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AFAIK the perfective aspect expresses an event which has already finished once and the imperfective aspect expresses a single unfinished event or a periodic event. Why would someone use the perfective aspect in the infinitive? Example:

я хочу поехать в Бразилию (= I want to go to Brazil)

Why поехать (perfective) is used instead of ехать (imperfective) ?

  • To add to the answer, besides the perfectie/imperective aspect - you can't use "ехать" when the place you're going to is on another piece of land. In imperfect form, "ехать" means to be going by the means of a car, a train, a bicycle, etc. - not by plane or a boat. Perfective form just means you want to go there (by any means). So you can be in the process of gong to ("ехать в Бразилию") from, say, Chile, but not from Russia. But you can say "поехать в Бразилию" from anywhere. – AR. Oct 15 '19 at 5:56
  • So how do I express the idea of going by plane/boat now or an habit of doing it? Examples: "I am going to Brazil now" or "I go to Brazil every month" (departing from Russia by plane in both examples) – Alan Evangelista Oct 15 '19 at 14:15
  • You can say both "я летаю в Бразилию" (IMO, a bit better, as it quite clear) or "я езжу в Бразилию". But if you've got wi-fi on a plane and you're talking to someone during the flight you can't say "я прямо сейчас еду в Бразилию". You can either say "я сейчас в самолёте" or "я прямо сейчас лечу в Бразилию". – AR. Oct 15 '19 at 17:33
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If you say "я хочу ехать" it will mean that you want to find yourself in an act of riding/travelling/moving right now. The same, for instance, with пойти, so:

  • Я хочу идти - I want to be going.
  • Я хочу пойти - I want to go.

The thing is that indeed по- add the perfective aspect - however in this particular case you should think of this as if the person says that they want to complete that action. It's actually slightly more complicated than that because, ironically, as you can see if you'll follow the link provided, for some words it designates imperfective aspect.

Yet another example of why we should just learn such things by heart.

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  • "as if the person says that they want to complete that action." - nope. See my answer. Well, of course, it may usually mean that if you want to go somewhere you also want to arrive there safely. But the grammatical meaning is just you want to start the process. It may as well be a suicidal trip if you replace Brazil with Mars. – Roman Susi May 21 at 4:19
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"To go" is a verb of motion, so in Russian, perfective form also applies for "to start doing something".

In this case "я хочу поехать в Бразилию" means, that the speaker wants to start the process of going to Brazil. Starting the process, quite logically, can be understood as a completed action.

You can also compare this with the use of a similar perfective: "я хочу приехать в Бразилию" - in this case the speaker wants to really arrive to Brazil.

Using perfective vs imperfective may indeed be complicated and mis-aligned with English. As it may depend on the spatial and temporal details. But for practical cases it's probably enough to remember the above explanation of perfective used for set off.

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