If I began an action, failed it, and was unable to ever do it again, my action would be completed (but it would be completed in a way that I wouldn't expect). Would I use the perfective aspect for this?

  • Hard to really say at this level of abstraction, but generally, for all aspectual intents and purposes, failure is a form of completion. Perfective is for everything with a "before" and an "after" without a (meaningful or relevant) "during" in between. Most statements of failure qualify. Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 0:55

3 Answers 3


You should use a perfective verb no matter in what way your action was completed. The negative sense of your failure doesn't affect the meaning of completion. It is a result. You just use a negative form of the verb.

Снесла курочка яичко.Дед бил,бил – не разбил.

  • So if an action is interrupted but that interruption will end that action completely, I can use the perfective?
    – N.D.H.
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 7:04
  • 1
    бил is imperfective
    – user31264
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 11:43
  • 2
    @user31264 The question is not about "бил" but about "не разбил".
    – Abakan
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 11:49
  • 1
    No, the question is about бил.
    – user31264
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 11:50
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    @user31264 "Бил, бил" refers to long repetitive process, that was taking place. "не разбил" refers to the result of completed(perfected) process, after it was terminated.
    – Arioch
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 11:56

Well, if there's a result then it's perfective. But note two points:

  1. Quite often you have to use several verbs to describe all your started/completed/failed actions. Then it's quite possible you have to mix perfective and imperfective forms together. E.g.:

Я там был, мёд-пиво пил, по усам текло, в рот не попало --> I was (impf.) there, I had (impf.) mead and beer, it ran (impf.) through my mustache, but it didn't get (perf.) into my mouth

  1. Sometimes you have no real result, but rather a sentence "results" in some state and/or repeatable action. Then it's imperfective, of course. E.g.:

Порой не верится, друзья, но всё-таки бывает --> Sometimes it's hard to believe (impf.), my friends, but it happens (impf.) anyway



Он поступал в университет, но не поступил.

Я когда-то учился играть на пианино. Так и не смог научиться.

  • You say "imperfective" but use perfective in both examples! "Не поступил" and "не смог".
    – Abakan
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 7:58
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    @Abakan - Everything here is correct. The action that was attempted but failed is in the imperfective aspect, verbs in perfective negative are the actual state of things, negative because of the failure.
    – Yellow Sky
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 10:38
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    @YellowSky No, it's not correct. The question is which aspect to use for indication of failured action. And even in this answer the perfective aspect is used for that. Which aspect is used fo the action itself doesn't matter, the question is not about it.
    – Abakan
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 11:48
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    @Abakan - "Which aspect is used fo the action itself doesn't matter, the question is not about it." - no, the question is about it.
    – user31264
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 16:22

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