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The first paragraph is from the website Learnrussian.rt and says that the prefix "по" with a multidirectional verb still gives an imperfective, whereas the second paragraph, from the textbook Schaum's Outlines of Russian Grammar, says it makes the verb perfective.

Which of them is correct?

Also, does "по", if added, exclude the multidirectional verb of motion from this group?

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  • from which group should the added prefix exclude multidirectional verbs? Dec 17, 2017 at 21:12
  • (not a verb of motion any more) I read that the perfctive from "ходить" is "сходить" , so i thought that "походить" whether ( imperfective or perfective ) would be used as an ordinary verb .
    – Alpha
    Dec 17, 2017 at 21:23
  • ходить in fact may also be understood as an ordinary verb if it implies a motion in a certain direction and then its perfective aspect is сходить, like in phrases я (с)ходил в кино/на концерт, он (с)ходил к врачу, the context or the following preposition tells you about the connotation of the verb, but multidirectional ones remain so regardless of the prefix, one cannot turn a phrase я ходил ПО квартире into perfective by saying я СХОДИЛ по квартире, only ПОходил because of the preposition ПО (квартире) Dec 17, 2017 at 21:33

4 Answers 4

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Neither paragraph in the first source says that the prefix по- MAKES a verb perfective or imperfective (imperfective aspect there seems to just refer to continuous action - for a while, etc.). Also, unlike the second source, it doesn't introduce the idea of a 'multidirectional verb' allegedly turned into a perfective by по-, which is not true (at least, it doesn't happen all the time), e.g., compare походить (perfective) and похаживать (imperfective). So, the second source should have been more careful in its conclusions.

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Ляшевская (2016) ссылается на диссертацию Леблана (LeBlanc, 2010) и приводит следующую классификацию значений приставки по- для глаголов совершенного вида:

  1. Результативное (‘do X to completion’): поблагодарить;
  2. Делимитативное (‘do X for a while’): пожадничать;
  3. Аттенуативное (‘do a little bit of X’): поразвлечь;
  4. Дистрибутивное (‘do X across all objects’): позакрывать;
  5. Ингрессивное (‘begin to do X’): подуть.

В сноске 12 на странице 398 Ляшевская также упоминает о шестом значении, прерывисто-смягчительном, которое относится только к глаголам несовершенного вида: побаливать.

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As was mentioned in other answers, the information on the screenshot from the first source is just plain wrong (all the verbs marked red are in fact perfective).

However, I'll expand a little bit on the claims in your post:

  • … the prefix по- with a multidirectional verb, still gives an imperfective,
  • … it makes the verb perfective.

Normally, mechanically adding just about any prefix to an unprefixed imperfective verb does make it perfective — usually with a change of meaning. Думать, an imperfective verb, means "to think"; задумать, придумать, передумать, выдумать, all perfective, mean, respectively, "to conceive (an idea); to come up with; to change (one's) mind; to make (something) up". All related to thinking, of course, but only tangentially. It's not "the same word with just the aspect changed".

Among the exceptions to this rule, there are two major classes of verbs:

  1. Verbs formed with the suffixes -ива/-ыва: задумать/задумывать, оплатить/оплачивать etc. A verb thus formed will usually retain the core semantics of the original, but will acquire a new aspect, so, for these words, it usually is "just the aspect change". Traditionally these verbs are called "iterative", but that's just one, well, aspect of them.

  2. There are several (14 or more, depending on who's counting) Russian imperfective verbs of motion which don't accept these suffixes. They form their "iteratives" through other means: other suffixes, root changes or even suppletion: идти/ходить, нести/носить, лететь/летать etc. The members of these pairs are usually called "non-iterative and iterative verbs of motion" (моторно-некратные и моторно-кратные глаголы), but are indeed sometimes also referred to as "unidirectional and multidirectional".

So what sometimes happens when you slap a prefix onto this "multidirectional" version, is that the result remains imperfective, but acquires a completely new meaning — sometimes only vaguely related to the original one: перегонять "to pass (in a race)", переводить "to translate", заводить "to start (an engine)" etc.

However, the very same multidirectional verbs can also form perfectives by adding prefixes, same as any other verb, resulting in forms like поплавать "to have a swim", вы́ходить "to tend, to nurse (someone back to health)" etc. These verbs are also only remotely semantically related to their root forms.

Sometimes these two venues of word formations form homographs or even homonyms:

  • свозить "to bring to one place (impf.) / take someone for a tour or a ride (perf.)"
  • налетать "to attack suddenly (impf.) / to have flown enough (for something) (perf.)"
  • выноси́ть "to bring out (impf.)" / вы́носить "to carry a child (perf.)"

, and so on.

In this sense, both the claims you mention are accurate.

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  • Another magnificent and informative response! And your English gets better with every answer. Thank you!
    – CocoPop
    Sep 26, 2023 at 20:26
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The explanation under the table is correct, while the explanation in paragraph 2 of the table is erroneous.

A copy of an answer from the comments:

the verb ходить may also be understood as an ordinary verb if it implies motion in a certain direction and then its perfective aspect is сходить, as in the phrases я (с)ходил в кино/на концерт, он (с)ходил к врачу. The context or the preposition of the direct object determines the connotation of the verb, but multidirectionals remain so regardless of the prefix. One cannot make the phrase я ходил ПО квартире perfective by saying я СХОДИЛ по квартире, only with ПОходил because of the preposition ПО (квартире), but the perfective version of the phrase я ходил НА квартиру is я СХОДИЛ на квартиру if it's a one-off action. If, however, it means paying multiple visits to an apartment over some time, the perfective will be я ПОХОДИЛ на квартиру.

A more detailed explanation of the differences between perfective verbs with the prefixes по- and с- can be found HERE

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