I am wondering whether there is any difference between the present and past adverbial imperfective participles.

Читая книгу, я устал.

Читав книгу, я устал.

Both of these mean “while reading the book, I grew tired.” Right? Is there any difference?

  • 1
    The main difference is that the past adverbial imperfective participles are obsolete and in fact aren't used any more.
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 6, 2017 at 16:59
  • Those are gerunds and not participles. Apr 26, 2017 at 0:21
  • @SergeySlepov how are those gerunds? Gerunds are a type of nouns… May 12, 2019 at 6:40
  • Apparently, both 'gerund' and 'adverbial participle' are used to denote деепричастие: multitran.com/… May 12, 2019 at 9:27

5 Answers 5


The Russian adverbial participles have relative tense, that is, the present tense adverbial participles denote a secondary action which is simultaneous with the main action of the sentence, and the past tense adverbial participles denote an action which was / is /will be prior to the main action.

In this respect your first example is OK, "I got tired while reading a book". The second example sounds strange, though. If you need to say "I got tired after reading a book" or "Having read a book, I got tired", then you should better use the past adverbial perfective participle прочитав and you will have a nice sentence. But if you do want to use the past adverbial imperfective participle читав, then the sentence will mean the same as your first example, but it will sound too archaic, kind of 18th-century-style. In the Modern Russian, the past adverbial imperfective participles are used mainly in the negative form, with the particle не, their positive forms are considered obsolete and are not used any more. Here are a couple of examples of Modern Russian sentences with the negative form:

И как многое пропадет для того, кто пришел слушать симфоническую поэму Рихарда Штрауса «Дон Кихот», никогда не читав романа Сервантеса... [И. Л. Андроников. Разные грани // «Юность», 1970] — "And how much will be lost for the one who came to listen to Richard Strauss' symphonic poem 'Don Quixote' without having ever read the novel by Cervantes..."

Она рвала его письма, не читав их. — She tore his letters without having read them.


1.Читая книгу, я устал.-Correct.

2.Читав книгу, я устал.-Incorrect. It should be 2.Прочитав книгу, я устал.

"Читав" exists, but we don't say so. If we consider the correct sentences, the first means that you got tired while reading (during the process)."Прочитав"means that the action was completed and you felt tired after you finished reading the book.


You can say there is no difference, but: The first one means that you are reading a book at the moment or you tell a story, which has already happened , and use present tense to say things about a story. The second one means that you were reading a book in the past. That's all.

  • Don't you think that устал is the past tense of устать? The present adverbial imperfective participles have relative tense, they denote an action during, or because of which the action in the main clause happens irrespective of the tense of the verb in the main clause. The main clause here is я устал (I got tired), past. — Why, when did I get tired? — Читая книгу (while reading a book). There's nothing in that sentence which is present, so please, consider rewriting your answer.
    – Yellow Sky
    Apr 6, 2017 at 17:07

Zach, what you ask is called "Gerund". There are two functions of it in Russian: a perfective and an imperfective one. Читая книгу, я устал. - the imperfective g. denotes an action which is simultaneous to the action of the main verb, or one interrupts the other. Прочитав книгу, я устал. - the perfective g. describes an action which is completed prior to the action denoted by the main verb. The perfective gerund is formed from verbs in -ть (читать) by replacing the perfective infinitive ending by -в (про-чита-в) Most imperfective gerunds are formed by adding -я (-а after ж, ч, ш or щ) to the present-tense stem of the verb (чита-я) Regarding prefix "про-" I cannot give a comprehensive explanation, unfortunately, it's not always the case one should add the prefix when forming the perfective gerund. "Про-читав" indicates the action is complete.


Читая книгу, я устал. means While reading the book, I got tired.

Читав книгу, я устал. means Having read the book, I got tired. (maybe a chapter or two) or Because I had been reading the book, I got tired.

Прочитав книгу, я устал. means Having finished reading the book (to the end of the last chapter), I got tired.

All three instances have different meanings and the different forms are necessary to express what happened accurately. None of them are obsolete.

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