Is it rude to use imperative with imperfective verbs? Like, suppose you are a customs officer asking someone to open their case, you could probably (I'm just guessing at this point) say either:

откройте, пожалуйста


открывайте, пожалуйста

Usually I'd go for the former since, from my experience, perfective verbs are more likely to be used in this kind of construction (again, this is pure speculation). So the question is, does it really matter which one you choose here?

  • adding пожалуйста or будьте добры somewhat softens it, but the undertone of urgent demand is still there Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 11:23
  • 3
    The imperfective imperative in Russian is really the only equivalent to our English imperatives. Open it, move over, say it, etc. We don't have the idea of "go and complete that action/ could you go and get this done. Our imperatives are all about urging immediate action or regular action. So basically the perfective imperatives in Russian are like nothing in English except whole phrases like "could you, will it be possible, go and get x done".
    – VCH250
    Commented Mar 4, 2018 at 12:58
  • Imperfective imperative has some finality to it, so it's generally more rude. "Откройте" means "Open up [and likely you can get it closed, if you like]". "Открывайте" means "Open up [so it would stay open, or you will have no say if you want to close it]"
    – Alexander
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


Yes, откройте sounds more polite, especially when followed by пожалуйста.

Открывайте is more likely to be followed by сейчас же! (immediately!).


It does matter.

Imperfective imperative is not necessarily rude if mitigated by some words of politeness and/or intonation and verbosity, i.e.

Ну, давайте, открывайте скоренько

Without such dampers it certainly may be perceived as confrontational, more aggressive.

I believe the difference between them stems from the fact that semantically perfective imperative is a one-off demand, which leaves to the addressee the freedom of refusal or non-compliance.
Imperfective imperative on the other hand expresses importunate persistent demand showing that the speaker isn't inclined to back off.

There's however a pointedly rude and disrespectful imperative which cannot be tempered by any politesse, namely past tense perfective form of a verb



Упал, отжался!

This form not only demands action but demands that it invariably be done already.

Another ostensibly disrespectful form of imperative is infinitive form of a verb

Открыть учебники!
Всем встать!
Не двигаться!
Выходить по одному!
Ждать меня тут!

Still it can be acceptable in some formal hierarchical contexts such as army, penitentiary system and activities of law enforcement agencies, even in school, basically where degrading of human dignity isn't considered problematic.

And yet another unpleasant form of imperative is verb in present tense

Садишься за стол, пишешь объяснительную

Заходите, снимаете обувь

Смотрите видео, потом пересказываете

Сейчас (ты) отдыхаешь


Formal linguistics is not always true, but rather completely wrong in many cases. The first expression would be: "Complete (the) opening (process), please" The second expression would be: "Start opening, please(already)"

It would depend on situation, when the process is assumed to be finished or to be just started. For 1 the first would be more polite, for 2 the second would be more polite.

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