I just started learning Russian. I know it's just going to take me forever if I have to learn every single individual conjugation for every single verb (except for irregulars). I haven't been able to find a guide detailing rules on conjugating them online.

What I mean by 'conjugating' them is being able to obtain the forms of the word.

For example, in Georgian, if I know how to say the first person singular form of a verb of type 1 to 3, I can predict all the other forms (in the present screeve) because there's a rule for it.

I was wondering in Russian if there's a way to be able to go from the infinitive to the forms that would be used after personal pronouns, я, ты, et cetera.

I saw this but it only contains instructions on how to conjugate to the "я" form. I want to know how to conjugate to all forms.

Is there a way to do this in Russian?


3 Answers 3


In his "Grammatical Dictionary of Russian", Andrey Zaliznyak proposed a model that breaks up Russian verbs into 16 conjugation classes. I would rank this model highest in regard to completeness/complexity. Deviations from those 16 classes are rare and are listed explicitly in the dictionary.

Thus for most verbs you would only need to memorise their class to be able to derive all forms from the infinitive. That's if you're really into memorising rules. Here is a Wiktionary article on the subject.

But if you want to get fluent, you will need lots of practise. That's how we learn our first language: by example. And don't be afraid of making mistakes, as long as there is someone to correct them.

When you need a conjugation table for a particular verb, look it up in Wiktionary, e.g. жить. Pay attention to the stress marks.

  • 2
    16 types of conjugation is good to know but it can scare the beginners. In Russian school (I believe in grade 5) a simplified system is taught. That system classifies all verbs into 3 types (I, II, and III спряжение). These 3 groups have simple patterns of conjunction. All other verbs that do not fall into 3 patterns are considered exceptions and need to be remembered separately.
    – farfareast
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 3:54
  • 1
    @farfareast, the two-class system only covers endings (-ет vs -ит, -ут vs -ат). The 16-class system also covers stem alterations which are required to correctly build personal forms from the infinitive. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 12:51
  • My mistake (shameful :-) there are 2 types of conjugation in grade 5 - not 3. But still, although I adore Zalizniak's work, it is not useful for remembering when you study language. :-) it is great for computers.
    – farfareast
    Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 13:58
  • @farfareast, I agree. That's why I said you had to really like rules and formulas to make use of this system. It's not Zaliznyak's fault that there are so many classes. ;) Even 16 classes are a simplification. Unfortunately they don't cover some high-frequency verbs such as дать, взять, сесть, лечь, etc. Commented Aug 16, 2017 at 15:28

You cannot reliably predict the present tense endings from the infinitive, although there are tendencies: if the infinitive is in -ать, then the conjugation is likely (but not always!) -аю, -аешь, -ает, etc.

However, apart from very irregular verbs (есть, дать and their derivatives), learning the first and second person singular forms is enough to know the rest. So for every verb, I suggest you learn these two forms alongside the nominative, and with some experience you will begin to see patterns.


Unfortunately, even though verbs like делать, составлять, говорить have conjugation rules, as you have seen, there are many irregular verbs. I strongly recommend you to identify and learn by heart all what you cannot infer from a rule (not only with verbs, but also with declensions), which at first is going to be a lot, but gradually it is going to become easier. It is somewhat annoying, but that is the only way to avoid keeping mistakes just because you thought you could guess a specific conjugation out of a rule.

In order to extract the most with the least, I recommend you to always learn a verb with the conjugations for present tense: I, you and they; e.g. for делать: делаю, делаешь, делают. Why three and not two, as some dictionaries show? Consider хотеть: хочу, хочешь, хотят (no apparent way to guess the third person plural!). You should also check the past tense. Normally you may guess it without difficulties usign the rule, but in certain cases, either the form of the conjugation (e.g. идти -> шёл, шла, шло, шли) or stress (e.g. брать -> брал, брала, брало, брали) may change.

There are rules for active present, passive present, active past participles, but you may also have to check these forms in order to identify irregularities. Compare active past participle сделать -> сделавший, идти -> шедший.

As regards passive past participle, I consider it to be the most difficult one, as there is no rule for it (compare сделать -> сделанный, спросить -> спрошенный). At most, you may see that sometimes it is a kind of combination of 2nd person perfective future tense, and 1st person imperfective tense. For example consider: предупредить (perfective) -> предупредишь (2nd person), предупреждать (imperfective) -> предупреждаю. The participle is предупреждённый. Note that it kind of takes the 2nd person conjugation of the perfective form and it takes the "жд" element from the 1st person of the imperfective form. Normally (99 percent of the cases), when you see this phenomenon, you may notice that the stress is the same as the 2nd person of the perfective verb, as you see in предупредишь, предупреждённый (notice that in this case stressed "е" may turn to "ё"). Another pattern is поставить (perfective), поставишь (2nd person), ставить (imperfective), ставлю (1st person). The participle is поставленный (notice the stress being similar to ставишь and the "вл" taken from the imperfective 1st person).

These two patterns are often to be seen in verbs whose perfective form end in ить, the ones of the 2nd conjugation. For the verbs of the 1st conjugation you will find a rule.

I recommend you to learn this participle by heart (if it exists) every time you learn a verb, as though it were another new word for you. You will see that eventually you are going to be able to guess it accurately, but that is going to take a while.

Adverbs can be obtained with rules, but you should also check.

Some verbs that may be helpful are: делать, составлять, ставить, говорить, сказать, показывать, идти, ходить, ездить, приезжать, ехать, лететь, летать, нести, носить, вести, водить, везти, возить, предупреждать, предупредить, спросить, простить, класть, положить, плавать, плыть, бегать, бежать, забирать, забрать, импортировать, вернуть. These ones may give you a lot of patterns, and many other verbs derive from many of these verbs.

Finally, I would recommend you wiktionary for looking for the conjugation tables, which are in most cases (practically always) correct. I would also recommend you (only seen in Android, no idea about iOS) Oxford Russian - English dictionary, where you may easily find the conjugations of 1st, 2nd person, which are nice for a quick review; despite the cost, it is very useful. There is also in Android an application that contains the conjugations of many useful verbs. The drawbacks are that it is not free (yet there is a free version with less verbs) and that it has the translations in Spanish, but it is no problem, as the application has a Cyrillic keyboard to look for the verbs. The name of the application is "Verbos Rusos Pro".

Hope it helps.

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