I have a doubt concerning what verbs are used to describe the movement of a ship, boat, etc.

Идти/ходить, respectively determinate and indeterminate, mean "to go on foot/walk". If I go somewhere by car, I tell "я езжу" (ind.), "я поеду" (det. pf.).

I've heard that the displacement of vehicles themselves is referred to as идти/ходить too. "Автобус ходит по городу", for example.

But what if I am talking about ships? Dictionaries tell that "плавать" means not only "to swim" but also "to sail/navigate".

Does плавать/плыть and compounds with prefixes such as уплывать/уплыть refer to the action of a sailor aboard a ship, or the movement of the ship herself on water?

  • here по городУ is the correct inflection as in this expression Locative is used Commented May 21, 2018 at 15:47
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    I'm sorry for the typo... I always mess up the endings of the dative. Thank you for the correction, however Locative was the case I was using incorrectly. This is Dative. It's so fun to amend the typos of each other! xDDD
    – swrutra
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 16:33
  • the flexions of Dative and Locative are indentical, however in Locative of single syllable words the flexion is stressed, лЕсу (Dative) VS в лесУ (Locative) Commented May 21, 2018 at 17:19
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    See also russian.stackexchange.com/q/14790/2104 Commented May 21, 2018 at 17:48
  • if the capital letter means the emphasis in городУ, then it is incorrect. The emphasis in that case is placed on the first syllable, that is гОроду, that is автОбус хОдит по гОроду
    – d.k
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 16:39

1 Answer 1


Yes they all denote movement of a person aboard a vessel and of a vessel itself.

Add to them поплыть.

In contexts where the fact of travelling to certain destination is what's important and not the means, ездить can also be used.

However it's believed that professional sailors like to emphasize that they do not плавают, because it's shit which floats, whereas they ходят.

Плавает только говно и щепки, а моряки ходят

But this is professional jargon and has no bearing on the regular usage.

Illustration from a movie

  • Oh, because плавать also means "to float"!! Perhaps ходить here clears all ambiguity.
    – swrutra
    Commented May 21, 2018 at 16:35
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    Jargon or not, but it’s “Корабль вышел из порта”, never “выплыл”. Commented Jun 9, 2018 at 22:10

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