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I once asked a native speaker what the difference is between выходить and уходить, and I was told that выходить means to exit in a general direction, while уходить means to exit in a specific direction, and that is related to why exit signs on transportation say выход. Recently another native speaker told me that there isn't really a serious distinction between выходить and уходить, and in particular that the distinction I was told before is false.

Can native speakers here describe whether they see a difference between выходить and уходить, and if so what it is in practice?

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One of the distinctions is that выходить implies possibility of return while уходить usually means "leaving with no return". You can say я вышел покурить and that means that you gonna be back after the smoking. On the other hand if you say я ушел из этого клуба that would mean that you left that club "forever" (of course you might return sometime in future but presently everyone believes you are not coming back).

Sometimes it can be confusing. For example, the word выход can mean the process of appearing of actors on the scene in a theater. Which means, technically they are not leaving - they are, on contrary, coming in.

  • How about "Он ушел, но обещал вернуться"? – Dima Jun 17 '13 at 20:46
  • You can ask someone: "Выйди из комнаты и закрой дверь" meaning that someone should leave the room and close the door. It does not imply anything about returning to the room later. – Olga Jun 18 '13 at 13:12
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Выходить is to "go / come out", уходить is "to leave, to go away", every dictionary has it like that. The noun derived from выходить is выход, which is not only "exit", but also "a way out". The noun derived from уходить is уход, which is "departure" and "passing away" (especially in уход из жизни which means "death").

Generally speaking, the difference between выходить and уходить is obvious for a native speaker of Russian, it is best described as being the same as the difference between the English "go out" and "go away".

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    There are several aspects where the uses of выходить and уходить differ. One is temporal: Иванов вышел -- Ivanov has stepped out [but is expected be back shortly]; Иванов ушел -- Ivanov has left [for the day]. Another one is, should I say associative? Иванов вышел из фракции коммунистов -- Ivanov has left the communist party caucus. You'd never say Иванов ушел in that case. There's a positional aspect: Выйди из комнаты -- Leave the room [but you're sort of expected to wait just outside]. Уйди отсюда -- Go away [and don't show up again]. – mustaccio Jun 14 '13 at 2:11
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    Generally, it looks like the prefixes вы- and у- differ in the temporal or positional "distance" of the action. Cf. вынести - to take out [and leave it just outside], to take out [and may be bring it back later]; унести - to take [far] away, to take away [and never bring back]. – mustaccio Jun 14 '13 at 2:19
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It is not so much about the direction. Выходить has to do with exiting some confined space, like a room, as in Выйди из комнаты! The space can be virtual as in выходить из партии - leaving a political party. Another way to translate выходить is "to come out". That is why an actor's first appearance on the stage is called выход. The actor is coming out onto the stage.

On the other hand, yходить just means "to leave" or "to go away", without any implication of going from an "inside" to an "outside".

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