I just confused with difference of читай and прочитай!
For example:
Читай журнал
Прочитай журнал
Both of them mean: Read magazine?
But I can't understand difference!
I know that Прочитай is a perfective aspect and читай is imperfective aspect but still can't understand difference of these!
Could you please explain it with some sentences?

2 Answers 2

  • Читай (imperfective) is like 'sit down and start reading' while
  • Прочитай (perfective) is more like 'finish reading the whole magazine' (before coming back to me e.g.)

Indeed this difference between perfective (in Russian совершенный вид) and imperfective aspect (несовершенный вид) is complex to understand.

"Читай!" is imperfective, which means it focuses on the process of the action, and not on the result. One could say it answers to the question: "what should I be busy doing?". What matters is that you are reading, no matter what you actually read. "Читай!" will also be used if the person you are addressing has already started reading, you asked something but you don't want to disturb and invite her to go on reading (because you are focusing on the process).

"Прочитай!" is perfective and the preverb про suggests one reads the whole magazine / the whole article / the whole story/novel, etc. You focus on the result. You want something to be read. For example, a teacher will say his students:

Прочитайте дома эту книгу!

because the teacher does not care about the process, he wants the book to be read (i. e. the result).

The use of perfective aspect is mandatory when you precise when the action should be done.

In details the use of perfective/imperfective aspect in imperative form is complex (it is the theme of academic works, as, for example: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40160696?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents). Still, there are a few rules:

  • the imperfective is mandatory at the imperative form before a negation:

Не читай эту книгу. Don't read this book.

  • the imperfective is mandatory at the imperative form if you speak about a regular, repeated action.

Читай каждый день. Read every day.

  • the imperfective is used if the action has already started, of the person knows she should do it and you are just giving the signal to start.

Читайте, читайте! Вы мне не мешаете, я снова выйду. Please go on reading, you're not disturbing me, I'll leave.

(This example is given by Rosanna Benacchio in the article I've just mentioned).

  • Thank you so much for your excellent explanation
    – WorldLover
    Jul 22, 2019 at 10:50

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