Looking помнить and вспомнить up in a dictionary yields the same results. Is there any difference between them?

  • 1
    There are some other interesting variations here: - вспоминать means "to reminisce" - напомнить means "to remind"
    – Dima
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 14:02

3 Answers 3


Помнить is just "to remember" in sense to keep in mind, to retain (in the memory), so it isn't bound by any temporal context.

The closest English translation of вспомнить is "to recall", "to recollect". So again, it refers to bearing something in mind.


  • Мария помнит о работе. (Maria [always] remembers the job).
  • Мария вспомнила о работе. ([All of a sudden] Maria remembered the job).

I guess you're confused because in English, you can express both of these with remember, but, be warned, Russian phrases such as "он вдруг помнил" are incorrect.

Also, it bears mentioning that adding the prefix вс- (or вз- before voiced consonants) to some other verbs expresses a connotation of suddenness as well.

  • 2
    In some cases using вс- or вз- prefix indicates completed action, as opposed to a continuous one, e.g. вспахать, вставить.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 8:20
  • 1
    @AleksG, well, may be, I'm not so sure. In any case, I'm not claiming that suddenness is the only thing that this prefix could indicate. But at least "вставить" is an incorrect example in any case, since the root is "ставить" and therefore there's no вс- prefix at all.
    – shabunc
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 8:25
  • Point taken. I do agree with your answer though.
    – Aleks G
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 8:53
  • @AleksG, you know what, after a bit of thought I've came up to conclusion that вставить is indeed can be a reduced form of вс-ставить, but once again, I'm not sure, such things should be checked.
    – shabunc
    Commented Apr 24, 2013 at 12:49
  • Вставить has the suffix в-, meaning in, "to put in"
    – Curiosity
    Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 5:43

помнить and вспомнить are imperfective and perfective aspects of the same verb. See Russian Verbs - Aspect

That's why you probably find both of them when looking up 'remember'. And in the Russian-English dictionary again they both refer to 'remember'. Do not get confused by other examples mentioned here. Almost all Russian verbs have 2 aspects:

помнить - вспомнить
напоминать - напомнить
вспоминать - вспомнить
поминать - помянуть
мнить - возомнить
мять - смять
внимать - внять
вставлять - вставить
таять - растаять

The rules for forming perfective aspect from imperfective exist but most of the time you'll have to learn these two forms for each verb and even for each meaning of the verb separately. Eg.:

держать слово - сдержать слово (keep your word)
держать ложку - взять вилку (hold a spoon - take a fork)

It's probably one of the hardest things to learn for a foreigner as for a native speaker most of this is very intuitive.

Eg. although помнить and вспоминать are both in the imperfective aspect and they both have the same perfective counterpart (вспомнить) they still have different meaning:

Ты его помнишь? - Do you remember him?
Ты часто его вспоминаешь? - Do you reminisce/recall/recollect him often?

Помнить - to remember, to actively keep remembering, indicating an ongoing process.

Вспомнить - to recall something that you did not actively keep in mind, to all of a sudden remember something.

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