I have been studying Russian for a while and have looked at a number of grammar books for Russian by I fail to see the nuance between 'по' and 'у' For example:

Мой самолёт улетит... vs. Мой самолёт полетит...


  • 1
    по—set-off, go// У-leave, depart
    – VCH250
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 18:04

2 Answers 2


The prefix По- with verbs of motion has two main meanings 1. Beginning of motion — perfective aspect. Что сделать?(unidirectional) пойти, поехать, полететь, побежать, Куда? К кому? Where? To whom? в, на,к (prepositions used after verbs)

Я пошёл на работу. Машина поехала после остановки. Мальчик побежал. Самолет полетел в Москву. Я полечу завтра.

  1. A little bit, for a short while, insignificantly– perfective aspect. Что сделать?(multidirectional) походить, поездить, полетать, побегать Где? По чему? Where? Across what? по (the preposition used after verbs)

Я походил по парку немного. Птицы полетали и сели на дерево.

The prefix У- means 1 Somebody’s absence in the given place, departure from the place. уходить/уйти уезжать/уехать Imperfective/perfective, unidirectional. Откуда? От кого?From where?From whom? из, с, от(prepositions used after the verbs)

Мы улетаем утром из Домодедово. Он улетел, но обещал вернуться. После каникул студенты снова уезжают из дома.


As prefixes for motion verbs, у- usually emphasises on a place from which the motion starts, while по- makes emphasis on a trajectory of motion (implying that the destination is a subject to change, though such a distinction, that is, an uncertain route, is not mandatory). Cf:

Я скоро уеду. (The ellipsis topic is about the place from which the speaker is about to start)/

Я уезжаю сегодня (Again, the speaker emphasises that (s)he is about to part.

Он уехал. (He is no more here).

Я скоро поеду. (I am having a destination to part in the nearmost future).

Я поеду сегодня (I am about to take a new route today; I am going to part today and I want to inform you that I have some destination, though it's not certain).

Он поехал / поехавший. (He's crazy; he's out of common sense).

Hence, Мой самолёт улетит... = My plane is to leave this place..

Мой самолёт полетит... = My plane is about to fly along a trajectory (though it's not a definate one)...

Bot phrases suggest something a little bit extraodinary / unusual about the flight. To describe a regular flight, one might say something like

Мой самолёт улетает /вылетает /вылетел... = My plane leaves this place (as it is usually supposed to fly)

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