I've noticed that some imperfective verbs are converted to the perfective by just adding a prefix. However and oddly enough, sometimes there's an alternate imperfective formed from an internal modification of the prefixed verb itself!

I'm not taking into account verbs in which the prefix conveys a different meaning rather than just changing the verb aspect.

For example, делать, meaning "to do", is imperfective; if we add the prefix под, the word becomes подделать, which is perfective and means "to falsify". If we want to change the new verb to imperfective once again, then an internal modification is required, and thus it becomes подделывать.

Now to the point: the verb цвести ("to flourish") is imperfective and its perfective counterpart is расцвести. However, it seems that расцвести accepts two imperfectives: both the "original", unprefixed цвести, and a variation from the prefixed verb itself: расцветать.

The same goes for растянуть, which, apparently, accepts both тянуть and растягивать as imperfectives.

However, is there any difference in meaning, or are both imperfectives interchangeable?

  • Why only "расцвести" and "растянуть"? What about "зацвести", "отцвести", "затянуть", "оттянуть", "вытянуть", etc,?
    – Headcrab
    Aug 9, 2018 at 1:43
  • As I've mentioned, I'm not taking into account prefixes which add a new meaning rather than just changing aspect. Moreover, I gave just two examples because they seemed enough to ask my question.
    – swrutra
    Aug 9, 2018 at 10:48
  • 3
    The prefixes you used do add a new meaning.
    – Headcrab
    Aug 9, 2018 at 14:37

3 Answers 3


Yes, there is a difference.

тянуть — to pull

растянуть – to stretch (not exactly, only as in "to stretch leather", not as in "to stretch arms", that would be вытянуть)

растягивать – to be stretching smth

Same goes for other verbs.


A prefixed verb is not just a version of an unprefixed one: prefixes modify the sense of verbs, and that is not limited to changing their 'perfectiveness'.

тянуть - to pull something (with an unknown result)

растянуть - to stretch something, to make it longer by pulling in two directions (or in one direction, with one end of it fixed)

растягивать - to do that stretching continuously or from time to time (imperfective version of растянуть)

натягивать - to pull on something

натянуть - perfective version of натягивать

Same with the other prefixed verbs having different sense: вытянуть/вытягивать, затянуть/затягивать, притянуть/притягивать, оттянуть/оттягивать, and so on.

  • OK, as for the verbs derived from тянуть, everything is clear to me. But what's the exact difference between the meanings of цвести and расцвести? Is цвести focused on the blooming of flowers over a field or tree (collectively), while расцвести focuses on the opening of a particular flower?
    – swrutra
    Aug 18, 2018 at 23:24
  • Расцвести/расцветать is about the phase of intensive blooming, flourishing (coming into it / being in it) - that can be related to both individual flowers and gardens, отцвести/отцветать is about end/ending of blooming, зацвести/зацветать means to start / to be in the beginning of blooming, процветать: imperfective and idiomatic only, negative sense - about corruption, etc. In all the cases perfictiveness is defined by the suffix, not prefix.
    – Alex_ander
    Aug 19, 2018 at 7:57
  • зацвести sounds similar to засмеяться or заплакать in the meaning of the prefix за-. I got the meaning of the prefixes от- and про- here ("растение отцвела", "коррупция процвела после распада СССР"). Judging by your description of the prefix рас-, could расцветать then be considered an emphatic version of цвести? Цвести itself has no perfective unprefixed counterpart apparently. Which would mean that цвести implies inherently gradual, slow flourishing.
    – swrutra
    Aug 19, 2018 at 10:30
  • The technically possible perfective form процвести is not used (they'd rather say расцвела /пышным цветом/ коррупция - about the beginning of the phenomenon). And yes, the рас- can work as intensifier as well as just point at a developed phase of blooming or (with the perfective form расцвести) at the beginning of the process (same as зацвести). Цвести has no perfective form and just points at the fact or possibility (for some plants) of blooming.
    – Alex_ander
    Aug 19, 2018 at 11:02

Generally the two imperfectives are not interchangeable but sometimes they can be:

Рвать цветы = (roughly same as) срывать цветы = pick flowers

But "срывать сроки" (break the deadlines) cannot be put as "рвать сроки".

Verbs such as расцветать, срывать are called "secondary imperfectives". Try googling that for more information.

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