ---> I won't tell her about this
Я ей не буду (or не стану) говорить об этом --> I'm not going to tell her about this

  • Yea, that sounds right. Which is why the perfective could also mean, refusal to tell somebody something in a specific moment.
    – VCH250
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 10:25

Although fundamentally the sentences in these pairs are equal, there's difference in the degree of determination with perfective displaying the stronger one in the pair.

Also the imperfective may presuppose some specific event during which an action won't be performed (e.g. a conversation for не буду говорить and a drawing session for не буду брать карандаши), whereas the connotation of the perfective could be that the action won't be taken in principle in the future.

But it's all still very vague and only adds shades of meaning.

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