I have a lot to learn about Russian verb usage and structure, but at least I've been introduced and somewhat understand the difference between the perfective and imperfective aspect of a verb. Early on, I came across something that encouraged learning each imperfective aspect of a verb along with its perfective counterpart, saw the good sense in that, and have been trying to apply that advice ever since. Because of this, I had thought that every verb in the Russian language had an imperfective and perfective pairing.

That all changed today when I went to look up the word "значить." Having been one of the first words I learned in Russian, I've never bothered to look it up, but when I looked it up in Wiktionary today, I noticed that Wiktionary, which is usually pretty thorough, did not provide any perfective counterpart for this verb. Does this mean it doesn't have one? And if so, are there many verbs in Russian that don't have an aspectual pairing? In other words do many verbs in Russian have just an imperfective aspect or perfective aspect, but not both? Is there a list somewhere?


There aren't many Russian verbs without a perfective counterpart. This site discourages asking and answering posts about making word lists, so I will just name some of those verbs and try to define what they have in common.

As you know, perfective verbs name actions that are seen as either having a beginning, |→, e.g. пойти ('to start going, to depart, to set off') or having an end, →|, e.g. прийти ('to come and stay, to arrive'). But if we look at the meaning of the verb значить 'to mean', we can see it designates a state which does not have any beginning or end, or, if it can even have one, it is irrelevant in 99.99% of cases.

Other "perfectiveless" verbs are also of this kind, they usually have existential meaning, they name the states which are timeless or eternal, without borders in time. Here are some of them:

находиться 'to be situated': Остров Шри-Ланка находится возле Индии.

состоять (из) 'to consist (of)': Молекулы состоят из атомов.

существовать 'to exist': Существует несколько изотопов водорода.

являться 'to be': Осьминог является моллюском.

Note that most of these verbs have many meanings, and in other meanings they do have perfective counterparts. For example, находиться can also mean 'to be found (after having been lost); ', and in this meaning its perfective pair is найтись, like in Ну что, ваша собака нашлась? 'Well, have you found your [lost] dog?'

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  • That was a brilliantly succinct, yet informative answer, Yellow Sky. I hate to award a green checkmark so early on, because I want to encourage as many good answers as possible, but I felt your answer deserved it. (Still, if any of you reading this have something to contribute also, please don't hesitate.) I especially loved the extra formatting you added with beginning and ending points. This new knowledge has raised another question for me, one that I was just going to pop off here, but it might be a question others have (or will have in the future), so I'll create a separate post for it. – Lisa Beck Sep 17 '17 at 16:51
  • Nevermind about my additional question. I went to the link suggested by Nikolay Ershov above and realized that, for starters, my understanding of the differences between the imperfective and perfective had been really rather rudimentary (and probably still is!), but that post he suggested contains an answer that is enlightening. – Lisa Beck Sep 17 '17 at 17:28
  • Previously, I was going to ask how I would say something like, "It meant a great deal to me," or "at one time the word meant meticulous, attentive, and sharp." But after seeing that other post and exploring Reverso, I've come to the conclusion that some translations just aren't going to be a one-for-one transaction. – Lisa Beck Sep 17 '17 at 17:29
  • @LisaBeck - Past ≠ Perfective. Perfective and imperfective are aspects, not tenses, English also has 2 aspects, continuous (aka progressive) and non-continuous, but they don't correlate with the Russian aspects at all. Start with this question, it has good answers: Elementary understanding of the concept aspect. – Yellow Sky Sep 17 '17 at 17:47

There are some verbs that do not have imperfective counterpart: f.e. уцелеть.

There are some verbs that do not have perfective counterpart: находиться, существовать (s. the other answer).

And there are some verbs that need context to become imperfective or perfective:

  • обследовать: Врач уже обследовал меня (perfective). Врач обследовал меня целых три часа (imperfective).

  • жениться: В прошлом месяце я женился (perfective). Он женился каждые два года (imperfective).

These lists are not exaustive, there are only verbs I could think of now.

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